APS News

March 2004 (Volume 13, Number 3)

Montréal Hosts Largest March Meeting in APS History

Montreal skyline

A record number of physicists is expected to converge on the Palais des Congrés in Montréal, Quebec, this month for the annual APS March Meeting, the largest physics meeting of the year. More than 6000 abstracts have been submitted, spanning fields as diverse as condensed matter and materials physics, chemical and biological physics, fluid dynamics, molecular and optical physics, magnetism, laser science, industrial and applied physics, and high polymer and computational physics, among others. In addition to the technical program, there will be numerous nontechnical sessions on physics history (including one focusing on physics in Canada), education, international physics, and women in physics, as well as several special events.

Facilitating CMP Research. Speakers at a Monday morning session will describe opportunities for condensed matter research at national user facilities. For instance, high magnetic fields—such as those produced by the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, among other facilities—are critical for science and technology, and over the last 20 years research in this area has led to such new phenomena as the quantum and fractional quantum hall effects. Meanwhile, Argonne's Advanced Photon Source is the most brilliant source of x-rays in the Western Hemisphere, and its beam lines are widely used by condensed matter physicists for research in such areas as inelastic scattering and nano-imaging, while research at TRIUMF harnesses muons as magnetic probes. On the horizon is the Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, slated for completion in 2006, with 15 of the 24 beam lines already assigned to neutron scattering instruments for condensed matter research. A concurrent session will focus on synchrotron radiation research facilities in developing countries, such as SESAME in the Middle East, as well as projects in South America and Japan. [Sessions A3, A4]

O Canada. In a nod to the meeting's host nation, a Monday afternoon session will focus on the history of physics in Canada. Among the personages featured will be John McLennan, who built the physics department at the University of Toronto into a major research laboratory, conducting research on superconductors and liquid helium. German ,migrant, Gerhard Herzberg is another featured Canadian physicist, a pioneer of molecular spectroscopy who built the world-class Spectroscopy Laboratory for Canada's National Research Council and conducted seminal research on the spectra of free radicals. And from 1950 to 1962, Bertram Brockhouse carried out research that laid the foundation for the field of inelastic neutron scattering at Chalk River Laboratories, inventing many new instruments and techniques in the process. [Session D5]

SQUID-Based MRI. Superconducting Quantum Interference Devices (SQUIDs) have found application as highly sensitive sensors and detectors, and are now being applied in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) applications. Researchers at UC-Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have acquired two- dimensional images of water, mineral oil phantoms and pepper slices in less than two minutes by performing MRI with a low-Tc SQUID detector. The new system is ideally suited for imaging small, peripheral parts of the human body, such as fingers and wrists. The team has also demonstrated ultra-low-field MRI using an untuned SQUID detector, achieving 1-mm resolution images. Both results will be discussed at the meeting. [Session A39]

Navigating Landmines. Because of their ease of employment, lost cost, and effectiveness, land mines have become an almost ubiquitous weapon in the last 50 years. There are now more than 45 million potentially threatening land mines around the world, and new mines are being placed much faster than they can be removed, so the problem is worsening. Current estimates of casualties resulting from land mines exceed 15,000 per year, and many are civilians, even children. Thomas Altshuler of Rockwell Scientific Company will provide an overview of the issue, and Frank Rotondo of the Institute for Defense Analyses will discuss advances in new detection technologies, including ground-penetrating radar, improved electromagnetic induction metal detectors, nuclear-quadrupole resonance and acoustic/seismic detectors. [Session D39]

Amorphous Imaging. Amorphous silicon is an extremely successful materials technology that is well-suited to a range of imaging applications in both medicine and imaging. For example, amorphous silicon transistor arrays are now changing the technology for medical x-ray imaging, thanks to the ability to create field effect transistors, diodes and other semiconductors. Speakers at a Tuesday afternoon session described some of the latest advances in amorphous silicon devices and applications, including x-ray and infrared sensors for high-resolution detectors. [Session L5]

The Science of Middle-Earth. The works of J.R.R. Tolkien can provide a creative means of demonstrating the relevance of science (especially astronomy) to non-science majors, according to Kristine Larsen of Central Connecticut State University, who has designed just such a course. For example, in order to add depth and realism to his mythological creation, Tolkien invented his own constellations, some of which correspond to actual star groupings, and the internal chronology of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy was timed to the cycle of lunar phases. Also featured in the session is a presentation of a new type of Dunking Bird, the popular physics toy that operates on the chemical potential energy of unevaporated water. The new version operates on the same principle, but is not a heat engine. [Session L27]

Cryogenic Cabaret. Among the social highlights will be a Thursday evening performance of "Cryogenic Cabaret," the brainchild of emeritus professor Marcel LeBlanc, who has received the Royal Society of Canada's McNeil Medal for the promotion of science to the public. An expert in cryophysics, LeBlanc chills his audience with a -78° C blizzard, freezes liquid nitrogen by boiling, morphs into a dragon spouting-200° C vapors, and transforms soggy frozen cigars into torches. He also sings, levitates magnetic and electric coils, smashes rubber balls, and explodes hydrogen balloons, all in the interest of presenting the fundamentals of cryoscience to experts and lay audiences alike.The Sounds of Trumpets. Scientists from SUNY Geneseo are exploring the connections between the methodology of trumpet playing and the quality of the sounds produced, which are poorly understood. For example, they are studying the force with which the instrument is pressed against the lips, especially to hit higher pitches. These forces vary greatly among different players, sometimes by a factor of three or four. The team has modified a trumpet to monitor the force applied by players of all skill levels, along with the sound spectrum and players' facial expressions, and will present its findings during a Monday afternoon session. [Session D39]

Tracking Dust in the Ice. Scientists from the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a new paleoclimatological instrument called the Dust Logger. The instrument is a spinoff of the Antarctic Muon and Neutrino Detector Array (AMANDA) project, a collaboration that searches for astrophysical sources of high-energy neutrinos. The Dust Logger emits laser light into glacial ice surrounding the borehole being studied. It records light that re-enters the borehole after being partially absorbed and scattered by dust in the ice. The signal serves as an accurate proxy for global temperature as a function of time over a million years. The team also invented a BioSpectral Logger which emits 224-nm laser light into ice, searching for fluorescence by microbes able to live in liquid veins in ice. The team hopes a miniaturized version can search for life in Martian permafrost. [Session G1]

Crossover Physics. Some of the most exciting physics research these days is taking place at disciplinary interfaces, and this will be the focus of a special session exploring some of those emerging areas. For example, neutron stars provide a remarkable setting for problems at the intersection of condensed matter and nuclear physics, such as neutron and proton superfluidity and the sudden speed-ups of pulsars and their relation to nucleic vortices in stellar crusts, as well as achieving a better understanding of the physics of matter under extreme conditions. Other interdisciplinary areas featured in the session include links between string theory and other areas of physics and mathematics, and condensed matter, computational dynamics and the workings of the brain. [Session G1]

Captains of Industry. Roland Schmitt (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) will discuss the pioneering achievements at the G.E. Research Laboratory, which was founded in 1900 and became the first industrial physics research lab, with such major contributors as William Coolidge, Irving Langmuir, and Ivar Giaever. Princeton University's Philip Anderson will talk about the rise of physics research at Bell Labs, starting in the 1920s with the discoveries of electron diffraction and thermal noise. Closing the session, Allen Fowler will give a brief history of physics at IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center, and Jennifer Chayes will talk about physics research at Microsoft. Thursday morning will feature a session looking to the future of industrial physics, with talks by such major leaders as 2003 Pake Prize recipient Robert White (now at Carnegie Mellon University), Motorola's Iwona Turk on nano-electronic technology, Ford Motor Company's Kennneth Hass, and Charles Duke of the Xerox Wilson Center for Research and Technology. [Sessions H6, U4]

Towards the Hydrogen Economy. Last year, the DOE released a report on the basic research needs required to achieve the practical "hydrogen economy" touted in President Bush's 2003 State of the Union address. At the March meeting, a special Tuesday evening session will discuss the findings of that report and summarize some of the latest research results in hydrogen production, storage and use in fuel cells. Topics include schemes for the biomimetic production of hydrogen—sort of a man-made photosynthesis—and for producing hydrogen through solar photolysis of water, as well as promising new techniques for hydrogen storage. [Session m1]

Pioneering Women. The meeting will feature several talks on pioneering women in physics. Monday afternoon will feature a presentation on Canada's first woman physicist, Harriet Brooks, who worked under both Ernest Rutherford and J.J. Thomson at Cambridge University's famed Cavendish Laboratory, and later worked with the Curies in Paris. She investigated the nature of "emanation" from radium; discovered that radioactive substances could undergo successive decay; and first reported the recoil of the radioactive atom, all this at a time when women in science were few and far between. On Wednesday morning, various speakers will talk about the lives and accomplishments of Agnes Pockels—a German-born woman scientist who pioneered studies of surface science, particularly monolayers at the air/water interface—and Katharine Blodgett, the first woman scientist to join the GE research staff, and the first to obtain a doctorate from Cambridge University's prestigious Cavendish Laboratory. [Sessions D5, N7]



Special Events

Saturday and Sunday, March 20-21

DPOLY Short Course
"Rheology and Dynamics of Polymers and Complex Fluids"
8:00 am - 5:00 pm

Sunday, March 21

Morning: 8:30 am - 12:30 pm
Afternoon: 1:30 pm - 5:30 pm

Survival Skills for Successful Women Physicists
1:30 pm - 5:45 pm

Career Workshop
3:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Monday, March 22

Awards Program
5:15 pm - 6:15 pm

Welcome Reception
6:30 pm - 7:30 pm

Tuesday, March 23

CSWP/FIAP Networking Breakfast
7:00 am - 9:00 am

Meet the AIP and APS Editors
3:30 pm - 5:30 pm

Student Reception
5:30 pm - 6:30 pm

APS/DCMP/DMP Town Meeting
6:30 pm - 7:30 pm

Alumni Reunions
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Wednesday, March 24

Students Lunch with the Experts
12:30 pm - 2:00 pm

5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Thursday, March 25

Cryogenic Cabaret
5:30 pm - 6:30 pm

March 2004 (Volume 13, Number 3)

Table of Contents

APS News Archives

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Articles in this Issue
Montréal Hosts Largest March Meeting in APS History
Welcome to Montréal, Where Down is Up and the Sun Sets in the North
Web Lectures from San Diego Conference Now Available
Physicists Help First Responders Deal with Nuclear Safety Issues
Rules change for Valley Prize; Fluids Merge Two Awards
APS Executive Board: More Science Needed in NASA Decisions
Dedicated Supercomputers Probe QCD Theory
An Especially Elegant Universe
First American Physics Nobelist Paints Pretty Picture
Make it Your Hobby to Go Out and Lobby
The Back Page
Members in the Media
This Month in Physics History
Zero Gravity: The Lighter Side of Science