H. Frederick DyllaDirector's Matters

Back to the basics with a good read
Science can be easier to grasp when explained with a talented and knowledgeable pen. Fred Dylla poses with 2008 AIP Science Writing Award Winners. From the left: Ann Finkbeiner, Gino Segre, Fred Dylla, Julia Cort Given that AIP was created in part for the purpose of promoting the advancement and diffusion of the knowledge of physics, it is quite fitting that each year AIP honors gifted writers and media producers for their ability to convey the wonders and intricacies of science to the public. Last month, the AIP Science Writing Awards committee announced the winners—a journalist, a public television producer, an author of children's books, and two scientists—of the 2008 awards in four categories. I had the pleasure of conferring three of the awards last week at the APS March meeting awards ceremony at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA.

The AIP Science Writing Award in the Journalist category went to Ann Finkbeiner, of Johns Hopkins University, for her book, The Jasons, about a group of expert scientists who, for the past several decades, have spent their summers working on top-secret problems for the US government. The book documents many of the significant contributions of this brain trust, which remains active today. Gino Segre of the University of Pennsylvania rose to the top of the AIP Science Writing Awards in the Scientist category for his book, Faust in Copenhagen, which tells the story of a legendary 1932 meeting of the world's great physicists, organized by Neils Bohr at his institute in Copenhagen. The meeting participants discussed the headiest quantum mechanics problems of the day—but the summit also coincided with the discovery of the neutron and thus became a crossroads for the discipline of physics itself. The final award I presented was justly earned by Emmy Award–winning Julia Cort in the Broadcast category. Her production NOVA scienceNOW: Asteroid considers the possibility of Earth being destroyed by the asteroid Apophis in 2036. Does science foretell disaster? Chances are slim, but Cort grew the public's awareness about near-Earth objects and scientists' concern over how asteroids and other objects could affect the future of our planet. What all three of these Science Writing Award winners have in common is their keen ability to engage their audience and instill the desire to learn more.

Perhaps my favorite category is the award for children's literature, which can go only to those who can connect directly with the minds of children, understand how they see science affecting them, and make it interesting. I will have to wait until the AAPT summer meeting to award Alexandra Siy and Dennis Kunkel for SNEEZE!—the story of nine children, including one of Siy's sons, as they explore the common hidden agents that cause this comic response. Siy and Kunkel worked as a team—Siy, the children's author and photographer, and Kunkel, the scientist with expertise in imaging the microscopic world of mold, pollen, and other sneeze-inducing irritants.

book covers

Communicating science is an essential first step in articulating science's value to our citizenry. Organizations such as AIP recognize and reward exemplary science writers to validate and strengthen this vocation. To learn more about this year's award winners, see AIP's press release. Or, better yet, help the economy by buying the books at your favorite bookstore and a copy of Asteroid from the PBS website.


Pictured, en route from the SPIE editorial office in Bellingham, WA, are Stuart Wortzman, Peer X-Press Manager, and Carol Fleming, Director of Production Operations & Customer Service. Reaching out from coast to coast
The month of February saw AIP Director of Customer Relations Tom Thrash and key Publishing Services colleagues attend publisher meetings and make many visits to publishers' offices, from cold and windy Washington, DC, to the snowy Pacific Northwest. These trips have allowed AIP to spend some quality time with staff of such organizations as the American Astronomical Society; the American Society of Civil Engineers; AVS: Science and Technology of Materials, Interfaces, and Processing; Earthquake Engineering Research Institute; and SPIE. Face-to-face interactions are integral to gaining insight into customer needs. A number of additional customer site visits are being planned for the coming months. A useful overview of AIP Publishing Services is found here.

SPS member Jodie Barker-Tvedtnes and her daughter Kalila look out and wonder. Credit: Donna Barry/Utah State University On a roll with a year of "year of's"
Even with the spring equinox upon us, the Education Division is not yet done celebrating the dawn of 2009! The Society of Physics Students (SPS) and Sigma Pi Sigma are joining organizations around the country and the world in celebration of the International Year of Astronomy (IYA 2009) and the Year of Science (YoS 2009). The SPS National Council chose A Universe of Wonder as the theme for 2009 in honor of these celebrations.

To spread the sense of awe and surprise that Galileo must have felt at seeing craters on the Moon and satellites orbiting Jupiter, SPS joins other IYA 2009 participants in their cornerstone Galileoscope project (see the February 23 issue of AIP Matters). These working scientific instruments will be an integral part of the 2009 SPS SOCKs (Science Outreach Catalyst Kits).

Year of Science 2009 websiteHow do we know what we know? From astronomy to zoology, YoS 2009 aims to increase public understanding of the process and nature of science. SPS has collaborated with APS and other organizations in the COPUS network (Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science) to produce experiments, stories, physicist profiles, games, videos, and other content for March's "Physics and Technology" thematic hub on the YoS 2009 website. SPS is spearheading an experiment on the science of rolling objects. Anyone can contribute data by doing a few rolling experiments and submitting the results on the YoS 2009 website.

Another meeting?
Many AIP employees travel to meetings around the country and sometimes around the world. AIP also performs many different functions at Member Society and other professional society meetings, from exhibiting to running the exhibit floor, from presenting to coordinating student involvement, from meeting with customers to running a job fair. Coordinating AIP's presence at external meetings will contribute to developing better relations with our most important stakeholders. As a first step in this direction, we have created a tool accessible through the Human Resources website titled "Notice of Meeting Attendance," where employees can share their plans with the greater AIP community. This information is fed into a spreadsheet summarizing AIP staff involvement at each meeting. It can be used by business units to leverage resources and promote collaborations across divisions, and by travelers seeking to join forces with colleagues in making travel plans. Please use the tool regularly, so we can optimize its effectiveness.

Who we are—Center for History of Physics and Niels Bohr Library & Archives
The Center for History of Physics (CHP), under the direction of Greg Good, and the Niels Bohr Library and Archives, led by Joe Anderson, are two units of the Physics Resources Center that work very closely together. Their shared mission is to "preserve and make known the history of physics and allied sciences." They encourage the preservation of manuscripts, oral history interviews, images, books, and other resources that reflect the heritage of the physical sciences, and also collaborate on documentation research projects. The center and the library work with AIP Member Societies and with individual members of the physics community to preserve their history. The Exhibits website extends their reach worldwide. In 2008, exhibits on Einstein, Marie Curie, and 10 other topics saw more than 39 million page views. The CHP and library staff (shown on pages 50–51 of the organizational chart) appear below.

Center for History of Physics and Niels Bohr Library & Archives Staff

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