Press release

Physics Press Conference Schedule, 2018 American Physical Society April Meeting, Columbus, Ohio, April 14-17

March 01, 2018

The following press conferences will take place during the 2018 April Meeting of the American Physical Society, April 14-17, at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio in room A215.

The press conferences will be webcast live for journalists who wish to participate remotely. To register for the APS April Meeting webcasts, go to


Saturday, April 14

  • 11:00 a.m., Nuclear Weapons and Ballistic Missiles

Sunday, April 15

  • 10:00 a.m., The Proton Radius Puzzle And Plans For An LHC Successor
  • 1:00 p.m., Katrin Experiment Shows Promise To Measure Neutrino Mass
  • 2:00 p.m., A Prisoner of Conscience: Sakharov Prize Recipient Narges Mohammadi
  • 3:00 p.m., Deep Learning in Physics Research

Monday, April 16

  • 10:00 a.m., The Future of Gravitational Wave Detectors
  • 11:00 a.m., Small Scale Problems with Cosmological Consequences

Saturday, April 14

Saturday, April 14
11:00 a.m.

According to Laura Grego (Union of Concerned Scientists) the US Pentagon is likely to propose to develop a space-based missile defense system this year. The hundreds of interceptors in orbit that would be needed to take down even a few missiles would be extremely expensive and difficult to maintain. Strategically, it would likely inspire a renewed arms race as adversaries work to develop delivery systems that could evade space-based defenses. However, the orbital interceptors might make effective satellite killers, opening up a whole new, and potentially troubling realm of conflict.

Ted Postol (MIT) will present a missile defense concept that could potentially allow the US to destroy North Korean ICBM-range ballistic missiles while they are in powered flight. Unlike the current ground-based missile defense this defense could be built with existing technologies and does not require violation of fundamental physical principles to work. Postol will also explain how the North Korean liquid propellant ballistic missile program has been able to advance at an shockingly rate in recent years. Postol suggests that the North Korean program has likely benefited from rocket components and expertise available following the collapse of the Soviet Union and its economy, and also features indigenous innovations which probably use rocket components that were intended for other purposes.

Sunday, April 15

Sunday, April 15
10:00 a.m.

In 2010, Randolf Pohl and Jan C. Bernauer released the most accurate muon measurements to date, revealing that the proton’s radius was 4% smaller than previous measurements showed. This year, at 2018 APS April Meeting, Pohl will give a talk on new muon and electron based measurements, showing that the proton is even smaller than previously thought. The new experimental set up, MUSE, simultaneously scatters electrons and muons from protons to determine a discrepancy in the measurement. The measurements present a greater discrepancy than prior experiments and provide novel insights into the proton radius puzzle.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN is the largest machine of any kind in the world, but may not hold the record for long. As the most energetic currently existing particle accelerator, it consists of a 27 km ring of superconducting magnets, an ultrahigh vacuum, two counter-rotating, high-energy beams that travel close to the speed of light, and a cooling system that chills accelerator magnets below temperatures in outer space. To build on the LHC’s elementary particle research, a team of physicists developed plans to build an even bigger collider that could collect more precise measurements at higher energy levels. The plans for this collider feature a 97.75 km structure to support higher center-of-mass energy levels at 100TeV – seven times the energy available in the LHC. Daniel Schulte, who will present the plans at the 2018 APS April Meeting says, “It would be a discovery machine. Maybe it would uncover unknown particles at higher energies.” Although the project does not have an official timeline, the team reports that this new collider could be operational by 2042.

Sunday, April 15
1:00 p.m.

The Karlsruhe Tritium Neutrino (KATRIN) experiment aims to precisely measure the mass of a neutrino using a 70 meter beamline, innovative hardware, and software packages that pioneer techniques in particle tracking. The international research team reports that this experiment will yield the most precise measure of neutrino mass yet. The experimental apparatus successfully worked as a unit in recent tests and the team is preparing to move onto final tests with a radioactive source.

Larisa Thorne, who will present the team’s work at the APS April Meeting, said overcoming technical hurdles for this complex system could pave the way for future innovations “How would you know how to make a vacuum vessel as large as a house using stainless steel only 10mm thick unless you try it? We need to constantly be pushing the boundaries of what is possible to move forward,” Thorne said.

Sunday, April 15
2:00 p.m.

The Andrei Sakharov Prize comes with a couple perks: a $10,000 purse and a travel allowance to allow the recipients to attend the APS Meeting to be recognized for their work. The latter of these two benefits is unusable by one of this year’s recipient – Narges Mohammadi is in prison in Iran.

Mohammadi is an Iranian physicist and engineer whose ongoing advocacy for human rights in Iran resulted in 16-year prison sentence. Her work advancing human rights and social justice in her home country is the basis for this year’s Andrei Sakharov Prize, for which she is a co-recipient along with Ravi Kuchimanchi (Association for India's Development).

Advocacy, unfortunately, sometimes comes with a price. Mohammadi lost a career in the sciences in 2009 when she was dismissed from the Engineering Inspection Corporation. That same year started the tumultuous journey of arrest and incarceration. She has been imprisoned several times, punctuated by periodic releases to allow for medical treatment. A period of solitary confinement exacerbated her existing, critical medical conditions including a blood clot in her lungs and a neurological disorder resulting in seizures. Nevertheless, Mohammadi persists in her efforts.

Nayereh Tohidi will be accepting the Sakharov Prize and speaking on her behalf in the press conference and at the APS April meeting. Tohidi is a California State University professor of gender and women who specializes in the Middle East. Hadi Ghaemi of the Center for Human Rights in Iran will also be participating in the press conference.

Sunday, April 15
3:00 p.m.

Mimicking the speed and adaptability of human learning is no mean task. But as data from many scientific pursuits becomes more and more voluminous, the development of machine learning to act in lieu of humans for rapid, often real time, analysis is not just a possibility but potentially a necessity. As a result, data analysis, collection, and interpretation done with artificial intelligence trained through deep learning is a growing trend in physics research.

Brian Nord of Fermilab provides an overview of deep learning as it is used in physics research. The use of deep learning neural networks applied to strong gravitational lensing, the cosmic microwave background, and cosmological evolution have the potential to answer fundamental physics questions in a different way than before. Additionally, the potential for machine learning to analyse and interpret data in real time increases the speed with which these measurements are taken.

Daniel George of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign presents the first application of deep learning to identify gravitational waves in noisy LIGO data, representing a new approach to astrophysical research. There are always problems with data collection: from glitches in the detectors to low reaction time by observers. Deep learning with artificial intelligence offers a way to reduce the problems arising from these issues. The algorithm analyzes in milliseconds what would typically have been done after the fact using conventional analyses. If a signal appears to be a gravitational wave, this technique predicts its parameters allowing for a faster search for potential electromagnetic counterpart observations with other telescopes. Furthermore, it can then quickly compare the parameters with existing templates, thereby validating the result almost immediately.

Rohan Bhandari of the University of California at Santa Barbara presents the use of deep learning in the interpretation of particle jets emitted in high energy particle collisions. Using deep learning, Bhandari takes images of the jets to train a neural network to identify characteristics of the jet structure, such as fragmentation and energy distribution. This in turn leads to improved measurements of the jet response on the detector. Further work will help to eliminate the impact of detector imperfections and deepen understanding of particle jets.

Deep learning and artificial intelligence can radically change the way research is conducted. The sheer amount of data collected by astronomical instruments, particle detectors, and other large, data-intense experiments precludes constant human interaction. The efficient analysis by the deep learning technique creates a means to quickly process vast amount of scientific information, deepening our understanding of the universe.

Monday, April 16

Monday, April 16
10:00 a.m.

The Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) mission will be the first detector to measure gravitational waves from space. This European Space Agency-led collaboration with NASA is scheduled to launch in the early 2030s. LISA’s three component spacecrafts will be spaced apart farther than distances on earth could allow to catch gravitational waves, which will allow the gravitational wave telescope to detect astronomical events invisible to any ground-based machines. NASA’s John Baker will on the world-wide efforts of scientists to advance the LISA project, demonstrating technical readiness built on the success of the LISA Pathfinder mission that demonstrated key components that will comprise the LISA telescope. “LISA will be able to detect supermassive black hole mergers in the era of Cosmic Dawn when the universe was only a few percent of its current age,” John Baker said. Researchers hope that LISA and other gravitational wave detectors will enhance our knowledge about the evolution of our universe.

In 2016, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) announced the detection of gravitational waves and confirmed Einstein’s theory of relativity. Since then, LIGO has detected black hole mergers and increase the tools available to help us understand the universe. Current gravitational wave detectors, however, are confined to the local universe and operate with a signal to noise ratio just above the detection threshold. Matthew Evans will ponder the next generation of ground-based instruments sensitive enough to detect gravitational-waves from sources at the edge of the Universe. “We can go from nothing to everything in a single generation of detectors,” Evans said.

Monday, April 16
11:00 a.m.

Caltech researcher Coral Wheeler will describe her efforts to resolve problems with existing theories that explain large features of the universe well, such as shapes, clustering, and colors of major galaxies, but fail when it comes to smaller structures like dwarf galaxies. “Using high resolution simulations of these low mass galaxies to investigate the potential problems with the prevailing theory, we can test not only galaxy formation models, but the very nature of dark matter itself.” Wheeler said. “Either we resolve these small scale problems within our current framework, or we must rethink the entire cosmological paradigm itself.”


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