APS News

2000 April Meeting Drops Anchor in Long Beach, CA

Since the spring of 1999, when the New York Times first reported an allegation of a Chinese spy at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the attention of the national media, scientific community, and federal government alike has focused powerfully - and sometimes with heated disagreement - on the possible threat to national security of foreign-born scientists employed at the national weapons laboratories. On the afternoon of Saturday, April 30, at the APS April Meeting in Long Beach, California, a distinguished panel of scientists will discuss various aspects of the issue and suggest possible guidelines for setting US policy that protect both national security and open scientific exchange. LANL's Jerry Wilhelmy will address his alarm at what he perceives as a "growing sense of xenophobia," and will present a white paper on foreign national involvement at LANL (see www.fellows.lanl.gov) that recognizes "the vital role that foreign scientists have played and continue to play in making LANL a forefront scientific institution."

Cheuk-Yin Wong, who chairs the Overseas Chinese Physics Association in addition to his work as a research scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, will review the history of the Chinese-American science community and its contributions to the advancement of science and national defense in the US. Nor is China alone under the cloud of suspicion. Following the nuclear tests in 1998 by India and Pakistan, the Department of Energy banned collaborative efforts with scientists from those countries, despite a long history of collaboration dating back to the 1980s. The ban has only recently been rescinded. Rajendran Raja, an Indian-born scientist at Fermilab, will review recent developments and assess the implications of such restrictions on scientific freedom. This session will take place in Ballroom A of the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

The April meeting runs from April 29 to May 2 and will feature the latest research results in nuclear, particle, astrophysics and accelerator physics. Four plenary sessions will be offered with lectures on extrasolar planets, biological microfabrication, the accelerating universe, future neutron scattering and synchrotron radiation facilities, new superheavy element results, and elementary science standards, among others.

Other sessions of unusual interest include the following, all held in the Long Beach Convention Center.

Real World Physicists in Science Fiction

Camille Minichino, formerly a researcher with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Gregory Benford, a professor of physics at the University of Irvine, both moonlight as authors of mystery and science fiction novels. On Sunday afternoon, they will explain why such formats offer a prime opportunity to offset negative stereotypes and introduce the general reader to real-world physicists: "ones who don't want to take over the world, don't leave the house with two different socks on, and aren't social misfits." The session will be followed by a reception to meet the authors and a book signing. (Session K12)

The Language of the People

Finding ways to effectively communicate science outside the classroom is also the focus of a Monday morning session featuring David Goodstein, who will summarize lessons learned from his involvement in "The Mechanical Universe," a 52-part television series. Designed to teach introductory physics at the university level. David Crippens of KCET-TV Education Enterprises in Los Angeles, will provide examples of work the public television station has done to increase and enhance science literacy. (Session P13)

Addressing similar themes, Jeremiah Sullivan, a professor of physics at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, will draw upon his personal involvement in public policy debates to illustrate what he believes are essential requirements for the effective presentation of technical information and analysis to the general public. He will be joined by Peter Zimmerman of the US Department of State, who will give an entertaining account of his lively-and sometimes costly-public battles against "pseudoscience." (Session J12)

Green With Energy

Today's cars and trucks are the largest source of air pollution in most urban areas in the US, accounting for 25% of the nation's carbon emissions - more than most countries emit from all sources combined. But James Mark of the Union of Concerned Scientists believes that a host of emerging technical improvements could help take vehicles out of the pollution picture. His fellow speakers include Princeton University's Joan Ogden, who will report on the potential for the development of a zero-emission transportation system using fuel cells powered by hydrogen. Offering an alternative is Dan Cohn of MIT, who believes plasmatron electric discharge technology can enable onboard hydrogen production to improve the environmental quality of automobiles (see APS News, January 2000).

Richard Post, a researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, will report on the development of new types of magnetic ball bearings that should enable the construction a new magnetically levitated (maglev) train system. Thomas Surek of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory will round out the session with a status report on photovoltaics, a semiconductor-based technology that directly converts sunlight into electricity. (Session P12)

Missile Defense?

Arms control issues have reached a critical turning point, particularly with regard to ballistic missiles, according to speakers at a Monday afternoon session on the subject. John Cornwall of the University of California, Los Angeles, will speak on the proposed national missile defense (NMD) program, intended to counter accidental Russian or Chinese launches of intercontinental nuclear-armed missiles, or similar launches by rogue nations. Cornwall will be joined by Roy Pettis of the US Department of State, who will report on progress and status of the 1998 Presidential Initiative on Shared Early Warning to reduce the risk of ballistic missile launches. (Session Q12)

Reaching for the Stars

For more than a century women have played a key role in astronomy, making major discoveries that have advanced the field - a tradition which continues today. A Tuesday morning session sponsored by the APS Committee on the Status of Women in Physics seeks to highlight some of these stellar woman astronomers. They include Wiliamina Fleming, Antonia Maury and Annie J. Cannon, who helped classify more than 11,000 stars in the latter part of the 19th century; Cecelia Payne, whose analysis of stellar spectra in the Harvard collection in the 1920s yielded a fundamentally new understanding of the composition of the universe; and Beatrice Tinsley, who contributed enormously to establishing the formalisms for studying the chemical evolution of galactic systems. (Session V8)


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