AIP | Matters
-- -- April 1, 2013
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Bo Hammer Director's Matters

Guest column by Philip "Bo" Hammer, Associate Vice President, Physics Resources

Physics and the future economy

IPF 2013 logoHow does physics play into the future of our economy? This was the focus of the 2013 Industrial Physics Forum (IPF), organized by AIP and the APS Forum on Industrial and Applied Physics (FIAP), with support from the APS Division of Biophysics. Held as part of the APS March Meeting, the IPF sessions examined innovation and entrepreneurship, and the burgeoning fields of nanomanufacturing and biophysics. These theme sessions and the ever-popular Frontiers in Physics session drew many participants, with an average estimated session attendance of around 300. Our goal was to bring a broad industrial and applied physics perspective into the March Meeting, building participants’ understanding of how physics and physicists contribute to our nation’s economy and pressing needs such as national security.

The Innovation and Entrepreneurship session examined how physics is used in advanced defense technologies, space exploration, entrepreneurship, and driving product development for the high-tech industry. Robert Colwell of DARPA made the key observation that when physicists approach a problem they ask, “What is the time scale and what is the spatial scale?” This leads to physicists asking the right questions and then discovering how and where the answers may be found, that is, the right instrument for the right measurement. DARPA has used this approach to develop low-cost pressure and acceleration gauges to measure blast effects on soldiers in the field. These sensors are leading to better treatment of traumatic brain injury, as well as a better understanding of the causes of such injury. Mason Peck of NASA described the critical interplay between scientists and engineers in space exploration. Whereas the scientist asks, “What’s out there?” the engineer asks, “How can we get there?” This simplified distinction leads NASA to be a leader in driving discovery. NASA has also found that prize-driven innovation can inspire inventiveness while keeping costs down.

Hubert Lakner from the Fraunhofer Institutes in Germany discussed the essential need for mechanisms, or bridges, to cross the “valley of death” that separates a great invention from full commercial realization. The Fraunhofer Institutes have developed a model for seeding entrepreneurial ventures in ways that lower the financial and career risks for scientists while leading to a large number of new companies. Bob Doering of Texas Instruments described the essential public-private partnerships in the US, in which funders such as NIST, NSF, and DOE work with consortia of national labs and companies to extend Moore’s law decades into the future. Key to this is precompetitive R&D on new materials and devices, thus keeping the US on the competitive edge in the global high-tech industry.

The sessions on Frontiers in Nanomanufacturing and Biophysics provided focused examples of the above insights. Of particular note was Alex Liddle’s (NIST) talk that gave an overview on the future of nanoelectronics and the US trade imbalance in advanced technology products. We also heard about the drive toward nanometer-scale manufacturing, atomic-scale electronics, and solar energy applications of new materials.

The Biophysics talks focused on the intersection of instrumentation and measurement, and their use in understanding biological molecules and atoms. Researchers are developing new applications in the areas of drug discovery, immunity, and frontier science such as synthetic biology. These are technologies where physics plays critical roles, from discovery to manufacturing a product on the shelf.

No Industrial Physics Forum is complete without the traditional Frontiers of Physics session. Talks this year featured the discovery of the Higgs boson, quantum computing, and the Giant Magellan Telescope. More than 400 people came for the session finale to hear Millie Dresselhaus of MIT speak about her work in carbon nanotubes.

AIP thanks Dave Seiler (NIST), chair of the Corporate Associates Advisory Committee, and John Rumble (R&R Data Services), vice chair of the APS FIAP, along with their organizing committee: Bob Doering (Texas Instruments), Jim Hollenhorst (Agilent Technologies), Robert Celotta (NIST), and Daniel Cox (UC Davis)—for organizing this outstanding Industrial Physics Forum.

In the coming weeks, the speakers’ presentations will be available through the IPF website. For a more comprehensive summary of the IPF and the talks given by expert speakers, read freelance writer Devin Powell’s report in Physics Today’sSingularities.”

The rest of this issue is dedicated to AIP and AIP Publishing’s additional activities at the 2013 APS March Meeting, held March 18-22 in Baltimore, MD. If you missed the meeting, you can still watch several of the meeting’s headline presentations, which APS has posted on its website.

Physics Resource Matters

AIP Publishing exhibits at the APS March Meeting

AIP Publishing staff attended and exhibited at the APS March Meeting . Our “We are Physics” photography and testimonial campaign was a huge success. Enticed by the chance to have a professional photograph taken and glow-in-the-dark atom t-shirts, more than 150 authors/readers of AIP journals provided testimonials on why they love to publish in or read AIP journals. In addition, 550 attendees signed up to receive e-alerts for our new journal, APL Materials, and were entered into a drawing to win an iPad. Several of our editors spent time at the AIP Publishing booth, including Nghi Lam of Applied Physics Letters; Al Macrander of Review of Scientific Instruments; and Chang-Beom Eom, Brian LeRoy, and Seunghun Hong of APL Materials. Throughout the meeting, journal managers further engaged the scientific community, encouraging submission of top work to AIP journals.

AIP Publishing Staff at APS 2013

AIP Publishing staff and journal editors interacted with conference goers in the exhibit hall.

Journal editors-in-chief, journal managers, and managing editors for AIP titles also took the opportunity afforded by the APS March Meeting to gather for their spring editor’s conference. They discussed recent efforts and future plans for content development. The editors of Review of Scientific Instruments and AIP Advances also held editorial board meetings to generate input on emerging topics and new initiatives to pursue.

Physics Resource Matters

PT editor performs in play at APS March Meeting

Bert Schwarzschild as Otto Hahn.
Bert Schwarzschild as Otto Hahn.

During the APS March Meeting, Physics Today editor Bert Schwarzschild performed the role of German physicist Otto Hahn, discoverer of nuclear fission, in a staged reading of the play “Farm Hall,” by David Cassidy. Set in the summer and fall of 1945, the play centers on several top German nuclear scientists who are being held captive by the Allies at Farm Hall, an English country house near Cambridge. They are being secretly recorded as they talk among themselves regarding their work for the Third Reich, their research on the atomic bomb, and the ethics of their research. The dialog is based on actual transcripts of the scientists’ conversations. The play was performed on the evening of March 20 to a full house. The playwright, who was in the audience, took questions after the performance. Bert, an avocational actor, was the only physicist in the cast. This was not his first portrayal of a famous scientist. He has also portrayed Galileo Galilei, Niels Bohr, and Paul Ehrenfest, and longs for the role of Edward Teller.

Physics Resource Matters

APS March Meeting

APS March MeetingSeveral AIP Physics Resources staff participated in the APS March Meeting in various ways: enhancing the student experience, supporting media coverage, advancing science policy efforts, promoting magazines and SPS, speaking about documenting history, and informing about demographic trends in the physics community.

The Society of Physics Students worked with APS Education and Careers Program Manager Crystal Bailey to oversee the largest number of undergraduate students ever at the APS 2013 March Meeting. Students presented nearly 75 talks in five SPS Undergraduate Research contributed oral sessions, as well as 73 posters in the SPS-sponsored Undergraduate Research poster session. APS awarded over 30 certificates and prizes to outstanding presenters from each session at an undergraduate student awards reception on Tuesday night.

Undergrads at APS March Meeting

Undergraduates posing with APS “Flat Tesla” at the student reception and undergraduate awards session. Photo credit: Ken Cole

At the APS Contact Congress table, APS and AIP worked together to help March Meeting attendees write letters to their members of Congress. Their letters advocated for the restoration of funding for science agencies, which has been cut due to sequestration. APS members had the opportunity to ask questions about the congressional budget process and other policy issues affecting the physics community.

AIP’s Media Services team assisted APS in planning and presenting 13 press conferences at the meeting. Topics ranged from the environmental impact of fracking to the physics of mosh pits. For the first time, press conferences on a select day were also webcast. Reporters from as far away as California tuned in to hear news about fire ants, Venus flytrap-like robots, and the theory of black holes.

Unique Carter at APS March Meeting

Unique Carter, advertising production & sales coordinator, helped conference goers to fill out a short survey regarding their Physics Today reading habits. 

Physics Today, Computing in Science and Engineering, GradSchool Shopper, and SPS ran contiguous booths in the exhibit hall and had a good, united showing. The SPS booth was a popular hangout for students and faculty, with Charm City Physics buttons for all who stopped by.

Associate Historian Orville Butler presented a paper on the findings of AIP’s History of Physicists in Industry study: “Commercial Scholarship: Spinning Physics Research into a Business Enterprise.” SRC Director Roman Czujko attended the APS Forum on Education’s Executive Committee meeting, relaying information about the PhD+10 study and other facts from core studies.

Physics Resource Matters

Physics Today, April 2013 issue

PT April 2013 coverCover: Because our two eyes are physically separated by a few centimeters, each observes a slightly different perspective of a scene. Thanks to that disparity, a pair of two-dimensional stereoscopic images, such as those on the cover, can provide the illusion of depth. The technologies for creating that illusion and for generating 3D reproductions of a scene have matured since Charles Wheatstone proposed the concept of the stereoscope in the 1830s.

Coming Up

Wednesday, April 3

  • AIP Audit Committee meeting (College Park)
  • AIP Executive Committee meeting (College Park)

Thursday, April 4

  • Assembly of Society Officers (College Park)

Friday, April 5

  • AIP Governing Board meeting (College Park)

Wednesday, April 10

  • Staff birthday breakfasts (Melville and College Park)

April 13-16

  • APS April Meeting (Denver, CO)

Tuesday, April 23

  • ACP Art Reception (College Park)

Thursday, April 25

  • Lyne Starling Trimble Science Heritage Public Lecture, 6-8 pm.
    Phil Schewe will discuss his new book, Maverick Genius: The Pioneering Odyssey of Freeman Dyson (College Park).
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