2005 AAPT Winter Meeting Highlights

AAPT 2005 Winter Meeting — Albuquerque, NM
Jan. 8-12, 2005

The 2005 Winter Meeting was held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Jan. 8-12, 2005. The meeting served as AAPT’s kick-off event for the World Year of Physics, and many of the sessions and other activities were linked to the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s "miraculous year." Although the attendance of approximately 900 participants was somewhat smaller than in recent years, the attendees were treated to an excellent meeting that included invited and contributed paper sessions, poster papers, workshops and tutorials, and plenary, or ceremonial sessions.

Many of those attending the meeting volunteered their services in support of the association and the greater physics community by serving as a section representative or by serving on one of the association’s many committees. In addition to attending the physics programs, attendees had sufficient time to visit with 44 exhibitors in the exhibit hall and to meet with friends and colleagues in the pleasant atmosphere provided by the Albuquerque Convention Center and nearby hotels.

AAPT Provides Structure for Advances in Physics Education
Much of the role of creating a strong meeting program and examining issues of importance to the physic community rests with the AAPT Area Committee Chairs and the 18 Area Committees. Both the outgoing and incoming chairs from many of the committees met on the Saturday prior to the AAPT meeting. President-elect Dick Peterson and Vice President Ken Heller reviewed and discussed the responsibilities of the Area Committee Chairs.

Each of the area committees met one or more times during the meeting to plan programs, discuss policy issues and long-range planning, and formulate suggestions that could be taken back to the Council and Executive Board. In addition to the area committee meetings, there were more than 20 other meetings of the various standing and program-related AAPT committees.

The AAPT Section Representatives met on Sunday evening to elect new officers and discuss issues of concern to the sections and general membership. The AAPT Council, consisting of the Section Representatives and Executive Board, met on Monday evening to hear reports from the officers of the Association and to approve the petition for a new AAPT section representing Alaska. The Council also recognized retiring Executive Board members Charlie Holbrow, Deborah Rice, and Steve Iona. New future meeting sites were not considered at this meeting.

Workshop and Continuing Education Opportunities
Approximately 350 registrations were received for the 24 AAPT workshops and seven tutorials that were offered during the two days prior to the paper presentations. Ten workshops presenting physics concepts using computer-related technologies were held off-site at the University of New Mexico to reduce the costs associated with providing hands-on computer experiences. Kathryn Dimiduk from the University of New Mexico, Department of Physics and Astronomy, was particularly helpful in making arrangements for these workshops.

Many workshops presented pedagogical techniques for engaging students and providing innovative opportunities to learn specific subject matter, among them the workshops "Teaching Physics with Magic," "Using Science Fiction To Teach Science," "Video-Based Motion Analysis: The Basics and Beyond," "Franklin and Electrostatics," and "CLEA in the 21st Century: Observational Astronomy Simulations in the Instructional Laboratory." Many of the lessons learned through PER (physics education research) were evident in workshops such as "Reaching, Teaching, and Keeping Underrepresented Groups in Physics," "Activity-Based Tutorials for Introductory and Modern Physics," Preparing Pre-College Teachers to Teach Physics by Inquiry," "Tutorials in Introductory Physics: A Research-Based Approach to Increasing Student Learning," and "Activity-Based Tutorials for Introductory and Modern Physics." An additional 11 commercial workshops rounded out the many educational opportunities.

The Paper Sessions
The meeting offered 71 invited papers, 159 contributed papers, 64 poster papers, and two crackerbarrels that were organized into 56 sessions over the three-day meeting. Approximately 40 poster papers that were submitted prior to the paper deadline were available for viewing in the exhibit hall on Monday and Tuesday. The authors of the poster papers were available to discuss their papers each morning and afternoon during breaks in the paper sessions. The post-deadline poster papers were available for viewing prior to the Great Book Giveaway on Wednesday. A SPS poster session was held for student posters at a reception hosted by SPS, NASA and AAPT on Sunday evening prior to the opening of the exhibit show.

The World Year of Physics served as the theme for a number of well-attended session with titles like "Student Conceptions & Einstein’s Annus Mirabilis," "Visualizing Einstein’s Theories," "Einstein in the Classroom," and "Einstein’s 1906 Ph.D. Thesis and Its Applications to Particle Suspensions." A well-attended session was "Physicists and World War II" that featured invited talks by Anthony (Tony) French, Robert Pound, and Charles Townes. Sessions that featured uses of technology in the classroom with titles like "Best Practices for Teaching Technology," "Using Technology to Re-Enforce Practice," and "Classroom Response Systems, Part I and II" were also well-attended.

A number of sessions were devoted to pedagogical issues such as "Practice: Effects of Repetition," "Challenges to Dissemination," "History of PER," "Practical Pedagogy," "Problem Solving," and "Probing Physics Understanding." Undergraduate students engaged in outreach and physics research were featured in a session of contributed papers organized by SPS (Society of Physics Students). The physics education community’s growing interest in the preparation of future teachers could be seen in the sessions "Teacher Prep K-8," "Meeting the Challenges of Secondary Education, Part I and II," and "Physics for All: A High School Study in Diversity."

Abstracts for the 2005 AAPT Winter Meeting (as well as the 1998-2004 AAPT Winter and Summer Meetings) are available online in a searchable database (http://www.aapt.org/AbstractSearch/).

Awards and Plenary Sessions
The AAPT awards program provides a formal opportunity to recognize distinguished physicists and to give them a chance to describe and promote their work. Carlos Bustamante, University of California, Berkeley, received the Richtmyer Award. Bustamante’s Richtmyer Memorial Lecture, "Direct Measurement of Torque on Single DNA Molecules: An Old Problem with a New Twist," discussed how a technique based on optical trapping and video can be used to measure the twist elasticity and torsion modulus of a stretched tethered DNA molecule. The observation of continuous DNA-powered rotation has implications for the construction of nanomechanical devices. The Richtmyer Award is given in memory of Floyd K. Richtmyer. The recipient presents a major address on topic of current significance suitable for non-specialists.

Eugene Commins, University of California, Berkeley, was awarded the Oersted Medal. In his talk "Those Who Inspired Me," Commins recounted his interactions with many of the best known physicists of the last 50 years. In addition to those physicists who have served as his mentors, Commins described the inspiration he has received from his graduate students, including one who went on to win the Nobel Prize in Physics.

The Oersted Award is the Association’s most prestigious award, and it recognizes notable contributions to the teaching of physics.

Four members of the Association received Distinguished Service Citations. The recipients were selected for their many contributions to AAPT and to the teaching profession. Recipients of the 2005 Distinguished Service Citations were: Patricia Allen, Appalachian State University; George Amann, Franklin D. Roosevelt High School, Rhinebeck, NY; David Maloney, Indiana University/Purdue University-Fort Wayne; and Robert Romer, Amherst College. The citations for these awards will be published in the April issue of The Physics Teacher.

Karen Williams, SPS Council President, presented Earl Blodgett, University of Wisconsin at River Falls, with the Outstanding SPS Chapter Advisor Award. AIP presents this award annually at the AAPT Winter Meeting to faculty members who have excelled in the role of SPS advisor.

Two high school teachers received High School Innovation Grants that were awarded by the Committee on Physics in High Schools. Diana Hall, Bell High School, Nepean, Ontario, received $350 for a project titled "World Year of Physics Art Project." Robert McDowell, McGill-Toolen Catholic High School, Mobile, Alabama, received $150 for the project titled "Let Me Show You What We Did in Physics Yesterday."

Three excellent plenary sessions contributed to the physics and cultural content of the meeting. Alan Friedman, New York Hall of Science, delivered AIP’s Gemant Award Lecture titled "Physics Influences Art: Evidence in Surreal Painting of Remedios Varo." Spanish exile Remedios Varo lived in Mexico City from 1942 until her death in 1963, and painted precisely detailed, fantastic worlds that, according to Friedman, were strongly influenced by the writings of astrophysicist Fred Hoyle.

Friedman showed slides of a number of Varo’s paintings in his talk, and gave his interpretations of the science present in the paintings. The AIP Andrew Gamant Award annually recognizes the accomplishments of a person who has made significant contributions to the cultural, artistic or humanistic dimension of physics.

In his fast-paced talk "Einstein: From Unification to Relativity and Back Again," Michel Janssen (University of Minnesota) discussed how Einstein attempted to arrive at a relativity of arbitrary motion through the unification of space-time and gravity during the period 1907-1920. According to Janssen, Einstein arrived at the relativity of uniform motion through the unification of electric and magnetic fields, believing unification of space-time and gravity (the inertio-gravitational field) would similarly lead to a relativity of arbitrary motion. Around 1920, Einstein realized this was not true and began working on the grand unification of electromagnetic and inertio-gravitational fields.

Virginia Trimble, University of California, presented an overview of the experimental and theoretical evidence for the existence of dark matter ("matter that does not emit nor absorb its fair share of light") and dark energy (also known as quintessence and the cosmological constant) in her entertaining talk "The Dark Century: Matter, Energy, and the Future of the Universe." Trimble contends there are many candidates for both dark matter particles and dark energy fields, but no detections in the laboratory, even though something can be said about their properties.

In his presidential address, Jim Nelson discussed the importance of physics to understanding world events; as an example he cited the origin and behavior of a tsunami. Nelson stressed that physics as a discipline is healthy and for physics education to be healthy, the whole continuum from kindergarten to graduate school must be healthy. (Read Nelson’s "Retiring President’s Address.")

AAPT again sponsored the SEES (Students to Experience Engineering and Science) program for approximately 100 Chavez and Duranes Elementary School fifth-graders at the National Atomic Energy Museum. AAPT members Don Franklin, Dan Smith, and Francis Tam and SPS representatives Heather Lunn, Earl and Marguerite Blodgett, Lydia Quijada, and Gary White, and Sandia representatives Amy Tapia and Rudy Garcia engaged the students with demonstrations and make-and-take activities. Sandia provided a pizza lunch and paid for the buses to transport the students to the museum. This is the 13th year that AAPT has offered this program at its Winter Meeting. The program is organized and coordinated for AAPT by Betty Preece, and organizations interested in providing items for students and teachers or assisting with the program costs are invited to contact Betty Preece at bp@snez.net.

Exhibit Show
In addition to the program activities, 44 exhibitors displayed apparatus, books, software, and other materials used in the teaching of physics and astronomy. It was a good place to meet friends between paper sessions or view the poster papers. Refreshments were provided during breaks in the sessions to encourage more attendees to visit the exhibits and posters.

In Conclusion
The 2005 Winter Meeting was a great "kick off" for the World Year of Physics. In addition to the paper sessions and the plenary that celebrated Einstein’s "miraculous year," there was a production of the award-winning play "Einstein: A Stage Portrait." A Saturday evening WYP 2005 Demo Show for the Albuquerque public was held at the University of New Mexico. The show was put on by Stan Micklavzina (University of Oregon) and Steve Shropshire (Idaho State University) with the assistance of Kathryn Dimiduk and John Gallegos from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of New Mexico. The many sessions and activities happening simultaneously forced participants to make difficult decisions at times, but that is the same with most professional meetings. Events such as the Welcome Reception, First-Timers Gathering, and Multicultural Luncheon all contributed to the overall success of the meeting. The 2005 Summer Meeting will be held Aug. 6-10 in Salt Lake City.

Warren W. Hein, Associate Executive Officer