APS News

White Papers Highlight Opportunities for Counter-Terrorism Research

By Bob Guenther

Earlier this year, APS President Bill Brinkman created a Task Force on Countering Terrorism and asked me to be its Chair. Other members are: Mark Coffey (TRW); Harold Craighead (Cornell); Leonard C. Feldman (Vanderbilt); Gerard P. Gilfoyle (University of Richmond); Martin V. Goldman (Colorado); Beverly K. Hartline (Argonne); Al Romig (Sandia); and Paul Wolf (Air Force Institute of Technology). [See APS News, April 2002 and November 2002].

The objective of the Task Force has been to survey the current activities in the area of counter-terrorism, identify technical issues where physics might play a role and to make the physics community aware of these issues.

The most important mission of the task force is to stimulate the physics community to contribute to homeland security by devoting a small portion of the community's research activity to the solution of these highlighted technical issues.

The Task Force reviewed the counter-terrorism efforts that were underway at government agencies and at some professional societies, and after further discussion narrowed possible technology issues to areas where physics would make the greatest contribution: Sensors; Materials; and Data Systems.

Task Force members have prepared brief white papers on technologies that fall within these broad topical areas. In furtherance of the mission of the Task Force, these white papers are summarized below. It is our hope that APS members will seriously consider ways in which they might contribute to the research areas that are outlined in these articles.

Another way for physicists to learn about counter-terrorism is to attend a special workshop that will be held on Sunday, March 2, just before the APS March meeting in Austin, Texas. Titled "The Role of Physicists in Countering Bioterrorism", the workshop will review the bioterrorism threat, describe current biological detection techniques, and explore the role of spectroscopic techniques in species detection and recognition.

Bob Guenther is Professor of Physics at Duke University.

Gray arrow Read full papers

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: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette