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As I write this, the news headlines this week are captivating people around the globe and are of interest to this Forum. NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft successfully completed its flyby of Pluto sending its high resolution images back to Earth after a journey of more than three billion miles in less than a decade. Earlier in the week, the US announced that it had reached an agreement with Iran to limit its nuclear weapons development capability in return for a lifting of economic sanctions. Whenever there are headlines like this, friends and family ask me many questions (as I’m sure they are asking you) about the engineering challenges of sending a probe so far, the scientific questions we might answer with the data, and the overall cost of such a mission. Similarly, people have asked me about what it takes to create a nuclear weapon from uranium or plutonium.
In this issue of Physics and Society, we have two articles that focus on reducing the threat of nuclear weapons. First, Alex DeVolpi completes the second part of his two-part piece on the feasibility of using reactor-grade plutonium for a warhead. In our second article, Harold Feiveson and colleagues discuss their work on “Unmasking the Bomb,” which looks at “practical policy initiatives to cap, reduce and eventually eliminate the global stockpile of weapon-usable fissile material in the world.”
In the News of the Forum section, I am so pleased to recognize the 2015 FPS Award winners. The Joseph A. Burton Forum award goes to E. William Colglazier for his work on radioactive waste management. The Leo Szilard Lectureship Award Recipient is Ashok Gadgil for his work on sustainable energy. In addition, at every April APS meeting the Forum’s Executive Committee meets and also holds a Business meeting session at the conference. For those of you that were not able to attend, I’ve included the link to the minutes of both meetings as well as to the minutes from past years. Finally, our book review by Leonard Solon is on Serving The Reich: The Struggle For The Soul Of Physics Under Hitler, by Philip Ball.
In the January 2015 article “Nuclear Waste Confidence: Is Indefinite Storage Safe” the NEPA was erroneously identified as the National Environmental Protection Act. It should have been identified as the National Environmental Policy Act. My thanks to the authors for alerting me to this and to Ken Maxey for identifying the error.
As always, I am looking for people that would like to publish articles of interest to our readership. Please let me know if you or one of your colleagues would like to submit an article for an upcoming newsletter. Happy reading and enjoy the summer!
Andrew Zwicker, firstname.lastname@example.org