In this issue of Physics and Society, we continue with two “conversations” that took place in our January 2004 issue. One of them concerns the danger of nuclear weapons after the Cold War. In this issue, we are very pleased to present an article by Professor Scott Sagan regarding the issue of stability of the nuclear face-off between India and Pakistan. Our other conversation is in the form of what has become a written debate between Steve Fetter and Arthur Smith concerning the feasibility of developing space-based photovoltaics (or SSP, for space solar power) as a major source of power. Smith started that debate last October with a piece in support of the development of SSP. Fetter responded in our last issue with a quantitative analysis, the conclusion of which was that SSP is, for economic reasons, not feasible. In this issue, we present Smith’s response to Fetter’s analysis and Smith’s conclusion that monies spent for research in support of SSP is money well spent.
On a much (MUCH!) lighter tone, we present a physics professor’s analog of Travels with Charlie, John Steinbeck’s book about his travels around the United States in a camper with a dog named Charlie. Professor David Hafemeister, from the physics department at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, deliberately set out to travel around the U.S. in a van while giving colloquia and seminars having to do with physics and society. In addition to sharing with us his motivation for the venture, Professor Hafemeister even shares with his readers his rate of loss of money on his continental sojourn. His article will doubtless leave most of his readers wondering who “fair Gina” is. I still don’t know.
Art Hobson, our review editor, gives us a detailed review of a book concerning global warming and the policy issues surrounding it, and Durruty Jesus de Alba Martinez reviews for us a book about creationists and evolutionists in the United States; we remain very much indebted to Audrey Leith and Richard Jones of the AIP for their FYI articles that provided us with most of the information of our news section.
Bruce Blair, who heads the Center for Defense Information, provides us with a technical article on the relationship between intelligence and policy decisions. His piece suggests that we should not be so quick to criticize the intelligence community for the disaster that befell the U.S. on September 11, 2001, nor for the Bush Administration’s decision to go to war in Iraq.