APS News

Super Bowl of Physics Comes to Baltimore

The APS March Meeting, the largest annual physics meeting in the country, will take place from March 18 through 22 at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, Maryland. Physicists from across the globe will present over 8,000 papers at more than 500 sessions, 112 of which are invited sessions. Total attendance is expected to exceed 8,500 scientists, who will hear about the latest developments in areas including condensed matter, computational physics, chemical and biological physics, new materials, polymers and fluids. A number of sessions will also look to explore the role of physics in different segments of society, including its role in industry, national security, human dynamics, sustainable energy and energy storage.

Nobel Prize
The winners of the 2012 Nobel Prize in physics will speak about their research on Thursday evening. Serge Haroche from the Collège de France, École normale supérieure, will discuss his method of trapping photons and putting them into a superposition. Afterward, David Wineland from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Boulder will share how he developed his ion trapping technique that similarly places the trapped particles into a superposition state. (Session X1)

Kavli Session
Nobel laureate Steven Chu, who announced he would be stepping down after 4 years as U.S. Secretary of Energy, will be headlining Wednesday afternoon’s Kavli session about energy, climate change and the environment. Chu will speak about the promise of photovoltaics, Lonnie Thompson from the Ohio State University will discuss how scientists can reconstruct the history of Earth’s climate from ice core samples, while Stephen Harris from General Motors will highlight his company’s battery development for electric vehicles. Other speakers in the session include Graeme Stephens and Amy McKenna. (Session R0)

Physical Review Centennial
The Physical Review is celebrating 100 years of publishing cutting edge scientific research under APS. A special session will both reflect on its history and look ahead to its future role at the forefront of physics. Special for this meeting, for the first time, Daniel Kennefick from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville will reveal the name of the referee that rejected Einstein’s third and last submission to the journal. (Session B10)

Prizes and Awards
On Monday afternoon, at a ceremonial session, the APS President will present prizes and awards to a number of researchers whose discoveries and careers have broken new ground, challenged assumptions and broadened their fields. (Session D1)

On Wednesday evening, there will be a special reading of the one-act play “Farm Hall” by David Cassidy of Hofstra University, about captured German nuclear physicists at the end of World War II. Cassidy based the piece on transcripts of conversations between Werner Heisenberg, Otto Hahn and Walter Gerlach as they awaited their fate at the hands of the Allies. (Session S50)

Soft Polymers Strengthen Steel
Researchers are developing a way to make steel more bulletproof using rubber polymers. When a projectile hits the rubber polymer developed by the Naval Research Lab, the rubber undergoes a phase change. For the ten microseconds or so of an impact, the material become about 1000 times harder than its natural state, temporarily becoming a protective barrier. (Session G34.10)

Researchers are always trying new chemical combinations to squeeze more life and charge out of batteries. However more recently, the nanostructure of the battery’s storage materials has been the focus of much research. Gary Rubloff from the University of Maryland has been considering whether an organized nanostructure of batteries and capacitors can improve on disordered networks. (Session C39.04)

Hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, or “fracking,” has been both hailed as the solution to the country’s energy needs and decried as a tremendous environmental threat. Tuesday morning’s session, “The Impact of Hydraulic Fracturing” will help researchers sort through the controversies of the booming energy extraction technique. Francis O’Sullivan will speak about how the new extraction method is transforming the energy market. Researchers from the EPA and Duke University will present their assessment of the environmental impacts of fracking. Murray Hitzman from the Colorado School of Mines will delve into his recent report on the connection between fracking and earthquakes. (Session F9)

DNA Nano Motors
DNA codes for the building blocks of life, but it can also be used to motorize very tiny machinery. Andrew Turberfield from the University of Oxford developed a way to turn DNA into a nanoscale motor. What’s more, his tiny motorized submarine can be programmed to navigate a network of tracks. (Session F43.01)

Majorana Fermions
Scientists have been hunting for Majorana fermions, particles that are also their own antiparticle, since they were first predicted in 1937. Last year at the March Meeting researchers from Delft University in the Netherlands announced strong evidence that they’d found the elusive particles. Since then, the team has been improving their technique and will present their latest research at this year’s meeting. (Session T13.08)

Cancer Physics
Physicists are working alongside doctors and oncologists to better understand and fight cancer. Three sessions throughout the meetings are devoted specifically to how physicists are helping to develop treatments and map its spread. On Thursday morning Jan Liphardt from the University of California, Berkeley will speak about remaining unresolved issues where physics and biology overlap. That afternoon, Eshel Ben-Jacob from Rice University will describe the different ways that tumor cells navigate through the body. Friday morning Amy Wu from Princeton University will present her research into the ways that cancer develops resistance to common drugs. (Sessions T45, W47 and Y45)

Random Vaccinations
Preventing the outbreak of disease relies a great deal on the efficient distribution of a scarce resource, vaccines. Lora Billings from Montclair State University found that randomly distributing vaccines might be more effective than current methods on a finite population. This may lead to better public health campaigns during the outbreak of a contagion. (Session C44.06)

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Staff Science Writer: Michael Lucibella