I was pretty sedentary on Wednesday, going to only two sessions, and staying for most of the talks in each. I spent most of the initial prize session getting my bearings in the conference areas, and talking to people I know from my NIST days.
In the 10:30 block, I went to the session on Alkaline Earth Quantum Fluids and Quantum Computation. Tom Killian of Rice opened with a nice talk on work his group has done on trapping and Bose condensing several isotopes of strontium; somebody near me pooh-poohed it as just a technical talk on evaporative cooling issues, but I thought Tom did a nice job of setting the stage for the whole session and explaining why two-electron atoms are interesting systems.
Ana Maria Rey followed with a theory talk whose title had changed slightly (but I didn't write down the new version); the basic idea was that alkaline earths offer some interesting new areas of study, including magnetism in higher symmetry groups. The SU(N) in the title was evide ntly kind of intimidating, though, as a lot of people left before it. They missed some interesting ideas.
The third talk was Yoshiro Takahashi from Kyoto University on things they have done with ytterbium in optical lattices. This was a little too much of a survey of a little too much material, and it probably would've been better to go into more depth. I scribbled down a couple of arxiv citations for future reference, though.
I skipped out after that, to deal with some quasi-urgent emails, and then went to lunch in the underground food court, thus avoiding the Texas heat.
In the afternoon, I went to the thesis prize session, which was dominated by cold atom stuff.
Kang-Kuen Ni kicked it off talking about experiments at JILA that produced large samples of molecules in the lowest possible energy state, by a series of steps. A couple of people said they weren't that impressed, but I thought it was good, solid work. Not as flashy as some other experiments, but well done and well presented, though she was clearly very nervous.
Christian Schunck followed with a talk about his work with Wolfgang Ketterle at MIT. This was another talk that was too much of a survey of too much stuff. Then again, when you have as many impressive results as they have in Ketterle's group, it's probably really difficult to cut things down to focus on just one or two. The presentation suffered a little from trying to be too much like Ketterle himself, which is a really difficult thing to pull off.
Steve Olmschenk was next reporting on work done with Chris Monroe, first at Michigan, then at Maryland. This is another group with too many awesome results, but he did a good job of keeping the focus on one or two items. If there was any problem with the talk at all, it was that it wasn't that different than David Moering's thesis-prize-winning talk a few years ago, which covered a lot of the same material. That can't really be held against him, though, and the probabilistic-- excuse me, "heralded"-- entanglement experiments they've done with ytterbium ions and photons are really incredibly cool (see here and here for old posts on their experiments).
My student was doing a poster at 4, and I needed to check in on Kate and SteelyKid, so I ducked out of the final talk in the session. I spent most of the poster session talking to people rather than looking at posters, so I can't say much about the physics content of the session.
And that was it for the first day, other than dinner and beers in the hotel bar. Kind of a big "other than," maybe, but nothing really blog-worthy.