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Zone 13 Spring Convention
Angelo State University had an influx of physics enthusiasts as the Texas Physics Spring 2006 Meeting got underway on Thursday, March 23, 2006. This joint meeting included the Texas Sections of AAPT and APS, as well as Zone 13 of SPS. Between the presentations, plenary sessions, exhibits, and socializing, there was much to learn.
Given the shear size of the state of Texas, many SPS groups traveled long distances to attend the meeting. After hours on the road, visiting SPS members and mentors were treated to home-cooked barbecue, a physics trivia contest (jeopardy style), a planetarium show, and a star party on the lawn. These were of course accompanied by lots of mingling and conversation. The Angelo State SPS student lounge was a hub of interaction and activity on Thursday evening as conference goers arrive to register and get their bearings for the meeting.
The program began early Friday morning with a breakfast for two-year college teachers hosted by Howard College. The first plenary session began with Ray Dawson, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Angelo State Physics giving some welcoming remarks and a short history of the San Angelo area. After an excellent plenary session, conference-goers had options of viewing exhibits, taking a refreshment break, or attending some of the plethora of oral presentations.
There was a special session that included invited presentations on student issues. One presentation of particular interest was “Secret Lives of the Hidden Physicists: From Spandex to Spintronics” by Gary White, the SPS National Coordinator. In Gary’s talk, he defined a ‘hidden physicist’ as someone with a bachelor’s degree in physics who does not go into the traditional academic and/or research field. Gary was followed by an invited talk by David Donnelly, who informed students about the resources available on the ComPADRE, in particular the Nucleus website.
After another plenary session and break for refreshments and exhibits, the second round of oral presentations began. It was very encouraging to see the high number of SPS members expounding on research. In fact, there were so many speakers that for SPS alone, there were two rooms presenting at once, and a total of four SPS sessions at the meeting. The student-contributed presentations included: “Moonbows 1: Fundamental Principals” by Hui Yiing Chang and “Moonbows 2: Calculations and Predictions” by Kellie N. Beicker of Texas State University; “SEGUE Target Selection, Kinematics and Distribution of Blue Horizontal Branch Stars in the Galactic Halo” by G. K. Nevils of Sam Houston State University; “Radio Emission of High Energy Cosmic Rays Studied with LOPES, a Software Telescope” by M. Brett Deaton of Abilene Christian University; “Collision Forces and Potential Energy Functions for Magnetically Interaction Dynamics Carts,” “Half-Cycles of Mass-Spring Vibrations as Simple Models for Collision Interactions”, “Impulse and Momentum Conservation During the Collision Process,” “Damped Motion of a Physical Pendulum Moving Through Water,” “Tinker Toy Torsion Pendulums and the Multiple Advantages They Provide Other Systems,” and “Coefficient of Restitution Measurements Obtained from the Geometric Sequence of Rebound Times and Rebound Distances of Carts on a Track” by Lake Highlands High School students under the direction of Ken Taylor; “A Model of Reality” by Andrew Gray and presented by Kelly Freeman of Texas State University, “Investigation of Sound Wave Resonance and Damping in a Hollow Right Cylinder: Calculation” by Kristen Peterson and Meagan Saldua, and “Construction, Calibration, and Testing of a Horizontal Component Lon-Period Lehman Seismometer” by Daniel Bullock of Angelo State University; “Passive Polarized Projection” by Luke Whittlesey, and “Carbon Nanotubes: Production, Purification and Characterization” by Jonathan Belew of Stephen F. Austin State University; “Some XRD and SEM results on Cu-sheathed MgB2 Superconducting Wires” by S. Keith of Sam Houston State University. These SPS sessions were well attended—there was standing room only in the audience. Oral presentations were followed by a special session of physics demonstration sharing and door prizes.
A highlight of the conference was the banquet and a special post-banquet presentation. As conference participants dined, they were entertained an informed by James O’Brien of Southern Missouri State University. His presentation, entitled “Famous Mad Hatters,” explored the origin of the phrase “mad as a hatter” (which came about because of effects of mercury poisoning on hatters due to the chemical reaction in the production of felt hats), the results of mercury poisoning, and the lives of a few well-known people who experienced mercury poisoning. Among the famous mad hatters were Michael Faraday, Boston Corbett, King Charles II, Isaac Newton, and Clare Boothe Luce. After having dined sufficiently, the audience had the opportunity to watch “Science in the Movies”—the after-dinner show put on by Steve Wolf from Austin, Texas. It was a sneak peak behind the scenes of stunt work and the physics that accompanies it. Those in attendance saw (and participated in) tricks like controlled flame, smoke machines, pulleys, and explosion effects. Wolf noted that because he gets paid to use battery-powered electricity in his job, he has become a successful alchemist—he turns lead into gold.
The meeting continued Saturday morning, with welcoming remarks from C. Varren Parker, Jr., Distinguished Professor Emeritus from Angelo State Physics, followed by a final plenary session on stellar archeology by Terry Oswalt of the Florida Institute of Technology. The conference then drew to a close with a final series of oral presentations. SPS members reported on the following: “Fluidization from Continuous Outgassing as a Cause of Geological Structures on 433 Eros” by J.D. Haseltine, “Drift Chamber Simulation for the EPECUR Project” by Dolapo Soboyede, “Drell-Yan Measurements of Nucleon and Nuclear Structure” by Temitope Omiwade, and “Writing of a GEANT4 Simulation of E906 at FNAL Main Injector” by Aldo Raeliarijaona of Abilene Christian University; “Ultraviolet Reflectance Spectra of Texas Flora” by unir Pirbhai, and “Temperature Issues and Dependence for PL from an InGaAs/GaAs Quantum Well” by Trey Holik.
Overall, the presentations were excellent, despite a few technical difficulties. This reporter was encouraged and inspired to pursue research opportunities, and she challenges others to do the same. The nerd population of ASU is back to normal, but the ASU chapter of SPS would like to thank everyone for participating. All schools in attendance were well represented by those present.