Is It Legal to Attend a Conference in Cuba?

In a Back Page article [APS News, August/September 2002] entitled "Engaging Cuban Physicists Through APS/CPS Partnership", Irving Lerch writes of a meeting of APS officers with representatives of the Cuban Physical Society (CPS), at which "an agreement was made to organize joint meetings in Cuba," one of which appears to be the VIII Inter-American Conference on Physics Education, to be held in Havana on July 7-11, 2003.

I cannot tell from the article whether American scientists may lawfully travel to Cuba to participate. I am a physicist at the University of Wisconsin who is active in the "Wonders of Physics" outreach program, and have a professional interest in attending this conference.

Can I lawfully go?

Could my wife lawfully go?
Jim Reardon

Editor's Note: APS Director of International Affairs Irving Lerch replies:

Every American resident or citizen has the right to travel to Cuba. However, because of the US Embargo, you may not spend money there unless granted permission to do so by the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the Department of Treasury.

Upon obtaining such permission, you may make appropriate travel arrangements through a licensed agent who is permitted to charter flights from the US to Cuba via Miami, LAX or JFK in New York.

The Education meeting you refer to is sponsored, in part, by IUPAP and therefore every bona fide scholar qualifies for travel to Cuba to attend this meeting under the provisions of a General License granted to all US participants in meetings sponsored by international organizations of which the US is a member but which is not headquartered in the US.

Thus, all members of APS may attend the meeting and we will assist in making the arrangements. We have engaged the services of a licensed agent.

We can even make arrangements for spouses who wish to participate in a cultural exchange coincident with the meeting. We will make the necessary arrangements and provide all the details you will need to make the trip.

Female Student Deserves Credit

While I was quite pleased to see in the "Physics News in 2002" section a report on the discovery of "A Young Evolving Planetary System", I was also a bit dismayed at the credit given for the work. While it was noted that the discovery was accomplished by "William Herbst and his colleagues", I believe this statement does not give the proper picture of credit.

It is my understanding that the majority of the work in this discovery is due to Catrina Hamilton, who is currently finishing her PhD at Wesleyan with Dr. Herbst as her advisor.

In fact, the work on KH15D forms the bulk of her thesis. As such I would hope that Ms. Hamilton would receive proper credit for her efforts. My interest in this is due to the fact that Ms. Hamilton, while pursuing her PhD, has also served as a Senior Lecturer in our department at Connecticut College for many years. We have encouraged her in her graduate work, and are also very proud of her accomplishments.

I also found it very ironic that in the same issue "The Back Page" article by professor Meg Urry comments on the continuing gender discrimination in physics, while a female physicist does not get due recognition for her work on a previous page of APS News.

Michael Monce,
New London, Connecticut

Article Disgraceful, Gratuitous, and Unnecessary

Who is the political activist that wrote the article: "President Signs NSF Authorization Bill; White House Suppresses the Evidence—Searching for an elusive photo of Bush with former APS President Bill Brinkman"?

Is it your opinion that the statements made reflect the opinion of the majority of APS members? Here is one APS member that believes the statements made are insulting to all responsible and clear thinking Americans. Is that article somehow supposed to help the APS? Please keep your personal politics out of our paper. Either represent us accurately or step down. That was a disgrace.

Elgin A. Anderson
Logan, Utah

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In the March 2003 APS News, I find the remarks about the President "(Bush, that is)" in the article on the NSF Authorization Bill gratuitous and unnecessary. Let's keep APS News a newsletter about physics and not a political satire magazine. (This is not a liberal-conservative issue. A comment about Clinton and Monica Lewinsky would be equally inappropriate.)

Joe Palmieri
Oberlin, Ohio

Editor's Note: APS News is not a politically partisan publication. We would have been delighted to print a picture of President Bush and APS President Brinkman on our front page. We continue to be puzzled as to why that picture was not made available.

Visa Problem Simply Solved

The Visa problem [front page, APS News, March 2003] is indeed a serious one.

Might I suggest a simple solution. First let the APS loudly disavow the Big Bang theory. Follow this with a plea to our colleagues in biology to abandon evolution for creationism. And finally, let us assure the President that nuclear warfare is appropriate for dealing with evil empires.

Leonard Yarmus
Oakland Gardens, NY

Omission Produces Perplexity

In the "Physics News in 2002" section in APS News, February 2003, the item: "Ballistic magnetoresistance (BMR)" in the section "Condensed Matter/Materials Physics" describes an experiment conducted by researchers at Buffalo that finds a remarkably large resistance change in nickel nanocontacts at room temperature. The publication given as reference is a paper from that group in Phys. Rev. B 66, 020403 (R)(2002).

We wish to manifest our perplexity that the news about BMR is given based on the above quoted experiment and publication, since this phenomenon was discovered in Madrid, Spain, in 1999, by the team lead by N. Garcia, who coined this term. From then (Phys. Rev. Lett. 82,2923 (1999)) until 2002, they have published at least five papers on increases of this BMR and obtained several patents. This is acknowledged by the Buffalo group in their publications, and in particular in their aforementioned paper where they give six references to the Madrid work out of a total of fourteen referenced publications.

In both "Physics News", and in Physics Today, August 2002, page 9, the BMR progress is presented as due to the Buffalo team only, overlooking the work of the Madrid group, which has never been mentioned in either publication.

Manuel Nieto-Vesperinas,
Manuel Torres Hernaz
Madrid, Spain

Editor's Note: We thank the authors for pointing out this omission.

Physics Golden Oldies

I enjoyed seeing in the "Zero Gravity" section of the latest APS News the partial text of the "Placement" song by Arthur Roberts. Actually that song is part of a collection of songs by Roberts and collaborators written over the period 1939 to 1947. They were first recorded in December 1947. The titles of the other songs are "The Cyclotronist's Nightmare", "It Ain't the Money", "Take Away Your Billion Dollars", "Conant, Compton, and Baruch", and "How Nice To Be a Physicist".

These songs are a reflection of the sudden emergence of physics into the big time after WW II, and resonated with young graduate students like me who had thought they'd chosen an obscure and unremunerative profession. I still have a set of the original 78 RPM recordings of these songs.

Stephen Tamor
La Jolla, CA

Editor's Note: We regret that in the "Zero Gravity" article, we incorrectly dated the song as 1974 instead of 1947.

Don't Forget Sandia

Harold Agnew's letter in the March, 2003 issue regarding the current uproar over the University of California's management contract for Los Alamos National Laboratory contain two items that require comment.

First, there are three weapons laboratories that have "the responsibility for maintaining the integrity of our nation's nuclear deterrent", not two as Director Agnew implies. He omits Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), which along with LANL and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have this obligation. LANL and LLNL are responsible for the "physics package" portion of our weapons, but SNL is responsible for just about everything else, from arming, firing & fusing systems, neutron generators and parachutes to providing training courses for the military personnel who would ultimately be responsible for their use.

Whereas LANL and LLNL competed for the physics packages of each new system that came along, SNL worked with both of them to provide deployable weapons. And since SNL was a GOCO operated by AT&T until the early nineties, and Lockheed Martin now, clearly having a different contract manager did not cause our nuclear deterrent to "suffer a very serious setback". I spent my entire career before retiring at Sandia and during that time, I worked with both LANL and LLNL personnel, and the fact that we had different organizations as contract managers never even came up and certainly did nothing to impede our work.

Personally, I take no position on whether or not the University of California should continue to manage LANL, but my second point is that over fifty years of experience have shown that SNL could work seamlessly with the two other labs, so having different managers at LANL and LLNL shouldn't be a problem, if that's what the politicos decide.

James A. Borders
Albuquerque, NM


In a page 1 story in the April issue, headlined "APS Units, Members Get More Political", reference was made to Congressional Fellows working in the APS Washington office. This is incorrect. They should have been called Senior Policy Fellows. APS Congressional Fellows work on Capitol Hill and do not engage in lobbying.