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Showing posts from March, 2008

Katrina's Impact on Physics in New Orleans

Through the charming haze of jazz and brass bands, beads and voodoo shops, fantastic food and a generally celebratory feeling, New Orleans is also home to all the things that make a city strong; including a number of Universities, and thousands of students and faculty. So when Katrina hit New Orleans, it not only shook the traditions that New Orleans is most known for, but every aspect of life in a city. At the same time that I was earning my bachelors degree and complaining about the cold New England winters, there were thousands of students in New Orleans trying to gain theirs in conditions I can’t imagine. A session at the APS March Meeting focused on something I’d overlooked in the all the devastation: how Katrina had impacted physics universities in New Orleans. (Pictured: University Hospital in downtown New Orleans, Tuesday after Katrina)

The session was titled “Lessons Learned from Katrina: How to Prepare a Department for Catastrophic Events,” and was represented at a press c…

Complexity is Cool

Some of my favorite sessions at the APS March meeting are sponsored by the Group on Statistical and Nonlinear Physics (GSNP). It's an odd branch of physics that addresses things like the dynamics of the stock market, connections between the neurons in your brain, the information storage in DNA, and the motions of animals as they swim, fly and run.

I like the field so much, that a complexity paper by Albert-László Barabási on the inaccessible portions of the Internet inspired me to write a pulp science fiction book called The Dark Net.

Barabasi was here again this year to tell us some things he's discovered about the patterns that describe human activity. Several of his students were here to report on cell phone viruses and disease networks. Hmm, I think a Dark Net sequel may be called for.

Another GSNP paper that caught my attention is Dirk Brockmann's analysis of the flow of dollar bills in the US. He got his data from the Where's George web site that lets people track…

Happy Birthday PRL!

Physical Review Letters, the world's most prestigious physics journal, turns 50 this year. So of course, we had a birthday party and cake at the March APS meeting in New Orleans. We were also supposed to have two types of green drinks at the party's bar - Green Monsters and Emerald Ladies - in honor of the journal's green cover. Unfortunately, a shortage of Creme de Menthe prevented that little bit of color. Although, how a hotel could run out of such a useful drink ingredient is beyond me.

PRL managing editor Reinhardt Schuhmann (we just call him Reiny)kept the party going as he serenaded passers by who happened to stumble on the PRL booth in the New Orleans convention center. I'm not sure what people thought of his rendition of Lyle Lovett's"She's no Lady, She's my Wife." It's a great song, and Reiny plays it well, but Lyle's a bit obscure for most folks.

In this picture, he's playing my Rainsong guitar. It's made entirely of gra…

Bourbon Street Physicists

Hi there, physics lovers!Physics Buzz has temporarily headed south... to gorgeous New Orleans for the APS annual March Meeting!Just a little too late for Mardi Gras, we’re being kept very busy with over 7,000 talks in 5 days, plus press conferences and workshops.We'll be posting about the interesting talks we see and all the additional excitement. I’ve already seen talks on the physics of motorcycles, new theories about the interior structure of Jupiter, the physics of snake movement (which included a video of snakes in jackets!), and many others.Keep posted for more news. The March Meeting is primarily an opportunity for physicists to share their research with other physicists in their field.Every once in a while, it’s also a chance to reveal a major discovery that affects more fields of physics or even the world at large.One press conference focused on some of these major breakthroughs and included a talk on the creation of gold, lead and tin fullerenes.Physics Buzz recently ha…