Webcast/Press Conference Schedule, American Physical Society March Meeting, Los Angeles, CA, March 5-9

COLLEGE PARK, MD, March 6, 2018 - The following press conferences will take place during the March Meeting of the American Physical Society, March 5 – 9, at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, CA.

The press conferences will be webcast live for journalists who wish to participate remotely. To register for the APS March Meeting webcasts, go to http://apswebcasting.com.

Note: all press conference times are in Pacific Standard Time (PST, GMT–8)

Monday, March 5

  • 10:00 AM PST, Puzzles Test Quantum Computers And Their Programmers, An Engine That Runs On Quantum Measurements, and Quantum Random Number Generator
  • 11:00 AM PST, A Cell Sized Machine With The Computing Power Of Voyager, Tiny Robots Fueled By Light, and Exploring Crystal Growth Pathways
  • 2:00 PM PST, Making Photovoltaics Flexible, and the Fastest Vortex Ever Recorded
  • 3:00 PM PST, Superconducting Black Holes, and Superconductivity Switched With Spin Currents
  • 4:00 PM PST, MicroAngelo - A "Hot" New Approach To 3-d Micro And Nanosculpting, and Microfluidic “Treadmills” For Bacteria

Tuesday, March 6

  • 9:00 AM PST, An Open Access Superhero Science Journal, Lakota Cosmology Meets Particle Physics, Developing Anti-bias Physics Education, and Garage Physics Undergraduate Makerspace
  • 10:00 AM PST, The Many-Person Problem Of Terrorism: How Physics Explains Behavior
  • 11:00 AM PST, Microcapsule Strain Sensors For Monitoring Bridges, Roads, And Other Structures
  • 2:00 PM PST, Hazards Of Self-driving Cars, and Detonation On A Tabletop
  • 3:00 PM PST, Hydrodynamic Ratchets: Microfluidic Pumps Inspired By Insect Breathing
  • 3:30 PM PST, Unconventional Superconductivity In Magic-angle Graphene Superlattices
  • 4:00 PM PST, Panel: Physics in Hollywood

Wednesday, March 7

  • 10:00 AM PST, The Physics Of Wrinkling
  • 11:00 AM PST, Moisture Harvesting
  • 1:30 PM PST, Subatomic Smackdown
  • 2:00 PM PST, Building An Integrative Undergraduate Curriculum
  • 4:00 PM PST, A Crackling Noise At Any Scale: From Nanocrystals To Earthquakes And Stars, How Helicopter Seeds Could Aid Reforestation, and Virtual Reality and the Physics of Coordination

Amendments

UNCONVENTIONAL SUPERCONDUCTIVITY IN MAGIC-ANGLE GRAPHENE SUPERLATTICES
Tuesday, March 6, 3:30 PM PST

Pablo Jarillo-Herrero (MIT) is reporting that stacking two graphene sheets on top of each other with a small misalignment leads to a new platform to investigate electrically tunable unconventional superconductivity. These two sheets have to be rotated by a precise angle, called the magic angle (1.1 degrees for graphene), and then the graphene system loses all electrical resistance below 1.7 Kelvin, which is a relatively high temperature given how few electrons the graphene system has, a phenomenon called strong-coupling superconductivity. This new discovery, reported in two back-to-back papers in Nature this week could provide clues to understanding the origin of high temperature superconductivity.

SUBATOMIC SMACKDOWN
Wednesday, March 7, 1:30PM PST

A battle brewing since the dawn of time is about to come to a head, and an international team of scientists and science writers are exploiting the fray to get people excited about physics, research, and the nature of science. The Subatomic Smackdown is a war of words and wit pitting four subatomic particles against each other to determine once and for all which is the most awesome in the universe. The contenders: the electron, neutron, photon, and proton. Laura Greene (APS Past President and Chief Scientist of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory) leads a team in the innovative outreach effort, culminating with the crowning the Smackdown winner: to be determined by scientists and science fans through a Twitter vote later this month.

VIRTUAL REALITY AND THE PHYSICS OF COORDINATION
Wednesday, March 7, 4:00PM PST

How do tango dancers coordinate their moves? Put another way, how do humans record and store information to train their behavior? In the past these questions would require an experiment involving a laboratory animal to observe their behavior. Edward Lee, a PhD candidate working with professor Itai Cohen at Cornell University, argues it is possible to go directly to the human source and investigate, for example, how humans process and store cues from their dance partner while tangoing. The development of virtual reality and motion capture technologies have made it possible to quantitative way to study behavior observed largely qualitatively in the past. This approach can solve coordination problems in a wide variety of industries, helping to develop better training techniques for the tango and other activities requiring synchronous movement.

Amendments (Mon)

PUZZLES TEST QUANTUM COMPUTERS AND THEIR PROGRAMMERS, AND QUANTUM RANDOM NUMBER GENERATOR
Monday, March 5, 10:00 AM PST

Enough quantum computer prototypes now exist that job openings with the title "Quantum Software Engineer" are starting to appear on mainstream recruiting websites (admittedly, somewhat rarely). While the development of quantum computer hardware is still in its early stages, the fundamentally different nature of using quantum processes to perform computations makes quantum software development a similarly young field. James Wootton, from the University of Basel, will present his work developing quantum computer games to address both the human and device sides of quantum programming challenges.

Unlike the sharp binary states of a classical bit, qubits can also form superpositions of their two states -- the key to their immense computing potential, as well as the reason implementation challenges are so complex. Quantum algorithms must be designed completely anew and many already have, though often in the context of ideal, low-noise systems of the future. The simple puzzles and games Wootton develops, including a version of Battleships, are designed to test the abilities of quantum computers currently available for use, like IBM's 16 qubit "ibmqx5." Moreover, Wootton designed the puzzles to serve as tutorials both for training a new generation of programmers and more broadly relating the new technology's principles.

Random numbers are useful for developing secure applications and even simple Monte Carlo simluations. Anatoly Kulikov gives details on his work on a quantum number generator. The number generator is experimentally realized, certified using the Kochen-Specker Theorem.

A CELL SIZED MACHINE WITH THE COMPUTING POWER OF VOYAGER
Monday, March 5, 11:00 AM PST

Using principles from origami, a team of researchers is developing cell-sized robots out of atomically thin sheets. Building cell-sized machines that can move, sense, and respond to the environment “open’s up whole new ways of observing and manipulating matter,” said Marc Miskin, a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell University. Miskin will present the group’s work transforming 2D materials, like graphene into folding actuators. “Each actuator is only 21 atoms thick, give or take a few atoms!” said Miskin.

SUPERCONDUCTIVITY SWITCHED WITH SPIN CURRENTS
Monday, March 5, 3:00 PM

The properties of magnetic films interacting with spin currents and generating superconductivity hold great potential for next generation computing devices as scientist look for better understanding of their properties and the ways they can be manipulated. Jhinhwan Lee from KAIST will present his group’s work on the magnetic symmetries in the Fe-layer of Sr2VO3FeAs structures and how superconductivity can be switched in atomic scale by changing the magnetic symmetries with spin currents.

“Spin-polarized current can change not only the magnetic orientation but also the magnetic symmetries,” said Lee. “If the electronic transport property (i.e. conductivity) changes significantly enough due to these magnetic symmetry changes, and if it has retention time long enough at room temperature, it can be used as magnetic memory device. In our case the transport property changes most drastically, i.e., between superconducting and normal states.”

To further examine the potential for use in devices such as fast spintronic transistors controlling superconductivity at higher temperature, Lee and his colleagues performed high-resolution quasiparticle interference (QPI) measurements and simulations to verify in atomic scale the enhancement of superconductivity by special phonons found in layered structures.

AN ENGINE THAT RUNS ON QUANTUM MEASUREMENTS, AND PUZZLES TO TEST QUANTUM COMPUTERS AND TEACH PROGRAMMERS Monday, March 5, 10:00 AM PST

Enough quantum computer prototypes now exist that job openings with the title "Quantum Software Engineer" are starting to appear on mainstream recruiting websites (admittedly, somewhat rarely). While the development of quantum computer hardware is still in its early stages, the fundamentally different nature of using quantum processes to perform computations makes quantum software development a similarly young field. James Wootton, from the University of Basel, will present his work developing quantum computer games to address both the human and device sides of quantum programming challenges. The simple puzzles and games Wootton develops, including a version of Battleships, are designed to test the abilities of quantum computers currently available for use, like IBM's 16 qubit "ibmqx5." Moreover, Wootton designed the puzzles to serve as tutorials both for training a new generation of programmers and more broadly relating the new technology's principles.

Many people have heard of Schrodinger's cat. At the heart of this thought experiment is the conundrum of quantum mechanics: observing a quantum system changes it. Research presented by Cyril Elouard, a postdoc at University of Rochester, exploits quantum perturbations caused by measurement and extracts them as an energy source. Elouard’s “quantum measurement engine” converts this perturbation into work such as raising an elevator or charging a battery. Elouard’s goal is to expand the scale of the engine by potentially using an “ensemble of quantum objects” to generate greater amounts of energy.

A CELL SIZED MACHINE WITH THE COMPUTING POWER OF VOYAGER, TINY ROBOTS FUELED BY LIGHT, AND EXPLORING CRYSTAL GROWTH PATHWAYS
Monday, March 5, 11:00 AM PST

Using principles from origami, a team of researchers is developing cell-sized robots out of atomically thin sheets. Building cell-sized machines that can move, sense, and respond to the environment “open’s up whole new ways of observing and manipulating matter,” said Marc Miskin, a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell University. Miskin will present the group’s work transforming 2D materials, like graphene into folding actuators. “Each actuator is only 21 atoms thick, give or take a few atoms!” said Miskin.

Matan Yah Ben Zion, PhD candidate at New York University, studies the motion of micro-swimmers, but not just any micro-swimmers. These micro-swimmers do not need the usual chemical fuel to swim. They do so by absorbing light for energy. Self-sustaining micro-swimmers eliminate two of the big obstacles to understanding complex system dynamics: they take away the added complication of fuel consumption and are more reliable than similar biological models. The micro-swimmers do not depend on their environment for support. Light-driving also introduces a simple and effect method for starting or finishing an experimental run: turn off the light source. Potentially the swimmer could deliver drugs with pinpoint accuracy, an exciting idea in chemotherapy where damaging drugs could be sent directly to tumors instead of inundating the whole environment.

The mechanisms by which crystal structures come together during growth still hold mysteries that scientists are trying to unlock. The answers have the potential to improve synthesis for the numerous applications that employ these hierarchical mesocrystal materials, including batteries and optoelectronic components. Guomin Zhu and his collaborators from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are investigating the crystallization in spindle-shaped hematite (Fe2O3), using techniques such as transmission electron microscopy (TEM) to study the spindle structure, nucleation and crystallization. "We have combined multiply techniques, mainly electron microscopy techniques to investigate their crystallization pathway," said Zhu. "Surprisingly we find nucleation near the surface of the existing crystal nuclei can play a vital role on the mesocrystal formation. The mesocrystal grows by nucleation around the interface in the solution, which is driven by the increased chemical potential of the ions near the interface."

Zhu's findings offer a new picture of the formation pathway of these mesocrystals, which exist in most inorganic materials like Zinc oxide, iron oxide, and more. "Essentially, if we know better how they crystalize, we can have a better guideline for the synthesis of those hierarchical materials," Zhu said.

MAKING PHOTOVOLTAICS FLEXIBLE, AND THE FASTEST VORTEX EVER RECORDED
Monday, March 5, 2:00 PM PST

Photovoltaics’, like solar panels, susceptibility to cracking shortens their lifetime and limits their applicability to soft, organic, or moving devices. Previous attempts to engineer semiconductor material for more flexible mechanical properties degraded the material’s electronic properties. Now, researchers at Rice University have developed a general approach to making organic photovoltaics stretchable, enabling a combination of high-performance and flexible devices. These “stretchable organic photovoltaics” are an elastic polymer mesh around the electronically active components. To develop this device, Verduzco and his team embedded electro-active polymers in an elastic thiol-ene mesh network by blending reactive molecules with electro-active molecules and triggering a cross linking reaction.

For the first time ever, a team of international researchers show how vortices move in superconducting materials and how fast they travel. Their work captured the fastest ever directly imaged vortex.

For this research, the team developed a novel technique called the “SQUID-on-tip.” They report that this device can perform scanning SQUID microscopy with better magnetic sensitivity than a single electron spin. They also report that their device was sensitive to thermal fluctuation within one millionth of a Kelvin.

Their findings show that vortices in superconducting materials “can travel 50 times faster than the speed limit of the supercurrent that drives it. This would be like driving an object to travel around the earth in just over 30 minutes,” said Yonathan Anahory, a physics lecturer at the Hebrew University, who will present the group’s work. Anahory’s presentation will also address the viscous forces that vortices experience during motion and the collective effect of high speed vortex interactions.

SUPERCONDUCTING BLACK HOLES, AND SUPERCONDUCTIVITY SWITCHED WITH SPIN CURRENTS
Monday, March 5, 3:00 PM

Sreenath Manikandan and Andrew Jordan from the University of Rochester have shown how many features of the quantum physics of black holes are similar to a rather different subfield of physics: superconductors. "We were primarily inspired by the earlier ideas about black holes where the black hole is treated as an "information mirror" which can accept particles, while reflecting the quantum information contained in them via Hawking radiation the black hole emits," Manikandan said. "We show that when the spin information encoded in an electron from the metal is thrown into a superconductor, the superconductor can accept the electron, but the information must be Andreev-reflected back into the metal via a hole (absence of an electron) ejected from the interface."

In the analogy, the metal-superconducting interface takes the role of a black hole's event horizon (a point of no return) and the particle scattering phenomenon at superconducting interfaces known as Andreev reflection relates to Hawking radiation. Several other parallels are developed, such as the idea that a wormhole connecting two universes is similar to "Crossed Andreev reflections" where an electron's spin information can be teleported from one metal to another across a superconductor that acts like a bridge. The striking analogy revealed by both information theoretic and thermodynamic analysis of these different problems suggests that laboratory experiments using superconductors may shed more light on the quantum description of black holes. [additional info forthcoming]

MICROANGELO - A "HOT" NEW APPROACH TO 3-D MICRO AND NANOSCULPTING, AND MICROFLUIDIC TREADMILLS FOR BACTERIA SWARMS
Monday, March 5, 4:00 PM PST

Outside of biophysical applications, microfluidic forces are largely overlooked in physics, but may find new fame because of a novel nanofilm sculpting technique ideally suited to applications ranging from micro-optics to biomimetic surfaces Caltech professor Sandra Troian will discuss her group's efforts in modeling and development of the "MicroAngelo" method, which exploits the highly nonlinear dynamics of thermocapillary surface forces to create patterned nanofilms in a one-step, non-contact process. "This concept for sculpting nanofilms in 3-D by relies on spatiotemporal control of delicate but powerful surface forces not so familiar to the physics community," said Troian. "While mostly inconsequential at macroscales, these Lilliputian forces tend to dominate the surface landscape at the microscale and exceed gravity by orders of magnitude. The underlying nonlinear phenomena are as complex as they are beautiful."

Creating similar topographies with conventional photolithographic techniques, a common approach that's used to create most integrated circuits, would require a complex, multi-step process performed in a clean room environment not necessary for MicroAngelo. The final 3-D structure arises from projection of thermal distribution maps onto the liquid interface of a molten nanofilm. Currently, these maps are generated by holding a cooled pre-design in close proximity to the liquid surface. The fluid is rapidly attracted out of plane toward those regions with higher thermal gradients, resulting in a 3D replica of the pre-design. The film solidifies in situ as soon as the thermal maps are removed, leaving behind an ultra smooth surface. Modeling estimates suggest a limiting feature resolution of about a hundred nanometers. Troian will also discuss solution of the "inverse problem" by her student Chengzhe Zhou whereby predesigns can be accurately computed from first principles to achieve the desired 3D film architecture in specified time. The principles driving the method apply to a vast array of nano and microscale applications yet to be explored.

The forces generated by sound and light waves are providing scientists with increasing ways to microscopically trap and manipulate small scale samples. However, these methods can also have undesirable and unintended impacts on biological processes in living microorganisms. By instead using the relatively gentle fluid forces in their novel 3-D microfluidic device, Jeremias Gonzalez, supervised by Bin Liu and Ajay Gopinathan at UC Merced, manipulates collections of concentrated bacteria which exhibit surprisingly large-scale spatial and temporal coherences. "Through controlling the local flow field with spatial and temporal modulation, we are able to probe the responses of the collective behaviors of these microorganisms to the fluid stress," said Gonzalez.

The microfluidic "treadmill," a contact-free trapping mechanism for these biological micro samples, uses a central chamber and an array of channels at different elevations to control the 3-D flow profile. The full system was designed to be compatible with most light microscopes. Gonzalez aims to study bacterial swarms trapped with the "treadmill," where he could test responses to fluid flow changes. "We expect that this study will enable identification of the required fluidic stresses to promote or inhibit the swarming behaviors," he said, "which will resolve the mechanisms of the emergence of spatial-temporal coherence from a fluid mechanics perspective."

AN OPEN ACCESS SUPERHERO SCIENCE JOURNAL, LAKOTA COSMOLOGY MEETS PARTICLE PHYSICS, DEVELOPING ANTI-BIAS PHYSICS EDUCATION, AND GARAGE PHYSICS UNDERGRADUATE MAKERSPACE
Tuesday, March 6, 9:00 AM PST

Have you ever wondered how you can keep up on superhero-related physics research? Look no further than the open access journal, Superhero Science and Technology, which publishes research motivated by the science of superheroes. The journal is part of a program that will be presented by Barry Fitzgerald (Delft University of Technology) that turns to superheroes to bridge the gap between academic researchers and the general public. In addition to the journal, the program “Secrets of Superhero Science” has been used to effectively communicate physics and other scientific disciplines to the general public in the Netherlands and Ireland. Fitzgerald will describe the program's various superhero-themed workshops, the development of superhero-themed learning resources, and the publication of popular science books.

A novel workshop for 10- to 12-year-olds in Taos, New Mexico allows participants to explore native science, western science, and the arts, as parallel ‘ways of knowing’ and understanding our place in the universe. Steven Goldfarb (University of Melbourne) will describe key elements of the workshop, which is part of the Lakota Cosmology Meets Particle Physics program, including interactive exchanges on indigenous storytelling and cultural knowledge, western particle physics and cosmology, tipi building, cloud chamber building, and the development of projection art from storylines created by the students. Goldfarb will describe the motivation for the novel partnership, its effectiveness as an educational program, lessons learned, and plans for future activities.

Janice Hudgings (Pomona College) and her student Chaelee Dalton note that women and people of color remain dramatically underrepresented in physics and, along with other minority groups such as LGBTQ+ physicists, report experiencing hostile environments. A case study of a physics department at a primarily white liberal arts college suggests why: classrooms and departments remain rife with unacknowledged bias and privilege, even when populated by well-meaning faculty and students, through the use of textbooks focused solely on the achievements of white men, widespread accounts of not-so-“micro”-aggressions, and the conflation of privilege with aptitude. Hudgings and Dalton have developed and studied one possible solution: an integrated anti-bias education approach woven into a sophomore level Modern Physics course, via a series of readings, reflections, and activities alongside the conventional technical content. They will discuss their progress in developing a means of assessing the effectiveness of this approach in building a more inclusive department climate.

Garage physics: the term used by University of Wisconsin physics professor Duncan Carlsmith certainly captures the spirit of the space. While not exactly located in a garage, the space provides undergraduates the opportunity to create multidisciplinary projects with entrepreneurship in mind. The idea is to challenge students to develop projects with a wide range of their peers and then put them into practice. A project team might consist of students in majors as diverse as physics, computer programming, business, economics, and more. Quick classes early in the semester give limited instruction prior to students joining the garage. Carlsmith hopes to encourage independent discovery and introduce the concepts of innovation and entrepreneurship, a goal necessary in a changing field of physics careers.

THE MANY-PERSON PROBLEM OF TERRORISM: HOW PHYSICS EXPLAINS BEHAVIOR Tuesday, March 6, 10:00 AM PST

By applying the physics of many-body out-of-equilibrium systems, complex dynamical networks, and Feynman diagrams to global terrorism, Neil Johnson presents a “model that explains the observed data for both online extremist behavior and offline attacks.” Johnson compares humans to particles, online social networks to threatened fish clusters, and real and fake news to external fields. Embracing open source information and big data, Johnson generalized the dark side of human behavior through physics. This work challenges the conventionally held notion of a lone-wolf terrorist and provides a new framework for policymakers to analyze terrorism as a many-person problem.

MICROCAPSULE STRAIN SENSORS FOR MONITORING BRIDGES, ROADS, AND OTHER STRUCTURES
Tuesday, March 6, 11:00 AM PST

Microsensors made of gold nanoparticles and silicon could soon be applied to bridges, roads, and other structures to reveal signs of mechanical failure. Celine Burel (University of Pennsylvania) and colleagues are developing the microsensors as an alternative to paints, films and coatings that currently serve as structural diagnostics. Unlike conventional strain sensing materials, which are themselves sometimes harmful to structures and can be difficult to monitor, the gold microsensors are benign and can be monitored in real time via visual inspections and observation with optical equipment. According to Burel, the new microsensor would lead to dramatic decrease in time to investigate mechanical damage, which would potentially reduce inspection costs while increasing the safety of up to 600,000 bridges, 4 million miles of roads, and countless buildings, airports and other structures in the US alone.

SUBATOMIC SMACKDOWN
Tuesday, March 6, 1:30 PM PST

A battle brewing since the dawn of time is about to come to a head, and an international team of scientists and science writers are exploiting the fray to get people excited about physics, research, and the nature of science. The Subatomic Smackdown is a war of words and wit pitting four subatomic particles against each other to determine once and for all which is the most awesome in the universe. The contenders: the electron, neutron, photon, and proton. Laura Greene (APS Past President and Chief Scientist of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory) leads a team in the innovative outreach effort, culminating with the crowning the Smackdown winner: to be determined by scientists and science fans through a Twitter vote later this month.

HAZARDS OF SELF-DRIVING CARS, AND DETONATION ON A TABLETOP
Tuesday, March 6, 2:00 PM PST

Simulations show that traffic flows better as autonomously-piloted cars replace human driven ones, but when things go wrong, a few autonomous cars can cause big problems. Skanda Vivek and colleagues at Georgia Institute of Technology found that if some autonomous cars are disabled en route (say by malicious hackers) traffic flow can be completely blocked on simulated roads even if only 15% of cars are autonomous. Surprisingly, says Vivek, “The risks of hacking-induced congestion are more striking than the benefits of autonomous drivers.” Hackers have already found ways to disrupt human-piloted cars, and the exposure to hacking is only increased with fully autonomous cars. “While a collective hack hasn’t happened yet,” Vivek notes, “our view is that it’s better to anticipate and inoculate for these scenarios, rather than being blindsided and having to react in the moment.” Such traffic innoculations might include Human Only Vehicle (HOV) lanes or increasing the diversity in automobile operating systems to limit the number of cars that could be hacked with the same vulnerability.

Nitromethane, the fuel in top fuel drag racing, is highly energetic. Scientists trying to determine nitromethane’s shock-response, have been limited by the costs and risks associated with detonation experiments. Mithun Bhowmick, a Postdoctoral Research Associate, and Erin Nissen, a graduate student, at University of Illinois pioneered a new device they call a shock compression microscope. Now, “students and postdocs can make and study hundreds of detonations in a day, while sitting at a desk,” said Bhowmick.

This new method has collected the largest pool of data on nitromethane emission so far. Bhowmick explained that “the shock compression microscope has high-speed nanosecond and femtosecond laser diagnostics that measure pressure, temperature and composition in real time, and a fast video camera so we can see right into the detonating explosive.” The Dlott Research Group’s new device can help other researchers study liquids and solids under extreme conditions of high temperature and pressure. They hope that their work will increase safety protocols in industries dealing with nitromethane and other explosive materials.

HYDRODYNAMIC RATCHETS: MICROFLUIDIC PUMPS INSPIRED BY INSECT BREATHING
Tuesday, March 6, 3:00 PM PST

Anne Staples and colleagues at Virginia Tech have exploited their discoveries about the way insects breath to create microscopic pumps that could lead to novel devices for controlling fluid flow on lab-on-a-chip types of devices. The key to insect respiration appears to be hydrodynamic ratchets, which allow fluids to move in only one direction despite the fact that the forces on the fluid alternate forward and back. The ratchets Staples is developing are built of tubes that open up when fluid flows forward, but collapse when the flow is reversed. The ratchets can be tuned to operate at different frequencies, which means a ratchet can effectively be turned on or off by driving a fluid at different rates.

For an insect, the ratchets ensure that air flows through the insect’s lungs instead of sloshing back and forth. For lab-on-a-chip devices, explains Staples, the ratchets can control the flow into various branches of a microscopic network for chemical analysis or other applications.

UNCONVENTIONAL SUPERCONDUCTIVITY IN MAGIC-ANGLE GRAPHENE SUPERLATTICES
Tuesday, March 6, 3:30 PM PST

Pablo Jarillo-Herrero (MIT) is reporting that stacking two graphene sheets on top of each other with a small misalignment leads to a new platform to investigate electrically tunable unconventional superconductivity. These two sheets have to be rotated by a precise angle, called the magic angle (1.1 degrees for graphene), and then the graphene system loses all electrical resistance below 1.7 Kelvin, which is a relatively high temperature given how few electrons the graphene system has, a phenomenon called strong-coupling superconductivity. This new discovery, reported in two back-to-back papers in Nature this week could provide clues to understanding the origin of high temperature superconductivity.

PANEL: PHYSICS IN HOLLYWOOD
Tuesday, March 6, 4:00 PM PST

More storylines from popular TV shows and movies are being “ripped” from the science news headlines, revealing that sometimes science fact can be more interesting than science fiction. Panelists from the physics community and entertainment industry will discuss their successes and challenges in working together. Science advisors who have used physics to influence the storylines on TV shows and films such as The Big Bang Theory, Bones, Thor: Ragnarok and Ant-Man will tell “behind the scenes” stories about their experiences. With the help of the National Academies’ Science and Entertainment Exchange, learn how screenwriters and producers are making scientists and science the “star” of their next project and how this program provides a real opportunity to connect the physics community with the entertainment industry and for both to benefit from the collaboration.

Panelists include:

Gia Mora (Moderator) is an actor, singer, and writer. Her TV credits include True Detective, Baskets, and Castle, and critically acclaimed one-woman show Einstein’s Girl continues to tour the country. She’s also 1/3 of the Scirens, the screen sirens for science, who champion science literacy through entertainment.

Amy Brown (Panelist) is the program coordinator of the National Academy of Science’s Science and Entertainment Exchange. The Exchange’s mission is to inspire better science in Hollywood by introducing entertainment professionals to great science communicators.

Jennifer Ouelette (Panelist) is a science writer and author of several popular science books connecting physics and pop culture, including her latest book, Me, Myself and Why: Searching for the Science of Self. She is also the former science editor at Gizmodo.

Sean M. Carroll (Panelist) is a theoretical physicist at Caltech who studies cosmology, dark energy and gravitation. He is also an author and his most recent book is the Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself. He has also served as a science advisor on various TV shows and films for example, Bones, Fringe, The Big Bang Theory, Thor and TRON: Legacy.

Clifford Johnson (Panelist) is a theoretical physicist at University of Southern California who studies string theory, quantum mechanics and black holes in order to understand the origins of the universe. He is also an author and artist, and his latest project is a non-fiction graphic novel entitled, The Dialogues: Conversations about the nature of the Universe. He has also served as a science consultant for various TV shows and films such as Thor: Ragnarok, Agent Carter, and the National Geographic series Genius about the life and work of Albert Einstein.

Moo Stricker (Panelist) is a mechanical engineer and physicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. She is a planetary protection engineer and is developing plasma sterilization methodologies and additional sterilization capabilities for future mission use. She has consulted for TV shows (Man vs. Youtube and National Geographic) and has appeared as a science communicator (How the Universe Works, Bill Nye Saves the World, and Origins).

Spyridon “Spiros” Michalakis (Panelist) is an outreach manager and staff researcher at the Institute for Quantum Information and Matter at Caltech. He is a mathematical physicist and has served as a science advisor for Ant-Man.

Amy Berg (Panelist) is a television writer, showrunner and executive producer. She has written for Person of Interest, Eureka, and her most recent project was Counterpart.

THE PHYSICS OF WRINKLING
Wednesday March 7, 10:00 AM PST

As the neuroscience community probes the relationship between structure and function, insights into wrinkling could enhance our understanding of the human brain. Using new live-imaging techniques on a 3D cell culture designed to mimic the brain’s development, researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara observed the mechanisms underpinning wrinkling. Their findings indicate that mechanical instability, a purely physical phenomenon, drives wrinkling. The authors reports that this is the first experimental evidence that this phenomena occurs in a living system.

Moreover, using CRISPR/Cas9, Eyal Karzbrun’s group identified and replicated the genetic mutations that are responsible for neurodevelopmental disorders in smoother brain organoids. The researchers hope that their experimental setup can be used in the future as a model system for studying genetic mutations and drugs related to neurodevelopment.

MOISTURE HARVESTING
Wednesday, March 7, 11:00 AM PST

Climate change presents serious challenges to ensuring the availability of drinking water around the world. In areas limited by access even to salt water, novel solutions are needed to solve the water crisis. 2018 George E. Pake Prize recipient Richard Boudreault presents the results of a collaborative effort to solve this problem through a rather science-fiction-sounding solution: moisture harvesters.

Boudreault presents atmospheric moisture harvesting technology, a potential solution to the ever-growing global water crisis. The harvester technology is based on biomimicry. Some species of cactus and reptiles extract water directly from the air using similar approaches: both involve tiny tubes to funnel tantalizing amounts of water from thin air. This process is reproduced through carbon nanotubes on a semi-permeable membrane, one side treated to be hydrophilic (water attracting) and the other hydrophobic (water repelling). The hydrophilic side pulls water from the air while the hydrophobic side allows removal from the membrane.

Though more efficient in high humidity atmospheres, it is not dependent upon a minimum water vapor content to work. This means the technology could work in almost any environment on Earth, and potentially beyond if one considers water vapor content on Mars. Additionally, the low energy cost of running the technology bodes well for industrialization in the future.

So how much water can the extractor produce? On a small scale, the system can produce about 10 gallons (50 liters) of water per day. This size would be ideal for individuals or remote communities, even for emergency aid. Scaled up to a larger format, the system could produce on the order of hundreds to thousands of gallons of water per day, enough to support industrial or commercial beverage or food operations.

Boudreault notes they have made a working model in the laboratory setting. This summer, the research group looks to expand the technology to a commercial scale device.

BUILDING AN INTEGRATIVE UNDERGRADUATE CURRICULUM
Wednesday, March 7, 2:00 PM PST

Specialize! Every undergraduate and graduate is told to carefully pick a specialization. More and more often specialization is valued over integrating different disciplines, even going so far as to separate applied and pure research so they seem to be from different planets. Curriculums down to the undergraduate level reflect this deepening divide. President of Plymouth State University Donald Birx illustrates the increasingly multidisciplinary fields of physics graduates and the curriculum shortcomings needing correction to foster an integrated approach.

In addition to the pigeon-holing of curriculums, there is also the issue of small graduating classes. As Birx notes, the average number of physics graduates is less than seven per academic institution. One possible factor contributing to this small number is the disconnect between the physics taught in the early undergraduate courses and the excitement of modern physics. The thrill of a new discovery or the expansion of the space program often motivates students to try their hand at a physics major. By the time they reach the material that attracted them in the first place, a large base of students has already left the major.

Finding a way to connect with that initial excitement can aid in not just growing the major but also growing the skills needed later in diverse career paths. While no single approach to education is appropriate to all students, Birx is actively working to incorporate new and diverse approaches to the current curriculum.

A CRACKLING NOISE AT ANY SCALE: FROM NANOCRYSTALS TO EARTHQUAKES AND STARS, AND HOW HELICOPTER SEEDS COULD AID REFORESTATION
Wednesday, March 7, 4:00 PM PST

What do nano-crystals, candy wrappers, tectonic plates, and stars all have in common? At first glance, not a whole lot. But Dr. Karin Dahmen would argue differently. All these systems and many others demonstrate the same deformation dynamics emitting a crackling noise useful as a diagnostic tool.

Dahmen, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, presents research on the common dynamics of systems spanning vastly different scales. Each system deforms—whether crumples, quakes, or avalanches—producing a crackling noise distinct enough to be an identifying characteristic. Even if the collapse is not observable directly, the sound acts as an indirect indicator of the underlying dynamics. Dahmen demonstrates that the deformation mechanics of each of these systems is analogous to the others if somewhat disparaging in size.

The implications of this work include a better understanding of the dynamics of earthquake deformation. A laboratory experiment on an analogous scale could offer insights into how the Earth’s crust deforms. Later research could use the crackling noise and its known dynamics to predict the behavior of new materials helping to prevent imminent engineering collapses and large catastrophes.

Deforestation impacts the environment on a local and global scale by disrupting ecosystems, displacing animals, and contributing to climate change. Researchers at the University of Oslo used CAD models to study how seed wings evolved to their current shape to optimize flight time and dispersion. Based on their models, they’ve gleaned insights into how fast we can expect reforestation, the ability of a forest to regenerate itself.

Using 3D printers, these researchers applied their CAD model findings to produce model tree seeds with the highest survival probability and the optimal curvature for reforestation. The researchers report that their results could potentially be applied to develop microdrones by mimicking evolution’s optimal designs for engineering.


MORE INFORMATION FOR JOURNALISTS

PRESS CONFERENCES

Press conferences will be held daily in the Los Angeles Convention Center room 508A. A press conference schedule, which will include instructions for dialing in remotely, will be issued on late February.

REGISTERING AS A JOURNALIST

Journalists planning to attend the meeting should contact James Riordon (riordon@aps.org) about free registration.

PRESSROOM INFORMATION

A dedicated and staffed pressroom will operate throughout the meeting at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Phones, computers, printers, and free wireless Internet access will be available to reporters using the pressroom.

  • Location: Los Angeles Convention Center room 508 B/C
  • Hours: MON-THU, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and FRI, 7:30 a.m. to noon
  • Food service: Both breakfast and lunch will be provided Monday through Thursday. Breakfast only will be served on Friday.

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The American Physical Society is a nonprofit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy, and international activities. APS represents over 55,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories, and industry in the United States and throughout the world. Society offices are located in College Park, Maryland (Headquarters), Ridge, New York, and Washington, DC