Images de page
PDF
ePub
[blocks in formation]

serve as President of the American Physical Society, which has over 40,000 members in academic institutions, government

laboratories and industry.

I am also the interim Chairman of the

Physics Planning Committee (PPC) of the APS.

The Physics Planning Committee was formed by the APS Council

a year ago "to create a forum within the physics community for broadly assessing ... future directions of physics" and "to develop a balanced plan for physics in the context of the nation's scientific and technological needs." The PPC has three

vice-chairmen, William F. Brinkman, Leon M. Lederman, and Andrew

Sessler, whose own research interests span a broad range of the

[blocks in formation]

two major interrelated concerns that impact on the research

budget of the Department of Energy:

1.

That, in planning for the support of basic scientific

research, full attention be given to the indispensable

role which research, particularly at universities,

plays in assuring that there will be a future generation of creative and productive scientists, and in providing a knowledge base for future exploitation by society;

2.

That a balanced menu of basic research in physics be maintained and new scientific opportunities and challenges pursued, wherever they arise, in the many small groups of individual investigators or in large

collaborative facilities.

We appreciate the enlightened attitude that has guided the

Department of Energy in the past.

It inherited from the Atomic

Energy Commission, and later from ERDA, a broad view of energy research, and it has in the process gained valuable experience, especially in overseeing the construction and nurturing of very large scientific facilities.

It is our strong recommendation that, as it moves forward

towards making the ssc a reality, the Department of Energy be

given the means to continue to discharge as the highest priority its broader responsibilities towards basic scientific research in

physics and other sciences.

The Administration's 1991 budget is

responsive to these aims, and we support it.

Nothing is accomplished in the conduct of scientific

research without a steady flow of talented and well-educated

people, essential as bricks, mortar, and equipment are. A profile of the APS membership may be helpful in this regard (See figure). The membership in the various research subunits of

physics includes over 6,000 physicists in the Division of

Condensed Matter Physics, which includes solid state physics.

Almost 3,500 physicists identify with the Division of Particles and Fields, which in essence is high-energy physics; this Division provided the initial impetus for the proposal to build an ssc, which will serve the high-energy physics community. But in addition, there are 10,000 physicists who belong to mediumsize Divisions dealing with Chemical Physics, Plasma Physics, Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics, and Nuclear Physics, and yet another 10,000 in a dozen smaller and more specialized subfields, from astrophysics to the study of fundamental physical constants and precision measurements.

In the past twenty-five years the number of physicists has doubled, and the trend has been the same in other sciences. Without this growth we would not have stayed at the forefront of science and technology. However, the resources for research have not increased sufficiently for us to derive the full benefit of this highly skilled scientific labor force, nor to assure our future scientific leadership. Without going into detail, we note that the entire electronics and computer industries are derived

from what seemed to be arcane research in solid state physics and chemistry some thirty years ago.

The need for an adequate pool of young scientists at many points in our technological society is obvious. The problems of energy and environment, which are particularly germane to the mission of DoE, call for involving the best and the brightest among our population. Fortunately, the Secretary of Energy appreciates this linkage and has taken the initiative in science and mathematics education; I hope that the Congress will strongly

support him in this endeavor.

Advanced science education and basic research are not

separable. The American system of higher education owes its enormous success to the seamless blending of teaching with

research at the graduate level, and increasingly also at the

undergraduate level in colleges and universities.

A large

fraction of research in physics and other science is done by

students and postdoctoral fellows. This research experience trains them for industry, government, and academe. The strength of our graduate educational programs in physics accounts in large

measure for the attractions that our universities exert on

students from many parts of the world.

We are lucky to have them

flock here for advanced training.

We stand to lose our lead in science if we fail to provide

for our young people opportunities in research across all active disciplines which meet the criterion of high scientific quality

and national need.

Research programs in the universities under the guidance of individual experienced scientists working with small groups of students are the mainstay of this system for educating the next generation.

The education of young scientists by doing frontier research in universities is now threatened by starvation in many important subfields of physics and other sciences.

Yet, no one can predict which branch of this tree will bear

the next fruit.

The 1989 Nobel Prize in Physics, for example,

was awarded to two American university physicists for magnificent and enormously important advances in high precision measurements of atomic and subatomic physical quantities. This research has

led to some remarkable technical applications in defense and

civilian systems, such as clocks of unsurpassed precision.

These

are useful for high-resolution navigational pinpointing and longbaseline interferometry, and have been used in the Voyager

mission.

Almost one hundred PhD physicists have been trained

over the years in these two research groups.

Quite understandably, most discussion about the nation's

science budget, and especially about the DOE budget, focus on the SSC. It is a grand project of very large dimensions in every respect, and it necessarily sets the scale by which other science

projects are measured.

It is a big step into the unknown, and it

promises to extend our understanding of the structure of matter

and the origin of the universe significantly. Authorization of the ssc, and construction at an expeditious rate, will send a signal to the world that the United States is determined to

« PrécédentContinuer »