I was a little confused by the reference to Canada in Francis Slakey's January 1999 "Zero Gravity" article in APS News: "Choose your candidate and volunteer a few hours a week of your time. If you like it, you'll have gotten the experience you need to compete for a policy job in Washington. If you hate it, move to Canada." Perhaps he's suggesting that politics is friendlier in Canada? I'm not sure that's true. Or is it that people who don't like the democratic process would be happier in Canada, where he imagines there isn't any such thing? It does sound rather like the old right-wing reply to any criticism of the U.S. government: "If you don't like it, move to Russia." I doubt there are many Canadians who would appreciate their country being offered as the alternative (or opposite) to democratic politics.
Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada
Francis Slakey Responds:
Let me assure you that I have the utmost respect for the country that was kind enough to serve as a training ground for Doug Flutie. My country boasts "Give me your tired, your poor, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore" — but Canada truly lives the words.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Meeting
I prepared my talk for DPF99, created transparencies, and looked forward to giving a talk which would highlight a physics puzzle and which, I hoped, would stimulate some interest in the subject on the part of experimentalists. Then I checked to see which day and which room my talk was scheduled for. It wasn't. As I soon learned, contributed abstracts by many other members were not scheduled either. Just during the past year I rejoined the APS. Years ago, in the 60's and 70's, when I first joined the APS, I remember that all members were allowed to present a 10-minute talk at any meeting. Recently, I rejoined the APS and have discovered that although the Bylaws have not changed in this regard, they have been interpreted to apply only to general meetings of the APS. Personally I disagree with the philosophy of rejecting contributed abstracts. The arbitrariness of the acceptance-rejection process makes it unfair to contributors and will tend to eliminate abstracts with new and different ideas. It seems proper to me that the APS allow all members to give a talk, if not at all meetings which the APS sponsors, at least at all Divisional Meetings.
Editor's Note: Article XI of the APS Constitution and Article XII, 1. of the APS Bylaws [ www.aps.org under the Governance button] essentially state that any member may submit one contributed abstract for any Meeting of the Society and, assuming it conforms with the submittal requirements and arrives before the deadline, that it will be scheduled. This policy was firmly established by Council in 1952. Although the policy originally applied to 10-minute contributed oral papers, it now applies to poster papers as well. However, the Society may specify the form of the presentation, oral or poster, based on factors other than the author's preference. That this policy applies to official Unit meetings was reaffirmed by the APS Executive Committee in February and all APS Units have agreed to follow this practice in the future.
Don't Apologize for Feynman Fish!
In your January 1999 APS News, you appeared to be actually apologizing for "the Feynman Fish" one of the bumper sticker entries in the October 1998 "Zero Gravity." Almost every one of the bumper sticker/T-shirt entries were satires of pre-existing sayings and expressions. Why did you not apologize for making a "mockery" of these beloved cliches? Let's say in a future issue of APS News, you publish a drawing the Earth. A member of the Flat Earth Society writes, saying that they are deeply offended and hurt by the portrayal of the Earth as round. Would you print a retraction begging forgiveness for "this inadvertent offense?" I dare say the percentage of the population offended by the fish reference is no larger than the percentage offended by a drawing of the Earth as round.
Big Bang vs Big Brother
Charles McCutchen is quite correct in his letter to APS News [February 1999] about the appropriateness of the big bang model to industry in general and Xerox in particular. The quote that he cited was a misprint. It should have read "For those who are or wish to be 'players' in industrial R&D, you might consider three actions. First, the big brother value system is inappropriate in your new life; discard it." I regret that my proofreading was not as accurate as Mr. McCutchen's.
Charles B. Duke
Webster, New York
More "Big Bang" Aftershock
I was disappointed by Charles Duke's article entitled "How to get value from industrial R&D" (The Back Page, APS News, December, 1998). Apparently the fact that competition has intensified and "globalized" justifies the suspension of the (sometimes chaotic) processes of scientific and technological development that have given the U.S. the world's healthiest economy and most admired higher education system. The most disturbing statement undoubtedly is the sweeping generalization, "Those who watch things happen comprise the bulk of the physics profession. Supported generously by government largess for more than three decades until recently, they could-and often did-look with disdain at the supposedly mundane world of industry." I find this assertion remarkable as it is fairly obvious that a lot of useful technology has been the product of university researchers working on "pure" knowledge in seemingly useless directions. Further, essentially all scientists and technologists received training at universities. Duke evidently overlooks the value of this training and the teachers who provide it. As a taxpayer and industrial scientist, I am happy to contribute to the NSF and other government funding agencies so teachers of future industrial scientists and engineers have some continuing, hands-on involvement with science, even if that science doesn't always have commercial value. It is undoubtedly true that there have been misunderstandings between university and industrial scientists and technologists and, as is evident, disdain from each side. We need discussions of the relationships between university and industry, of the role of the physicist in industry, and how physicists (and other scientists) can best apply their training in industry.
G.E. Research Labs