A very quick run-down of physics topics at DAMOP, before I go to bed:
I skipped the prize session at 8am, so I started my day with Bill Phillips's talk in the recent developments in optical lattices session. Oddly, his talk really didn't have much to do with lattices, but it's always a pleasure to see Bill give a talk.
Bill was followed by Immanuel Bloch, who gave an extremely impressive talk about experiments they've done with atoms in optical lattices. This is related to, but way, way beyond the stuff I did as a post-doc. They've done some amazing things with the manipulation of quantum states of atoms in lattices, and it was an excellent talk as well.
After that, I ran over to the thesis prize session, which usually features some of the best talks of the meeting. I got there at the tail end of the second talk (they were running a little behind), in time to see the speaker field some weirdly combative questions, and then saw two excellent talks, by Gretchen Campbell from the Ketterle empire, about solid-state analogues with BEC, and David Moehring from Michigan, talking about their work with trapped ions. Moehring talked about a couple of papers I'll have to look up for future research blogging, including a Bell inequality measurement using entangled ions in separated traps.
The highlight of the afternoon talks was probably Dan Kleppner talking about the history of Physical Review Letters, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Apparently, it only took a matter of months from the journal's founding in July 1958 for all the standard complaints to develop: referees approving stuff that didn't merit PRL, referees denying papers that really ought to be published, too many articles being submitted to PRL, etc.
I also checked out a few precision measurement talks, because I'm endlessly fascinated by those, but the information transfer in ten-minute talks is pretty low, and I left after a little while to check my email, and answer a few queries from students. The poster session is a better venue for that sort of thing, and I spent a while talking to people in the EDM alley about the latest in tabletop tests of physics beyond the standard model. There was also a very interesting poster on EIT experiments for undergrads, which I need to think about as a possible upper-level lab.
This being a physics conference, there was also a good bit of socialization, most of which doesn't translate well to a blog post. We did realize that there are at least 13 Williams alumni attending this conference, spanning 55 years(!). If somebody has a camera, we may try to get a picture for the Cult of the Purple Cow Quarterly...
This seems like a big crowd for DAMOP, probably around 1000. It's stretching the capacity of the venue, but the Penn State conference office has done a very good job thus far. The free food and free beer have been excellent, and the hotel is surprisingly good and reasonable.
Tomorrow promises another full day of talks and posters. I'm torn as to whether to go to the morning BEC session, or go listen to people talking about cold anti-matter and the variation of fundamental constants. And there will no doubt turn out to be something impressive in a session I haven't even looked at yet...
If your library has paper copies of the Physical Review back into the 50s, you should browse the evolution of the Letters section (which were really just letters) into PRL (which started out as just letters), paying particular attention to the periodic editorials on the editorial problems they encountered (in PR and PRL) as well as letters in Physics Today on the subject. The biggest ongoing problem has been the vain attempt to insist that the articles be of wide interest and written so every variety of physicist can understand them.
If you do this, you should post the citations so others can find them more easily.
It really became an uphill fight when faculty became aware of the point system used at a few national labs to tote up your pub quality for the year. When one PRL is worth 5 of another journal, let the submissions begin.
I'm not sure how many physicists I know who could make a physics conference sound like so much fun.