Physics and Society, Apr. 97--Letters


The letters are dedicated to free expression on societal topics of interest to the physics community. As a forum for all physicists we welcome all views, but of course the Forum on Physics and Society does not necessarily endorse any particular view found in these pages. Readers are most heartily invited to respond to letters, comments, or others items in Physics & Society. Letters should not be longer than 500 words.

Help for "Physics in Perspective"

I'm looking for textbook suggestions for a new and unusual physics course. Maybe somebody out there can help me.

The course is part of our new Bachelor of Arts physics program, for students who want a physics degree but who are headed for careers in medicine, journalism, law, business, science teaching, etc. This program is algebra-based, not calculus-based. The new course will follow a sequence of two semesters of algebra-based introductory physics plus one semester of algebra-based modern physics.

The course is "Physics In Perspective," with the following catalog description: Human implications of physics, including life's place in the universe, the methods of science, human sense perceptions, energy utilization, social impacts of technology, and the effect of physics on modern world views.

The course discusses two broad themes, and I'll probably need a separate text for each. The first theme is the meaning and implications of modern physics: the methods of science, life's place in the universe, the interpretation of modern physics and especially quantum physics, the effect of physics on modern world views. The second theme is societal topics: energy resources, global warming, ozone depletion, or other topics. I'm looking for an algebra-based textbook that could help me with either one of these two themes. Any textbook suggestions? Any suggestions for useful articles?

Art Hobson
Department of Physics
University of Arkansas
Fayetteville, AR 72701

Teaching versus Research?

David Pushkin's letter to P&S Jan 97 commenting on the editorial in the Oct. 96 issue, perpetuates the myth that research differs from teaching.In the current climate "teaching" means exclusively undergraduate teaching. In reality research is also teaching; it is teaching our graduate students how to ferret out natures secrets. It is also teaching ourselves and our peers through papers and conferences the latest scientific results obtained throughout the world. I maintain that it is this "research" type of teaching which has the greater beneficial impact on society, through the research and development accomplishments of our graduate students while in school and after they graduate, and by replenishing the knowledge banks upon which future generations will draw.

When we allow politicians and others to define "teaching" as only undergraduate teaching, and research as other than teaching, we become our own enemy. Until we as a community agree on this point, we are vulnerable to the type of criticism which is so prevalent now, and is likely to produce unwise decisions to the detriment of both science and society as a whole.

Allen Rothwarf
Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Drexel University, Phila. PA 19104