Meeting Information

The Last Endangered Species

May 11, 2011
American Center for Physics
College Park, MD

Date: May 11, 2011

Speaker: Professor Bob Park, Physics Department, University of Maryland

Topic: The Last Endangered Species

Time and Location: Talk starts at 1:00 PM with Q&A to follow. It will be held in one of the first floor conference rooms at the American Center for Physics, One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD. This is located off River Road, between Kenilworth Ave. and Paint Branch Parkway.

Abstract: Of the 5,487 known species of mammals, 1,410 are listed as "threatened with extinction." There have been five mass extinctions in the past 540 million years during which at least three fourths of all species have become extinct in geologically brief periods of time. Paleobiologists say Earth has now entered Mass Extinction Six. The cause is not asteroid impact but man himself. Wild species are being crowded out of their natural habitats by a single invasive species: Homo sapiens. Now numbering almost seven billion, science has given Homo sapiens control of the planet, but few people are scientists. The greatest threat to Homo sapiens and to the planet is ignorance. More than 90% of the population professes a belief in superstition. Science, with its insistence on openness and physical evidence, has a responsibility to inform the world of what has been learned even when people would prefer not to hear. I will illustrate popular beliefs with examples ranging from power lines and cancer to homeopathy and acupuncture.

Biography: Robert L. (Bob) Park is research professor and former chair of Physics of the University of Maryland. An Air Force Officer during the Korean War, his study of physics began after the war at the University of Texas, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa with High Honors in 1958. He was named the Marston Fellow at Brown University and awarded a PhD in Physics in 1964. He was Director of the Surface Physics Division at Sandia National Laboratory until 1972, when he accepted an appointment as Professor of Physics and Director of the Center of Materials Research at the University of Maryland. Five years later he was named Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. For twenty years, research into the properties of crystal surfaces had occupied most of his waking hours, but in 1983 he was recruited by American Physical Society President Willie Fowler to open a Washington Office. Bob initiated a weekly report that evolved into the news/editorial column What's New. For the next twenty years he divided his time between the University and the Washington Office, often testifying before Congress, appearing on television and radio news programs, and writing op-eds for major newspapers. In 2003 he returned to the University full time, but with the support of the University he continues to write the occasionally controversial What's New, which has a following that extends far outside physics. He is the author of Voodoo Science: the Road from Foolishness to Fraud (Oxford, 2000), and Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science (Princeton, 2008).