News of the Forum

Message from the New Chair

You are holding in your hands the very last paper copy of our newsletter, “Physics and Society.” The idea of going to a fully electronic version, readable on your computer or readily sent to your local printer was something that the Executive Committee first discussed in 2001 when we dropped down from four printed copies a year to our current mix of two printed and two electronic. The advantages of electronic printing are obvious: the Forum saves significant money (each printing costs approximately $4,000) and the environmental impact of an electronic version is small. In addition, the money saved can be used to support other programs (e.g. student internships and travel for invited speakers of an FPS-sponsored session at an APS meeting) and give us the freedom to explore new programmatic ideas of interest to our membership.

What about the disadvantages of electronic printing? In 2001, there was legitimate concern about downloading a large document with the connection speed of a telephone modem. Fortunately, that is rarely an issue for the vast majority of our membership. Another general concern is that electronic newsletters lead to longer, but not necessarily better articles, and that the writing and the editing quality are automatically lessened. Our editors have heard this concern in the past and I have no doubt that these will be addressed as we move forward. Finally, several hundred libraries currently receive paper copies and that is an invaluable resource for the Forum. There’s no way to tell how many patrons “stumble” upon a copy of the newsletter, but we want to ensure that this continues by printing a small number of copies for the libraries.

I hope you had a chance to attend some of the FPS-sponsored sessions at the recent March/April meetings. There were two excellent sessions at the March meeting in New Orleans -- "Understanding Hurricanes and Severe Storms" and “Lessons learned from Katrina … ” The April meeting sessions were outstanding and ranged from the technical (Nuclear Forensics) to the general (How to Run for Public Office). My thanks to the organizers and to the speakers at each of our Sessions. Our 2009 Program Chair, Don Prosnitz, is already putting together a variety of interesting topics for next year’s meetings.

We’re in the second year of sponsoring a FPS summer student fellowship in collaboration with the Society of Physics Students. The Selection Committee is chaired by Bo Hammer. The Fellow for 2008 was just chosen and will look at energy savings from light pipes. We expect to see an article in this newsletter from the student some time next year.

New offerings like this student fellowship program is the type of initiative that we plan to explore as we look for exciting ways to increase and improve the activities of the Forum. Our Past Chair, Lawrence Krauss did a great job last year, we have an excellent Executive Committee and it will be a pleasure to work with them during the year as I serve as the Chair of FPS.

Andrew P. Zwicker
Head, Science Education Program
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
PO Box 451
Princeton, NJ 08543
(609) 243-2150 (office)
(609) 243-3144 (lab)
(609) 243-2112 (fax)

Message from the Former Chair

I am pleased to address this note to the membership as outgoing chair of the Forum on Physics and Society. My experience has been an interesting and rewarding one, and one that convinces me that the forum continues to play an important and useful role in the Society. Our newsletter is a widely read source of information, and our other primary activity, involving organizing sessions at the two annual APS meetings remain of interest, with broad attendance. Over the past two years our sessions ranged widely, from thematic presentations on energy issues, and nuclear proliferation to sessions on how to support students and physics departments in the event of a natural disaster like hurricane Katrina, and asession on how to run for political office.

The leadership of the forum is continuing to explore other mechanisms to address important issues in Physics and Society, including co-organizing public meetings on science issues, and cooperating with groups like the AAAS to prepare sessions at national meetings. As we continue to witness attacks on science in the schools, urgent national defense issues that are being ignored or mishandled, and the persistent lack of public and political recognition of the importance of sound science in government, it is clear that the need for physicists to discuss these issues, and act on them, remains strong.

Finally, I would like to thank all those on the executive committee of the forum, and all the other individuals who have helped organize sessions for our meetings and have written pieces for our newsletter, for their largely unsung time and effort to keep the forum moving in the right direction.

Lawrence M. Krauss
Ambrose Swasey Prof. of Physics and Astronomy Director, Center for Education
and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics Dept of Physics, CWRU 10900
Euclid Ave, Cleveland OH 44106-7079
216 368 4070

Future Meetings

Planning is under way for the March and April meetings. If you would like to submit suggestions for FPS program sessions or help with the planning, please get in touch with Don Prosnitz at

The Forum on Physics and Society is a place for discussion and disagreement on scientific and policy matters. Our newsletter publishes a combination of non- peer- reviewed technical articles, policy analyses, and opinion. All articles and editorials published in the newsletter solely represent the views of their authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Forum Executive Committee.