APS News

Speaker's Program Will Provide Lecturers for World Year of Physics

By Ernie Tretkoff

Looking for an expert to speak to your group about Einstein's relativity? About black holes? Or quantum entanglement? Or about Einstein the person? As part of World Year of Physics 2005, the Topical Group on Gravitation (GGR) and the Forum on the History of Physics (FHP) maintain a list of physicists known to be effective public speakers on topics related to Einstein, and match interested groups with appropriate speakers.

"Anything that's associated with Einstein is something that we can cover," said Richard Price of the University of Texas at Brownsville, who is coordinating the speakers program. Groups that want to request a speaker can fill out a form giving program administrators information including the type of group, their location, their desired dates for the lecture, and the topic they want to hear about, and the program administrators will try to match an appropriate speaker with the group. Administrative support for the program is being made available by the Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy at the University of Texas at Brownsville.

Even with the wide range of speakers in the pool, the program anticipates receiving many more requests than it can fill, said Price. Indeed, they have already received some requests they can't meet. Part of the problem is geographical-speakers tend to be located near research universities, while requests often come from other areas, said Price. However, the program organizers are continuing to add speakers to the list, and may be able to fill some of the requests later in the year.

Groups requesting a speaker might be high schools, colleges or universities, or clubs."If prior-itization is needed of which requests to meet, our main focus will probably be on four year colleges with students who are interested in physics, who would like to have an expert from outside," said Price.

Virginia Trimble, vice-chair of FHP, is in charge of FHP's contribution to the speakers program. She said the program would especially try to reach historically black and Hispanic colleges, as well as groups in remote or less privileged areas. "We hope to be able to offer a little bit of travel support for people to go to truly poverty-stricken colleges," she said.

Another component of the program Price is organizing is a database of materials for speakers. Speakers might want to find a good graphic, a good quote, or even a complete lecture, so Price is collecting such materials and will make them accessible to the speakers.

The GGR and FHP have taken up this project because these units feel particularly associated with Einstein, said Price. "We like to say we are the topical group that Einstein would have been a member of," said Price.

The FHP will provide speakers with a historical perspective on Einstein. "There are lots of Einstein- related things besides relativity," said Trimble. Based on the number of requests the program has already received, especially from high school groups, Price sees a great desire for an easier way for groups to make contact with experts, and hopes that someone will continue the speakers program or something similar after the World Year of Physics is over. Trimble also expects the program to carry on in some form after the World Year of Physics. "Unless it bombs in some horrible way, it will continue beyond 2005," said Trimble.

Speakers program website and instructions for requesting a speaker: http://www.physics2005.org/.