Review of the Joint Annual Meeting 2011 in Lausanne

The annual meeting 2011 which took place at the EPFL in Lausanne on June 15-17, was organized jointly with the Austrian Physical Society ÖPG, and both national societies of Astronomy and Astrophysics (SSAA and ÖGAA), as a successful follow-up of the Innsbruck meeting in 2009. With 10 parallel sessions, more than 470 submitted abstracts and nearly 650 participants, one can claim that our goal to make our meeting more attractive to the physics community was achieved. The commercial exhibition with the presence of 22 companies was the largest ever organized by our society.

The 10 plenary talks of the three morning sessions covered a broad spectrum of modern physics from condensed matter physics (Bose Einstein condensation of photons, Quantum cascade lasers, 2D electron gas between insulators, stretchable electronics, superconductivity) to large scale physics (LHC at CERN, the ITER project at Cadarache) without forgetting Earth and planetary science (high velocity impacts in the solar system) and simulation of the universe by computational astrophysics. The presence of our Austrian colleagues had also an impact on the parallel sessions. For example a session "Surfaces, Interfaces and Thin films" was organized as a complement to the Condensed Matter one. To our great pleasure a session on "Theory and Simulations", composed of the three suptopics "Large Scale Computing", "Theoretical Physics Today" and "Computational Astrophysics" was part of the program. Another novelty was the session on Geophysics which covered topics like geophysical fluid dynamics, Earth and planetary magnetism or even the safety assessment of deep geological nuclear waste depositories.
On the first evening, a public lecture given in the Polydôme by M. Marthaler and colleagues on the topic "Le Cervin est-il africain? Une histoire de la dérive des océans et continents" unravelled the mystery of the origin of our most famous Swiss mountain, the Matterhorn.

For the second time a successful series of contributions on History of Physics (HoP) gathered a large audience, thanks to the joint action of Peter Schuster, chair of the EPS HoP group and Jan Lacki, chair of the new SPS HoP section. The section Physics in Industry (Kai Hencken) organized this year a special afternoon session on "Careers for Physicists" which attracted many young people interested in the professional experience of physicists who went into industrial research or business management.

Last but not least the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the discovery of superconductivity was the occasion to listen to a series of interesting talks on the development of this exciting field over the years with insight on the different theories and applications. A lively round table with all the speakers and the two Nobel laureates K. A. Müller and J. G. Bednorz, demonstrated that after the boost produced by the discovery of high-Tc superconductors 25 years ago, this field of physics has still a strong momentum and good potential for large scale applications. As a complement to this special event, an exhibition on superconductivity by the artist Mix&Remix, kindly sponsored by the University of Geneva and MaNEP, was on display in the hall. Another cool attraction was also the model of a superconducting levitation train presented by the University of Zürich, constantly surrounded by a stream of visitors.

On the official side the SPS has elected this year four new distinguished honorary members, J. G. Bednorz (IBM Rüschlikon), J. P. Eckmann (Uni. Genève), J. Fröhlich (ETHZ) and M. Huber (Zürich) for their outstanding contributions (see SPS Communications no. 34 for the laudationes). During the joint award ceremony, which took place on the first day of the meeting, the 3 SPS prizes in general physics (ABB), condensed matter physics (IBM) and applied physics (Oerlikon), were attributed. The winners and their works are presented here.
On the Austrian side, the prestigious Boltzmann prize as well as the Anton Paar prize, the Viktor F. Hess prize, and the AT&S Research award were attributed. The ÖGAA rewarded two Diploma students.
Nothing better than getting together at the conference dinner in the Chalet Suisse above Lausanne. Although the few rainshowers did not permit to enjoy the terrasse and the magnificent view on the lake, the atmosphere within the restaurant was really hot with good food, even cheese raclette and of course a few glasses of excellent local wine.

Altogether the successful annual meeting 2011 in Lausanne can be regarded as the fruitful result of the decision taken a couple of years ago, namely to organize a joint meeting with the ÖPG every two years in alternation with the meeting taking place with the Swiss NCCRs. This procedure should allow the annual meetings to reach their critical mass and remain or become again more attractive to the Swiss physics community. As announced at the General Assembly the next SPS meeting will take place in June 2012 in Zürich and the following year we shall be the guests of the ÖPG in Vienna.

I would like here to warmly thank S. Albietz, I. Furno and A. Pochelon and their crew for the local organization, and all my colleagues of the executive committee. Acknowledgement goes also to our colleagues of the ÖPG, its president Erich Gornik as well as the two coordinators Gottfried Strasser and Reinhold Koch for their support and a fruitful collaboration. Thank you also to Daniel Schaerer and Manuel Güdel, the respective presidents of the SSAA and ÖGAA.

Christophe Rossel, SPS President



The Joint Annual Meeting of the Swiss and Austrian Physical Societies together with the Swiss and Austrian Societies for Astronomy and Astrophysics in Lausanne was a successful continuation of the course established at the first joint meeting of these societies in Innsbruck in 2009. It was once more a strong indicator that topics of physics are recognized and pursued internationally, and that the physicists of both countries need not shy back from matching their work with their colleagues from other countries in an international meeting.

We have to thank the organizers for compiling a program that represented the wide range of topics and the internationally recognized achievements of the participating societies. In particular, the plenary talks conveyed insight into the current state of research spanning from high energy physics, photonics and astronomy. The celebration of 100 years of superconductivity, in presence of two Nobel laureates, was an event to remember.

The newly introduced special session “Careers for Physicists” turned out to be so interesting that is was immediately considered to make such a session as a fixed constituent of future annual meetings.

The success of the meeting in Lausanne led to the decision that joint meetings of the societies involved should be repeated biennially, alternating between Switzerland and Austria, next time in 2013 in Austria.

We would like to thank the Swiss Physical Society for the excellent local organisation, and to all societies involved for their stimulating cooperation. We are looking forward to future joint activities!

Erich Gornik, ÖPG President, Karl Riedling, ÖPG General Secretary



Session on Computational Astrophysics

(Co-organised by the SSAA and the ÖGAA)

Astrophysics was represented in various topical sessions bringing in particular together high energy, nuclear, particle and astrophysicists from various horizons and covering experimental, observational, and theoretical approaches.

A review of the state-of-the-art in computational astrophysics and future perspectives was presented by Ben Moore from the University Zürich in a plenary talk Friday morning.

The topical Session on Computational Astrophysics gathered a group of specialists presenting their latest work on a wide diversity of simulations reaching from planetary atmospheres, over hydrodynamical phenomena in stars and supernovae, sophisticated multi-phase simulations of galaxies, to magneto-hydrodynamical simulations of galaxy clusters. Different particle and mesh-based numerical methods were presented and compared, and promising new approaches were discussed.

The session clearly demonstrated the ambitious and diverse techniques now used in many fields of astrophysiscs and the new insight gained by simulations.
Several members of our communities expressed the wish for astrophysics to be more strongly involved in the next Joint Meeting.

Daniel Schaerer (Uni Genève), Manuel Güdel (Uni Wien)


The exhibition area was integrated in the poster and catering area, so participants could benefit from easily talking with each other

as well as with the companies representatives during the coffee and lunch breaks.

Particle, Astro- and Nuclear Physics Session

This year, the TASK session received a lot of contributions from the LHC experiments, which presented important new results on pp and heavy ion collisions. The opening plenary talk by Alison Lister of University of Geneva gave an excellent overview of the LHC performance in its first two years of operation and the results obtained at 7 TeV center-of-mass energy by ATLAS, CMS, LHCb and ALICE. Among the 63 contributed talks, 20 covered subjects ranging from performance of the accelerator and the experiments, through standard model physics all the way to first results on new particle searches. Allowing for a more in depth discussion of the results, these talks and the many posters were an excellent compliment to the plenary talk. All of them showed the spectacular start-up of both the machine and the experiments, and pointed out how close we have come to breaking new grounds in the understanding of high-energy particle physics with these magnificent tools. One can thus indeed answer affirmatively to the question raised by Alison in her plenary talk: “LHC: at the doorstep of new physics?” We are looking forward to crossing that doorstep in the near future.

In addition to this dominant theme, there were no less than 18 contributed talks covering physics from accelerators other than LHC and ten theory contributions. The subjects covered neutrino physics, results from b factories, neutron experiments as well as hadronic resonances. This is evidence for the rich spectrum of physics subjects covered in the framework of the two participating societies; monoculture is not an option. More than ten talks covered hardware issues, including LHC detector upgrade plans and future accelerators, showing that particle physics instrumentation is an equally lively field.

As far as astroparticle physics is concerned, the meeting saw a rich selection of a dozen new results from ground-based and space-borne experiments. It is interesting to observe that several talks covered analysis of the same photon source, Eta Carinae, revealing different aspects of the physics of colliding wind binary systems. Recent results of a direct dark matter search with the XENON100 detector were another highlight of the sessions. Novel instruments, like the FACT camera project for Cerenkov light detection, the balloon cosmic ray experiment PEBS and the gamma ray burst polarimeter POLAR were also presented.

The quality of the talks and posters presented was very high and the attendance to the sessions was very satisfactory. Lively discussions during and after the sessions and around the posters underlined the fact that there are interesting and important new results after the long lead-time for new experiments. The mix between different physics, as well as theory and experimental subjects inside the sessions has once again proven to result in more lively interaction among the participants. Holding a joint meeting between sister societies is also a success story to be followed in the future.

I would like to thank all contributors, especially the PhD students and their advisors and group leaders, for excellent talks and the whole audience for their continued support of the TASK sessions.

Martin Pohl, Université de Genève, SPS-TASK



Condensed Matter Sessions

The sessions of the condensed matter section were quite successfully performed with almost 130 abstracts. Since the Austrian Physical Society is differently structured, the thin film/surface science topics were presented at an own session with nearly 70 abstracts (see below). The condensed matter contributions were split into parallel sessions of different subtopics, Spin and Magnetics, Superconductors, Intersubband Physics, Semiconductors, Carbon Physics and Beyond Condensed Matter. The diversity represents well the active research areas of physics in Switzerland and Austria. Most sessions were well attended, and some of them started with an invited talk followed by contributed talks. One of the challenges for the organizers is to balance the number of parallel sessions with the number of contributions. On the one hand, younger physicists, in particular PhD Students and Post-Docs, should be encouraged to present orally their results, while on the other hand, too many split sessions may lead to an insufficient number of listeners. This year a good trade-off was found for most subsessions. Many activities of the running NCCR (National Competence Centers of Research) groups were reported in different condensed matter sessions, even though their formal meetings are held this year independent of the SPS meeting. The positive comments we heard from the attendees about this meeting motivates us for the next SPS annual meeting in 2012, which is planned – meanwhile as tradition - as joint meeting with the NCCR of Nano, QSIT and MaNEP.

Urs Staub, PSI Villigen, SPS-KOND



Surfaces, Interfaces and Thin Films

There were three full afternoon sessions in this division with an overall number of 45 oral presentations, including 8 invited talks, and 20 poster presentations. The activities in this field in both, Austria and Switzerland, were well represented. Attendance was high with typically about 50 people in a good mix from both participating societies in the talks throughout the meeting, in spite of the attractive program of parallel sessions. The three announced focus topics of Surface Oxides and Oxid Surfaces, Electron Spin and Magnetism at Surfaces, and Molecules at Surfaces were well covered, and the number of submitted abstracts permitted us to add Epitaxial Graphene and Boron Nitride Monolayers as another dedicated session topic. The Molecules at Surfaces session was organized by ‘Mol-CH’, an informal group of Swiss researchers active in this field (represented by Thomas Greber and Roman Fasel), who had taken the opportunity to combine their traditional annual discussion meeting with this bigger meeting, and who have welcomed the lively exchange with their Austrian peers.

Jürg Osterwalder, Uni Zürich and Mike Ramsey, Uni Graz



History of Physics (HoP) Session

The annual session of the SPS History of Physics section, second since its foundation in 2010, took place on the afternoons of 16 and 17 of June. It was a special event as the session was a joint effort of the History of Physics sections of SPS, ÖPG and EPS. Thanks to this collaboration, there were 16 talks scheduled gathering historians from all over Europe.

On Thursday, the session started with a group of four talks presenting the current research done within the Geneva History and Philosophy of Science Unit, focusing on the rise of theoretical physics in Western Switzerland. After the pause, there were five talks devoted to mixed topics, from a reflection on scientific controversies illustrated by the prints of the Kremsmünster observatory, a sketch of the Greek intellectual and science sympathizer Orfanidis, a discussion of the early Western representations of the planetary system, to the evocation of the life of the polaristrobometer inventor von Wild, and finally a discussion of the early investigations on the northern lights.

The day after, the session resumed in the afternoon with a lively presentation of the eccentric and largely forgotten physicist “Hutchie” Synge, which was followed by a nice account of the Italian pioneering works on bubble chambers and a reflection on the transition that took recently place in CERN between the LEP and the LHC experimental programs. The last talks after the pause were mainly addressing the issue of scientists facing social and political challenges, such as the Austrian physicist Josef Schintlmeister in the middle of the cold war, Peter Debye in Nazi Germany, or the recipients of the Nobel Prize statistically reflecting the geo-political issues of the time. The last two talks were devoted to the Spanish physicist Catalan and his exchanges with his German and American colleagues and to the Greek Dimitrios Hondros who studied with Sommerfeld.

Many talks gave rise to interesting exchanges between participants which helped much to build a sense of genuine community. Peter Schuster, head of the EPS historical section who co-organized the Lausanne session is in fact considering publishing the papers given at the session. Given the very positive response to this joint SPS-EPS-ÖPG initiative, further collaborations between the SPS and their foreign colleagues are anyway to be expected.

Jan Lacki, Uni Genève, SPS-HoP



Session: Careers for Physicists

The joint meeting included a special session on "Careers for Physicists", which was attended by a large number of students from both the SPS and the ÖPG.
During the session physicists from industry gave an insight into their work in very different positions. This shows the larger range of opportunities physicists have outside the academic area.

Christian Ohler from ABB, David Banner from Roche and Angelino Paolo from EPFL talked about how physicists work in the electrical industry, molecular biophysics and systems biology. Doris Steinmüller-Nethl from Rhobest - who is also the head of the "Physicists in Industry" section of the Austrian Physical Society - demonstrated on her own career how self-employment is an alternative to working for a company. Adrian Honegger from Basler Versicherung discussed how physicists are well prepared for the business world of tomorrow. Veronica Cerletti from EMPA showed that research management is an expanding area due to the large collaboration in research.

The talks lead to lively discussions, which continued during the break and after the session. The good attendance of the session showed that information on career perspectives are of great interest to students and that a direct contact with people in different areas is helpful to them.

Kai Hencken, ABB Baden, SPS-INDU



Theoretical physics

There is an ongoing debate about the need of special sessions on theoretical physics. Some theorists feel comfortable in their mining region, others are convinced that it makes a lot of sense to gather people working in different areas of theoretical physics, either because some conceptual and methodological aspects transcend the borders or because of simple curiosity. Such sessions can be grouped around a particular hot topic or present overviews of what is going on in different subfields. The meeting in Lausanne included both modes of operation, with one afternoon focussed on large-scale computing, another on the more general theme of theoretical physics today.

The main aim of the session on large-scale computing was to bring together members of the Swiss Platform for High-Performance and High-Productivity Computing (HP2C). In 7 invited and 2 contributed talks challenges and perspectives of increasing computer power were described, with applications in astrophysics, plasma physics, quantum chemistry and solid-state physics. The well-attended session represented an ideal forum for discussing problems to be tackled by this recently established network, at the same time it informed outsiders about promises and limitations of scientific computing.

The session on theoretical physics today had two halves, a first one on condensed matter physics and statistical mechanics, a second one on quantum field theory and particle physics. 4 invited overviews dealt nicely with diverse subjects, statistical mechanics applied to soft condensed matter, networks and their space-time complexity, a planar gauge field theory and its connection to spin chains, as well as theoretical advances motivated by the LHC.

7 contributed talks and 2 posters on rather diverse topics, from mesoscopic physics to quantum gravity, completed the interesting kaleidoscope of current activities in theoretical physics. The relatively large audience (between 15 and 30 people) and the positive echo should encourage the society to reserve some space for similar sessions in future meetings.

Dionys Baeriswyl, Uni Fribourg, SPS-THEO



Report on Geophysics sessions

For the first time, sessions on geophysics took place at a SPS Annual Meeting. The reason for organizing such an event is that geophysics is thematically attached to geosciences but is methodologically a complete physical science.

There were sessions dedicated to the science of fluids dynamics, planetary magnetism and dynamo, using physical methods and developing models. Geophysics covers also many engineering and application aspects. For example, the issue of deep geological waste storage was addressed in a special session, whereas another session was dealing specifically with methods in geophysics. With more than 30 contributions and a large audience, this first meeting on geophysics was a great success.

In his plenary lecture on collisions in the solar system, Philippe Gillet explained how to read the history of planets and meteorites via the traces left in rocks and other various minerals after the extreme pressures generated during collisions. A brilliant investigation à la Sherlock Holmes!

An evening public lecture gave us the opportunity to bring together geology and geophysics. Under the title "Is the Matterhorn African?", Michel Marthaler developed the themes of continental drifts, subduction and Alp formation with many illustrations and the numerical simulations of Marcel Thielmann, a PHD student in geophysics at ETHZ: indeed a nice pedagogical condensate of the formation of the Alps over million years, compressed in a few seconds video! The fast progress made in this field during the second half of the last century was outlined by Gilles Borel in his introduction.

The speakers were favourably impressed by the quality of the event, by the number of younger scientists attending and the questions they asked. The positive experience of this first geophysics session at the SPS will provide a good basis for next meetings. Other topics related to this field such as environmental and climate issues, natural resources, alternative energies, i.e., geothermal sources, early detection of natural hazards (volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis), materials characterization, monitoring of contaminated sites, etc. could be addressed in the future to attract a broad audience and motivate potential organizers.

Antoine Pochelon EPFL, SPS Secretary and Pascal Turberg, EPFL