The following press conferences will take place during the March Meeting of the American Physical Society (APS), to be held March 21-25, 2011, in the Dallas Convention Center. Journalists are invited to attend the meeting free of charge.

To obtain a call in number to cover the press conferences remotely, please contact James Riordon at 301-209-3238 or



  • 11:00 a.m., Material Advances, Sessions A28, A44, B28,
  • 12:30 p.m., Superconductivity, Sessions 1B, A5
  • 2:30 p.m., Graphene Devices, Sessions A30, B37


  • 9:30 a.m., Physics of Economic and Social Networks, Sessions B14, J7
  • 11:00 a.m., Understanding Cancer, Sessions H39, D21
  • 12:30 p.m., Texas Physics, Session H8
  • 2:00 p.m., Tiny Components and X-Ray Detectives, Sessions B32, L2,W21


  • 10:00 a.m., Countering WMDs with Physics, Session Q5
  • 1:00 p.m., Graphene Theory and Nobel Laureate, Sessions A2, U1, Q27, T2
  • 2:30 p.m., Homeland Security, Sessions W54, Z39

Monday, March 21, 11:00 a.m.


Novel materials, from smart metals to self-healing plastics, are the subject of a significant fraction of the research presented at the APS March Meeting every year. Among the thousands of material advances on tap is one that may lead to the toughest fabrics ever made. The key to the new material is fiber made of bundles of carbon nanotubes. Tobin Filleter (A28.00005) and colleagues at Northwestern University have developed methods to make nanotube threads and twine tougher still by exposing them to electron beams that cause the fibers to form microscopic mechanical bonds known as crosslinks. The crosslinked fibers are as much as ten times stiffer and stronger than non-irradiated fibers. Vasav Sahni (A44.00009) and colleagues at the University of Akron have taken a lesson from nature by investigating spider adhesive to reveal how the polymer material is both strong and flexible. After gaining an understanding of how the spider glue functions, the team was successful in mimicking the glue in the lab. Finally, Ming Xu (B28.00007) and colleagues at the Technology Research Association for Single Wall Carbon Nanotubes (TASC) and National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Japan have developed a new viscoelastic (or rubber-like) material built entirely of carbon nanotubes that retains its properties over a record temperature range, from -196 C to 1000 C. The material could be incorporated into craft headed to interstellar space, used inside high-temperature furnaces, or perhaps as high performance parts in airplanes and other vehicles. Xu will discuss the likely mechanisms behind the viscoelastic's record-setting temperature range as well as describing new methods the group has developed for creating softer, more elastic and stronger versions of the material.

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Monday, March 21, 12:30 p.m.


This year is the centenary of Kamerlingh Onnes's discovery of superconductivity. To celebrate, this briefing looks at some of the practical benefits of materials that conduct electricity without the loss of energy to resistance. Examples include superconducting motors (the U.S. Navy plans to convert to all-electric propulsion, where low-footprint superconducting motors would be a boon), superconducting transistors (leading perhaps to "super-spintronics," technology that takes advantage of the spin of electrons), lower-power MRI machines, high temperature superconductor (HTS) power lines capable of carrying power densities 100 times that of the capacity of copper, and HTS generators for offshore wind turbines.

Speakers: George Crabtree (1B.00001) of Argonne National Laboratory, and co-chair for the Department of Energy's assessment of applied energy programs; Oleg Mukhanov (A5.00002) of Hypres, Inc.; Kathleen Amm (1B.00003) of General Electric.

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Monday, March 21, 2:30 p.m.


Graphene was celebrated last year with the award of the Nobel Prize for physics to Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov a scant six years after their pioneering work on the ultra-thin, strong, and electronically versatile material. Many research groups have now made progress towards practical graphene-based devices that could eventually make conventional silicon electronics obsolete. Among the recently-developed graphene devices being announced at the 2011 March Meeting are radio frequency transistors (Han Wang, MIT, B37.00001), logic inverters (Song-Lin Li, National Institute for Materials Science, Japan, B37.00004), and graphene-based photodetectors (Allen Hsu, MIT, A30.00011). In addition, Walt de Heer of the Georgia Institute of Technology will offer a broad overview of graphene based electronics (B37.00007).

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Tuesday, March 22, 9:30 a.m.


Physicists are developing innovative techniques for analyzing complex economic and social behaviors, several of which will be presented in this press conference. Richard Wiener (B14.00005) of the Research Corporation for Science Advancement in Tucson, Ariz. will describe a simple mathematical model of competition among members of social groups. It predicts, for example, that in many modern secular societies, religions will continue to lose members and be driven toward extinction. Looking at other networks, the time it takes light to travel between stock exchanges in New York and London (and other cities) has become a limiting factor for high-frequency financial trading. Alexander Wissner-Gross (B14.00002) of Harvard University presents a new strategy that partially overcomes this limitation by positioning computers at specific geographic locations worldwide, including in oceans or other sparsely networked regions, to serve as network coordinators. The strategy could also improve Internet access worldwide. César Hidalgo (J7.00005) of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology summarizes recent research that describes and explains the evolution of the mix of products that countries produce and export and allows for predicting a country's future industries.He will describe the factors in studying economic complexity and introduce a simple model to account for them.

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Tuesday, March 22, 11:00 a.m.


The study of cancer and the search for a cure are getting an assist from physical science laboratories. The initiation and progression of a tumor is a complex process, resembling the growth of an embryo. Typically, scientists view cancer cells as rogue individuals violating the rules of the game, but Robert Austin (Q7.00001) of Princeton University suggests that what we see is actually a programmed process. He asks whether tumor progression is dominated by the random acquisition of successive survival traits, or, as he concludes, by a systematic and sequential unpacking of "weapons'' from a pre-adapted "toolkit'' of genetic and epigenetic potentialities. Epigenetic cancer is caused not by changes in the DNA, but instead by chemical modifications. Robert Riehn (H39.00001) of North Carolina State University also studies epigenetic cancer development. He has developed nanotechnologies to map epigenetic changes on single DNA and chromatin, or pre-chromosome, strands. This approach is central to studying the variety of cells in cancer since rapid changes in epigenetic makeup, done by rare cancer stem cells, is a hallmark of cancer's progression. Liyu Liu (H39.00005) of Princeton University targets the truly fatal part of cancer: metastasis, or the invasion of cells into other areas. Her work was inspired by the "islands in the sky" of the Venezuelan Tepui, isolated mesas where it was thought that evolution has stood still. Her approach is to probe cell invasiveness using 3D microscopic imaging of silicon microchips. She has observed some remarkable collective cell behaviors, with the help of confocal microscopy, a technique using lasers to produce high resolution images.

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Tuesday, March 22, 12:30 p.m.


David Hanson (H8.00001) of Hanson Robotics, located near Dallas, will discuss the development of robots employing the latest understanding of cognition that will make good toys and eventually even companions. These robots, he maintains, are enough like humans in their responses so as to appear autonomous and not like a machine. Stephen Wharton of Skycam, Inc. (H8.00002) will describe X Power graphics, a data system used on the ESPN network to enhance rodeo coverage. A puck-sized sensor, filled with accelerometers and gyroscopes, provides instantaneous measurements of a cowboy's ride aboard a bucking bull or horse.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2:00 p.m.


Niek van Hulst (B32.00004), of the Institute of Photonics Sciences (ICFO) in Barcelona, will describe recent advances in the development of nanoantennae, tiny antennas that can transmit photons in various patterns. The antennae operate much like the old fashioned TV antennas that once sprouted from most rooftops, except that they are millions of times smaller. The tiny antennae might detect signals emitted by biological molecules or be used in quantum computers. Mark Reed (L2.00003), of Yale University, will discuss their creation of the first transistor constructed from a single molecule. Single molecule transistors are the smallest possible transistors, which may someday help take computers to the limits of computing power while simultaneously reducing their costs. Robert Thorne (W21.00013), of Cornell University, will talk about exposing traces of ancient markings on Mayan, Greek, Roman and other artifacts using a non-destructive technique called X-ray fluorescence (XRF) imaging. The technique allows high resolution imaging of chemical traces left behind by tools and paints invisible to the naked eye.

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Wednesday, March 23, 10:00 a.m.


Physicists and other scientists made weapons of mass destruction possible, and they also play leading roles in controlling them and limiting their danger. Two examples of physicists' latter contributions will be presented at this press conference. Physicists can predict the means and risks of the removal of nuclear weapons. Jay Davis (Q5.00004), president of the Hertz Foundation, which provides fellowships to students in the physical, biological and engineering sciences, says physicists can undertake systems analysis to help guide policy and operations: what are the risks, what should inspectors look for, what dangers might be lurking in a new technology or an unexpected development? He will discuss how physicists can enter this challenging field. Regarding biological weapons, Philip Wyatt (Q5.00003) of the Wyatt Technology Corporation in Santa Barbara, Calif., is upbeat. Despite what he says is the expectation that terrorists are going to be attacking us very soon, he is confident that the surreptitious introduction of a bioterrorist agent at a shopping mall, airport, or meeting place would likely be detected within a few minutes. Accordingly, he says, the dangers posed by such potential attacks will soon be minimized thanks to devices, like handheld mass spectrometers, developed to detect bioterrorist agents.

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Wednesday, March 23, 1:00 p.m.


Konstantin Novoselov (U1.00001), who along with his University of Manchester colleague Andre Geim, won the 2010 Nobel Prize in physics for pioneering work on graphene - one-atom-thick sheets of carbon with remarkable electrical and mechanical properties. He will be joined at this briefing by Sankar Das Sarma, director of the Condensed Matter Theory Center at the University of Maryland (chair of sessions A2 and B1); Amir Yacoby (A2.00005 and Q27.00001) of Harvard University, who will discuss di-layer graphene which, unlike single-layer graphene, can be tweaked into behaving like a semiconductor, making it useful for making transistors; and Philip Kim (T2.00001) of Columbia University.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2:30 p.m.


Andrew Traverso (W45.00013 and W45.00014), of Texas A&M University, will speak about the development of a backwards-emitting laser-like beam that could be developed to identify gases and particles in the sky. Created in collaboration with colleagues at Princeton University and the University of Arizona, the beam could potentially be exploited for new types of remote sensing and may lead to a novel way to measure components of the atmosphere or search for airborne biological weapons, like anthrax spores, miles above the Earth without having to the leave the ground. Abhishek Kumar (Z39.00013), of the University of Massachusetts Lowell, will talk about a polymer that will make it easier to detect explosives in airports. The newly-developed fluorescent polymer responds to trace elements of explosives in the air. The polymer's creators are working to produce a small commercial device that could be mass-manufactured and distributed broadly at a low cost, making airports around the world safer.

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