APS News


Elementary Inspirations

The "Top Ten Physics Newsmakers of 2016" (APS News, January 2017) included the discoveries of the new elements 113, 115, 117, and 118, with the statement that "moscovium (mg) and Tennessine (Ts) have slightly more obvious inspirations (the Russian capital Moscow and Tennessee home of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, respectively)." Neither of these are correct. Here are the names proposed and their justifications by our collaborators of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and Vanderbilt University, from the announcement of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry:

Moscovium is in recognition of the Moscow region and honors the ancient Russian land that is the home of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, where the discovery experiments were conducted using the Dubna Gas-Filled Recoil Separator in combination with the heavy ion accelerator capabilities of the Flerov Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions.

Tennessine is in recognition of the contribution of the Tennessee region, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Vanderbilt University, and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, to superheavy element research, including the production and chemical separation of unique actinide target materials for superheavy element synthesis at ORNL’s High Flux Isotope Reactor and Radiochemical Engineering Development Center.

Joseph H. Hamilton
Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Oppenheimer and Teller

The March 2017 APS News story, "Little Boy and Fat Man Cast Shadow over April Meeting" portrayed how physicists gained status as the result of the weapons that ended World War II, stating "Most famously, Edward Teller argued for the development of the hydrogen bomb …"

Yet nowhere is the name of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of Little Boy and Fat Man, even mentioned. Teller was Oppenheimer's nemesis, having been instrumental in causing Oppenheimer to have his security clearance revoked, and even resulting in suggestions that he was an agent of the Soviet Union.

The present generation of physicists may not be aware of the bitter fighting that went on back in the forties and fifties. Teller's "most famous" role should be carefully examined, for example as set forth in my article, "We don't mess around in Texas," which appeared in APS News (October 2002, p. 5).

Robert A. Levy
El Paso, Texas

Magnetism and Health

"Easing the Heartache with Magnetic Fields" in the May 2017 APS News was fascinating reading. Skeptical scientists have spent years criticizing the use of magnetism to cure a variety of ailments [1, 2]. The article calls this stand into question. Some of the promised health benefits might be explainable by lower blood viscosity, and, whether or not the work is correct, magnetic medicine fans can point to a Physical Review E article (Ref. 1 in the APS News article) to demonstrate the efficacy of magnetic cures.

Medical magnets are a big business, driven by pseudoscience. In view of this, APS News could have cast a more critical eye on the current work, by at least citing some of the numerous studies that have not found medical effects from magnetic fields, to put this result in a better perspective.

Spencer Klein
Berkeley, California

1. J. R. Basford, "A historical perspective of the popular use of electric and magnetic therapy," Archive of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 82, 1261 (2001).

2. B. Flamm, "Magnet Therapy: A Billion-dollar Boondoggle," Skeptical Inquirer 30.4, July/Aug. 2006 (www.csicop.org/si/show/magnet_therapy_a_billion-dollar_boondoggle)

Internet of Things and e-Waste

In the article "Building an Internet of Things" (APS News, May 2017) there is no mention of the impact that the Internet of Things may have on electronic waste, which is tens of millions of tons annually and rising. Anecdotes about worthy applications of some new technology are often touted as justification when consumer purchasing drives the technology into unnecessary and environmentally destructive gadgetry. There is simply no need for LEDs to be in my clothing and sensors in my milk carton. There is a need to reduce energy consumption and responsible production, use, and recycling of electronics. Can APS lead a critical discussion about the IoT that extends beyond anecdotes?

Elton Graugnard
Boise, Idaho

APS encourages the redistribution of the materials included in this newspaper provided that attribution to the source is noted and the materials are not truncated or changed.

Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Rachel Gaal
Contributing Correspondent: Alaina G. Levine
Publication Designer and Production: Nancy Bennett-Karasik