Technically, the meeting started Tuesday, but all that happened was a welcome reception, which I missed due to travel. The real beginning of the meeting was Wednesday morning, with the traditional unscheduled half-hour welcome from local dignitaries. That was followed by the Prize Session, featuring the frighteningly smart Misha Lukin, who was awarded the I.I. Rabi Prize for being really freaking brilliant. The abstract he sent in was kind of vague, but he mostly talked about stuff related to the quantum computing in diamond stuff that I've blogged about before.
I'm fighting a bit of a cold, so I kind of zoned out during the second prize talk, and eventually opted to take an early coffee break, without the coffee. Blood sugar restored and sore throat cooled slightly, the next stop was a session on "Spinor Gases" which are systems at or near the BEC transition temperature, where multiple spin components are trapped. Lucia Hackemuller from Mainz gave a nice talk on fermions in lattices, Eugene Demler wins the prize for shortest abstract ever, and M. Vengalattore gave a talk on a possible analogue of "supersolidity" in cold atoms. This sounded cool, but didn't really help me understand what's going on with the whole "supersolid" business.
The theme of the afternoon was ridiculously precise measurements, started by Ed Hinds on looking for an electronic dipole moment of the electron, where they have lots of results, but not quite enough to un-blind the analysis. He was followed by Thomas Loftus on an EDM measurement in mercury, which has been un-blinded, and is about a factor of 7 smaller than the previous limit. Loftus also had a great explanation of the scale of the effect: If you blew a mercury atom up by a factor of 10 to the 16, to the size of the earth, an electric dipole moment of the size they're looking for would correspond to distorting the electron cloud by about ten femtometers, or six protons stacked on one of the poles.
After that, I wandered over to the Thesis Prize session, snagging some excellent cookies en route, and listened to Thomas Corbitt talk about using lasers to cool mirrors for LIGO, which is just crazy. But it works.
That was it for talks. The afternoon poster session was ina room with terrible acoustics, and I was pretty tired, so I mostly just circulated, drank a beer or two, and chatted with people I know. All in all, a pretty good day.
"using a similar technique, a 2.7 kg oscillator from a LIGO interferometer is cooled to 1.4 microK"
They are having all too much fun! It is time to detect a net signal and magically transform discovery into scut work.
I hate to be contrary on such a well written blog, especially in the first or so comment, but, all abstracts permitted, the prize for shortest abstract ever mostly likely goes to D. Hajdukovic and H. Satz for their paper (preprint? Don't know if it was published outside of CERN), "Does the one-dimensional Ising Model show intermittency?". Abstract: "No." (CERN_TH-6674/92 BI-TP 92/43, October 2009)
As for the other stuff, I must say I'm always impressed as to how well experimentalists can measure stuff incredibly accurately. That must take some ridiculous cleverness to be able to figure out how to do that, and then actually build the appartus to do so. Things like that are part of the reason why when my fellow students say "I'm an experimentalist because I'm not smart enough to do theory" I counter "I'm a theorist because I'm not smart enough to do experiments!"
Speaking of electron EDMs, two or three years ago I was hearing a lot of rumors that an imminent result from the Yale group (DeMille) would improve the limit by two orders of magnitude. But still no such result has appeared. Any idea what happened to that?
#2: as impressed as I am by how accurately physicists can measure stuff today, I'm even more impressed by the fact that they were able to do it centuries ago. In my basic physics + chemistry classes, we usually got between 40-200% error. And yet somehow, people in the 18th and 19th centuries were managing to do the same experiments accurately!