March Meeting 2016 – Day 1!

I’m at the March Meeting in Baltimore this week — Day 1 was today, which is so appropriate since it is both Einstein’s birthday and Pi Day!  They were giving away pie at the APS booth in celebration.

The March Meeting is the largest gathering of physicists in the world, so it’s always bursting with energy in a rather chaotic way.  When I first went to the March Meeting in the 1990s, I think there were around 30 simultaneous sessions.  This year, there are over 50 simultaneous sessions, and more than 10,000 attendees!

Arriving at the Convention Center, just before 8 for the first session

I spent most of the morning in the special sessions on Avalanches, which included my talk.  There were too many other great choices as well — I spent part of the midday session in the History of Electrical Science, including an interesting talk on how 19th century scientists tried to unify the theories of heat and electricity!

Steven Weinberg

The big talk of the afternoon was a session with theoretical physicist Steven Weinberg (Nobel Prize 1979, along with lots more awards) discussing his book “To Explain the World”. The talk was in a huge ball room with probably 600 chairs and there were still people standing in the aisles and packed four people deep standing in the doors.  It was an interesting discussion of some of the ideas in the book — about whether we can judge scientists of the past by the scientific knowledge we have now.

Egg cooked at 61 degrees C. Photo courtesy of Lauren Aycock.

Finally, an evening session on Science and Cooking was really interesting and fun.  Not only did they cook eggs in a constant temperature bath — comparing eggs cooked to 61, 63, and 65 C– but they also ‘cooked’ eggs in liquid nitrogen.  Yes, that’s right, even physicists who have been doing physics for a LOOONG time still get a thrill from seeing what they can freeze in liquid nitrogen.  We also got to see the science of different foams (specifically different types of whipped cream), and learned that the reason people don’t like either raw meat or overcooked meat is because of the elastic modulus, and saw an actual measurement of the modulus.  Direct quote: “We deform the chicken with a known weight…”

So it was an amazing day 1 — tomorrow, four Wooster students will arrive at the meeting to present their work too!  Should be great!