APS News


Local Chapters Could Help Industrial Members

The article in the November APS News about the APS Task Force on industrial physics is correct in stating that “industrial physicists, who do not often attend APS meetings, need improved ways to network.”  Local chapters of APS with frequent meetings are one possible way to encourage networking. A dozen local chapters of IEEE here in Silicon Valley have well-attended monthly meetings and there's no reason that APS members couldn't do the same.  Local meetings could increase industrial members' feeling of connection to APS as well as being a potential route to recruitment of new members. The regional divisions of APS are a step in the right direction but their meetings are too far-flung, too infrequent and too focused on undergraduates to serve industrial physicists well.

When the late Ken Hass was chair of FIAP, he encouraged me to form an experimental local APS chapter. Anyone interested in helping to start a Silicon Valley chapter should contact me.

Alison Chaiken
Palo Alto, CA           
(650) 236-2231 [daytime]

Words and Warfare Follow Zipf’s Law

In his Back Page in the November APS News, Neil F. Johnson should have perhaps mentioned that what he discovered regarding global terrorism is yet another example of Zipf’s law (see George K. Zipf, Human Behaviour and the Principle of Least-Effort, Addison-Wesley, Cambridge MA, 1949). Zipf, a Harvard linguist, discovered some 70 years ago that when English words are ranked according to how often they are used, the frequency fk of use of any word is roughly inversely proportional to a power of its rank k, fk = Ck. This power law correlation has since been observed in many facets of human activities and social structure (see, for example, the entry under Zipf’s Law in Wikipedia).

Mikolaj “Mik” Sawicki
Carterville, IL

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Contributing Editor: Jennifer Ouellette
Staff Writer: Ernie Tretkoff