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I welcome you to the Fall 2011 issue of the FIP Newsletter and hope you will enjoy its scope and depth, which reflects FIP's engagement with a broad range of international issues, in cooperation with the APS Office of International Affairs, other APS units engaged in these issues including CIFS, FPS, DPF and many others, and sister organizations around the world. Through these newsletters, and our annual sessions at the March and April meetings, we seek to inform FIP members on many issues and current events from an international perspective, particularly where physicists can potentially help.
Perspective and FIP Activities
This has been a very proactive year for members of FIP, as you can see from this as well as the last newsletter. Focus areas of FIP range from the problems and issues faced by young physicists and women in academia and physics research, to the role of science in the advancement of nations, to the views of science and scientists in many countries, to natural and politically generated disasters and their effects on science and society, to scientific aspects of key issues in science society, to the physicist's role as citizen scientist, innovator on the ground, and diplomat. These themes are reflected in FIP's sessions at the 2011 March and April meetings, most of which are summarized in this newsletter, and they will continue as we continue to plan our 2012 sessions, led by Chair-Elect Bill Barletta.
From my point of view, there are two strong themes that stand out on FIP's agenda this year: the international character of science and APS' membership, which also is a central theme of the APS as a whole initiated by President Barry Barish, and the role of the citizen scientist at home and abroad. We are working with the APS to help expand its programs serving or enabling the research and training of our colleagues outside the U.S, whether non-U.S. citizens or U.S. physicists working overseas far from their home university or laboratory.
We have worked with CISA Chair Karsten Heeger and the APS meeting staff to make the March and April meetings more accessible to those who cannot travel to them, by posting selected presentations online using the Indico system widely used by the high energy physics community and increasingly by other fields of physics. As reported by Heeger in this newsletter, the pilot this April-May (see http://www.physics.wisc.edu/apsapril2011) has been successful, and eagerly received by physicists for whom this sort of access is already part of their daily lives. We look forward to more general availability of the presentations, and the future inclusion of video and audio recordings of the plenaries and some other major talks (and perhaps also interactive access) that will make them a lasting resource for the physics community.
The Role of the Citizen Scientist
The role of the citizen scientist has never been more important than this year. Physicists pursuing their science internationally, with colleagues overseas and in some cases throughout the globe, are privileged to pursue common goals as a world community, both in the pursuit of fundamental knowledge and for the betterment of mankind. The understanding of common aims and human needs, without borders, is a living reality for many of us, that remains rare in other sectors of society. Equally rare is the commitment by many of us to use our training and expertise to benefit our sister communities in other nations, as well as the nations themselves, even as we train the next generation of physicists in a global context. It is this experience that makes us natural spokespeople for, and promoters of international cooperation and peace, based on mutual understanding and trust among nations, founded in our everyday experience.
Why is the role of the citizen scientist so important, and why this year ? While there are no continental wars underway in the classical historical sense, 2010-11 has been a period of abrupt and ongoing change and unrest, marked by the convergence of economic, political, and cultural factors leading to rising tensions, instability, unexpected crimes, and both real and potential crises. The last year has been punctuated by: the ongoing “Arab Spring” across North Africa and the Middle East as peoples struggle for democracy and self-determination; the stark polarization of U.S. politics leading to the threat of default; the possible default of Greece and other nations in the Eurozone; the aftermath and challenging lessons of the Fukushima Daichi disaster in Japan; the lingering wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and their human and economic toll; the continued decline of many nations in sub-Saharan Africa beset by drought, disease, lack of infrastructure or energy, political corruption, or all of the above; the push to regional power and continued rights violations in Iran and elsewhere; and the rise of China as a likely superpower and the challenge of the geopolitical changes it will bring. Never has the role of the physicist as citizen scientist, able to cross borders and bridge divides with a sense of common purpose and unflagging optimism, based on a commitment to advance fundamental knowledge and the hope of addressing key current issues from climate to hunger to energy, been more important.
What is the source of our community‟s unrelenting optimism, and the driver of growing mutual understanding in the international scientific community? It is our common mission to advance the frontiers of knowledge, while solving many problems that also advance or create new technologies, triggered in the service of our science. We are inspired by our progress, amidst or poised on the cusp of a new generation of discoveries: at the frontier of high energies and energy densities at the LHC; in the understanding and harnessing of quantum information leading to the dawn of quantum computing; in the understanding of new states of matter, quantum systems and emerging technologies on the nanoscale and mesoscale; in the search for the dark matter in space and on Earth; in the proliferating number and knowledge of exoplanets; in the emergence of a precise picture of the early moments and evolution of our universe, captured in a “standard model” of cosmology; and in theoretical developments driven by a worldwide quest for a quantum theory of gravity. We are pursuing all these aims in a spirit of international cooperation, collaboration and hope for the next round of breakthroughs, convinced that they lie just over the horizon.
Overseas Physics GroupsIn its work on international issues, FIP greatly appreciates its continuing partnership, begun in 2006 under then-FIP Chair Irving Lerch, with several overseas physics groups, including:
We meet with the leadership of these groups annually at the FIP Reception, which was held this year during the March meeting in Dallas, where we presented the citation to Penger Tong, one of our FIP Fellows for 2011, and where AKPA and OCPA who co-sponsored the reception presented awards to their members. FIP Past Chair Koller, OIA Director Flatten and I also at-tended OCPA's meeting nearby, where one topic of discussion was a possible joint meeting co-sponsored by the APS and the Physical Society of the Republic of China in 2012, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Mme. C.S. Wu and her role in the discovery of parity violation.
Promoting and Defending International Science and Human Rights
Building on its traditions, FIP will continue to work with Amy Flatten and Michele Irwin of the Office of International Affairs and the APS leadership to uphold the principles of open communication and cooperation without borders, to promote equality of access globally to the knowledge of physics, to defend human rights both within and beyond the bounds of the scientific community, and to inform our members of these issues and to raise awareness whenever violations occur.
Harvey Newman is a Professor at Caltech, a high-energy physics experimentalist and Chair of the FIP. He is also engaged in work on Digital Divide issues in many regions of the world.