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Physics conference features special session for high school students and teachers

When New Mexico State University's physics department plays host to a regional physics conference Nov. 2 and 3, high school physics students and their teachers will be treated to a session of their own.

day session devoted to secondary education, starting with a pizza lunch at noon Saturday, Nov. 3, will feature presentations and demonstrations by New Mexico State physics faculty members, said physics Professor William Gibbs, chairman of the organizing committee. Free physics kits will be given to those attending.

The session was organized in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Four Corners Section of the American Physical Society, which will draw physicists from universities and laboratories throughout New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah. While the entire meeting will have talks of interest to high school physics instructors and their students, the Saturday secondary education session is designed expressly for them, Gibbs said.

The event is free, but organizers ask anyone planning to attend to let them know in advance so they can plan appropriately. Assistance with travel costs is available for those outside the Las Cruces area, Gibbs said.

The contacts are Gibbs, at (505) 646-6711 or gibbs@nmsu.edu, and physics faculty member Steve Kanim, (505) 646-1208 or skanim@nmsu.edu.

Following a pizza lunch at noon in the Corbett Center Student Club, presentations will be held in the Corbett Center Auditorium. The preliminary program includes:

1 p.m., "There Is No Place Like Earth," a presentation by faculty member Slava Solomatov. While we tend to believe the universe is big enough to contain other planets similar to Earth, Solomatov will discuss evidence that suggests we might be living on a very special planet.

1:25 p.m., "The Physics of Attraction and Repulsion: Magnetism and Magnetic Fields." Faculty member Heinz Nakotte will discuss new magnetic materials that are revolutionizing the computer industry and providing new medical technologies, among other applications.

1:50 p.m., "Fractals in Optics," a presentation by faculty member Charles Ying. Fractals exist all around us in nature, in broccoli florets and in the jagged peaks of the Organ Mountains. Ying will discuss new fractal materials being created in laboratories that could lead to advances in a number of technologies.

2:15 p.m., "Nanotechnology: Bigger Technological Advances with Smaller Sizes," a presentation by faculty member Jane G. Zhu. Nanoscience engineering -- the development of tiny devices whose size is measured in billionths of a meter -- is regarded as one of the most likely areas to produce the breakthroughs of tomorrow in science and technology.

2:40 p.m., "Seeing the Smallest Particles, Using the Largest Microscopes." Faculty member Stephen Pate will talk about the enormous accelerators that physicists build to break tiny particles like quarks and gluons from the atoms in which they reside, and the equally enormous detectors that are used to see these particles when they come out.

Following the presentations, a series of demonstrations will be given by New Mexico State University physicists Harold Daw and Robert Liefeld.