Director's Matters

I hope you had an enjoyable Fourth of July weekend. In honor of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009), I've asked Greg Good, director of the Center for History of Physics, to offer some insights on physicist-astronomer-philosopher Galileo Galilei.

Greg Good Galileo: Getting past the icons
When we think about the heritage of physics, we naturally turn to its icons: Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Galileo. Icons serve as images—ideals which are often uncritically admired. The iconic Galileo has no faults and no peers. If we adhere only to this part of the heritage, we impoverish the history we tell and we limit our understanding of what physics is.

Galileo Galileo illustrates how much lies beyond the icon. All physicists know that Galileo discovered the law of falling bodies: the distance a body falls is proportional to the square of the time of fall. Physicists may not know just how difficult that discovery was for him. Because this law is taught in the first semester of intro physics, teachers may treat it as simple and obvious. Students often don't find it to be either. Students may be comforted to realize that Galileo struggled too in his investigations of falling bodies.

Galileo faced several serious challenges in this project before he could even consider a law or its proof. The only mathematics he or anyone else trusted in 1600 was the mathematics of ratios of like to like. This, compounded with the surprising (to us) fact that neither Galileo nor any of his contemporaries shared our concept of velocity, led to Galileo's first developments. He defined velocity and he developed the math that allowed him to investigate balls rolling down an inclined plane. By 1604 he had achieved these preliminary results that we take as axiomatic. As Stillman Drake, the Galileo scholar, wrote in Scientific American in 1973, "There is no logic to [Galileo's] foregoing procedure except for the logic of discovery." Physics at the cutting edge is never obvious.

Galileo manuscript As for his peers, Galileo proudly associated with mathematicians and workmen in dockyards. His work on defining velocity involved both physical principles and observing pile drivers at work. In 1597, Galileo and hired artisans started to build a mechanical calculating device, which he sold to architects and surveyors. Ten years later he heard of Hans Lipperhey's telescope and set about improving it. He needed something spectacular to attract patronage. But he also observed the Moon and more, although so did Thomas Harriot (first), Christoph Scheiner, and many others. The non-iconic Galileo did indeed face challenges in his work. And he did not work alone.

Readers may learn more by visiting an exhibit at Philadelphia's Franklin Institute: Galileo, the Medici and the Age of Astronomy. The show runs through September 7. The American Astronomical Society has been working with IYA2009 organizers on the Galileoscope project. You can replicate Galileo's observations by using this high-quality, low-cost tool.


Scitation reaches a new level
Scitation C3
Scitation C3 has arrived with release of the public beta site for AIP's Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy (JRSE). The release is an important milestone in the evolution of the Scitation platform, with the core C3 platform components in place. An XML-based workflow for publication content enables the rendering of in-line math using Unicode and CSS directly in the browser. The new Mark Logic search engine delivers faceted search results based on authors, keywords, section headings, and publication year. Highlighted search terms and tabbed result sets distinguish peer-reviewed content from editorial content. Smart tables of content will be the new standard on C3, helping time-pressed researchers quickly scan and navigate to content of interest. Improved accessibility options, user-friendly URLs, and many other enhancements are built on a flexible platform that will allow publishers and Scitation staff to easily adapt layout and styling according to a publisher's unique preferences. We invite you to explore these new features on the JRSE beta site, and would appreciate your feedback by completing a survey accessible through the homepage.

Sauncy takes reToni Sauncy with former SPS students at the Sigma Pi Sigma Congressins of the SPS Council
Toni Sauncy, associate professor and Society of Physics Students (SPS) chapter advisor at Angelo State University (ASU) in San Angelo, TX, was recently elected president of SPS. Her election comes on the heels of two terms as the councilor for SPS Zone 13. Sauncy has been actively involved with SPS since her first days at ASU—the chapter has achieved SPS Outstanding Chapter status every year since 2001. In addition, Sauncy was honored nationally as the 2007 SPS Outstanding Chapter Advisor. She regularly supervises undergraduate research projects and secures travel funding for 12-15 students to attend the SPS Zone 13 meeting each year. About half of these students deliver presentations on their research projects. The ASU SPS chapter also embarks on an annual outreach tour with their Peer Pressure Team.

During her two-year term, Sauncy's duties as SPS president include chairing the SPS Executive Committee, presiding over meetings of the Council, and representing SPS to the AIP Governing Board and the AIP Advisory Committee on Physics Education. Meet the rest of the 2009-10 SPS Council at

PTCN joins IEEE Computer Society at Interop
Justin Steward with IEEE Computer Society representatives at InteropMay 19-21, Physics Today Career Network exhibited with IEEE Computer Society, a PTCN partner, at Interop Las Vegas 2009. Interop is a business technology event that provides a forum for presenting industry innovations and solutions. PTCN senior technical marketing and sales coordinator Justin Stewart was on hand to support the IEEE Computer Society staff in promoting their Career Center. Staff acquired several job posting leads at the booth and by meeting informally with other exhibitors, and job seekers were able to create Career Center accounts on-site.

Who we are—Facility Services (NY)
Led by Thea Cohen and Deborah Frost, the Facility Services department performs several functions that support daily operations at AIP's Melville location: maintenance, office services, reception, the mailroom, and purchasing. They also serve as liaison with our landlord, We're Associates.

Facility Services (see the organizational chart, pages 8 and 17) is responsible for the upkeep of the Melville office space, cubicle reconfiguration, and setup and breakdown of conference rooms for meetings. The office services team provides coffee service, coordinates catering for building events, and supplies AIP stationery for most business units. The receptionist answers the main phone line, greets visitors, and issues access badges to guests. Both office services staff and the receptionist perform clerical duties for departments with frequent mailings. Mailroom personnel process the mail, provide shipping and receiving services, and maintain the photocopiers and the office supply inventory room. The purchasing team researches products and services, and negotiates pricing with vendors for all AIP business units. Several Member Societies also take advantage of AIP's mailroom and purchasing services in the interest of efficiency.

Facility Services, from the left: Peter O’Hara, Joan Palmisano, Bruce Schweinfest, Jean Anne Pizzano, Joanne Santangelo, Maria Klaum, Thea Cohen, Deborah Frost, Phil Caccioppoli and Dotty Mistretta.

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