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With this edition P&S begins its 40th year of publication. While assembling an index for the newsletter a few months ago I had occasion to look at all back issues from 1973 to the present and so reflect on the evolution of topics over these four decades. Some, such as employment and human rights, have waxed and waned in activity but have been relatively quiet over the past while. Discussions of the troubled state of American science education have remained depressingly steady. Other issues inspired periods of intense debate before largely vanishing in view of changing times and altered national priorities (space-based weapons, missile defense). All aspects of the science of energy production and distribution, energy policy, and the environment are perennial players, as is anything involving the adjective “nuclear” – witness the present edition. And then there those topics that were but distant clouds on the horizon for most physicists 20 years ago but which have come charging to the fore; climate change is the obvious one. Years hence another Editor will reflect on a more extensive index and it will be interesting to see if and how current issues have been resolved and what new ones arose in the meantime. I will not attempt to speculate on what those issues might be, but I am confident that given the outstanding expertise, thoughtfulness, and dedication of the science-and-society community the quality of P&S will remain first-rate.
Our two feature articles for this edition concern some of the issues regarding nuclear power. In an article adapted from a story published in Nature, Declan Butler describes the French approach to storing nuclear waste. Robert Hargraves and Ralph Moir examine the prospects for liquid-fueled reactors, in particular the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR), a type of breeder reactor that can be used to burn stocks of highly-enriched uranium, U-233, or plutonium and which is more proliferation-resistant than conventional pressurized water reactors. These articles are timely in view of a recent MIT study on the future of the nuclear fuel cycle, which can be found at http://web.mit.edu/mitei/docs/spotlights/nuclear-fuel-cycle.pdf.
News of the Forum includes summaries of this year’s Burton Award and Leo Szilard Lectureship Awards, announcement of new APS Fellows elected through Forum nomination, an update on the Physics of Sustainable Energy Conference to be held at Berkeley in March, and a brief summary of Forum-sponsored sessions to be held at the APS March Meeting in Dallas. Reviewers take a look at books on reinventing the automobile, the long-term consequences of CO2 emissions, and scientific fraud.
On behalf of the Forum and the Editorial Board I have the honor of thanking the physics community for its support over the past four decades. Your contributions and feedback (kudos and criticisms alike) make this fine publication what it is.