APS News

Physics Success Stories Provide Tools for Scientists

storiesThe American Institute of Physics' Public Information Division has prepared a series of one-page brochures aimed at illustrating the practical benefits of physics, entitled Physics Success Stories. Each brochure summarizes a single research area from among the physical sciences. According to Philip F. Schewe, AIP's director of public information, the primary aim of the brochures, at least initially, is to help scientists effectively discuss the prominent benefits of physics when visiting their elected representatives.

To be considered, the subject matter had to meet the following criteria: (1) the research must benefit society; (2) it must represent noteworthy physics; (3) the topic must lend itself to an attractive graphical layout; (4) federal funding has been prominent; and (5) the research has resulted in billion-dollar-per-year industrial markets. The brochures, demonstrate that physics plays a vital role in our daily lives.

"Many leaders in Congress and the executive branch have suggested that the scientific community has not been sufficiently involved in the debate over the future of federal science funding," said Schewe of the rationale behind the brochure, pointing out that NSF Director Neal Lane has criticized the overall "resounding silence" of scientists on the subject. "In some cases, Congress has heard from scientific society officers. But some Washington insiders have observed that an individual makes a greater impression when he or she actually visits a Congressional office, and does so as a constituent."

Work on the project began in October 1995, and has involved the work of several AIP Public Information staffers ever since. The first five stories cover medical imaging, lasers, the Global Positioning System, the environment, and new materials. The APS was the first to use the brochures, including them in information packets sent to physicists scheduling congressional visits in April.

Many worthy topics were suggested by APS members and others, from which a tentative list of five more stories were chosen: telecommunications (capitalizing on the recently-passed Telecommunications Bill); electronics (the nation's largest single industry); physics in the home (mostly consumer goods); national defense; and transportation. The next five are expected to be completed by June 1. Other topics under consideration include magnets, superconductors, and friction (or coatings).

Individuals on Capitol Hill and in other government offices have so far been enthusiastic about the Success Stories. The first five will be posted on the AIP Home Page (http://www.aip.org) in the next few weeks. In addition, the stories may be supplied to schools, museums, libraries, and elsewhere. For further information, contact Michal Freedhoff at 301-209-3084, or mfreedho@aip.acp.org.

APS encourages the redistribution of the materials included in this newspaper provided that attribution to the source is noted and the materials are not truncated or changed.

Editor: Barrett H. Ripin