APS News

World Year of Physics Gets Early Kickoff at Sigma Pi Sigma Quadrennial Congress

By Ernie Tretkoff

Sigma Pi Sigma, the physics honor society, kicked off the World Year of Physics 2005 at its 2004 Quadrennial Congress October 15-16, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The meeting was held in conjunction with the APS Four Corners Section meeting, regional groups of the Society of Physics Students (SPS), and the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT).

"Having all those groups at once, it was unique in the fact that we had lots of students and lots of retired people at the same meeting. Lots of physics people who were not in academics came to this meeting. I think that made for the discussions being very robust because you've got a lot of perspectives," said Gary White, director of Sigma Pi Sigma.

At a World Year of Physics session, Vinaya Sathyasheelappa, APS World Year of Physics project coordinator, presented APS plans for the World Year of Physics. A number of SPS chapters presented posters with their plans for the 2005 celebration.

Science historian and author John Rigden gave a talk about Einstein's legacy and how his 1905 contributions are still impacting physics. Dwight Neuenschwander talked about ethics and Einstein.

Several workshops focused on ethics and science. Speakers and discussion leaders included Mildred Dresselhaus, Ken Ford, Lydia Sohn, James Stith, Bo Hammer, and Diandra Leslie-Pelecky. John Marburger, science advisor to the President, offered a government perspective on science and ethics. In addition, Nobel Laureate Carl Wieman gave a talk about Bose- Einstein condensates, and Jocelyn Bell Burnell spoke about pulsars. Sigma Pi Sigma members and students displayed posters about their research, careers, or education and outreach activities.

"Having 80 or 90 students in the room for every talk gave it a vibrancy that you might not find at a lot of meetings," said White.

The day before the congress, about 200 conference attendees went on a special tour of the Trinity Site in the New Mexico desert, where the first atomic bomb was detonated in July 1945.


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