APS News

One Year Until APS Centennial Celebration in Atlanta

Plans are now underway in earnest for the upcoming APS Centennial Celebration a year from now. A large general meeting, combining the regular March and April meetings of the Society, will be held starting Saturday 20 March through Friday 26 March in Atlanta, Georgia, bringing together participants from all branches of physics in the US as well as representatives from foreign physical societies. As the largest physics meeting ever held, the occasion will provide the opportunity to honor the many great discoveries in physics in the last century, as well as highlight current ground-breaking work leading to the next century.

"The Centennial Celebration is a unique event in that it will bring the physics community, both nationally and internationally, together for a look back at the past and into the future," said APS President-Elect Jerome Friedman (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), who will serve as president during the Society's Centennial year. "It will also provide an opportunity for the APS to make the general public more aware of the accomplishments of physics research and the benefits it brings to society, and hence the importance of investing in physics in the future."

The meeting will feature the usual technical programming covering all topics in physics with symposia on the latest results in cutting-edge physics research. However, there will also be several special symposia and events in honor of the APS Centennial. For instance, the APS divisions, topical groups and forums are organizing special symposia showcasing both the major accomplishments in each discipline during the 20th century, and the many challenges and opportunities facing the field in the next century. A keynote address by President Clinton, opening remarks by APS Past President D. Allan Bromely (Yale University), and the annual retiring presidential address by Andrew Sessler (LBL) are also planned. A special Centennial advance program featuring all of the planned symposia and details of other special events will be available to members this September.

In addition, the Centennial Steering Committee - comprised of the APS presidential line and operating officers - has organized a series of special plenary sessions featuring numerous world-renowned scientists speaking on a wide range of topics. These include Steven Weinberg of the University of Texas, Austin, on the physics of the very large and very small; Harold Varmus, director of the National Institute of Health, on the impact of physics on biology and medicine; Joel Birnbaum, senior vice president of R&D at Hewlett-Packard, on physics and the information revolution; Mary Good, managing member of Venture Capital and former Under-Secretary for Technology at the US Department of Commerce, on physics and technology; Richard Smalley of Rice University on physics and materials; and Martin Klein of Yale University on 20th century physics and its cultural impact.

Aside from the technical program, there are currently plans for a wide range of special events designed to celebrate physics, honor those who have made an impact on the discipline, interest current and future scientists, and demonstrate the importance of physics and its place in daily life. These plans include a gala Sunday night (black-tie optional) dinner at Fernbank Museum of Natural History; a Saturday evening international banquet honoring the representatives from participating foreign physical societies; a retrospective on the Society's first 100 years; a special Physical Review exhibit; and Centennial exhibits organized by various APS units. It is also hoped that many universities and laboratories will organize "reunions" at the Centennial meeting inviting back former students, graduate students, and past and present faculty and staff.

There will also be an Atlanta-wide "physics festival," according to Brian Schwartz (Brooklyn College), Director of Centennial Programs, who chaired the 1995 Centennial Planning Committee. The core program will feature several public physics demonstrations for high school teachers, as well as weekday physics lectures for physics educators and students, and evening popular lectures for the general public. Schwartz hopes to supplement these core activities by coordinating science-related art exhibits at local galleries and museums, and organizing exhibits at the local science museums. A multimedia presentation and various performances in theater, music and dance would also enhance the activities for the general public.

An exhibition showcasing the Nobel Prize-winning work of approximately 75 scientists is being organized by Sherrie Preische, APS Associate Director for Special Projects. The exhibit will introduce visitors to Alfred Nobel and his legacy, with special emphasis placed on the physics prizes. The major part of the exhibit will stress the impact of physics on our daily lives, demonstrating how physics explores the wonders of Nature, saves lives in medicine and environmental physics, and drives technological development, closing with a look at unsolved problems for the future. There will also be a photo gallery of all Nobel laureates in physics, arranged chronologically from 1901. More than 40 Nobel laureates in physics have indicated that they plan to attend the meeting and exhibit opening, as well as participate in a special luncheon for local high school students and nationwide teachers. "Seldom have so many laureates gathered in one place, and never before have they been so accessible to the public," said Preische of the planned activities.

The Society is also developing several projects designed to enhance the celebration's impact beyond the meeting itself, including various educational projects and tools to be used throughout 1999 and beyond. These will include: A Century of Physics full-color eleven panel timeline wall chart and website, with text, research, and organization by Hans Christian von Baeyer (College of William and Mary) and Sidney Perkowitz (Emory University); a pictorial coffee table book depicting physics of the 20th century physics; a Centennial speakers-bureau booklet listing approximately 200 APS members who are excellent lecturers and who are available for special university colloquia throughout the 1998-1999 academic year; a special Centennial issue of Reviews of Modern Physics; and a photo collection of famous physicists presented in CD-ROM format. There are also tentative plans to produce a documentary on physics for cable television, as well as a multimedia and video display for the Centennial.

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