December 1997 Physics Today Contents


Ancient Stardust in the Laboratory

As it collapsed to form the Solar System, material in the solar nebula was churned up and homogenized. But not everything was lost in the mix... -- Thomas J. Bernatowicz and Robert M. Walker

The Foundation of the Silicon Age

The transistor was the product of basic research with a clear technological goal, but although the new technology was anticipated, its revolutionary impact was not -- Ian M. Ross

The Moses of Silicon Valley

How did the epicenter of the semiconductor industry come to be located in California, a continent away from New Jersey, where the transistor was invented and most of the fundamental semiconductor technology was developed? -- Michael Riordan and Lillian Hoddeson


Search and Discovery

Work on atom trapping and cooling gets a warm reception in Stockholm. An atom at room temperature zips around at thousands of kilometers per hour. A hit by a single photon barely fazes it. Yet somehow, researchers have harnessed radiation forces to slow atoms to a few centimeters per second and trap them in place. For that feat, this year's Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded.
       ** An article on this work by two of the laureates, and related links

Optical frequency measurement is getting a lot more precise. A new trick for the repeated halving of optical frequency intervals now permits the measurement of optical atomic transitions with unprecedented accuracy.

New results suggest x-ray emission is a common property of comets.
      The brandisht Sword of God before them blaz'd
      Fierce as a Comet; which with torrid heat,
      And vapour as the
Libyan Air adust,
      Began to parch that Temperate Clime . . .
-- J. Milton, Paradise Lost

Washington Reports

With Republicans and science societies in the lead, Congress may try to double R&D budget by 2008

US formally rejects leaked claim that Russia violated CTBT with test

Lax security at nuclear weapons labs leads DOE to strengthen precautions

Washington ins & outs: Kerr heads FBI crime lab; O'Toole and Alm leave DOE

Washington dispatches: Clash of cultures; Industrial R&D rises; Clinton shoots down asteroid missions

Physics Community

Los Alamos's new director must get stockpile stewardship in gear, grapple with locals' concerns. Depending on one's point of view, John Browne is seen either as bringing a good mix of experience and personality to his new job as Los Alamos's director, or as being too entrenched in the lab to make changes.

SNO gets set to go

University of California reviews its physics programs

Rossnagel is president-elect of AVS for 1998

Ippen will lead OSA in 2000

IBM will open research center in India

Web Watch: Two NSF program solicitations; RISE (Resources for Involving Scientists in Education); StarPages

Brief: Burroughs Wellcome Fund


Fashions in science and technology -- Rolf Landauer


Image and Logic: A Material Culture of Microphysics, P. Galison (reviewed by W. K. H. Panofsky)
       ** This book was excerpted in our November issue

The Neutron and the Bomb: A Biography of Sir James Chadwick, A. Brown (reviewed by R. R. Stuewer)

The Critical Point: A Historical Introduction to the Modern Theory of Critical Phenomena, C. Domb (reviewed by M. Wortis)

Atom Interferometry, edited by P. R. Berman (reviewed by V. Kharchenko)

Microdosimetry and Its Applications, H. H. Rossi and M. Zaider (reviewed by W. Bolch)

How Nature Works: The Science of Self-Organized Criticality, P. Bak (reviewed by S. Bhattacharya)

Electrons and Phonons in Semiconductor Multilayers, B. K. Ridley (reviewed by P. J. Price)


Our regular sections: Physics Update, Letters, New Products, We Hear That, and Information Exchange.


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