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In connection with the article January 2, 1839: First Daguerreotype** of the Moon [This Month in Physics History: APS News January 2013], the following note may be of some interest.
The first reference, of which I am aware, to photography in literature, both as a science and as a profession, occurs in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s romance The House of the Seven Gables, which was completed for publication in Lenox, Massachusetts, in January, 1851. In chapter 6 of this work, the author, who does not dwell on technical details, develops the notion that the daguerreotype is capable of drawing out and revealing intrinsic human characteristics normally not visible–in this case the true nature of Judge Pyncheon. A man of “exceedingly pleasant countenance, indicative of benevolence ...” is revealed as “sly, subtle, hard, ....., cold as ice.” Oscar Wilde was later to develop a similar theme in more extreme form in his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891).
**Hawthorne’s spelling follows that of the surname Daguerre, without abbreviation.
John Douglas Hey
On the basis of my own recent experience of submitting, as a joint author, a paper which challenged accepted dogma, to a well-regarded journal, I wonder if Arthur Cohn’s letter in the January APS News is not expressing a bit too much anxiety about peer review.
Our paper, as submitted, naturally had a pretty hard time from the referees and had to be extensively revised. But after a couple of passes one referee agreed, regretfully, that we had a point and that the paper should be published. Another referee felt that our conclusions were so misleading as to be damaging and so the paper should not be published. The Editor then stepped in and said he had decided that the paper should be accepted, as it was important that it should be realised more generally, that there were problems with the accepted dogma.
Since publication we have received a number of emails commenting on the paper. They range from one saying that the paper was “crazy nonsense” to another saying that our article was “a rehash of old stuff that has been known for a long time.” But all were courteously expressed.
Our experience was not what your correspondent seems to fear and, as expected, the reactions to our dogma-questioning were varied. But even those who felt that we were wrong, expressed themselves in measured terms.
As an aside, I do not quite follow the analogy with the Lysenko affair, made in the letter. It was the intervention of the state authorities and not peer review that got Lysenko’s views to become dogma, as I understand it.
Regarding the interview with new APS President Michael S. Turner (APS News, January 2013) in view of the needs of the nation and the role that should be expected of our physics community, I would have specifically liked to hear his opinions on the following topics:
Philip J. Wyatt,
Santa Barbara, CA
The article on “April Meeting features latest research and more” in the January issue of APS News speaks about “NASA’s Planck satellite.” The Planck satellite is an ESA mission, which has been launched by ESA, with mission teams led by European Institutes. The contribution of NASA to Planck is important, but to speak about “NASA’s Planck satellite” would be like talking about ESA's Hubble mission–an unnecessary case of mis-information...
The article ‘New directions or more of the same’ by Michael Lubell that appeared in the January APS News is another example of biased journalism. I will give Lubell credit for managing to get through four paragraphs before veering sharply to the left. His characterization of the Tea Party as “rebellious rabble,” ‘ideologues” dedicated to “obstructionism” and responsible for the “downgrading of US Treasury bonds” is absurd, pure leftist propaganda.
I think the idea of a column such as ‘Inside the beltway’ is a good one, but we need an unbiased journalist to write it.
San Clemente, CA
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