I'm on my way back to the US from this workshop at the Universität Regensburg. It was a fun and interesting meeting, and the quality of the invited talks was uniformly high. The city was also very neat. I'd had no idea that it had managed to escape (almost completely) Allied bombing during WWII, so as a result it has many buildings dating back to the Middle Ages.
On the science side, it was particularly nice to hear some talks from and meet a number of people that whose work I've seen over the years but I'd never met face-to-face before. For example, Steven Louie (linking to wikipedia since all of the Berkeley servers are inexplicably slow right now) spoke about ways to accurately calculate the optical properties of graphene (including electron-hole interactions properly). Philip Collins showed how it's possible to look at single-molecule biophysics (like the functioning of individual enzyme molecules) by anchoring the molecules of interest to single-walled carbon nanotubes, where the action is transduced into changes in the conductance. Adrian Bachtold gave a nice overview of their work on optomechanics of nanotubes, which has enabled them to do mass sensing at the resolution of a single atomic mass unit (10-27 kg) and force sensing with similarly impressive sensitivity. Richard Berndt from Kiel discussed his group's work where they argue that light emission from STM tips shows the signature of shot noise in the current at optical frequencies. Wolfgang Wernsdorfer, grand poobah of molecular magnetism, presented new results showing amazing control and detection of individual electronic spin lifetimes (in Tb-containing molecules). For a spin to flip spontaneously, the molecule has to transfer angular momentum to the rest of the world somehow. In the new experiment, this happens by dumping angular momentum into a carbon nanotube to which the molecule is anchored. Since the allowed vibrational states of the nanotube can be controlled, this in turn tunes the spin flip rates. Finally, Klaus Müllen gave an overview of ways to rationally synthesize, by chemical means, graphene flakes, ribbons, and other shapes. The chemistry is just unreal.