APS News

Sub-Atomic Physics Marks 100th Birthday at April Meeting

Located in Anaheim, California from April 30 through May 3, this year’s APS April Meeting will bring together over 1,000 physicists to share the latest research in particle physics, nuclear physics, astrophysics and plasma physics research, featuring 170 sessions, 225 invited speakers and three poster sessions.

Commemorating the discovery of the atomic nucleus, the theme of the meeting is “100 years of Sub-Atomic Physics”. As the official kickoff to the meeting, the Kavli Foundation is sponsoring a keynote session starting with a retrospective look at the last century of work probing the fundamental particles of the universe. During session A1 on Saturday morning, Steven Weinberg from the University of Texas at Austin, will highlight the history of particle physics from Rutherford’s gold foil experiment to the startup of the LHC. Picking up from there, Maria Spiropulu of CERN will discuss the latest results from the LHC, while Dan Hooper of Fermilab will bring an update on the hunt for the theorized WIMPS that make up dark matter.

Plenary Sessions: Two other plenary sessions promise to enlighten audiences on a range of topics. The Monday morning plenary session will feature John Johnson of Caltech with the latest update on the hunt for exoplanets, followed by Carl Wieman of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy discussing how federal policies could be used to help spur university research, and Yang Shao-Horn of MIT with the latest battery developments. Tuesday morning’s plenary likewise has offerings of broad interest, including William Marciano of Brookhaven National Lab explaining the tricky business of pinning down the proton radius, Stuart Henderson from the Spallation Neutron Source showing how particle accelerators have contributed to society and Nergis Mavalvala of MIT discussing the connection between quantum mechanics and gravitational waves.
Superconductivity: 2011 also marks the 100th anniversary of the discovery of superconductivity. To mark this important milestone Session J2 on Sunday afternoon will be devoted to exploring the history and future promise of this unusual effect of nature. Peter Pesic of St. John’s College will reflect on the history and controversy of its discovery by Heike Kamerlingh Onnes and his collaborators. David Larbalestier of Florida State University will look at the range of materials used in today’s superconductors, and offer insight into what future materials hold promise. Taking the implications even farther, Tony Zee from the University of California, Santa Barbara will delve into the implications of superconductivity for theoretical particle physics and quantum field theory.

Physics in Hollywood: On Saturday night, well-known science writer Jennifer Ouellette will moderate a special VIP panel about the uses and misuses of science and physics in Hollywood films and shows. Included on the panel will be Bill Prady, co-creator of CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory,” Jaime Paglia and Bruce Miller, co-creators for the Syfy original series “Eureka” and actor John de Lancie, who played Q in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

Deepwater Drilling: In light of last summer’s Gulf oil spill, Monday morning’s session “Q5: Physics and Engineering of Deep Water Drilling” will begin with a talk by Brian Clark of the Schlumberger Company on how physics techniques have aided in the search for oil deposits around the world. From there Kenneth Gray from the University of Texas at Austin will offer a brief primer on deep water drilling. Jonathan Katz from Washington University in St. Louis will describe what caused the infamous “top-kill” attempt to fail to stop the spill, and what could possibly have been done to make it work.

Stellar, Galactic and Intergalactic Flares: Flares of all kinds are invaluable to astrophysicists, and are the subject of the session “L3: Astrophysical Flares.” Hugh Hudson from the University of California, Berkeley will talk about data from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, giving a fresh look at how solar flares behave and what role the Sun’s chromosphere plays in their formation. At the center of the galaxy resides a super-massive black hole known as Sagittarius A. Though usually not luminous, it is prone to flares of radio, millimeter, infrared and X-ray radiation. Farhad Yusef-Zadeh of Northwestern University has looked at the infrared radiation of some of these flare-ups, and will discuss how they might be caused by a blob of synchrotron plasma orbiting the black hole. Wystan Benbow, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, has been studying intense gamma ray bursts with the latest generation of detectors, and will present his latest research.  

Cosmic Rays and Particles: New technologies to hunt for some of the exotic particles of the universe will be explored in session “C11: Cosmic Ray Measurements, Anisotropies and Propagation.” The balloon lofted Cosmic Ray Energetics And Mass (CREAM) experiment, which looks for high energy cosmic rays, recently completed its third run in Antarctica. Young Soo Yoon from the University of Maryland will present its findings on proton and helium fluxes. Also in Antarctica is the kilometer-sized IceCube neutrino detector, which has been recently completed. A team of physicists from the University of Wisconsin will show how the detector can be used to detect the direction of solar and stellar cosmic rays as well.

Digital Divide: Access to the internet is critical for a country and its population to integrate into the evolving global economy, and bridging the “digital divide” is the subject of session “J6: The Digital Divide in 2010.” Hamadoun Tourè, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunications Union, will start out with an overview of how mobile phones have made tremendous inroads in the developing world, and how to replicate that success for broadband internet. Michael Stanton from the Brazilian National Research and Education Network will highlight how the RedCLARA network that reaches throughout Latin America has made collaborations of all kinds possible. Roger Cottrell from Stanford University takes a closer look at internet penetration in Africa, and despite challenges, there’s much room for improvement.

For students, a free career panel and networking reception will be held on Friday night, complete with refreshments. For graduate students, Sunday’s “Lunch with the Experts” is a great opportunity to meet some of the leading researchers in the fields of astrophysics, nuclear physics, gravitation and particle and fields in an informal setting.


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Editor: Alan Chodos