Friday, November 1, 2013

Conference Blog (morning of Day 2)

Dear Diary,

This morning's plenary speaker from UC Davis gave an incredible talk about how frustration is minimized in protein folding.  If you didn't have such a principle, then you'd have to solve something like 10^600 scenarios.  Unfortunately, there are some diseases (like prion's disease) where you get thermodynamically unlucky and build harmful beta tissue in your brain.  I overheard after that someone actually knew of one of these cases but the doctors had a hard time explaining why this was occurring; it was nice to see that physics put their mind at ease.

I bothered the speaker afterward by saying hi for Justin  (he was a student of his).  A friend of mine interested in biophysics also cornered the speaker to ask about the program. I took notes on the speaker's presentations so I can share it with the group when I get back.

The next talk was an overview of novel effects in type II superconductors and topological states by a professor from Stanford.  Apparently, a graduate student in the lab tried to propose to his girlfriend by writing an "S" by dragging the superconducting vortices around with an atomic force microscope's tip covered in a magnetic material.  Before he did so, he went to a conference and got some harsh comments because it looked too much like the number "5", and to make things worse, his proposal was not successful! But he salvaged the situation by changing it to "SU" in dedication to the university.  Apparently research can affect your personal life!

The speaker was looking to see if you can find fractional vortices and concluded that you can't (i.e. whether the flux quantization's charge is 2e or not e--that is the question).  I asked her if she'd looked at these effects near the critical temperature where pairing was weaker--she did on the under-doped side of the dome.  Then I went to lunch with her and another physicist and we talked all about superconductors and how a high Hirsch-index can be found with them!  Yay!

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