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In this issue:
Taming the Superconductor
Symposium to Honor Helen Quinn

SLAC Today

Thursday - March 18, 2010

Taming the Superconductor

Tom Devereaux at the American Physical Society meeting, held this week in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Kelen Tuttle.)

Nearly 100 years after the discovery of the superconductor, research into superconductive materials continues at a feverish pace. Over the past 25 years, two new materials have been discovered that allow electricity to flow without resistance at surprisingly high temperatures. These new types of superconductor, called cuprates and pnictides, may become the workhorse superconductors used in everything from solar cells to electronics. If researchers can learn to understand and tame them, that is.

"Understanding how superconductivity arises in these high-temperature superconductors is one of the biggest unsolved problems in condensed matter physics right now," said Tom Devereaux, co-deputy director of the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Science, who presented on his recent theoretical research into high-temperature superconductors at the American Physical Society meeting this week in Portland, Oregon. 

Conventional superconductors have been understood for decades. In these materials, electrons flow easily through a material, even when that material contains impurities, because the electrons travel in pairs.

"It's as if a bunch of people are trying to move across a football field littered with ditches," Devereaux said. "In the superconductive state, people move in pairs, locking arms and trading partners all the time, so they're locked together." As a result, if a person runs into a ditch, he or she doesn't fall in but is instead carried across by companions, ensuring that all the people—or, in the case of superconductors, all the electrons—make it from one end of the field to the other.  Read more...

Symposium to Honor Helen Quinn

In celebration of the career of SLAC theorist Helen Quinn, the lab will host a one-day symposium on the major subjects to which she has contributed. The symposium will be held on Friday, April 16 in the Panofsky Auditorium. (Update 4/9/10: The location is now Kavli Auditorium.)

Quinn played a major role, especially at Harvard in the 1970s, in the formulation of the Standard Model. She is an inventor of the axion. A distinguished group of speakers—James Bjorken (SLAC), Howard Georgi (Harvard), Roberto Peccei (UCLA), and Leslie Rosenberg (U Washington)—will review these developments and their ramifications for physics today. Quinn was one of the initiators of the BaBar experiment on CP violation. Yossi Nir (Weizmann) and David Hitlin (Caltech) will review the development of experiments on CP violation and their present status after BaBar and BELLE. Finally, Quinn has been a major figure in shaping physics and science education. To celebrate this, we will have talks by the Nobel laureate Carl Weiman (U British Columbia), who has now become one of the leading innovators in physics education, and by Judy Franz (APS), who for many years led the American Physical Society's policy efforts in Washington.

There is no registration fee for the symposium. However, everyone who will attend is encouraged to register on the symposium Web site, to insure that the organizers can make sufficient sugar and caffeine available. There will be a ceremonial (no-host) dinner Friday evening; please see the Web site for details.

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