Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Notes from the 2010 March meeting

This year the March meeting of the American physical society is in Portland Oregon – a pretty hip but relatively small city of about half a million people. This week’s influx of 6000 physicists must have made a substantial dent in the median coolness of the city --– particularly within a mile or so of the Oregon convention center, where the nerd-herd is grazing. Among the exciting events of this year’s March meeting is the yearly “physics sing-a-long” and the public lecture on “the physics of superheros” (I kid you not).

Nerd bragging rights aside, there actually has been a lot of pretty awesome top notch physics stuff going on this week. Here’s a partial list of the things I thought were pretty cool so far:

(1) The BEC in a box. JILA has managed to shrink an entire BEC lab down to a small box (well, ok, about the size of a large air conditioner). They set the thing up in the exhibition hall just to show it off.

(2) More and More about topological insulators. The field just keeps getting hotter. There were tons of talks on the topic last year, this year it seems there are even twice as many…

(3) In the topological direction, there have been a bunch of talks about quantum Hall blah blah blah. Closely related was a great talk by Rafi Budakian’s on observation of half quantum vortices in Strontium Ruthenate: Very cool experiment.

(4) Yu-Ju Lin from the experimental group from NIST (The extended family of Bill Phillips) gave a great talk on producing artificial gauge fields for neutral atom BECs

(5) I’m a bit surprised there have not been more talks on AdS/CFT (maybe it is still too early and it is more of an idea than a theory). Nonetheless, the talk given by Allan Adams was really nice – explaining very clearly how gravity can (!potentially!) help us understand phase transitions of complex materials.

(6) No high Tc. I think it is notable how few talks there are on High Tc superconductivity. Maybe the field has finally been put out of our misery.


Don Monroe said...

Any impression on graphene? Geoff Brumfiel at Nature suggested that graphene may have jumped the shark. I suspect that's wrong, and mostly reflects confusion resulting from the fact that graphene has moved toward application faster than any materials advance I can think of.

Steve said...

I'm not sure I would use the expression "jumped the shark". I mean, if we had a focus session on "graphene for use as Lady Gaga's wardrobe" then I might use that phrase.

Is graphene past its peak? Well, the period of insane exponential growth of interest may be past. There were still a lot of graphene sessions, but they seemed to be more like mature science making slow lumbering progress like everyone else. This is as compared to a few years ago where all the graphene sessions were insanely packed and everyone was trying to say anything they could about the subject because no one had said anything at all yet.

Peter Armitage said...

>(6) No high Tc. I think it is notable how few talks
> there are on High Tc superconductivity. Maybe
> the field has finally been put out of our misery.

Aaahhh, but it was there and it was everywhere! We were there discussing it at lunch and in the hallways and between pnictide sessions and after the topo insulators talks and at dinner every... single ... night. Now it is even worse, we're there secretly and in big numbers, but you don't even know we're there.... ;) We're everywhere...

Nice to meet you Steve.