APS News


Discovery of Superfluidity Clarified
There were a few errors in the article about the discovery of superfluidity in This Month in Physics History, APS News, January 2006.

Allen and Misener did indeed independently discover superfluidity in liquid He. However, they were working at the Royal Mond Laboratory in Cambridge University, not at the University of Toronto as the article states. The confusion probably arose because both Allen and Misener had been graduate students at the University of Toronto (which had a thriving program on liquid He and superconductors since 1923) just before they went to Cambridge. At Cambridge, Allen was like a "postdoc" while Misener was a PhD student. Misener later returned to the University of Toronto, while Allen became a professor at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland after WWII.

Also the Allen-Misener work measured flow through many parallel small-radius glass capillaries, not a single narrow glass tube, as stated in the article.

The fact that Allen was ignored in handing out the Nobel prize for the discovery of superfluidity is still a matter of controversy and mystery in the low temperature community. Kapitza only received the prize 40 years after the seminal discovery (not 30 years, as the article states), which is a sure indication of many backroom discussions. Kapitza's Nobel talk is unique in that not a single word is said about his low temperature work, for which he got the prize! It discusses his work on plasma physics.

I always enjoy reading the history column. Sorry to have to note a few errors!!
Allan Griffin
Toronto, Ontario

Numbers Off By Millions and Billions
In the February 2006 issue of APS News, you include a section "Physics News in 2005." This wonderful set of summaries of important advances and discoveries in the field is an excellent resource, both for keeping up with advances outside one's own specialty as well as communicating high-level results to the public.

There is, unfortunately, a fairly significant typographical error in one of these summaries. The discussion of "Room-Temperature Ice in Electric Fields," on page 9, incorrectly states that freezing took place in fields of "106 V/m," significantly lower than the predicted values of "109 V/m." The field strengths should read 106 V/m and 109 V/m, respectively, as can be found in the Physical Review Letters paper referenced in the summary (Choi et al., PRL 95, 085701 (2005)).
Erik Iverson
Oak Ridge, TN

Scientists Must Stand Together Against Intelligent Design
One can hardly disagree with Thomas Sheahen [letter to APS News, January 2006] that screaming, name calling, and comparing one's opponents to arch villains rarely advances the cause. I do, however, take issue with his suggestion that Intelligent Design is anything but old-hat Biblical Creationism wearing a new hat.

Intelligent Design implies an extraordinarily knowledgeable designer. Infinitely so? Can't say, but if it designed this whole universe it must be so smart it would seem infinitely so to us mortals. By similar reasoning it has to be extremely (infinitely?) powerful in order to carry out (create) its design in the physical world. Of course one now has to ask what made this designer–unless it exists outside of time (eternal).

So we now have an omniscient, omnipotent, eternal creator.

Ain't we seen this guy before?

It's not just the life sciences that are under attack. Creationism also opposes modern physics, especially cosmology and geophysics where they conflict with Biblical literalism. Even classical fluid mechanics is in trouble to the extent that it is inconsistent with the Great Flood and the parting of the Red Sea. We must therefore stand with our biologist colleagues.
Jonathan Allen
Titusville, NJ

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Editor: Alan Chodos
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