FPS-Hosted Sessions at the APS March Meeting

Brian Schwartz, Graduate Center of the City University of New York

The annual APS March meeting was held in Pittsburgh from March 16-20, 2009, and featured four sessions sponsored or co-sponsored by FPS. These sessions dealt with environmental renewal of Pittsburgh, alliances between university scientists and local science centers, the physics of imaging and radiotherapy, and physics and art. The following are brief descriptions of the papers presented during these sessions. The full scientific program of the meeting can be found at http://meetings.aps.org/Meeting/MAR09/Content/1369/.

Session H8: The Greening of the City of Pittsburgh-The History, Science and Examples. I chaired this session which featured four papers. Joel Tarr (Carnegie Mellon University) spoke on “Devastation and Renewal: Water, Air and Land in Pittsburgh Environmental History.” He focused on the metabolism of cities as a concept through which to view the environmental history of Pittsburgh. Perhaps more than any other US city, Pittsburgh reflects the impact of industrialism and of urban infrastructure on environmental quality. The talk explored these effects and attempts at remediation in three domains: water supply and wastewater disposal; smoke and air pollution; and land contamination. Cliff Davidson (Carnegie Mellon University) spoke on “Air Quality from Early Pittsburgh to the Present: The Science of Change.” As described by Davidson, throughout Pittsburgh’s 250-year history, coal reserves in the city and nearby have influenced its economy, demographics, and environmental quality. It was not until the 1940’s that effective regulations were passed to reduce smoky conditions. Particle levels fell throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s, and eventually the decline of heavy industry in Pittsburgh led to relatively clean air in many parts of the city. Alan Traugott (CLJ Engineering) spoke on “Material Science and Construction using Green Science and Technology.” This talk reviewed the new materials and technologies that are being applied in the construction of more efficient (green) buildings to improve energy efficiency. The roles of advanced materials and technologies, such as spectrally selective glazing, photocatalytic concrete, solar heating and cooling, and organic solar collectors were discussed. Finally, Traugott presented an overview of advanced analytic tools used in building design, including computational fluid dynamics, energy, and lighting/daylighting computer-based simulation programs. Mark Leahy (Lawrence Convention Center) addressed the audience on “The Greening of the David L. Lawrence Pittsburgh Convention Center.” Leahy’s talk described Pittsburgh’s Lawrence Convention Center, which is the largest Gold LEED NC (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design New Construction) certified convention center in the world. The unique green properties of this 1.5 million square foot Convention Center include the design and use of daylight, natural ventilation and other sustainable design and practices. The use of natural ventilation and extensive day lighting is designed to reduce energy consumption by nearly 35% compared to traditionally ventilated and lit buildings of a similar size.

Session P7: Forging Effective Partnerships with Your Local Science Center: Outcomes from the Workshop on University/Science Center Collaborations. David Statman (Allegheny University) spoke on “Developing an Infrastructure of Partnerships with Science Centers to Support the Engagement of Scientists and Engineers in Education and Outreach for Broad Impact.” This talk reviewed a workshop on University/Science Center Collaborations jointly hosted by the American Physical Society and The Franklin Institute held on May 31 - June 1, 2008. This Workshop brought together 40 leaders from science centers, universities, and federal funding agencies to explore what works and what doesn’t work in university-science center collaborations. The result was a convergence of viewpoints on how a good collaboration is established, built upon, sustained, and evaluated. Leo Kadanoff (University of Chicago) spoke on “University Perspectives on Science Center/University Interactions.” Kadanoff described a program that brings graduate students into informal science education. Practical nuts and bolts methods for making the program work were discussed. Eric Marshall (New York Hall of Science) spoke on “University/Science Center Collaborations: A Science Center Perspective,” addressing how science centers, professional associations, corporations and university research centers share the same mission of education and outreach, yet come from “different worlds.” This gap may be bridged by working together to leverage unique strengths in partnership. The talk illustrated that successful partnerships stem from clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Daniele Finotello (NSF) spoke on the “Perspective of NSF-MPS Program Directors on Educational Outreach.” Her talk reviewed the National Science Foundation Broader Impacts review criterion since they were first implemented by NSF. The viewpoint of the NSF Program Officers was presented. The broader impact of different proposals can vary widely, based on different factors such as the particular research activities proposed, the interests of the PI(s), the type of institution involved in the proposal and the different opportunities available on the local area, to name just a few. This session was Co-sponsored by the Forum on Education and chaired by Philip Hammer of the Franklin Institute.

Session V8: The Physics of Imaging and Radiotherapy. This session was co-sponsored by the Division of Biological Physics and chaired by Barry Berman of George Washington University. John M. Boone (University of California at Davis Imaging Center) spoke on “Dedicated CT Imaging of the Breast.” Boone described dedicated breast computed tomography (CT) systems designed and fabricated in his laboratory. The breast CT scanner was designed utilizing several off-the-shelf components, including the x-ray system, a flat-panel detector, and a position encoder-bearing-motor system. As of November 2008, over 180 patients have been scanned. The ultimate utility of breast CT may include breast cancer screening, diagnostic imaging, robotically controlled biopsy, and other interventional procedures. Xiaochuan Pan (University of Chicago Cancer Research Center) spoke on “Advanced Tomographic Imaging: Visualization of the Un-seeable.” He described tomographic imaging, a noninvasive approach that is playing an increasingly important role in the improvement of health care by providing valuable information for diagnosis of diseases, guidance of treatment and therapy, and for assessment/monitoring of treatment response. Pan presented some recent exciting advances in tomographic imaging technology and briefly discussed some of the important applications of advanced tomographic imaging in medicine and other areas. Cedric Yu (University of Maryland School of Medicine) and David Jaffray (Ontario Cancer Institute/Princess Margaret Hospital), respectively, spoke on “Planning and Delivery of Radiation Therapy-Principles and Recent Developments” and “Image-Guided Radiation Therapy-Application and Advancement.” A panel discussion among the speakers was then held.

Session W5: Physics Meets Art. Peter J. Lu (Harvard University) spoke on “Quasicrystals in Medieval Islamic Architecture.” Lu discussed some of the properties of Islamic quasicrystalline tilings and their relation to the Penrose tiling. The conventional view held that girih (geometric star-and-polygon) patterns in medieval Islamic architecture were conceived by their designers as a network of zigzagging lines, which were drafted directly with a straightedge and a compass. Recent findings presented in this talk show that by 1200 AD a conceptual breakthrough occurred in which girih patterns were reconceived as tessellations of a special set of equilateral polygons (girih tiles) decorated with lines. (Tesselation is the art of covering an infinite plane without gaps by plane figures of one or a few types.) Denis Weaire (Trinity College, Dublin) spoke on “Those Bubbles in Beijing: The Story of the Water Cube.” This talk presented the story of the “Water Cube” constructed for the Beijing Olympics. The origins of the Water Cube design go back to the nineteenth century, when William Thomson (Lord Kelvin) first posed the problem: What kind of foam of equal-sized bubbles minimizes area (or energy)? The structure in Beijing consists of a massive framework of steel beams that are arranged as in the Weaire-Phelan structure of an ideal foam, with an outer facing of transparent “cushions.” It provokes thoughts on aesthetics, order/disorder, optimization, and the frequent recurrence of bubbles/foams in our literary and artistic culture. Katherine Jones-Smith (Case Western Reserve University) spoke on “The Drip Paintings of Jackson Pollock: Are they really Fractal?” Jones-Smith asserted that the hypothesis of “Fractal Expressionism” is fundamentally flawed and that fractal analysis as an authentication tool for Pollock paintings yields inconsistent and unreliable results. This work has also led to two new results: (1) the composite of two fractals is not generally scale invariant and exhibits complex multifractal scaling in the small distance asymptotic limit, and (2) the statistics of box-counting and related staircases provide a new way to characterize geometry. Charles Falco (University of Arizona) spoke on “Analyzing Monet .” Falco presented a new approach to image analysis. He identified the precise locations where the Impressionist artists Monet, Pissarro, Renoir and others stood when making a number of their paintings. Specific deviations were found when accurately comparing these examples with photographs taken from the same locations. These deviations provide key insights into how the artists’ visual skills informed new ways to represent to viewers the two-dimensional images of three-dimensional scenes. The results have implications for improving the representation of certain scientific data.

Global Physics Projects held at the APS “April” meeting in Denver, Colorado May 2, 2009

Participants in the Panel Discussion on Global Physics Projects held at the APS “April” meeting in Denver. L-R: Lawrence Krauss (moderator), Jack Gibbons, Christopher Llewellyn-Smith, Pier Oddone, and Dennis Kovar. Inset: Session chair Pushpalatha Bhat.

This contribution has not been peer-refereed. It represents solely the view(s) of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of APS.