2012 Winter Conferences

January 2 - 7, 2012

Growth and Form: Pattern Formation in Biology

Susan Coppersmith, University of Wisconsin, Madison
M. Cristina Marchetti, Syracuse University
Clare Yu, University of California, Irvine

How do biological systems regulate growth and produce the patterns seen in nature? This conference will explore this broad question that spans such diverse topics as developmental biology, cancer, biomineralization, and flocking.  Specific examples include embryonic development, the formation and structure of organs and tissues, wound healing, branching structure of neurons and blood vessels, leaf arrangement and flower patterns, microstructure of bones and seashells, swarming of bacteria and biofilm formation, and flocking of birds and fish.  An increasing number of physicists, mathematicians, engineers, and biologists are using physical principles, statistical mechanics, and modeling to approach this wide spectrum of problems.  Indeed, 2010 was the 150th anniversary of the birth of D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson, the author of the classic work On Growth and Form.  Unlike the biologists of his day who emphasized the role of evolution in determining the form and structure of living organisms, Thompson pointed out the importance of physical laws and mechanics. This is true now more than ever.

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Condensed Matter Physics
January 8 - 14, 2012

New Directions in Ultracold Atomic Systems

Ehud Altman, Weizmann Institute
Eugene Demler, Harvard University
Marcus Greiner, Harvard University
Wolfgang Ketterle, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Karyn Le Hur, Yale University
Carlos Sa de Melo, Georgia Institute of Technology

This conference will cover the latest developments in ultra-cold atoms and molecules. The precision and control of atomic physics now allows the study of well-characterized and tunable many-body systems, ranging from dynamics of strongly correlated bosons and fermions to quantum magnetism. This has created a new direction in condensed matter physics, the experimental study of idealized model systems, which is strongly connected to theoretical work.

January 15 - 20, 2012

ExoClimes 2012: The Diversity of Planetary Atmospheres

Suzanne Aigrain, Oxford
Nicolas Cowan, Northwestern University
James Kasting, Pennsylvania State University
Heather Knutson, California Institute of Technology
Kristen Menou, Columbia University
Vikki Meadows, University of Washington
Raymond T . Pierrehumbert, University of Chicago
Frederic Pont (Exeter)

Ground-based surveys and NASA's Kepler mission are discovering countless planets, for which only mass, radius and orbit are known. Scientists and the public want to know what these worlds are like, which is largely a question of climate. Yet modelers are unable to rely on the myriad data that pin the climate models of Earth and --to a lesser degree-- those of other solar system worlds. Instead, we need models of planetary atmospheres that are robust to incident flux, rotation rate, chemistry, ionization, and surface gravity, to name a few. In the last half-decade, data from the ground and space have begun to place useful constraints on general circulation and 1-D climate models of hot, gaseous exoplanets; in the upcoming decade, new instruments and facilities will enable the characterization of potentially habitable terrestrial planets. Modelers need empirical data to guide their models, and astronomers need qualitatively new models to interpret their data. This meeting will provide a timely opportunity for astrophysicists, planetary scientists and climate modelers to exchange ideas about the state of the art. The two principal themes will be: 1) what exoplanet properties can we measure in the foreseeable future? and 2) how will these data constrain climate models?

For more information, please click here.

January 21 - 27, 2012

The Physics of Astronomical Transients

Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz, University of California, Santa Cruz
Fred Rasio, Northwestern University
Natalia Ivanova, University of Alberta
Shri Kulkarni, California Institute of Technology

Rapid advances in detector technology, computer processing power and data storage are fostering a data-driven revolution in astrophysics. This is enabling surveys that probe ever-larger areas of the sky and ever-fainter sources, opening up a vast discovery space. These advances also add temporal information to what was previously a relatively static picture of the sky. In addition to aiding the discovery of whole new classes of variable astronomical phenomena, temporal information probes the fundamental physics of the underlying objects. Coupling these surveys with innovative exploration strategies and novel theoretical work will open new windows onto the universe. This meeting will focus on issues related to the physics and discovery of astronomical transients. Topics will range from the extragalactic: detection of gamma-ray bursts, and supernovae in distant galaxies, variable AGN, to the galactic: variable stars, novae, and other cataclysmic events.

January 30 - February 4, 2012

Inflationary Theory and Its Confrontation with Data in the Planck Era

Olivier Dore, JPL/Caltech
Fabian Schmidt, California Institute of Technology
Leonardo Senatore, Stanford University
Kendrick Smith, Princeton University

With upcoming new data from the Planck satellite and other CMB experiments, but also from the next generation Large Scale Structure surveys, our capabilities to explore the beginning of the universe and the theory of Inflation will undergo a major improvement in the coming years. In this light, it is timely to gather together observer and theorists to discuss, explore and develop the theoretical signatures of the Physics of the early universe as well as the associated new observational or data analysis techniques required to make the best of upcoming data.

See Program at: http://tinyurl.com/AspenInflationWinter12Schedule

 Condensed Matter Physics
February 5 - 10, 2012

New Paradigms for Low-Dimensional Electronic Materials

Gabriel Aeppli, University College London
Andrea Cavalleri, University of Oxford
Joel Moore, University of California, Berkeley
Chetan Nayak, University of California, Santa Barbara/KITP
Karin Rabe, Rutgers University
Matthias Troyer, ETH, Zurich

Several of the most exciting recent developments in condensed matter involve new ways to create and probe low-dimensional electronic materials. The metallic interface between some insulating oxides and the metallic surface of a three-dimensional (3D) topological insulator are both examples of novel 2D electron systems that inherit properties from the 3D host materials, via electronic correlations in the first case and spin-orbit coupling in the second. The ``conventional'' two-dimensional electron gas has continued to produce surprises such as paired quantum Hall states, while graphene is an intrinisically two-dimensional system with several novel features. Another area of progress in quantum condensed matter was the development of new probes of 2D or quasi-2D systems; to pick just one example, advances in spin-resolved photoemission were crucial in confirming theoretical predictions about the surface states of topological insulators.

We propose a winter conference that will bring together experimentalists and theorists working in these rapidly developing areas of quantum condensed matter. The combination of fields above is broad enough to go beyond topical workshops while focused enough to have common interests and intense discussions. As an example, while topological insulators and oxide interfaces originally involved different materials families and workers from different backgrounds, it is becoming clear that realizing the potential of topological insulators will likely require creating interfaces to more correlated materials (magnets and super-conductors). Participants should leave with a better understanding of the remarkable recent progress in quantum condensed matter and an appreciation of where future progress is likely.

 Particle Physics
February 11 - 17, 2012

The Hunt for New Particles, from the Alps to the Plains to the Rockies

Patrick Fox, Fermilab
Eva Halkiadakis, Rutgers University
John Campbell, Fermilab
Ivan Furic, University of Florida
Daniel Whiteson, UC Irvine

Particle physics is about to experience one of its most exciting years in recent history. By winter 2012, the LHC experiments (in the Alps) are expected to have analyzed several orders of magnitude more data than for their first results of early 2011 and analyses from the final run of the Tevatron (in the Plains) will be nearing completion. There is great potential for discoveries of new particles, or laws of nature. We plan to gather together (in the Rockies) a diverse group of experimentalists and theorists and incite energetic exchange of ideas, information and knowledge gathered at the newly explored frontiers of particle physics, that will shape the future of the field. In addition to the hunt for new particles at colliders, our current understanding of the nature of electroweak scale dark matter will also be highlighted, as well as the latest results on heavy-ion, neutrino and heavy flavor physics.

For more information, please click here.