Newswise — COLLEGE PARK, MD, February 21, 2012 -- The following press conferences will take place during the March Meeting of the American Physical Society (APS), to be held February 27 - March 2, 2012, in the Boston Convention Center. Journalists are invited to attend the meeting free of charge.

For more information or to obtain a call in number for the press conferences, please contact James Riordon at 301-209-3238,


Monday, February 27--9:30 a.m., Society, Nature, and Complex Networks--11:00 a.m., Extreme Mechanics: Hair and Snakes--1:00 p.m., Buried Bomb Detection and Through-Wall Urban Reconnaissance with Advanced Imaging--2:00 p.m., Innovations and Applications of Graphene--4:00 p.m., Natural Materials for Unusual Applications

Tuesday, February 28--10:30 a.m., Physics, Biophysics, and Health--11:30 a.m., Nanotechnology in Action and Nanoparticles in the Environment--2:00 p.m., Rise of the Soft Robots--3:00 p.m., Sexual and Gender Diversity Issues in Physics

Wednesday, February 29--11:00 a.m., Spontaneous Self-Assembly--3:00 p.m., Extreme Mechanics: Plant Edition

Thursday, March 1--3:00 p.m., One Year After Fukushima: Global Nuclear Perspectives


SOCIETY, NATURE, AND COMPLEX NETWORKSMonday, February 27, 9:30 a.m.Predicting complex and chaotic behavior – as is often found in nature and human society – is a seemingly quixotic task. A new generation of sophisticated models, however, has enabled researchers to better understand and predict workings of these previously murky systems. Antonio Scala (H54.0001) from the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche and colleagues have created a model that predicts the contagious spread of a financial crisis. Lazaros Gallos (J54.00006) of the City College of New York and other international researchers have looked at the spread of obesity and using statistical physics methods discovered a remarkably predictable pattern in the geographical spreading of obesity. Their studies reveal that obesity is a global problem in which local details are of little importance. Bruno Goncalves (J54.00001) from Northeastern University and colleagues have studied the social network Twitter to discover that even though it’s possible to have social connections with literally thousands of people, the same cognitive and biological constraints that govern our interactions IRL (in real life) still apply to virtual friends and followers. In a new look at aging and death, Dervis Vural (B51.00002) and his colleagues at Harvard University consider the similarities of biological and social aging. They propose that aging is an outcome of non-aging components that are increasingly interdependent. Joel Tenenbaum of Boston University and Alex Petersen of the IMT Lucca Institute for Advanced Studies (J54.00011) explored, via Google, how languages evolve or remain stagnant in an era of global communications and electronic grammar correction.

EXTREME MECHANICS: HAIR AND SNAKESMonday, Feb. 27, 11 a.m.Motion in nature offers surprising insights, but the underlying physics can sometimes be difficult to unravel. In a mix worthy of Medusa, the motion and behavior of hair and snakes will be explored. James Miller (H52.00002) of MIT will show how a curly hair, suspended at one end and hanging by its own weight, can teach us about geometrically nonlinear behavior. By placing snakes on an inclined plane, Hamidreza Marvi (W39.00011) and colleagues from the Georgia Institute of Technology have for the first time measured the active control a snake applies through its scales to achieve energy-efficient motion.

BURIED BOMB DETECTTION AND THROUGH-WALL RECONNAISSANCE WITH ADVANCED IMAGING Monday, Feb 27, 1:00 p.m.Our eyes can detect only a tiny portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, which is unfortunate because there are many things that are better illuminated in the microwave, radio, and other wavelengths that are normally invisible to us. Electromagnetic imaging has made great strides over the years, producing stunning applications, including some that will be the subject of talks in session D20: Advanced Electromagnetic Imaging and Remote Sensing: From DC to Daylight. Eugene Lavely (BAE Systems, D20.00001) will describe Time Domain Electromagnetic (TDEM) induction methods for the detection and discrimination of buried unexploded ordnance, a task essential for restoration of millions of acres of munitions testing grounds to public use. Peter Weichman (BAE Systems, D20.00002) will focus on recent advances in physics modeling that could lead to improvements in through-wall imaging with microwaves for urban reconnaissance.

INNOVATIONS AND APPLICATIONS OF GRAPHENE Monday, February 27, 2:00 p.m.Graphene, a carbon flake that is only one atom thick, is remarkably strong, conductive, and transparent. Researchers hope to apply graphene to create transparent touch screens, more robust plastics, and faster transistors. Andre Geim (A27.00004), who shared the 2010 Nobel Prize in physics for his pioneering work on graphene, will discuss the latest graphene transistors and graphene’s water permeability. Tomas Palacios (Z11.00007) from MIT will talk about graphene applications related to PH monitoring in electrolytes and glucose monitoring in blood. And Shu Nakaharai (J7.00005) from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan will discuss graphene nanoribbons used to test a novel P-I-N junction switching device.

NATURAL MATERIALS FOR UNUSUAL APPLICATIONS Monday, Feb. 27, 4 p.m.Instead of merely mimicking Nature’s masterpieces, some researchers are using natural materials themselves for promising new applications, and in ways that may surprise you. Eden Steven (W49.00012) of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory will talk about his team’s work adapting real spider silk for a range of electronic devices, including heart pulse-monitoring sensors, electrical contacts for delicate single-crystal materials, and filaments for incandescent bulbs. Andrew Steckl (B42.00013) from the University of Cincinnati will discuss efforts to use paper to make electronic devices such as biochips, sensors, batteries, and even e-reader displays. And Nikhil Malvankar (V41.00004) of University of Massachusetts, Amherst, will talk about his work with biological proteins that conduct electrons in a manner similar to organic metals.

THE PHYSICS OF CANCERTuesday, February 28, 10:30 a.m.Studying the physics of cancer can yield valuable insights into how the disease progresses and potential ways of treating it. Igor Sokolov of Clarkson University will report on the appearance of fractal behavior when normal human cervical epithelial cells become malignant, making self-similarity when zooming in or out a potential marker for detection of individual cervical cancer cells. Krastan Blagoev from the National Science Foundation will present a theory of the kinetics of tumor growth and proposed measures for identifying the emergence of drug resistance in cancer. Lydia Sohn (Y41.00004) of the University of California, Berkeley will present data from her team’s use of stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (STORM) to characterize the organization of protein receptors on breast cancer cells, giving hints to how tumors develop. Keith Bonin (L42.00005) of Wake Forest University will discuss his team’s measurements of the stress modulus of cancer cells at different stages, from normal to metastatic.

NANOTECHNOLOGY AND NANOPARTICLES IN THE ENVIRONMENT Tuesday, February 28, 11:30 a.m.It’s on the nanoscale where many innovative technologies are emerging and chemically important reactions are occurring. The promise of detecting these reactions, molecule-by-molecule, is becoming a reality as nanotube sensors bridge the gap between natural molecular machines and engineered electronic systems. Philip Collins (H7.00002) and others at the University of California, Irvine, have taken a page from 1980s’ arcade gaming and added a “Pac-Man”-like molecule to a carbon nanotube to create the most precise chemical-reaction monitor ever developed. A.T. Charlie Johnson (H7.00006) and others at the University of Pennsylvania developed high-sensitivity biosensors that could test extremely small samples for any number of potentially ominous biomarker proteins. By tracking how natural nanoparticles migrate, Michael Hochella (P36.00001) and others from the Virginia Tech have taken the first steps in understanding the likely pathways that artificial nanoparticles will travel in the environment. Hanna Vehkamaki (D36.00001) of the University of Helsinki has studied how atmospheric nanoparticles, which affect human health and the radiation budget of the Earth, form. She studied the stability of neutral sulfuric acid clusters and also replicated the formation rate recently observed in the CLOUD chamber at CERN. James Hutchison (H36.0005) of the University of Oregon explored nanoparticles in consumer products with the goal of guiding the design of greener and well defined nano-products and processes.

RISE OF THE SOFT ROBOTSTuesday, February 28, 2:00 p.m.Robots of the future may not be limited to rigid frames and motors of modern machinery. Researchers are increasingly turning to soft, stretchable, impact resistant robots that are more reminiscent of biological tissues and soft-body organisms like slugs and worms than clanking Star Wars characters like C3PO or R2D2. Squishy robots, composed entirely of soft elastomers, gels, fluids, or other non-rigid material, are capable of adapting their shape and functionality to suit a variety of environments and applications. Carmel Majidi (Carnegie Mellon, P52.00004) will provide an overview of the state of the soft robot art, as well as future directions and the technology required to build the flexible machines. Robert Shepherd (Harvard, P52.00001) will describe specific examples of functioning soft robots including one that can deform itself to crawl through small openings. Qiaohang Guo (Fuzhou University, Q52.00003) will present a soft robot designed to emulate the rapid motions of the carnivorous Venus Flytrap plant.

SEXUAL AND GENDER DIVERSITY ISSUES IN PHYSICS Tuesday, February 28, 3:00 p.m.People in the LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and related groups) community are presented with a unique array of challenges and opportunities in physics departments. Elena Long (Kent State University) will speak generally about some of the issues that sexual and gender minorities in physics face. Savannah Garmon (University of Toronto) will speak about the importance of visibility and acknowledging the contributions of those in physics who identify as part of the LGBT+ community, as well as some of the challenges that a trans woman in physics might experience.

SELF-ASSEMBLING STRUCTURESWednesday, February 29, 11 a.m.In the biological world, physical forces compel molecules, proteins, and even entire organisms to come together. In the world of human engineering, self-assembling structures can make the exacting and labor-intensive work of building small scale devices easier. Xuejin Li of Brown University (A44.00009) and colleagues have developed a model that reveals how structural properties such as chain chirality drive the self-assembly of sickle hemoglobin fibers that can cause red blood cells to exhibit warped shapes. Peggy Cebe of Tufts University (V50.00009) will discuss how the self-assembling behavior of a copolymer inspired by spider silk can be controlled by changing the length of the molecules and the temperature at which the material was prepared. And Yevgeniy Kalinin (W50.00009), from John Hopkins, will describe the intricate three-dimensional (3D) microfluidic networks his team has made utilizing the self-folding of polymeric films.

EXTREME MECHANICS: PLANT EDITIONWednesday, February 29, 3 p.m.When it comes to exerting force, the animal kingdom doesn’t have all the fun. Plants can exhibit surprisingly powerful mechanical abilities. Jesse Silverberg (V.52.00005) from Cornell University will discuss how his team modeled the helical twisting of plants roots, revealing a mechanism by which the roots can exert up to 40 percent more force to push through barriers. Sharon Gerbode (V.52.0002) from Harvey Mudd College will talk about how plant tendrils curl and how the physics changes as the tendrils become drier and woodier. Evelyne Kolb, from Université Pierre et Marie Curie, will describe how her team measured the shape changes and radial forces exerted by plant roots as they pushed through a narrow gap. And Dawn Wendell from MIT will explain how flexibility can make digging through granular media easier for plant roots and other thin structures.

ONE YEAR AFTER FUKUSHIMA: GLOBAL NUCLEAR PERSPECTIVES Thursday, March 1, 3:00 p.m.Since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster one year ago, experts from around the world have been trying to uncover the details of what went wrong and how to make nuclear power safer. Edwin Lyman (W20.00003), a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, will discuss the lessons can be learned from the disaster on a broad scale. Yun Zhou (W20.00004) of Harvard University will talk about China's burgeoning nuclear industry and how Chinese policymakers have reacted to the Fukushima disaster. Finally, M.V. Ramana (W20.00005) of Princeton University will focus on India's ambitious nuclear program.



REGISTERING AS A JOURNALISTScience writers intending to go to the meeting should contact James Riordon at 301-919-2173, about free registration. Press badges can be picked up in the pressroom and will allow access to any session at the meeting.

PRESSROOM INFORMATIONA dedicated and staffed pressroom will operate throughout the meeting at the Boston Convention Center. Phones, computers, printers, and free wireless Internet access will be available to reporters using the pressroom.- Location: Boston Convention Center, room 050; press conferences in room 051- Hours: MON-THU, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and FRI, 7:30 a.m. to noon- Phone numbers: 617-954-3400, 617-954-3401, 617-954-3402, 617-954-3403- Fax number: 617-954-3960- Food service: Both breakfast and lunch will be provided on MON, TUE, and WED. Breakfast only will be served on THU, and coffee/tea will be available on FRI.

ABOUT APSThe American Physical Society ( is a non-profit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy and international activities. APS represents over 50,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories and industry in the United States and throughout the world. Society offices are located in College Park, MD (Headquarters), Ridge, NY, and Washington, DC.

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American Physical Society's 2012 March Meeting