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Like F. Smith and H. D. Greyber (August/September Letters) I was interested in Michael Lubell’s July column, which reported on the Pew Foundation’s poll that found that 55% of scientists considered themselves Democrats while only 6% were Republicans –leaving 39% on the fence.
Long ago at the University of Wisconsin I noticed faculty political differences during a period of political turmoil. Using the familiar, if simplistic, left-right scale, I found the humanity and social science faculty at the left, the science faculty center-left, the engineers center-right and the Ag-school faculty at the right.
Those who dealt with the spiritual were on the left, those who worked with the material were on the right.
In the interests of full disclosure, this physicist is registered on the voter’s roll in Connecticut as an Independent–thus one of the 39% on the fence.
Robert K. Adair
The new Topical Group on the Physics of Climate (APS News, June 2011) has a most unusual charter. In the statement of its objective and areas of interest on the APS website (http://www.aps.org/units/gpc/index.cfm) we are reminded (4 times) that it is outside, not intended, or not concerned with societal issues and that it is entirely within the domain of natural sciences. No other unit of APS has any such pretense.
Physics in this country and elsewhere is largely supported by the state and has been in the lifetime of every physicist living today. It is always political.
Nothing is of greater human importance and generality than climate. States and individuals all over the world are interested in it, and always have been. So are corporations. The campaign of two years ago to revise the very sensible APS statement on climate change (adopted by the Council of the APS on 18 November 2007) was quite properly refuted. That campaign was a highly ideological political event in physics.
Solid knowledge of the physics of climate will be vital if we are to make good choices in light of the ongoing (as the APS statement noted) climate change, deal with its consequences and causes, and, for example, protect people from the dangers of ill conceived “climate engineering” schemes. Physicists are contributing greatly to solving these problems. On the other hand, the charter of the APS Topical Group on the Physics of Climate is false and polluted.
Donald H. McNeill
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