Monday, 3 June 2013

INPC Day One - bouncing neutrons

It's the end of the first day of INPC2013 here in Florence.  I must say that it has gone a lot more smoothly than many physics conferences, and I rather suspect that this is because it's being run professionally rather than by the scientific organisers themselves.  If only they had managed to organise for there not to be a thunderstorm at lunchtime when we were supposed to be off in town fending for ourselves in some nearby trattoria.

So I attended all the plenary sessions this morning and then wended my way through a selection of the parallel sessions in the afternoon.  I went for a combination of things that are very much up my alley (I hope I'm not mixing metaphors here) and some session which were a bit more alien to me.  

One talk I went to in the "new-to-me" session was about an experiment called qBounce.  It involves bouncing a neutron off of a reflecting mirror, ever bound to fall back down and bounce again due to gravity.  It's a pretty amazing combination of a gravitational potential and a tricky-to handle neutral elementary particle used to make a quantum bound state.  I was a bit sceptical at first, and was the only person to ask questions at the end.  It's still surprising to me that the experimental details all work out, and I have to accept to some extent that they do, and that other experimentalists have peer-reviewed their work competently.  For the more technically-minded readers, there seems to be an open access paper available here from an Elsevier proceedings journal that I haven't heard of.

I'm glad I went to that session, though I'm not entirely sure where it fits in a nuclear physics conference.  Neutrons sometimes get knocked out of nuclei, I guess.  Mind you, a few of the plenary talks seemed to be more about mesons than nuclei, so what do I know?  Well, I know that I took the attached picture from the window of the conference centre in the afternoon.  The remnants of the lunchtime storm are still there to see in the clouds.

As one does at conferences, I went out to dinner in the evening.  As I do when travelling I managed, when eating bread dipped in oil, to spill some oil around the groin on my trousers.  At home it wouldn't matter as I'd have plenty of changes of clothes available.  Now I have to face walking round with conspicuous stains on my trousers.  Oh well.  It's a physics conference.