Volume 23, Number 2 April 1994
Call for Nominations for Szilard and Forum Award!
The Forum on Physics and Society is primarily responsible for two of the APS's annual awards. The Leo Szilard Award is given for the use of physics for the benefit of society in such areas as energy, environment, arms control, and science policy. The 1994 Szilard Awardee is Herbert York. The Forum Award is given for promoting public understanding of issues at the interface between physics and society. The 1994 Forum Awardee is Gary Taubes.
Nominations and supporting materials should be received by 1 September 1994, but earlier is preferable. Send these materials to the Chair of the Szilard/Forum Awards Committee, Professor David Hafemeister, Physics Department, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA 93407. Phone 805-756-2205, email dhafemei @ oboe.calpoly.edu.
It's time again to think about who should be honored with APS fellowship for distinguished work of interest to the Forum on Physics and Society. The 1993 fellowship awardees were Carol Jo Crannell, Art Hobson, and Ruth Howes. Nomination forms are in the APS News and, as indicated there, should be sent (along with a curriculum vitae and supporting letters) directly to the APS Executive Secretary. Materials for candidates working in Forum-type areas are then forwarded to the Forum Fellowship Committee for its consideration. Nominations must be received by April 30 for consideration in the current year. It would be helpful if, on sending materials to the APS, a copy of the nomination form itself is also sent to the Chair of the Forum Fellowship Committee, Alvin M. Saperstein, Box 439, Department of Physics, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742.
Two of our Forum's effective avenues for presenting issues are the APS invited and contributed sessions. Invited sessions feature talks by outstanding researchers and policy makers, talks that are then extended to the entire Forum membership through publication in Physics and Society. Participants in our contributed sessions can share their thoughts on important physics-and-society concerns with their fellow APS members.
Our Forum sponsors several invited sessions every year at APS meetings. Is there an interesting topic that you would like to see discussed? Send your suggestions to us and, most importantly, consider organizing a session! Think in terms of the meeting that you are most likely to attend, and potential topics of interest to our Forum. Send suggestions, or volunteer, to Alvin M. Saperstein, the upcoming Program Chair, at Box 439, Department of Physics, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, asaper @ delphi.UMD.edu, (301)270-5312. Include the suggested topic, suggested speakers, a suggested organizer, and a suggested APS meeting at which the session could be held.
Our Forum is establishing a list of physicists willing to give colloquia on topics related to physics and society. Such colloquia could make students aware of different possible careers for physicists, provide role models for career options, interest younger physicists in addressing societal problems, give non-traditional careers more legitimacy within the physics community, make societal issues more accessible to all physicists, and educate the audience on a specific topic.
The list will function like the APS Colloquium Speakers List of Women in Physics and the Minority Physicists Colloquium Speakers List. These lists, which are updated annually and sent out by the APS to all physics department chairs in the United States and Canada, give the names, addresses, phone numbers, and talk titles of women and minority physicists who are willing to give physics colloquia. Speakers are listed by geographic region and by topic. APS has no eligibility requirements, and lists everyone who volunteers. A physics department wanting a speaker contacts that person directly.
Our Forum's Speakers List will be limited to physical scientists and not include, for example, politicians or political scientists. The list will include the above information as well as abstracts for each speaker. Abstracts will be useful as advertising (many physicists may not have a good idea of what such a non-conventional physics talk would be about), and to allow a department to determine in advance what perspective the speaker will bring. A Forum committee will review the abstracts to ensure they are not too vague or lacking in content. Other than that, all volunteers will be listed.
While renowned physicists are encouraged to volunteer for inclusion on the Forum Speakers List, speakers need not be well known. After all, part of our goal is to show students and others that all physicists can contribute policy issues.
Inclusion on the list does not imply a commitment to respond positively to all invitations, just a willingness to give one or more colloquia during the following year. So, let's show the APS that we have something to offer the wider physics community! Send your name, position, mail and e-mail addresses, phone, and fax numbers, and any number of abstracts to Lisbeth Gronlund, either via e-mail (to gronlund @ athena.mit.edu) or on a 3.5" disk in Word, WordPerfect or ASCII format (to Union of Concerned Scientists, 26 Church St., Cambridge, MA 02238). This first list will become effective in the Fall of 1994. If you have any questions, contact Dr. Gronlund at either of the above addresses or by phone (617-547-5552).
Publication of the invited sessions is one of the important functions of Physics and Society. Our Forum tries to publish all of the invited sessions, thus multiplying each session's audience far beyond the audience actually attending the session, and also providing a permanent record of each session. In order to do this, Physics and Society needs a paper based on each invited talk. If you are a session organizer, please ask your speakers to provide you with a copy (or summary or some other reasonable facsimile) of their talk. If you are an invited speaker, please provide a copy of your talk to the session organizer, or else send a copy directly to the editor of Physics and Society.
Our Forum is sponsoring several invited sessions at two APS meetings during 1994. There were two Forum-sponsored sessions at the 21-25 March meeting in Pittsburgh:
--Employment issues for physicists, organized by Julia Thompson;
--Biological effects of electromagnetic fields: facts and policy responses, organized by Ed Gerjuoy.
There will be five Forum-sponsored sessions at the 18-22 April meeting in Crystal City, VA:
--The nuclear legacy of the Soviet Union, organized by John Ahearne, co-sponsored by the Committee on Applications of Physics;
--Surprises, models, and uncertainties in global climate change, organized by Martin Hoffert;
--Physicists, science advising, and the four governments, organized by Peter Zimmerman, co-sponsored the the Forum on the History of Physics;
--Theater ballistic missiles: What is the threat? What can be done? organized by Lisbeth Gronlund;
--The Forum Awards Session. This year's awardees are Herbert York, who will receive the Leo Szilard Award for the use of physics in the public interest, and Gary Taubes, who will receive the Forum Award for promoting public understanding of physics-and-society issues.
Also at the April meeting in Crystal City, there will be two sessions organized by other groups and co-sponsored by our Forum:
--Diversity in the classroom, organized by Ruth Howes, sponsored by the Forum on Education;
--Science advice, organized by Sylvan Schweber, sponsored the the Forum on the History of Physics and by the Forum on International Physics.
NOTICE to session organizers and to speakers: Please see the announcement in the preceding news article!
At the November APS Council meeting, the Panel on Public Affairs (POPA) received approval to conduct two studies, one on the current state and technical potential of renewable energy sources, and another on the performance of the US Patriot missile during the 1991 Gulf War.
The study on renewable energy sources will focus on solar thermal, solar photovoltaic, wind, and biomass energy, and will also consider energy storage technologies and the problem of matching intermittent sources of supply with demand. Norval Fortson, a professor in the Physics Departmetn at the University of Washington, Seattle, will chair the study group. A final report is expected in the spring of 1995.
The second study will look at the Gulf War performance of the Patriot missile, a defensive missile designed to intercept and destroy incoming ballistic missiles. The Patriot Missile has been a source of controversy for several years now. To help POPA decide whether to recommend that the APS conduct a study of Patriot performance and if so, what type of study to recommend, a POPA Ad Hoc Panel was established to review the relevant issues and make recommendations. This panel was chaired by Jeremiah Sullivan, professor of Physics at the University of Illinois, Urbana. It held a meeting on May 24-25, 1993 to hear from the major participants in the debate--the US Army, the Raytheon Company (the manufacturer of the Patriot), and several non- governmental physicists: George Lewis and Ted Postol of MIT and Peter Zimmerman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Following this meeting and after extensive reading of the relevant literature, the panel produced a report--the Report of the POPA Ad Hoc Panel on Patriot and Theater Missile Defenses, available from the Washington APS Office on Public Affairs (202-662-8700). The panel was not asked to draw conclusions about Patriot performance, and their report does not do so. Nevertheless, it makes several useful contributions to the ongoing debate. A summary of the report is given in the next news article.
During the war, Iraq launched roughly 80 modified Scud (Al-Hussein) missiles against Israel and Saudi Arabia, and Patriot missiles were launched to counter 44-46 of these 80. Official US statements made during the war indicated that the Patriot successfully intercepted almost all of these missiles; the Army later revised its estimate of the intercept success rate to over 80% in Saudi Arabia and over 50% in Israel, and then to over 70% in Saudi Arabia and over 40% in Israel. The Army estimates are based on ground impact data and data recorded by some of the Patriot control units during their operation, all of which remains classified. The report notes that the panel had no way of making an independent assessment of the Army's data or their analysis. However, the Army's classified analysis has been reviewed by two congressional groups, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) and the Government Accounting Office (GAO), which concluded in unclassified reports that the data used by the Army has significant limitations and that the Army data and analysis do not support their conclusions about intercept success rate. To this day, the Army stands by its 70% and 40% figures.
An independent, unclassified analysis performed by two MIT physicists, George Lewis and Theodore Postol, reaches a different conclusion: that Patriot success rates were significantly lower than those reported by the Army and may be zero. Lewis and Postol base their conclusions largely on a detailed examination of commercial videotapes (filmed by media crews during the war) that show 33 Patriot intercept attempts against 18 different incoming Al-Hussein missiles. Their methodology and conclusions are rejected by the Army, and have been criticized in Congressional testimony and in print by Peter Zimmerman and Raytheon. In particular, the Army maintains that no useful information about Patriot performance can be gained from commercial video tapes and Zimmerman has argued that the Lewis-Postol methodology used to interpret these videotapes may be erroneous in several respects.
Thus, as the report points out "the situation is one in which two fundamentally different methodologies applied to two essentially distinct databases reach incompatible conclusions." However, the panel was able to reach several important conclusions about this situation.
The Report of the POPA Ad Hoc Panel concludes that commercial video tapes can be useful: "It is clear to the panel that important information can be learned about the Patriot-Scud encounters in the Gulf War from the commercial video tapes in spite of the severe limitations they present to the analyst. Statements to the contrary are, at best, misleading." In addition, the report concludes that most of the criticisms of the Lewis-Postol methodology are incorrect or irrelevant: "The majority of the criticisms of the methodology of Postol and Lewis that featured prominently in the [Congressional] hearings have already been laid to rest." Finally, although the panel did not attempt to resolve the remaining points of dispute, the report concludes that the remaining methodological issues can be resolved through technical analysis, perhaps including numerical simulations, and, if necessary, tests.
In light of these conclusions, the report recommends three possible APS activities: (1) an article written by a team of technical experts for publication in Physics Today or Science that would "describe the separate methodologies and databases used by Army-Raytheon and the MIT group, the patterns of agreement and disagreement as they now stand, and the technical issues at the center of continuing disagreements;" (2) a major POPA study to address the "key issues associated with the effectiveness of future theater missile defenses;" and (3) an "integrated study" of Patriot performance in the Gulf War that would use both commercial video data and the database used by the Army, thus requiring access to the classified data.
At the 21 November 1993 meeting of the APS Council, POPA was authorized to proceed with option (3). As of March, POPA was trying to obtain the cooperation of the Administration and access to the Army database. A chair for the integrated study will be selected later. In addition, Jeremiah Sullivan has been given the responsibility of carrying out option (1), which will probably involve most of the other Ad Hoc Panel members as well. Finally, POPA will continue to consider whether option (2) should be pursued in the future.
Report on the APS Council Meeting
The following highlights from the November meeting of the APS Council in Albuquerque, NM, may interest members of our Forum.
Retiring president Donald Langenberg, in his report from the APS executive board, said that the board was encouraging a study of the future of high-energy physics, following Congress' failure to fund the SSC.
There is continuing concern, especially among those working in public affairs for APS, about the increasingly negative public perception of physics.
The APS Panel on Public Affairs (POPA) proposed a resolution that APS not "sponsor any further meetings in Colorado or any other state or locality which prohibits protection from discrimination, or explicitly discriminates, on the basis of sexual orientation." This resolution will not affect meetings already planned and it will not go into effect in Colorado until the courts remove the current suspension of the implementation of the amendment passed there last year. The Council voted in favor of this resolution.
The APS executive board approved the appointment of Norval Fortson of the University of Washington to chair the POPA study of energy from renewable sources.
A subcommittee of POPA has been considering an issue that was first proposed by members of our Forum: the performance of the Patriot missile in the Gulf War. The subcommittee has written a report summarizing the issues and proposing that POPA consider three actions: (1) commission an article on the topic in a widely-read journal, (2) initiate a large study, and (3) initiate a limited study in which the POPA study group would have access to classified information. POPA is not inclined to start a second large study at this time, but Council approved its proposal to go ahead with the limited study based on classified information.
POPA proposed that the APS Council endorse a resolution to bolster continuing federal research on nuclear energy, which has been somewhat endangered in the current administration. The first part of the statement points out the need to pursue research on alternatives to fossil fuel, especially renewable energy sources. The second paragraph states that the nuclear energy option may have to be kept open as well. To that end, the statement urges attention to (1) reactors that can be built and operated in a safe, economical and environmentally sound manner; (2) development of programs for the safe disposal of nuclear waste, and (3) effective public education programs. The final statement reads "The American Physical Society is deeply concerned that current progress in these areas is inadequate."
Dave Hafemeister submitted a dissenting opinion on this proposed resolution; in essence he felt that the resolution implicitly supported continued research on the liquid metal breeder (and burner) reactor. I pointed out that it might be inappropriate to make any resolution if POPA had not studied the options in depth. In the debate that ensued, many council members felt that the statement as written (without the accompanying report submitted by POPA) was all "apple pie" and did not necessarily endorse any particular reactor. The resolution passed by a relatively wide margin.
The APS Division on International Scientific Affairs continues to be very active. It has had a program to assist scientists in the former Soviet Union and is now collaborating with the International Science Foundation in a program to provide large grants to FSU researchers. The APS sent letters of concern when local political forces threatened to dismantle a cosmic-ray research station located in Pamir, Tajikistan. The APS participated in UNESCO meeting to consider an agenda for scientific cooperation. And APS is working to forge closer ties with physical societies of Europe, Japan and the Asian Pacific.
The Council elected David Bodansky to Chair Elect of POPA; David Hafemeister to Vice Chair; and the following people to serve on POPA: Bill Appleton (Oak Ridge), Edward Gerjuoy (University of Pittsburgh), Ruth Howes (Ball State University), Robert Socolow (Princeton), Robert White (Carnegie Mellon University).
Fee free to contact me if you have questions about these or other items discussed by the Council
Barbara G. Levi, Forum Councilor
The Society for Chaos Theory in Phychology and the Life Sciences brings together people interested in applying dynamical systems theory, self-organization theory, neural nets, fractals, and other forms of chaos and complexity theory, to the study of nonlinear interdependent systems. Regular membership is $25, or $10 for students and those on limited income. Member hail from psychology, sociology, economics, mathematics, physics, philosophy, and literature. The Society publishes a newsletter, maintains a CHAOPSYC bulletin board, and is hosting its national conference in June. The first collected volume of papers will be published in 1994, and a journal will be published soon.
For more information on the bulletin board or membership, send a note with your mailing address to: Katherine E. Robertson, Society for Chaos Theory, P.O. Box 7226, Alhambra, CA 91802-7226; e-mail 0005699249 @ mcimail.com.
Abstracts of papers, posters, and session proposals are sought for the Society's next annual conference, June 24-27, at Johns Hopkins University, just north of Baltimore. Workshops on methods will be held on June 28-29. To promote interdisciplinary dialogue, conference sessions will be organized around topics rather than disciplines. Topics include theory and methods, and application of chaos theory to all types of clinical practice, organization psychology, anthropology, neuropsychology, sociology, economics, education, and the humanities. Abstracts of 800 words of less and session proposals should be submitted as soon as possible to: Dr. Jeffrey Goldstein, 29 Hayes Road, Amityville, NY 11701; email goldstein @ adlibv.adelphi.edu.
Physics and Society, the quarterly of the Forum on Physics and Society, a division of the American Physical Society, is distributed free to Forum members and libraries. Nonmembers may receive it by writing to the editor; voluntary contributions of $10 per year are most welcome, payable to the APS/Forum. We hope that libraries will archive Physics and Society . Forum members should request that their libraries do this!
APS members can join the Forum and receive Physics and Society by mailing the following information to the editor (see page 2 for address)!
I am an APS member who wishes to join the Forum: NAME (print) ADDRESSarmd@physics.wm.edu