APS News

March 2011 (Volume 20, Number 3)

Strong Physics Lineup at Dallas March Meeting

Editor's Note:  You can read session abstracts in the March Meeting Bulletin.
Gray arrow   March Meeting Session Index

The APS March Meeting, the largest annual physics meeting in the country, will take place from March 21 through 25 at the Dallas Convention Center in Dallas, Texas. Physicists from across the globe will present more than 7,000 papers with over 100 invited sessions and 550 sessions total. More than 7,500 scientists are expected to show up to share the most cutting edge developments in areas including condensed matter, computational physics, chemical and biological physics, new materials, polymers and fluids. A number of sessions will also look to explore the role of physics in different segments of society, including its role in industry, national security, human dynamics, sustainable energy and energy storage.

Nobel Prize Session
The Nobel Prize Session (U1), on Wednesday March 23 at 5:45 p.m., is titled “Graphene: Materials in the Flatland”, and will feature 2010 Nobel laureate Konstantin Novoselov.

Superconductivity Turns 100
2011 marks the 100th anniversary of the discovery of superconductivity. To commemorate this milestone, numerous sessions at the meeting are devoted to the past, present and future of super conductivity. The Kavli Foundation is sponsoring two special symposia: “Nobelist Perspectives on 100 Years of Superconductivity” (session J3) and “Superconductivity Centennial: Future Research Developments” (session Q2). Taking a look back, session B3 will retell the story of the phenomenon from its discovery to the first high temperature superconductors. The Industrial Physics Forum (AIP) in conjunction with the APS Forum on Industrial and Applied Physics will hold sessions highlighting industrial applications of superconductivity including in electronics and the electrical grid, medical imaging, astrophysical detectors and sensitive magnetic field detectors (sessions 1A, 1B and A5).

Topological Insulators Keep Getting Hotter
A world powered by spintronics is getting closer as research into topological insulators keeps moving forward. One of the fastest growing fields of condensed matter research, topological insulators are a class of materials in which electrons flow along the surface almost without resistance, while the inside remains an insulator. More than a dozen sessions will focus on this exciting new field. Researchers at MIT (Session J35.08, J35.10 and J35.12) will explain how they plan on using photons to probe the flow of electrons through the materials. Kesong Yang of Duke University will talk about 40 new materials discovered to be topological insulators (session X32.05).

The Graphene Scene
Graphene's prominence in recent years was emphasized when Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov won the Nobel Prize for physics in 2010. Scientific research into the two-dimensional sheets of carbon, and related carbon nanotubes, has been going strong since it was first isolated six years ago. At this year’s meeting, Ming Xu of the Technology Research Association for Single Wall Carbon Nanotubes and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Tsukuba, Japan, will discuss a new rubber-like material made of carbon nanotubes that retains its elasticity over temperatures ranging from nearly -200 C to 1000 C. In lab tests, researchers dipped the material into liquid nitrogen and burned it with a butane torch without any appreciable effect (session B28.07). In addition, session B37 “Focus Session: Graphene Growth, Characterization, and Devices: Devices and Contacts” will feature a talk by Walt de Heer giving an overview of the promise of graphene, as well as the announcement of new devices and applications for graphene, including radio frequency transistors, logic inverters, and flexible transparent field emission devices.

Finding the Purest Germanium
Dongming Mei of the University of South Dakota will describe a method to grow germanium crystals deep in the underground tunnels of the planned DUSEL experiment in Lead, South Dakota. Though more abundant in Earth’s crust than silver, germanium is difficult to find in any appreciable quantity because there’s no geologic process that concentrates the element into minable veins. Mei’s team will show how to identify impurities in the fully grown crystals that will be used to hunt for evidence of dark matter, neutrinos and cosmic rays (session A11.12). The germanium crystals, which can be up to several pounds, will be part of detectors that register when the kinetic energy of a particle hits a germanium nucleus.

X-Ray Archeology
Three physicists from Cornell University have developed a technique using X-rays to see eroded or obscured writing on ancient artifacts (session W21.13). X-ray fluorescence highlights chemical traces left behind by the tools of ancient artisans, even if the markings themselves are gone. The technique holds much promise for future archeological work as it doesn’t require any special sample environment to work in, doesn’t damage the artifacts and can be used on any-sized object. Recently the team has started using X-ray fluorescence to investigate ancient Mayan relics and has already revealed previously obscured writing on a number of artifacts.

Ghost Lasers in the Sky
A team of researchers at Texas A&M University, with help from collaborators at Princeton and the University of Arizona, are developing a laser system that can sample pollutants in the upper atmosphere from the ground (sessions W45.13 and W45.14). The system starts out by shooting pulses of two different colored lasers into the sky in rapid succession. Because different wavelengths of light travel at slightly different speeds in a medium like air, the longer wavelength pulse will overtake the shorter wavelength pulse and excite the air molecules when it does. This sends a laser-like pulse, a “backwards-emitting pulse,” back down the beam line. The team can then spectroscopically analyze this backwards beam created by the excited air molecules.

Teeny Tiny Antennae
The world’s smallest antenna has been created by researchers at the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Barcelona. Built out of nano-sized rods, the tiny antennas redirect photons emitted by quantum dots. The team announced its first workable model in August 2010, and now has created a variety of different nano-antennas that could be used to detect signals from biological molecules or to act as connections in future quantum computers (session B32.04).

How Much of an Impact Can One Scientist Have?
Alexander Petersen and Eugene Stanley of Boston University have come up with a new technique to gauge the scientific impact of a physicist (session B14.04). The two researchers looked at the careers of 200 scientists, ranging from assistant professors to Nobel laureates, and found a surprising statistical regularity in careers, which can be modeled. With their “beta-index,” which looks in part at the number of publications by a scientist and the number of times they have been cited, Petersen and Stanley say they can quantify how popular a scientist’s papers are, and track his or her career development.

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Editor: Alan Chodos

March 2011 (Volume 20, Number 3)

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Articles in this Issue
Strong Physics Lineup at Dallas March Meeting
New Access Policy Includes Full Reuse Rights
APS Releases Report on Energy-Critical Elements
Six Programs Get Outreach Mini-Grants
Science Funding on the Table as President, Congress Battle Over Budget
APS Launches Exchange Program with Brazil
President Will Mount Vigorous Defense of Science Funding, Says Advisor Holdren
APS Develops Mentor Training Guide
Letters To the Editor
The Back Page
Members in the Media
This Month in Physics History
The Education Corner
Inside the Beltway