Press release

From Quarks to the Cosmos at the American Physical Society April Meeting in Columbus, Ohio, April 14-17, 2018

April 02, 2018

The American Physical Society's 2018 April meeting will focus on some of the world's largest physics projects and grandest research areas. Topics include particle physics, astrophysics, nuclear physics, plasma fusion and gravitational physics, as well as talks and sessions dedicated to social issues, energy and security.

The meeting will take place April 14-17 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.

A list of webcast press conferences will be available in the first week of April. Information about the onsite APS press room is included at the end of this release.

To see the most popular talks among physicists planning to attend the meeting go to

Registration is free for journalists. Contact James Riordon ([email protected], 301-209-3238) to register as press. Meeting details, including the complete meeting and events schedule, are available at the
April Meeting page.


Saturday, April 14
8:30AM - 10:18AM
Ballroom BC

Richard Feynman would have turned a hundred years old on May 11, 2018. In this year’s APS April Meeting Kavli Foundation Keynote Plenary Session, three speakers will reflect on Feynman’s life and research. Richard’s sister Joan Feynman (Jet Propulsion Lab, Retired) begins the session by recounting Feynman’s concerns about the risks posed by nuclear war, and delves into the current global threats posed by climate instability. Christopher Monroe (University of Maryland and IonQ, Inc.) will ponder Feynman’s prescient interests in nanoscale electronics and quantum computing. Finally, Roxanne Springer (Duke University) will discuss modern effective field theories (EFTs) that arose out of Feynman’s innovations in path integral physics techniques. Springer notes, “Any scientist can contribute to our understanding of the physical world by emulating some of what Feynman brought to his projects: high enthusiasm, hard work, strict integrity, constant curiosity, deep focus, constructive skepticism, scrupulous attention to detail, and joy in the process of discovery."

Sunday, April 15
9:06 AM–9:18 AM

Mimicking the speed and adaptability of human learning is no small task. New information is recorded and interpreted in real-time. As astrophysical data becomes more and more dense, the development of machine learning to act in more human ways is not just a possibility but a real solution. 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 creates a way to reduce these issues. The algorithm analyzes in milliseconds what would have been done after the fact. If a signal appears to be a gravitational wave, this technique predicts its parameters allowing for a faster search of the electromagnetic counterpart signal. Further, it can then quickly compare the parameters to existing templates thereby validating the result almost immediately.

What about those glitches? The deep learning method has been shown to work despite the presence of a glitch. The recent neutron star merger occurred at the same time as a glitch in the machine. It was hours later under painstaking manual analysis that the signal was confirmed. Had the deep learning method detected the signal, it would have identified both the signal and the glitch and found the event without human initiation. Additionally, the technique is able to recognize new sources of gravitational waves, even sources outside of the training data.

In other words, the method would radically change the way research is conducted. The sheer amount of data collected by astronomical instruments precludes constant human interaction with the incoming sources. The efficient analysis by the deep learning technique creates a means to quickly process the vast amount of astrophysical information, deepening our understanding of the cosmos.

Saturday, April 14
1:30PM - 3:18PM
Room B130

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 difficult to maintain. Strategically, it would likely inspire a new arms race as adversaries work to develop new delivery systems that could evade the 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. 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 use rocket components that were intended for other purposes.

Also in the session, Roy Schwitters (University of Texas, Austin) will discuss modernization of the US nuclear weapons stockpile.

Tuesday, April 17
2:06 PM–2:18 PM

Somewhat like the first cartographers, cosmologists mapping out the universe to study its large scale structure must combine observational measurements with mathematical modeling to create full pictures. Cosmological cartographers work with data from all sky surveys and use numerical simulations to calculate various parameters. DePaul University’s Loay Khalifa will present a novel computational technique that uses a fractal model of galaxies to compute parameters that could help explain the nature of dark energy. “We are trying to understand the dark energy, which a key component in our cosmological model through the use of different tools,” said Khalifa. “One of fundamental tasks of modern cosmology and theoretical physics is identifying what this dark energy is.”

Khalifa models galaxies and galaxy clusters in this fractal manner, imputing data from the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) and comparing results to mock data sets produced by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). “Basically, the fractal dimension is a measure of how an object is similar to a copy of itself over different scales,” Khalifa said. “The scales in this sense is what we call the cosmological redshift, which is the recession of distant galaxies from earth due to the expansion of the universe. By comparing the different values of the fractal dimension over different scales, we can deduce some important properties of this dark energy."

Monday, April 16
11:21 AM–11:57 AM

The Andrei Sakharov Prize comes with a couple perks: a $10,000 prize and a travel allowance to attend the APS Meeting to be recognized for their work. The latter of these two prizes is unusable by the recipient herself. Narges Mohammadi is in prison.

Mohammadi is an Iranian physicist and engineer whose ongoing advocacy for human rights in Iran landed her in a 16-year prison sentence. Her work forwarding human rights and social justice in her home country are the basis for this year’s Andrei Sakharov Prize, for which she is a co-recipient (with Ravi Kuchimanchi). She advocates for women’s rights, for the abolition of the death penalty, against the oppression of intellectuals, and several other human rights causes in Iran. Merely speaking out is met with harsh punishment and fierce tactics to silence her.

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

As Mohammadi is not able to attend the April Meeting, Nayereh Tohidi will be accepting the Sakharov Prize on her behalf at the awards ceremony Sunday night. Tohidi is a California State University professor of gender and women’s studies with a specialty in Middle Eastern studies. On Monday Tohidi will stand in for Mohammadi and read a statement written by the imprisoned human rights activist. At this meeting in the least, Narges Mohammadi will have a voice. Even if it is borrowed from a friend.

Monday, April 16
10:45 AM–11:21 AM

Mirrors are present in daily life but rarely are they subject to contemplation. The concept is simple: the image in the pane is a reflection of the object. In physics this idea is not so easily translated. The physics of the left-hand side is not always mirrored on the right-hand side. Ravi Kuchimanchi connects this broken reflection symmetry, or parity, in physics with societal asymmetries in the real world.

Kuchimanchi’s advocacy for social issues is being recognized by this year’s Andrei Sakharov Prize for which he is a co-recipient (with Narges Mohammadi). He founded the Association for India’s Development (AID) and through this organization has worked to counteract human rights violations in India. Kuchimanchi sees the issue of social justice as a problem of parity: equality of all sides.

Parity in physics is the technical description of equal treatment of right and left. As a concept, it is familiar to most physicists. Parity suggests left-spinning and right-spinning particles should obey the same physics. However, parity is broken at the subatomic level: weak nuclear force only acts on left-spinning particles. Kuchimanchi's research in physics shows that if parity is restored in nature in the simplest possible way, then experiments will find that laws of physics will also treat neutrinos (leptonic matter) and anti-neutrinos (leptonic anti-matter) in exactly the same way. Connecting this to the social issues, Kuchimanchi states, “Parity in terms of human rights can be equal opportunity and social justice for all.”

Growing intolerance between racial and ethnic backgrounds, disparity between the living conditions of different economic classes, the lack of basic welfare for health and education, and violation of environmental and natural resource protection are some of the many issues Kuchimanchi highlights both in India and around the world. AID works to correct these problems by providing aid, advocacy, education, and training through a team of volunteers. The organization faces an uphill battle and, like physics, correcting the “broken parity” of social issues is a long and difficult process. Kuchimanchi himself started focusing on human rights in 1997. With 800 volunteers across the US supporting about 100 groups in India, it is clear the organization is not stopping anytime soon.

As Kuchimanchi says, “We do not give up on parity either in physics or in human rights struggles.”

Sunday, April 15
9:54 AM–10:06 AM

“Using a 70 meter beamline, hardware achievements like gaseous tritium with unprecedented stability, and software packages that pioneer techniques in particle tracking, the Karlsruhe Tritium Neutrino (KATRIN) experiment aims to precisely measure the mass of a neutrino. The international research team reports that this experiment will yield the most precise measure of neutrino mass to date. The experimental apparatus successfully worked as a unit in recent tests and the team is preparing to move onto final tests with the 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.


Tuesday Plenary: Nobel Prize and APS Medal Winners
Featuring Barry Barish and Rainer Weiss (Nobel in Physics for gravitational wave detection) and Eugene Parker (APS Medal for Exceptional Achievement in Research)
Tuesday, April 17, 8:30 AM - 10:18 AM, Union Ballroom BC

Transformers, Origami, and Physics: Communicating Science While Navigating the Attention Economy
Saturday, April 14, 11:57 AM–12:33 PM, Room: A120-122

Acclaimed Author Dava Sobel on Henrietta Leavitt, Cecilia Payne Gaposchkin and the Women of Harvard Observatory
Monday, April 16, 2018, 3:30-4:06, Room: B131-132

Nobel Laureate Adam Reiss on the Cepheids and the Distance Ladder today
Monday, April 16, 2018, 4:42-5:18, Room: B131-132

Physicists and Human Rights
Monday, April 16, 10:45AM - 12:33PM, Room: B131-132

The Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA): A space-based Gravitational Wave Observatory
Tuesday, April 17, 1:30 PM–2:06 PM, Room: A120-122

The Legacy of Richard Feynman
Monday, April 16, 1:30 PM–3:18 PM, Room: B130

Exploring the Universe With Artificial Intelligence
Monday, April 16, 10:45 AM–11:21 AM, Room: A123-125

AI in the Sky: The Application of Artificial Intelligence to Cosmological Questions
Monday, April 16, 11:57 AM–12:33 PM, Room: A123-125

Testing General Relativity Using a Pulsar in a Triple System
Monday, April 16, 8:30 AM–10:18 AM, Room: Union Ballroom BC

New Results from the XENON1T Dark Matter Experiment
Saturday, April 14, 11:21 AM–1:57 AM, Room: A112-113

Optical Follow-up of GW170814 with the Dark Energy Camera
Sunday, April 15, 12:09 PM–12:21 PM, Room: B234-235

Future Circular Collider : Status and Plans
Sunday, April 15, 1:30 PM–2:06 PM, Room: A112-113

A Bioengineered Memory Device using Bacteriorhodopsin and Graphene
Monday, April 16, 2:00 PM Room: Union Ballroom A

Pre-inflationary Dynamics of the Universe in Loop Quantum Cosmology
Saturday, April 14, 4:18 PM–4:30 PM Room: A224-225


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