APS News


A Bad Presentation is a Bad Presentation

Although I'm far too young to be a curmudgeon, I found myself in full agreement with Al Bartlett's comments on the use of "presentation technology" (October 2001, APS News). I would only add that a bad presentation is a bad presentation, whether done with an overhead projector or a glitzy PowerPoint presentation. A watch-word for all presenters: view your own slides-whether on transparencies or 35mm or computer projector-from the back row of the room you'll actually be using. If you can't read it effectively, neither can your audience.
George Spagna
Ashland, Virginia

Accuracy is Important

In the October 2001 issue of APS News, I noticed that the graphs on page 1 showing the rises in salaries for physicists did not begin at $0. In my opinion, our visual aids should illustrate the same data with the same level of accuracy as our numbers would do. However, while I am happy that my salary has continued to climb over the years, by beginning at $20,000 instead of $0, the graphs make the increase "appear" to be larger (percentage-wise) than the numbers indicate. In this case it may not be a large "error" in perception, but as scientists we should aim to be accurate in all of our communication.
Richard L. Bowman
Bridgewater, Virginia

Mein Units

As I started reading Charles McCutchen's Viewpoint article in the October 2001 issue of APS News, I fell into my usual 2pm power nap, a habit since post-lunch lectures in grad school. When I woke up and continued his article, I was thrilled and delighted by a level of vitriol and teeth gnashing that I'd not seen in print in many years. I was therefore a bit disappointed to find some technical errors in an article whose fury and opprobrium were otherwise perfect.

The ultracentrifugers' Svedberg is 10-13 seconds, not 10-13 cm. The subsequent parenthetic remark, "(one Fermi/sec per g)", presumably intended to shed further light on the Svedberg, works out to ~(10-15 m/sec)/(10m/sec2)=10-16 sec, off by a factor of about 1000 from the Svedberg.

I very much enjoyed reading an article that could have been entitled Mein Units. However, it's a bit ironic that significant errors in both dimensions and numbers crept into a piece that unabashedly extolled units that had not, in the author's opinion, passed muster with the "units dictators".
Jeffrey Marque
San Mateo, California

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette