APS News

NMD, National Security Issues Featured at 2001 April Meeting

Attendees of the 2001 APS April Meeting, which returns to Washington, DC, this year, should arrive just in time to catch the last of the cherry blossom season in between scheduled sessions and special events. The conference will run April 28 through May 1, and will feature the latest results in nuclear physics, astrophysics, chemical physics, particles and fields, computational physics, plasma physics, the physics of beams, and physics history, among other subdisciplines. The April Meeting will also be noteworthy for a number of sessions devoted to science policy issues, including national missile defense (NMD), balancing scientific freedom with national security interests, and climate change. Along with the standard array of technical sessions, the meeting will feature three sessions of plenary lectures on a broad range of topics of general interest to the scientific community. Highlights include a talk on how the news media cover science by David Kestenbaum, a self-described "escaped physicist who is hiding out at National Public Radio," and a lecture on entangled photons for quantum information by the University of Illinois' Paul Kwiat. Other scheduled topics include imaging the cosmic background wave background, searching for extra dimensions, CP violation in B mesons, neutrino oscillations, and the amplification of atoms and light in Bose-Einstein condensates. 

CP Violation, Muon G-2, RHIC Results, and Neutrinos

Among the many sessions devoted to the latest results in nuclear, particle and astrophysics and the physics of beams, will be: Session C4 on B Physics and CP Violation, sponsored by the Division of Particles and Fields, will feature talks on the latest results from the B-factories. The results from Belle will be presented by Kay Kinoshita of the University of Cincinnati, while those from Babar will be reviewed by David Kirkby of Stanford.
Renaissance West A, Saturday at 2:30

Session C10 on Lepton Properties, also sponsored by DPF and also taking place Saturday at 2:30 (in Renaissance Room 3) will have four talks on various aspects of the recently announced measurement of the muons's magnetic moment, which conflicts at the level of 2.6 standard deviations from the predicition of the Standard Model.

Session H7, sponsored by the Division of Nuclear Physics, will be a Mini-Symposium on Early Results from RHIC, and will feature talks by representatives of all four major experiments at the Relativistic Heavy-Ion Collider: J. J. Gaardhoje of the Niels Bohr Institute (BRAHMS); Marzia Rosati of Iowa State (PHENIX); Steven Manly of the University of Rochester (Phobos); and Peter Jacobs of Berkeley (STAR).
Renaissance Congressional A, Sunday morning at 10:45

Session J2 on Progress in Neutrino Physics is jointly sponsored by DPF and DNP and among its highlights will be a talk on results from the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) by Kevin T. Lesko of Berkeley and the Maria Goeppert-Mayer Award talk by Janet Conrad of Columbia University.
Renaissance Grand Ballroom South, Sunday afternoon at 2:30

Going Ballistic on Missile Defense

One of the key technical questions in the ongoing debate about the feasibility of national missile defense systems (NMDs) is whether they can be expected to work under real-world conditions if the attacker has taken steps to defeat the defense. In fact, the APS Council has approved a new APS study to analyze a possible boost-phase intercept system (see APS News, January 2001). This issue will be addressed by several speakers, among them Richard Garwin, a senior fellow for science and technology for the Council on Foreign Relations, who will discuss a proposal to conduct boost-phase intercepts, along with other simple possible countermeasures and the US's possible response to them. "The NMD organization has not seriously considered countermeasures, which I believe are much easier to build than the ICBMs themselves," he says. "Only now is NMD beginning to structure a program to evaluate and determine the response to such countermeasures."

Lisbeth Gronlund of MIT's Security Studies Program, also a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists, will follow Garwin's lead in considering three primary potential countermeasures an emerging missile state could employ to overcome an NMD defense system. She is also a speaker at a Sunday morning session featuring this year's recipients of prizes sponsored by the APS Forum on Physics and Society; Gronlund will discuss the role of testing in the development of a weapons system and make recommendations as to what an adequate NMD test program might look like. Her MIT compatriots, George Lewis and David Wright, will review the use of the Patriot air defense system in the 1991 Gulf War, and the impact of the development of ballistic missiles by North Korea, respectively.

Securing Scientific Freedom

Continuing controversy over security lapses at the national laboratories and routine polygraph testing of defense employees has prompted the organization of a special panel discussion on Saturday afternoon on balancing the need for scientific freedom with national security interests. Scheduled panelists are Ernest Moniz, former Undersecretary of the Department of Energy (DOE), John Browne of Los Alamos National Laboratory, Charles Shank of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, and John Hamre of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the chair of a new commission to study security issues at the national laboratories of DOE (see APS News, February 2001). And on Monday evening, the Forum on Physics and Society is sponsoring a special session on polygraph testing, one of the key issues under debate in the recent Los Alamos controversies.

The Search for Signs of Eternal Life in an Eternally Expanding Universe

Tackling the ambiguous complexity of "life, the universe, and nothing," bestselling science author Lawrence Krauss (The Physics of Star Trek), a professor of physics at Case Western Reserve University, will give this year's Lilienfeld Prize lecture on Saturday afternoon. His theme is life and death in an ever-expanding universe, starting with recent observations in cosmology "that have changed the way we think about the universe on large scales," extending the discussion to the implications for life, and closing with the question of whether life can be eternal in an eternally expanding universe. "Surprisingly, the answer to this question appears to hinge on questions of basic physics, in particular issues of quantum mechanics and computation, which may determine whether life is ultimately analog or digital," he says. The session will also feature the annual retiring presidential address, delivered this year by APS Past President James Langer.

Celebrating A Constant Centenary

The National Bureau of Standards' National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) celebrates 100 years of its congressionally mandated mission to improve scientific knowledge of the values of the fundamental physical constants, as part of its responsibility for stewardship of the national standards of measurement. The APS is marking the occasion with a special session devoted to NIST and the NBS, featuring a lecture by Harvard University's Lewis Branscomb, who joined the scientific staff of the NBS in 1951 and headed agency from 1969 to 1972. Branscomb will emphasize the importance of the agency's reputation for scientific integrity, illustrated with various case studies. The session also includes talks on other highlights in the agency's long history, as well as H. N. Russell's spectroscopic work in the analysis of complex spectra, the story of Bose-Einstein condensation, and an overview of the scientific legacy of Ugo Fano, who joined the NBS staff in 1946.

Warming Up to Climate Change

The task of adapting and coping with climate change is made more daunting "because climate and weather impact society largely through extremes," according to Hugh Pitcher of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, one of the featured speakers at a Monday morning session on climate change. In order to forecast societal impact, he believes we need a predictive understanding of how projected climate change will reflect or impact extreme events - a capability that does not yet exist. However, "By studying how societies worldwide build resilience to today's weather extremes, and by adopting best practices locally, we can go a long way toward building global resilience with respect to future climate change," he says.

Agent-based computer modeling is now being used to grow artificial societies and model the socio-economic systems of the past, according to George Gumerman, director of Arizona State Museum and a professor at the University of Arizona, who will speak at the same session. He will describe how he used a computer program to model and systemically alter prehistoric economic and settlement behavior of the Anasazi in northeastern Arizona. Other speakers will focus on the economics of future energy sources, and the role of scientists in setting climate change policy.

APS encourages the redistribution of the materials included in this newspaper provided that attribution to the source is noted and the materials are not truncated or changed.

Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette