Physics and Society Jan '97- News

Volume 26 , Number 1 January 1997



On August 22, 1996, the California Supreme Court decided unanimously that EMF cases do not belong in the courtroom. Their ruling quotes from the APS statement on Power Line Fields and Public Health, and it relied on statements from the AMA and from an additional 17 prominent scientists. The essence of their ruling, and of the statements just mentioned, is that there is insufficient evidence linking power lines to cancer to warrant consideration of such cases in the court. (For further related information, see Robert Parks' What's New columns from May 5, 1995 and September 29, 1995.)

The GOP platform for 1996 opposes the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. It also calls for a national missile defense system. Adding irony to chutzpah, the platform also refers to a study by the Office of Technology Assessment (voted into oblivion by this GOP dominated Congress) concerning the relationship between basic research and economic growth.

National Science Board report, "Science & Engineering Indicators 1996", concerning public attitudes toward science. Among the statistics quoted are the percentages of the respondents, over a period of several years, who:

     a) are "attentive public" on "science and technology" issues (57% in 1995)
     b) say they have "a great deal of confidence" in the scientific community (37% in 1993)
     c) say that "science and technology are making our lives healthier, easier, and more
comfortable (86% in 1995)
     d) think that "the benefits of science are greater than any harmful effects" (72% in 1995)
     e) say that scientific research "benefits strongly outweigh risks" (43% in 1995)
     f) say that nuclear power "benefits strongly outweigh risks"(21% in 1995!!)
     g) say that space exploration "benefits strongly outweigh costs" ( 22% in 1995)

See also FYI's #125 and 126 for more data (e.g., percentages for earlier years) and for ordering information from the Government Printing Office.

The American Institute of Physic's FYI #147 discusses the hard choices facing the Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee. According to FYI, "This year's budget, after adjusting for inflation, is a cut of more than 40% from the FY 1995 budget". The committee chair, John Sheffield, is concerned about the degree to which the DOE's budget is compatible with a new fusion program strategy. The director of the Office of Energy Research, Martha Krebs, mentioned that, with U.S. funding of fusion energy research at its present levels, Japan now has the opportunity to become the world leader in fusion research. Readers interested in further details should see FYI's #148 and #141.
As of January 1, 1997, David Hafemeister, then ex-chair of POPA, replaces David Bodansky on the FPS Executive Committee as required by our by-laws. DB remains a member of the FPS Editorial Board through April 1999. DH has been appointed by the FPS Chair, Ed Gerjuoy, to be the FPS liaison to POPA (an easy appointment to make since DH remains on POPA).

As of April 1998, the former Forum Award for Promoting Public Understanding of the Relationship of Physics and Society, established in 1974 by FPS, will henceforth be the Joseph A. Burton Forum Award in recognition of the many contributions of Joseph Burton to society, and to the APS as its Treasurer from 1970 - 1985. The award, which will include $3000 due to an endowment to APS by Jean Dickey Apker, is still to "recognize outstanding contributions to the public understanding or resolution of issues involving the interface of physics and society."

The FPS sessions at the March and April 1997 APS meetings are currently the following:

March, in Kansas City (times will be set at an APS meeting in early December):

-An FPS session on the policy and science issues of the cleanup of Department of Energy sites, a $6 billion/year program.

-Shared sessions: one with the Forum on Education (FED), on "Telling the Public about Science" and one with the Instrumentation & Measurement Science Topical Group on "Stories and Anecdotes", with four science writers.

April, in D.C. (While times are reasonably firm, titles are "working titles"):

-8 AM on Friday: joint with FED on Federal support for science education.
-Saturday at 8 AM, "What do Scientists owe Society?"
-Sunday, one at 8 and one at 11: the FPS awards session and a joint session with the AAPT.
-Monday at 8 AM: a session still being planned.
-Monday at 11: a joint session with AAPT.
-One FPS/APT session wil be on teaching physics, including in other countries; the other, on  anti-science. Which day is which has yet to be chosen.


Here's a brief summary of the information in the American Institute of Physics' FYI #134, concerning the "outyear" outlooks for DOE, NASA, and NSF:

DOE: The American Association for the Advancement of Science has calculated that, under this administration's budget plan, total DOE nondefense R&D spending could decline almost 25% between FY 1995 and FY 2002. General science (physics) funding could decline 20.7%. Under the Congressional Budget Resolution, AAAS projected that DOE nondefense R&D spending could decline 44% (!).

NASA: NASA's Administrator, Daniel Goldin, has stated, "We have no illusions about ...NASA's budget...our internal planning assumes a steady decline in our future budgets as we approach the end of the decade." AAAS projects a drop of 23.7% in total NASA R&D spending during 2002 as compared with 1995 under the administration's plan. A similar result would obtain, according to AAAS, under the Congressional Budget Resolution.

NSF: Under the administration's budget plan, AAAS calculates a drop of 18.1% in total NSF R&D spending in 2002 as compared with 1995. The corresponding figure under the Congressional Budget Resolution is a drop of 6.8%. Neal Lane described the bottom line resulting from both scenarios as "relatively healthy".

Call for Nominations for APS Fellowship

Its time again to think about who should be honored with APS fellowship for distinguished work of interest to the Forum on Physics and Society. An electronic version of the nomination form is available on the Fellowship Page of the APS Home Page. Printed forms appear in the January issues of APS News and are also available from the APS Fellowship Office. Please send the completed form directly to the APS Fellowship Program, which will in turn send the nominations for candidates working in areas of physics-and-society to our Forums Fellowship Committee for consideration. Nominations must be received by April 1 for consideration in the current year. When you send your nomination to APS, please also send a copy Colglazier, Executive Officer, National Research Council, 2101 Constitution Avenue, Washington, D.C. 20418. Contact Bill Colglazier if you have any questions, at 202-334-3000, fax 202-334-1689, email


THE AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY AND THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF PHYSICS are currently accepting applications for their 1997-1998 Congressional Science Fellowship Programs. Fellows serve one year on the staff of a senator, representative, or congressional committee. They are afforded an opportunity to learn the legislative process and explore science policy issues from the lawmakers' perspective. In turn, Fellows may lend scientific and technical expertise to public policy issues.

QUALIFICATIONS include a PhD in physics or a closely related field, a strong interest in science and technology policy and, ideally, some experience in applying scientific knowledge toward the solution of societal problems. Fellows are required to be U.S. citizens and be members of APS or, for the AIP Fellowship, any of the AIP Member Societies. In exceptional cases, the PhD requirement may be waived for applicants with compensating experience.

TERM OF APPOINTMENT for both fellowships is one year, beginning September 1, 1997, with participation in a two-week orientation in Washington, organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Choice of congressional assignment is reserved to Fellows.

A STIPEND of up to $45,000 is offered, in addition to allowances for relocation, in-service travel, and health insurance premiums.

APPLICATIONS should consist of a letter of intent, a 2-page resume, and three letters of reference, accompanied by a cover sheet indicating: name, address, phone, email, references, US citizenship, PhD status, society membership, and where you learned about the programs. All submissions should be on standard 8.5" x 11" paper, single-sided and unstapled, and should be sent directly to the address below. Candidates should state in the letter why they are applying and briefly describe their public service experience. Letters of reference should discuss not just the candidate's competence as a physicist, but also the education, experience, and attributes which would particularly qualify the candidate to serve as a Fellow. Unless otherwise specified in the letter, the applicant will be considered for both APS and AIP fellowships.


APS/AIP Congressional Science Fellowship Programs 529 14th Street, NW Suite 1050
Washington, D.C. 20045

Please note that other physics-related Congressional Science Fellowship programs are run by The American Geophysical Union (contact: Pat Azriel/202-462-6900) and The Optical Society of America/The Materials Research Society (OSA contact: Susan Reiss/202-223-8130; MRS contact: Gail Oare/412-367-3004). Please contact these societies directly for information on their Fellowships.

Postdoctoral Position - Peace Studies Program - Cornell University

The Peace Studies Program invites applications for a one-year postdoctoral fellowship beginning fall 1997 from persons trained in the physical or biological sciences who wish to pursue postdoctoral work on policy issues in the area of international security. The successful applicant will be expected to participate in an ongoing faculty/student working group on technical aspects of arms control and peacekeeping and to conduct research on a topic of his/her own choice. Salary $30,000, plus benefits and research budget. All requirements for the PhD must be completed at the time of appointment. Send curriculum vitae, a brief statement of research interests and the names of three references to:

                    Elaine Scott
                        130 Uris Hall
                      Cornell University
                   Ithaca, NY 14853-7601  

Review of applications will begin April 1, 1997. Cornell University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.