APS News

Letters to the Editor

Science or Islamic Science?

I have been following the coverage of The International Year of Light 2015 in APS News with interest. In particular, Joseph Niemela’s article in the February 2015 issue contains a lot of timely information.

The following passage bothers me however: “… IYP 2015 is celebrating 1000 years of Islamic optics, starting with the book of optics written by Ibn al-Haytham during the so-called golden age of Islamic science.”

What surprises me are the notions of Islamic optics or Islamic science. Does it mean that there are also Christian optics, or e.g. Orthodox science, and so on.? Are Einstein’s discoveries Judaic science? Has Abdus Salam, a person devoted to Islam, to be considered as a part of modern Islamic science?

To my mind science is not and never was about any religion. It is counterproductive and against the international and non-religious spirit of science to attribute its achievements to any faith. Of course, some scientists are religious and their scientific discoveries can be inspired by their faith. But it does not make a scientific discovery attributable to religion.

Miron Ya. Amusia
Jerusalem, Israel

Better Physics Colloquia

Thanks to James Kakalios for in his instructive Back Page essay “The Physics of Physics Colloquia” (APS News, February 2015) in which he summarized Robert Geroch’s 1973 paper “Suggestions for Giving Talks.” However, Geroch was not the first to try to upgrade physicists’ public speaking skills. More than two decades earlier, Karl Darrow published “How to address the APS” (Darrow, 1951).

In that article, he asked “Does everyone head for the corridors when you rise to read your paper? If so, the Secretary of the Physical Society wishes to have a word with you.” Unfortunately, the quality of APS talks did not improve and therefore it was reprinted in Physics Today in 1961 and 1981. After Darrow and Geroch raised the issue, there came “Advice to beginning physics speakers” (Garland, 1991) and “What's wrong with those talks?” (Mermin, 1992).

Richard Hake
Woodland Hills, California


K. K. Darrow, “How to address the American Physical Society,” Physics Today 4, 4 (February 1951).
J. C. Garland, “Advice to beginning physics speakers,” Physics Today 44, 42 (July 1991).
N. D. Mermin, “What's wrong with those talks?” Physics Today 45, 9 (November 1992).

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