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The APS California Section held its annual fall meeting December 3-4, 2004 at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California. Topics covered in the technical program included exploring the quantum vacuum through the Casimir effect, particle physics and dark energy, nanoscale applications for scanning tunneling microscopy, and satellite navigation and the ionosphere.
Friday evening's banquet speaker was Gregory Benford of the University of California, Irvine, who spoke of his experiences as a scientist in Hollywood, attempting to adapt his own novels for film and television.
Among the other invited speakers was David Pine of the University of California, Santa Barbara, who described new methods for making small clusters of colloidal particles with very well-defined symmetries, ranging from tetrahedral and octahedral to more exotic clusters with very complex symmetries. Such clusters can be used to create new nearly spherical colloidal particles that promote the growth of crystals or glasses with those same local symmetries. Pine calls such clusters "colloidal atoms."
In addition, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Dayton Jones described some of the expected advances in fundamental physics and astronomy research that could be achieved using the new Square Kilometer Array (SKA).
SKA is an international radio astronomy instrument planned for the next decade, which will be nearly 100 times as sensitive as any existing radio telescope or array.
Among the questions SKA could help resolve are the equation of state of the dark energy and its possible evolution with time, as well as the distribution of matter in the universe during the early stages of large-scale structure formation. Strong-field gravity will be probed through the discovery and timing of pulsars orbiting stellar mass black holes.
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