Status Report

AIP FYI #150: House of Representatives Supports the World Year of Physics

By SpaceRef Editor
August 4, 2004
Filed under , ,

The field of physics and its practitioners received commendation on
Capitol Hill before Congress left town for August. In recognition
that next year has been designated the World Year of Physics by the
International Union of Pure and Applied Physics, on July 7 the House
of Representatives passed a resolution in support of physics and
physics education. “This resolution encourages the American public
to take note of the physics used every day and encourages them to
learn more about it,” said its sponsor, Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI). “I
hope that the American people will observe the World Year of Physics
by supporting physics education and research. I encourage
physicists and educators to engage the public, especially the
children, in physics to inspire the next generation of scientists
and engineers.”

The World Year of Physics in 2005 will be an international
celebration of the field, timed to honor the 100th anniversary of
the publication of Albert Einstein’s groundbreaking papers on the
special theory of relativity, the photoelectric effect, and Brownian
motion. In the U.S., the American Physical Society, the American
Association of Physics Teachers, and the American Institute of
Physics are leading efforts to organize events during the year, but
individual scientists, teachers, physics departments, laboratories,
science museums and other groups are encouraged to plan local events
in their communities. More information on the World Year of Physics
can be found at

The resolution, H.Con. Res. 301, was introduced by Ehlers for
himself and his fellow physicist in Congress, Rep. Rush Holt
(D-NJ). Other cosponsors of the resolution were Democratic Reps.
Brian Baird (WA), Michael Honda (CA), Edward Markey (MA), Jim
McDermott (WA), Donald Payne (NJ), Vic Snyder (AR), and Delegate
Madeleine Bordallo (Guam). In describing it on the House floor,
Ehlers said, “This resolution recognizes the important contributions
of physicists to technological progress and the health of many
industries…. As a physicist, I recognize the physics principles
that are part of our everyday lives. From mechanics and gravity to
optical technologies that enable our CD players, physics is all
around us. Through physics we can explore the depths of the
universe and black holes, as well as the tiniest parts of the
atom…. I think it is just absolutely marvelous that we can
explore our world in both the smaller and larger directions and have
not reached its limits at this point.” Ehlers praised the American
Physical Society for promoting the World Year of Physics, and
thanked Reps. Baird and Holt for their work on the resolution,
noting that he and Holt, “as the two physicists in the Congress,
have worked together closely on many issues.”

Baird remarked that he and other Members of Congress often turn to
Ehlers and Holt for help in understanding technological issues.
Physics, he said, “underpins all of science in some way, and so much
of our technology deals with the most fundamental understanding of
the properties of matter. Emerging fields such as nanotechnology,
information technology and biotechnology are substantially based on
the results of fundamental discoveries in physics.”

“Through physics,” Holt said, “we can explore the diverse phenomena
from the existence of black holes to the composition of the atom and
nucleus. Understanding mechanics, gravity and propulsion allowed us
to develop machinery, bridges and rockets while knowledge about
electricity and magnetism and matter led to lasers, light bulbs,
telescopes, fiber optics, the internet and the huge market of
consumer electronics.” He added that “Physics research will help us
to solve major new challenges in homeland security and find new
energy sources.”

The text of the resolution acknowledges the contributions of physics
to “knowledge, civilization, and culture,” its impact on “many
emerging fields in science and technology,” and its “vital role in
addressing many 21st-century challenges.” “Therefore, be it
resolved,” the resolution states, “by the House of Representatives
(the Senate concurring), that the Congress –

“(1) supports the goals and ideals of the World Year of Physics, as
designated by the General Assembly of the International Union of
Pure and Applied Physics;

“(2) encourages the American people to observe the World Year of
Physics as a special occasion for giving impetus to education and
research in physics as well as to the public’s understanding of

“(3) encourages all science-related government agencies and
nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, and the media to
highlight and give enhanced recognition to the role of physics in
social, cultural, and economic development as well as its positive
impact and contributions to society; and

“(4) encourages all those involved in physics education and research
to take additional steps, including strengthening existing and
emerging fields of physics research and promoting the public’s
understanding of physics, to ensure that support for physics
continues and that physics studies at all levels continue to attract
an adequate number of students.”

The resolution has been sent to the Senate, but with Congress out of
town until after Labor Day, very little time will be left to deal
with the FY 2005 appropriations and other critical legislation
before the November elections. That leaves prospects uncertain for
Senate action on this resolution.

Audrey T. Leath

Media and Government Relations Division

The American Institute of Physics

(301) 209-3094

SpaceRef staff editor.