APS News

April 2013 (Volume 22, Number 4)

Niels Bohr and Much More at April Meeting

Physicists the world over will soon be converging on the Mile High City for the annual APS April Meeting, being held this year from April 13 through 16 at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel in Denver, Colorado. The meeting will draw more than 1,200 physicists to share the latest results in particle physics, nuclear physics, astrophysics and plasma physics research. There will be 72 invited sessions, more than 120 contributed sessions and three poster sessions.

Kavli Keynote
Saturday morning’s Kavli Keynote Session (A1) will kick off the meeting by highlighting some of the amazing high energy, quantum and astrophysics research being conducted around the world. John Harris of Yale University will present recent results from the LHC’s collisions creating quark-gluon plasma, and the insights it offers. Nobel laureate David Wineland
of NIST will talk about his research into quantum entanglement and information using trapped ions. Lloyd Knox from the University of California, Davis will present the sky maps of the cosmic microwave background generated from data taken by ESA’s Planck telescope.

Bohr’s Atom at 100
2013 marks the 100th anniversary of Niels Bohr’s discovery of the quantum atom. Physicists and historians will speak about the important milestone throughout the week. At Monday morning’s plenary session (P1.01) John Heilbron of the University of California, Berkeley will share fresh perspectives on Bohr’s thinking and the influence of his wife Margre the drawn from soon to be published letters written by the acclaimed physicist. In addition, on Tuesday morning, a full session (X7) will be devoted to recapping the importance of Bohr’s new paradigm in understanding the quantum structure of atoms, and the lasting effects it’s had to this day. 

Other Plenary Talks
Other plenary sessions will highlight new and exciting directions in physics. On Tuesday morning (W1) Geralyn Zeller from Fermilab will review some of the important recent neutrino experiments and discoveries, such as the smallest mixing angle, and their implications on future research into CP violation and beyond. Florencia Canelli of ETH Zurich will present some of the latest results of CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. Tim Tait of the University of California, Irvine will talk about what particle physicists have to look forward to now that the Higgs Boson has been discovered. Also in Monday Morning’s plenary session (P1), John Preskill from Caltech and Deborah Jin of NIST will present their research at the frontier of quantum computing, entanglement and quantum optics.

The Shores of Stability
Physicists in the 1960s predicted an “island of stability” for super-heavy elements with long lasting half-lives, theoretically centered around element 126. None have been synthesized so far, and whether they actually exist it is one of the persisting unsolved mysteries of nuclear physics. Jacklyn Gates of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will review the search for these elusive elements, as accelerators have managed to create heavy nuclei that lap at the shores of these so-called islands of stability. (Q3.03)
Renewable Energy by 2050

The future of renewable energy seems bright. Trieu Mai from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and his team have recently concluded a study looking at the opportunities and obstacles for switching the United States electricity supply over to 80 percent renewable energy by 2050. The possibility is there, but it would take a concerted effort to make it happen. (H6.02)

Dating the Oceans
The new Atom Trap Trace Analysis for radio-krypton dating has started to transform Earth scientists’ understanding of how the planet’s hydrosphere behaves. It has already been used to map the evolution of the Nubian Aquifer of Africa, the Great Artesian Basin of Australia and the Guarani Aquifer of South America and the circulation of water in the deep oceans. In addition, the team from Argonne will present results that explore its uses to date ancient ice core samples. (J10.08)

Irradiating the Oceans
Ionizing radiation from space is ubiquitous, but the Earth’s atmosphere does a good job of shielding its inhabitants from the dangers of cosmic rays–at least, most of the time. Some researchers have suggested that major space radiation events, like huge solar flares or gamma ray bursts, might have had an influence on some of the major extinctions throughout terrestrial history. Brian Thomas from Washburn University delves into this possibility, and shares some of his recent work looking at what happens to Earth’s oceans when one of these cosmic events occurs. (X8.01)

New Gravitational Wave Detector
Though gravitational waves haven’t yet been detected, physicists are already developing the next generation of detectors. Andrew Geraci from the University of Nevada in Reno and his team have devised a detector using sensors suspended by lasers in an optical cavity. Theoretically, the device should be an order of magnitude more sensitive to high frequency gravitational waves than any of the current designs, in a device that can fit on a tabletop. (L10.08)

The “Flame Challenge” Winner Speaks
Ben Ames from the University of Innsbruck won actor Alan Alda’s “Flame Challenge” last year. The contest asked people to explain what fire is in a way that’s both scientifically accurate, and understandable to the general public. Ames will talk about why engaging the public about science is important, what elements make for effective communication and what falls flat. (D5.03)

Science as Diplomacy
Science is an important diplomatic tool that can encourage international collaboration, trade and understanding. E. William Colglazier, the science and technology adviser to the U.S. Secretary of State, will explain how science diplomacy works, and how progress can continue to be made. (H7.03)

Dark Matter at Last…?
For months a mysterious 130 GeV gamma ray signal from the center of the galaxy has been hinting at the possible presence of dark matter. However, questions abound about whether the Fermi Telescope is seeing an artifact in the data or a real signal and what that signal actually means. Elliott Bloom from SLAC, whose team has been working on the data, will present the latest results on the signal, and what might be producing it. (J14.01)

APS encourages the redistribution of the materials included in this newspaper provided that attribution to the source is noted and the materials are not truncated or changed.

Editor: Alan Chodos
Staff Science Writer: Michael Lucibella

April 2013 (Volume 22, Number 4)

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Articles in this Issue
Niels Bohr and Much More at April Meeting
OSTP Memo Sets Goal of Public Access
Congress Weighs Action to Ease Helium Crisis
Congressman is Charter Member of New APS Section
Jack Sandweiss Looks Back on 25 Years at PRL
APS Creates Degree Demographics Site
Letters to the Editor
The Back Page
Members in the Media
This Month in Physics History
Zero Gravity: The Lighter Side of Science
Washington Dispatch
Education Corner
International News