APS News


Djordjevic Grateful for Support from the Science Community

I wish to personally thank everybody in the American Physical Society and in the New York Academy of Sciences, for their powerful and overwhelming support I enjoyed during my almost 5 months jail detention by the immigration authorities. I consider myself very fortunate to have had such a tremendous support from the physics community. Although it seemed at the time that all APS efforts were in vain, I am confident that, in the long run, this effort changed the government’s mind on my case, and ultimately resulted in the happy outcome of our ordeal–our approved permanent resident status. For me, locked up and isolated in my prison cell, the APS support meant great hope and encouragement. For my wife, left alone to take care of our two children and her elderly disabled uncle, the APS support was a huge boost to endure that Kafkaesque nightmare until its end. I cannot name everybody in APS who helped me, but I would like to mention just a few names: I wish to thank my former Ph.D. advisor Professor Michael F. Thorpe for alerting APS to my case; to my friend and former colleague Prof. Normand Mousseau for starting this chain reaction of support; to Prof. Irving Lerch for his support and touching letter he sent me upon my release from jail; to Prof. Edward Gerjuoy for his untiring support and encouragement; to Professor Ronald Cappelletti for creating and maintaining the web site to support my case; to Professor Joel Lebowitz for his support and regular reporting on my case during his Statistical Physics conferences; to Professor Joseph Birman for his help and support; to Prof. Martin Blume for his generous help, to Prof. David Drabold, Prof. Milan Mijic, Prof. Draza Markovic, and Dr. Petar Simic for their help and support, and to everybody else whose name I missed to mention here.

I am very proud to belong (by education if not by my current line of work) to the physics community which is so much concerned for the rights of scientists and for justice to be served. I hope that the positive resolution of my immigration case, which came as a result of the APS efforts, will further encourage the APS to continue helping other similar cases that may occur, thus making a tremendous difference in this world of mistakes and errors.

With gratitude,

Branislav R. Djordjevic

Articles Make Reader Blink and Sigh

There are two articles I wish to comment on. The first, “Council calls for Reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” made me sigh. I do not propose to argue the details of this topic, which is rapidly acquiring the flavor of a fervent religion. I simply wish to state for the record that the quoted text does not cast scientists in a very scientific light. Conflating Global Warming (which has occurred in times when no humans existed) with Anthrogenic Global Warming (the existence of which is in fact still under debate) is the sort of sloppy thinking and writing I have become wearily accustomed to in the general media but is entirely out of place in a statement from the APS Council.

Second, the introduction to “The Back Page” also made me blink. It is curious that the editors feel the need to warn their fragile readers of the “exclusive use of the male pronoun,” yet are strangely silent with regard to the highly emotional and simplistic anti-military statements. This might lead one to suspect the editors believe these statements are so self-evident, even now, that they do not require any further explication or historical context. Why not apply the same historically-enhanced hindsight and assure readers that the liberation of Dachau by an army “designed to kill other people” was not anticipated in 1899? I wonder if the survivors also feel the money spent on the military that saved them should have been used elsewhere?

Sabrina Chase
Bothell, WA

Ed. Note: The sentence that made the author blink (“...readers may find the exclusive use of the male pronoun by Rowland grating”) was inserted as a surreptitious reference to Rowland’s best-known scientific achievement. Further interpretation is unwarranted.

Population Growth Trumps Emissions Reduction

As reported in the January APS News, it is encouraging that the APS Council has expressed its concern for the problems arising from greenhouse gas emissions: “We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gas beginning now.” The following observation seems pertinent. The world population is growing about 1.2% per year. It would be an incredible achievement if we could achieve worldwide a reduction of per capita emissions of 1.2% per year. Together these would leave us with no change in the annual emissions. It will take more than this incredible achievement to realize a real reduction. We need to recognize that population growth is the more serious problem which, with enlightened leadership from Washington, can and must be addressed in the US and worldwide.

Albert A. Bartlett
Boulder, CO

Don’t Apologize for Physics

Once I was asked to teach a special subject certification course for high school teachers. Of course I became aware that I would be in front of people trained to look at classroom techniques. So I brought along toys and demos that might help them or which they might themselves use. I asked if they wanted me to use them or just present the material clearly with all logical elements in order, letting the subject speak for itself. They chose the second option. Even considering that they had adult minds, we might find that if we don’t apologize for physics and present its concepts and applications to everything in the universe in its own naturally esthetic forms, there is a greater chance students won't come away thinking that physics is a thing to be hidden.

Jane Owen
New Smyrna Beach, FL

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