APS News

New California Section Holds Inaugural Meeting

Virginia Trimble was the keynote speaker at the first meeting of the APS California Section.
Virginia Trimble was the keynote speaker at the first meeting of the APS California Section.

The fledgling APS California Section held its first regional meeting March 30-31 at the University of California, Irvine. Turnout was strong, according to Alexei Maradudin, a professor of physics at UC-Irvine who served as one of the conference organizers. "We were pleased with the number of people who participated in this event, and in the quality of the talks," he said. There were 80 registered participants and 42 contributed talks, as well as five invited plenary talks and a special after-dinner lecture by Virginia Trimble, a professor at UC-Irvine's Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Trimble's talk focused on the challenges facing astrophysics in the new millennium. In the same way that modern astronomy began with the overthrow of the medieval synthesis of Aristotelian philosophy and church doctrine by new technologies and new ways of thinking, she believes that "many current questions in astrophysics can be directly tied to developments of these same concepts." Some of the questions astronomers are asking include whether stars have sport; why quasar jets appear to be moving faster than the speed of light, and the implications for science; and how our star, our galaxy and our planet formed, and what its long-term fate might be.

Among the plenary speakers was Thomas Katsouleas of the University of Southern California, who reviewed the status of advanced accelerator research worldwide and the potential of using laser-drivers and plasma wakefields. He also described a recent SLAC experiment that set a record for energy gain in a plasma wakefield device and explored numerous rich new beam physics phenomena.

Stuart Parkin (IBM Almaden Research Center) discussed recent developments in magnetic tunneling that suggest that the unique properties of magnetic tunnel junctions (MTJs) could make them the best candidates for magnetic memory storage cells. This would enable an advanced non-volatile magnetic random access memory with even greater speed and density capabilities. Other plenary topics presented at the meeting included microscopic modeling of liquids in a biological environment; quantum information processing by electron spin resonance; and spatio-temporal chaos.

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette