Physics and Society Oct. 97 -- Letters
Volume 26, Number 4 October 1997
LETTERSThe letters are dedicated to free expression on societal topics of interest to the physics community. As a forum for all physicists we welcome all views, but of course the Forum on Physics and Society does not necessarily endorse any particular view found in these pages. Readers are most heartily invited to respond to letters, comments, or others items in Physics & Society. Letters should not be longer than 500 words.
I thought Bartlett was unfair to Al Hoffman . Hoffman is doing serious work trying to improve the status of renewables in the electric sector. Would Bartlett rather we sold China lots of V8 Chrysler Imperials? To sell them photovoltaics and dual cycle gas turbines of high efficiency is better than most things I can think of. What would he have us sell them?
3711 Appleton, NW, Washington, DC 20016
I agree with Albert A. Bartlett's concern over population growth: Bigger populations might become SMALLER markets, because the growth of population might tend to spread poverty and disorder more than it would spread spending money. This raises great concern, especially if all causes of war may be reduced validly to overpopulation. One statement by Bartlett might bear reexamination: "It is especially frightening that the focus of the 'leaders' in Washington is one that treats struggling and starving people as 'markets,' and whose interest in renewable energy is based on the belief that renewable energy can mean big business and high profits in the longer term." A few years ago, I thought mainland China would develop into a good example of a flopped "market" along the lines described by Bartlett. It doesn't seem to be going that way, though. I wonder if a reason might be the population control which China has been enforcing?
John Michael Williams
PEER REVIEW: WE NEED LESS OF IT, NOT MORE
It almost an unquestionable axiom that the anonymous peer review is "needed" to protect the quality of science and hence it serves a socially useful function. Evidence of the contrary is systematically ignored. Nonetheless, I can not skip one particular contrasting example which emerged upon my reading of a recent (June 1997) issue of Physics Today (PT). The issue has a letter (p. 15) by S. Weissman and M. Weissman mentioning Arthur C. Lunn's work of 1921 which was rejected by the peer reviewer from the Physical Review and which (as we are told almost 80 years later) previewed the main offerings of Quantum Fathers by several years (e.g. the concept of the electron's De Broglie wavelength).
This episode, just one of a kind, shows for whatever time, that the "stringent" peer review produces much more harm than good for the progress of science. Instead, it is time for the APS journals to adopt a more enlightened and dynamic policy of encouraging short (say 1 to 2 page) summaries which will be only generally screened for relevance and, if approved, published in paper versions of the journals with the minimal delay (perhaps, few weeks in total). At the publication date, the rest of the technical details should be placed in (copyrighted) electronic archives which for all practical purposes are free from space limitations.
Less peer review is likely to reduce (not increase) the information pollution in science which is largely driven by the "prestige" and paper-counting career-related pressures.
Alexander A. Berezin
Department of Engineering Physics,
McMaster University, Hamilton,
Ontario, Canada, L8S 4L7