APS News

April 2013 (Volume 22, Number 4)

Text of Rush Holt’s Letter

Congratulations on forming the Mid-Atlantic Section of the American Physical Society. As a longtime member of APS who has spent much of my life in West Virginia, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia, I am pleased and honored to join you in the Mid-Atlantic Section as an original member.

I have spent my career as a professional scientist and now as a member of Congress, so I know firsthand how scientific research contributes to every American’s quality of life. APS helps us to more completely understand nature and our universe, and it provides an avenue through which physicists from all around the world can converse about the advancement of physical concepts and ideas.

APS is first and foremost a national organization, and indeed, it usually makes sense to think of physics as being a collaborative endeavor. Many of the theoretical and experimental insights that have driven our field forward in recent years have been possible only through the collaboration of dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of physicists scattered across the globe.

But the fact remains that many insights are possible only because of close, personal interactions among scientists who see each other regularly: those who work at the same university, or who see each other at local conferences, or who stop by one another’s houses for dinner and find themselves scribbling half-developed equations on the backs of pizza boxes. Proximity matters, in physics as in every other field (is collaborative productivity an inverse power law?), and I am hopeful that the Mid-Atlantic Section will strengthen these local connections that help make possible further scientific progress.

It is, I think, especially noteworthy that the Mid-Atlantic Section includes Washington, D.C. and thus the entire U.S. Congress. To state the obvious, your perspective is very badly needed on Capitol Hill. Right now Congress includes only two physicists (the other is Bill Foster of Illinois), and we need look no further than the phony debates about the scientific validity of climate change or evolution to understand that scientific thinking is far too rare in Congress today. The Mid-Atlantic APS section has the opportunity–and, I would suggest, the responsibility–to help bridge the gap between the scientific community and those who pass laws that affect it.

I hope that, at some point in the years to come, you’ll take the relatively short trip to Capitol Hill to share your thoughts and concerns with your representative in Congress. You have important insights to share on climate change, renewable energy, nuclear security, and so many other issues facing our country today. And while you’re in town, stop by my office to say hi!


Rush Holt signature
Member of Congress