Archive by category | 2009 March Meeting

APS: Quantum cryptography is just plain cool

The meeting is wrapping up, and I’m getting ready to pack up here in Pittsburgh, but not before getting myself to a talk by Andrew Hammond a vice president at MagiQ Technologies. MagiQ is in the business of quantum key distribution, a process that uses quantum entanglement to ensure the secrecy of encrypted data.

APS: What to get the physicist with everything?

APS: What to get the physicist with everything?

As I was zipping back and forth between sessions, I kept passing the APS’s legislative booth, a row of computers where physicists could sit down to write their members of congress. In past years, the letters have pleaded for better funding for the physical sciences, which rarely receive big spending boosts.

APS: When is a solid not a solid? When it’s a supersolid.

APS: When is a solid not a solid? When it’s a supersolid.

One of the advantages of being just one editor in an editorial team is that when something comes along that you just don’t get, you can always try to pass responsibility for handling submissions on that topic to someone else. For me, supersolids was one of those things. They’re fluids, superfluids in fact, but they have characteristics of a solid. What?!? Try as I might, I couldn’t get my head around it.

APS: Iron pnictides. WTF?

APS: Iron pnictides. WTF?

Pretty much anything with iron pnictides in the title is guaranteed to draw a crowd at this year’s meeting. I snapped this picture at a random session this morning, but others have been so rammed that it’s been hard to get in the door. Iron pnictides are the hottest new superconductor, so it’s not surprising that they’re getting a lot of attention. But I’ve been to a few of these talks, and I’m going to be frank–if you’re not an expert it’s very hard to follow. And I know what you’re thinking (particularly if you’re one of my editors): This guy’s a senior reporter with Nature and you’re telling me he can’t understand this stuff?

APS: Nanotubes as filters

APS: Nanotubes as filters

I just got out of a pretty cool talk about filtering water with carbon nanotubes. Apparently because the walls of the tubes are so smooth, water molecules can flow super fast through them. On top of that, the rims of the tubes are charged and can therefore reject unwanted ions.

APS: No limits imaging

APS: No limits imaging

Not many of the rules of physics are actually set in stone, but the diffraction limit is one of them. In imaging terms, the limit determines the smallest discernable feature you can make out through a microscope. It’s etched on this memorial to the 19th century German physicist Ernst Abbe, located in Jena (right).

APS: Black holes in the lab

APS: Black holes in the lab

It’s not really the sort of thing that you’d expect to find at a meeting which is mainly about materials, but I heard an interesting talk about recreating black hole jets in the laboratory today. For those unfamiliar with what I‘m talking about, swirling material around the top of a black hole often gets ejected in a long narrow stream. The process is complex and guided largely by the behavior of the hot, ionized gas in the jet, known as plasma.