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Extreme energy efficiency, hot astrophysics, nuclear medicine and more at the 2014 APS April Meeting

The following press conferences will take place during the April Meeting of the American Physical Society, April 5 8, in the Gwinnett Room of the Savannah International Convention Center.

The press conferences will be webcast live for journalists who wish to participate remotely. To register for the APS April Meeting webcasts, go to


Saturday, April 5

  • 11:00 a.m., The Quest to Identify Dark Matter: Promising New Findings and Future Directions
  • 1:00 p.m., Future of the Higgs Boson
  • 2:00 p.m., Extreme Energy Efficiency: Where's My Hyperloop? and a Clean Energy Version of Moore's Law

Sunday, April 6

  • 9:30 a.m., Applications of Nuclear Physics
  • 10:30 a.m., How Stars Explode and Galaxies Form: Insights from Computational Astrophysics
  • 11:00 a.m., Advances in Astrophysics
  • 12:00 noon, Frontiers in Medicine
  • 1:00 p.m., BICEP2 Press Availability
  • 2:00 p.m., Confronting the Nuclear Threat
  • 4:00 p.m., Slipping Science into Unexpected Places

Monday, April 7

  • 9:15 a.m., Gold, Diamond, and Platinum Jubilees: Stories of Famous Physicists in an Anniversary Year
  • 1:00 p.m., Latest Results from the BOSS Measurement of the Expansion of the Ancient Universe
  • 2:00 p.m., Physics Research and Innovation

Saturday, April 5, 11:00 a.m., EDT

The identity of dark matter, the elusive substance that helps hold the universe together, is one of the biggest unsolved mysteries in physics. Weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs) are one attractive possible answer to the question of dark matter's nature. Blas Cabrera (Stanford) will discuss new limits placed on WIMP dark matter by direct detection searches and Tracy Slatyer (MIT) will discuss a tantalizing hint of a WIMP annihilation signal seen in gamma rays coming from near the galactic center. Shunsaku Horiuchi (UC Irvine) will discuss how recent observations of unexpected X-rays emanating from nearby galaxies could be a sign of the decay of another type of dark matter candidate called the sterile neutrino. And Gray Rybka (University of Washington) will give a first peek at the initial few months of data from the Axion Dark Matter eXperiment (ADMX). ADMX is designed to search for a potential dark matter particle called the axion, and has a fairly good chance of finding it if it exists.

Saturday, April 5, 1:00 p.m. EDT

It's been nearly two years since physicists first found a Higgs Boson in the Large Hadron Collider. The discovery, which had eluded scientists for decades, was a testament to subatomic theory, but it also opened the door to many questions. Joseph Lykken, a theoretical physicist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and collaborator on one of the LHC's experiments, will be discussing the details of how the discovery of the Higgs can contribute information to our understanding of such mysteries as the origins of matter and dark matter in our universe.

Saturday, April 5, 2:00 p.m. EDT

To move ourselves into the future we need new, more energy-efficient technologies. Stephen Granade (B17.00002) from Dynetics will discuss the Hyperloop the ultra-rapid transit idea proposed by Elon Musk last year in which a high-speed train would carry passengers from L.A. to San Francisco in 35 minutes in a sealed, partially evacuated tube. By examining previous proposals for other types of transit, such as the Texas high-speed train that died in the 1990s, the New York subway system, and the proposed nuclear-powered Orion spacecraft, Granade will try to answer the question of why tube-based transport has never gone further than words on a page so far. And Robert Van Buskirk (E17.00001) from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will discuss the extent to which clean energy technology is experiencing exponential growth similar to Moore's law and the factors that appear to be pushing this growth faster and faster.

Sunday, April 6, 2014, 9:30 a.m.

Research in nuclear physics has far-reaching applications from energy to agriculture to space exploration to homeland security. Session K7 covers several projects at the forefront of such research. Jon Mueller (Duke University) will describe the first measurements of neutron angular distribution patterns of actinide materials struck by polarized gamma-ray beams. The patterns differ significantly depending on whether the materials are fissile or non-fissile, and this observation may lead to new techniques for distinguishing ordinary nuclear fuel from weapons-grade material. Nasser Barghouty (NASA/MSFC) will present preliminary results from a high-fidelity, 3D radiation-transport simulation using a tool known as Geant4. The simulations estimate space-based radiation levels behind basic shell and slab geometries and were designed to help NASA mission planners design optimal structures for radiation safety during crewed space exploration missions. Larry Cumberbatch and Alexander Crowell (Duke) will describe a high-resolution positron emission tomography (PET) system designed to image physiological processes that influence the distribution of biological substances like sugar in plants. They will present initial results looking at sugars and fungal-root interactions in corn plants and mechanisms of carbon transport from leaves to stems, shoots and roots under various soil nutrient levels and atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Leah Broussard (Los Alamos National Laboratory) will describe a new program at the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center that uses ultracold neutrons to induce fission in uranium and plutonium and seeks to uncover the effects of sputtering due to nuclear fission, the understanding of which is crucial to the nuclear industry.

Sunday, April 6, 10:30 a.m., EDT

To understand how the universe evolved, scientists must model processes on a vast range of scales, from the motions of tiny neutrinos, to the gravitational pull of supermassive black holes. In such situations a petascale supercomputer can be a researcher's best friend.

Christian Ott (Caltech) will discuss how he and his colleagues tackled the formidable challenge of modeling a core-collapse supernova in 3D. By honing algorithms and utilizing the National Science Foundations' Blue Waters supercomputer system, the team discovered something the previous 2D simulations had missed: A previously unreported flow structure that creates expanding lobes. The researchers found that the strong jet predicted by 2D simulations fizzled in 3D. The new simulations could have implications for our understanding of how supernovae create the heavy elements necessary for life as we know it.

And Tiziana Di Matteo (Carnegie Mellon University) will present her group's new, state-of-the-art cosmological simulations of the universe. The simulations show the formation of the first quasars and galaxies and will be used to predict what the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope will see.

Sunday, April 6, 11:00 a.m. EDT

Right now a doomed gas cloud is edging ever closer to the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way Galaxy. Supermassive black holes feed on gas and dust all of the time, but we rarely get to see mealtime in action. Stefan Gillessen and Daryl Haggard will be discussing the latest data in this study. The study should eventually help to solve one of the outstanding questions surrounding black holes, which is how exactly they achieve such supermassive proportions. Petra Huentemeyer at Michigan Technological University will be presenting first results from data taken with the new High-Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) TeV Gamma-Ray Observatory, which construction is expected to be complete this fall. Jason Rhodes at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory will talk about the ongoing search for dark energy and the many steps NASA is taking in this scientific endeavor that, if successful, would be one of the most important discoveries of the century.

the understanding of which is crucial to the nuclear industry.

Sunday, April 6, 12:00 noon EDT

The targeted delivery of particle beams, X-rays and radioactive isotopes is a cornerstone of modern medicine, enabling the imaging, diagnosis and treatment of many human diseases and saving lives. But the acute need to find more effective treatments for many intractable types of cancers coupled with the chronic problem of medical isotope shortages has fueled research into more advanced approaches. Session H3 features three speakers working at the frontiers of such efforts. J. David Robertson (University of Missouri) is developing targeted alpha therapy, which is already used to treat metastatic bone cancer. In Savannah, he will describe how he and his colleagues are working to expand this therapy to other types of cancer by combining the targeting power of a human antibody with radioactive nano particles, which they have shown can deliver radiation to relevant sites in vivo. Suzanne Lapi (Washington University in St. Louis) is exploring new ways to make radioisotopes for medical diagnostics by using small dedicated accelerators at universities or hospitals. She will compare the products of such "everyday" instruments to the more exotic isotopes that can be derived from larger accelerator facilities like the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL) at Michigan State University (MSU). She will also discuss MSU's planned Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB), which is scheduled to come online in 2020. Oliver Jkel (Heidelberg University) will describe a one-of-a-kind radiation treatment facility in Germany, which is a spin-off of particle therapy. The facility offers various ion beams for cancer treatment, like protons, Helium, Carbon and Oxygen ions, which have the potential to treat cancer more effectively than traditional X-ray or proton radiation therapy.

Sunday, April 6, 1:00 p.m.

Researchers working on BICEP2, the second generation of the Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization experiment, recently announced their discovery of imprints of primordial gravitational waves on the cosmic microwave background. The stunning measurement potentially confirms the rapid expansion of the early universe known as inflation. Jamie Bock (Caltech) will be available to answer questions about BICEP2's breakthrough and to discuss future prospects for the experiment.

Sunday, April 6, 2014 2:00 p.m.

What will it take to deliver humankind from the danger posed by the massive worldwide stockpiles of nuclear weapons and fissile materials? Session J17, dedicated to the Joseph A. Burton Forum and Leo Szilard Lectureship Awards, will feature three speakers who will discuss that past, present and future threat for which no lasting solution has been found. Michael May (Stanford University) will discuss what he says is the only thing that will make nuclear weapons obsolete: the slow, halting, risky road toward abandoning war and the threat of war as policy instruments. M. V. Ramana (Princeton University) will be talking about the intervention by scientists, physicists in particular, in debates over nuclear energy and weapons policies, with some recent examples from India. R. Rajaraman (Jawaharlal Nehru University) will discuss nuclear disarmament, nuclear energy, the South Asian Nuclear scene and the security of fissile materials used to make nuclear bombs.

Sunday, April 6, 4:00 p.m. EST

The more years that Alma College physics professor Cameron Reed taught, the more he realized that groundbreaking scientific discoveries were rarely as clear-cut as academic books lead students to believe. Reed will discuss what he's learned by studying the history of physics and how "even great physicists are subject to the usual whims of human nature" like doubt and confusion, especially when it comes to new complex ideas. Michael Schatz at Georgia Institute of Technology will explain what goes into to developing a college-level introductory physics course online that offers laboratory experience to students. Schatz will also discuss results from surveys taken by both online and on-campus students.

Monday, April 7, 9:15 a.m. EDT

2014 marks a number of big anniversaries in physics, and four researchers will share stories you may never have heard. Author William Lanouette (R17.00001) will discuss Leo Szilard's legacy on the 50th anniversary of the physicist's death, and the 75th anniversary of his and Einstein's letter of warning to President Franklin Roosevelt that led to the creation of the Manhattan Project. As Lanouette will explain, there were actually four Einstein letters to Roosevelt, one of which bordered on blackmail: provide funding, or Szilard would publish his work on uranium fission. Dan Siegel (C17.00002) of the University of Wisconsin-Madison will discuss a reconceptualization of the relativity revolution as a two-phase process: the "protorelativity phase" from 1880 to 1905 and the "Einsteinian phase" from 1905 to 1935. He argues that taking a fuller account of the protorelativity material gives students a better understanding and appreciation of Einstein's work. Clayton Gearhart (B10.00002) of St. John's University in Minnesota will discuss the origins of the Franck-Hertz experiments, which confirmed the existence of quantized atomic energy levels, on their 100th anniversary. And Paul Halpern (B10.00001) of the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia will talk about reactions to Einstein's premature announcement in 1929 that he had unified gravitation with electromagnetism. Though colleagues criticized the theory, the press enthusiastically reported it.

Monday, April 7, 1:00 p.m.

The Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) provides precise measurements of the Hubble parameter that reflects the expansion of the universe. Andreu Font-Ribera (Lawrence Berkeley National Lab) will present the latest data from the BOSS collaboration, including a measurement of the expansion of the early universe that is more precise than any other measured, exceeding even modern measures of our current Hubble parameter. The results allow researchers to study the geometry of the universe when it was only a fourth its current age. Combined with other cosmological experiments, BOSS helps researchers to learn about about dark energy and put tight constraints on the flatness of the universe.

Monday, April 7, 2:00 p.m.

Advances in technology are crucial to maintaining and advancing the standard living in the US and around the world. In many cases, the most significant advances have their roots in fundamental physics research and the seminal innovations that they produce. Pushpalatha Bhat (Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory) will lead a panel discussion featuring leaders in physics research and innovation discussing recent successes and future promises of a variety of scientific and technical fields. Eric Fossum (Dartmouth College) will focus on the invention, development and commercialization of the CMOS image sensor technology, Hasan Padamsee (Cornell University) will discuss superconducting radio frequency technology and the different fields crucial for achieving future breakthroughs, and Nathaniel Fisch (Princeton University) address the long-anticipated boon that will result from energy generation through nuclear fusion.


Contact: James Riordon
American Physical Society

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