Arms Control and Disarmament and Science and Society, Organizational Activities
I was an organizer and lecturer for the Union of Concerned Scientists Convocation against Nuclear War in 1981, and Regional Co-ordinator for the International Physicists Petition for a Nuclear Freeze. In 1987-88 I was a regional co-ordinator for the FAS Congressional Exchange Program, and more recently been active writing and lecturing on issues associated with National Missile Defense. I served on the American Physical Society Panel on Public Affairs for two years and served on a presidential candidacy Policy Planning Team. In February 2004, I was among a group of 62 prominent scientists that wrote a public statement regarding Scientific Integrity in Washington. I am on the Board of Scientists and Engineers for America, and the Board of Ohio Citizens for Science, and am Chair of the American Physical Society Forum on Physics and Society, Chair of the Physics Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and on the Board of Sponsors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. In 2007 I participated in a trans-atlantic press event unveiling the new Doomsday Clock, and associated with that I have been writing extensively on issues related to nuclear defense and nuclear proliferation, and the dangers associated with a new nuclear arms race. In 2009 I was named Co-Chair of the Bulletin’s Board of Sponsors and began embarking on a new set of activities designed to reduce the threat of nuclear war.
I have maintained a strong interest in science education at all levels, and had extensive teaching experience-from a university level to lectures for the general public. While still a student I worked with the Ontario Science Center, giving public demonstrations, and training staff there. At M.I.T. I ran a live phone-in T.V. program on physics for undergraduates, and was nominated for a teaching award for instruction during a semester in which I received the highest teaching evaluation score in the undergraduate course guide. During that time I also taught a one-semester science course in the Cambridge public school system. At Yale, I taught courses ranging from a general physics course for non-scientists, to advanced graduate courses in particle physics, and in cosmology. I also served for two years on the Yale Course of Study committee, where I played a major role in revising the science requirements for undergraduates. In 1991 I was named a Sigma Xi National Lecturer, and visited campuses and industries around the country for two years giving public lectures. I also directed a 3-day seminar for the Association of Yale Alumni entitled The Legacy of Newton. In 2006 I was named a Phi Beta Kappa National Visiting Scholar, to be lecturing to Phi Beta Kappa Chapters around the country.
At CWRU I have sponsored and/or organized outreach programs as well as lecturing to high school and public school students and teachers throughout Northeast Ohio, including visiting schools to lecture or talk to students about science, and participated in programs such as the Young Scholars Program, Science Olympiad, and served on the Executive Committee of the Board or Trustees of the Cleveland School for the Arts, where I initiated a science committee that still exists to enrich the science program at the school. In the physics department itself I supervised the overhauling of the undergraduate and graduate physics curricula, the establishment of new undergraduate laboratories, the creation of six new undegraduate major tracks, and one new graduate degree program, and the creation of a new public lecture series. I also brought together a group of faculty from science and the humanities to help establish the form the new Seminar Approach to General Education curriculum at Case.
I was involved in the preparation of a national curriculum on cosmology for high school teachers sponsored by the American Association of Physics Teachers, and presented a series of workshops for teachers based on a teaching manual I wrote. In 1999 I served as an outside adviser to MIT for their new program aimed at introducing writing and communication aspects across their science curriculum. I have also given presentations on teaching science at the National Teacher Training Institute, and at regional teachers meetings, and at the APS-AAPT national meeting in Columbus. I presented the opening lecture at the American Association of Physics Teachers meeting in San Antonio in 1999, and a Shell Lecture at the 2001 National Association of Science Teachers Conference in St. Louis. Most recently, in March 2002, I testified in a public presentation before the Ohio Board of Education on Science Standards for High School Science Classes in Ohio. I was an American Physical Society Centennial Lecturer in 1998. This year I was awarded the Oersted Medal by the AAPT, its highest recognition for teaching. I am in the process of preparing a new physics text for non-scientists, in association with Prentice-Hall. Finally, I have been on the executive committee of the board of trustees of the Great Lakes Science Center, the Board of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and the Board of the new Science Fiction Experience Museum in Seattle.
I pursued a research interest in Canadian History for several years, including one full year doing primary research at the Public Archives of Canada, Ontario, and a variety of private collections. During that time I was granted access to a variety of restricted materials from the files of the Attorney General of Ontario for work on the social history of the depression in Canada. Also during this period I helped edit a book on the Hutterites in Canada.
Popular writing, and Public Education
The popular science book I wrote in 1989 was named an Astronomy Book of the Year by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (1990) and was been translated into 4 languages. My next book appeared in 1993, was named among the “best books of the year” by Library Journal, and was translated in 12 languages. My next book, The Physics of Star Trek appeared simultaneously in audio tape format in 1995, and was translated into thirteen foreign languages following its success as a national bestseller in the U.S. in 1995, and the U.K. in 1996, selling over 250,000 copies in this country. My sixth book. Atom, appeared in April of 2001 and was awarded the American Institute of Physics Science Writing award. In addition I regularly contribute to various newspapers, magazines, radio and television programs on science issues both in the U.S. and around the world. In connection with my writing, I have given popular lectures at such places as the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and the Albert Einstein Planetarium at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, as well as appearing on numerous radio and television programs in the U.S., Canada and Europe---including three BBC documentaries, NPR Science Friday, NPR All Things Considered, Nova, The Discovery Channel, National Geographic, UPN, The Learning Channel, Good Morning America, CBC As It Happens, CBC Quirks and Quarks, Canada A.M, The Nature of Things. I have written popular articles for Scientific American, theMcGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science, Yearbook of Science, the Reference Encyclopedia of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Nature, Discover, Wired Magazine, Physics World Magazine, Wizard Magazine, and book reviews for a variety of magazines, including Science, American Scientist, Physics Today, The Sciences, New Scientist, and Natural History. I also hosted a web site for New Scientist Magazine, in which I responded to questions from readers about physics, and I now write a monthly commentary column in Nature, Physics. My latest book, Hiding in the Mirror, appeared in 2005, and I am under contract to complete a book for the Great Discoveries series on the Science of Richard Feynman. I was also involved in producing and appearing in several other documentaries, recently appeared with William Shatner in a documentary on the science of Star Trek, and hosting a documentary for Modern Marvels, by the History Channel. I am currently working on a 6 part documentary on Energy.
Science, Public Policy, and Society
I have become increasingly active, in both organizing, and speaking out on issues associated with science and society. I regularly write on science issues for the New York Times, and besides my monthly column in Nature Physics, my opinion pieces have appeared in such newspapers the L.A. Times, the International Herald Tribune, The Washington Post, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, as well as magazines including New Scientist, Discover, Seed, and TV Guide. I am a commentator for both Public Radio International, and National Public Radio, with commentaries airing on both Marketplace, and Morning Edition. I have also appeared on national television news programs, including Nightline, Lehrer News Hour, ABC News, and Fox News. In addition to my writing, and lecturing (I give on average 20-30 public lectures on these issues each year), I have become increasingly active in organizing on two different issues: scientific integrity in government, and the attack on science teaching in our public schools. I helped lead the effort in Ohio during the period 2002-2006, during which we ultimately successfully fought back an effort to alter the science standards and curricula in the public schools aimed at attacking the teaching of Evolution in science classes, and have spoken in states such as Kansas and Colorado on this issue, as well as advising lawyers in Dover Pennsylvania during the trial there. In 2005 I worked actively and successfully to get the Vatican to re-affirm their commitment that evolution was consistent with Catholic Theology. In addition, I have worked actively to combat efforts to censor and distort the results of science in government advisory panels, public documents etc, and was one of 60 scientists who wrote a public letter to the President on this issue. I currently am on the board of DEFCON (Defense of the Constitution) and the Board of Sponsors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. In 2006 I created the organization Help Ohio Public Education, which recruited pro-science candidates for State School Board elections. All of our candidates were successfully elected. In Dec 2007, I helped establish and joined the steering committee of ScienceDebate2008, a group that now represents more than 100 major organizations calling for a Presidential Debate on Science and Technology.
Science and Faith
Associated with my activities promoting the understanding of science, and also defending science against attack, I have become increasingly active in thinking and writing about issues associated with science and spirituality. Because of the increasing apparent popular conflict between these two distinct areas of human intellectual activity it is particularly important that an intellectually rigorous exploration of the nature of science and its possible impact upon faith be carried out. In my own case, this has been an evolving intellectual journey. While I initially focused on the separate natures of science and spirituality, I have responded to what I perceive as inappropriate misunderstandings of both science and faith by trying to elucidate the role that science can and cannot play in our understanding of possible purpose and design in nature and by trying to demonstrate how science must both guide faith but also how it is possible to enrich it. At the same time I have tried to emphasize the limitations of science when it comes to spiritual understanding. My efforts have focused on writing for a popular audience, and more recently have taken part in various academic forums on these issues, including delivering one of the 2006 Terry Centennial Lectures on Science and Faith at Yale University. Interestingly, my own scientific work, which has focused in part on eschatological issues in the past few years, has interesting implications for our understanding of our place in the Universe in both a spatial and temporal sense, of relevance to the general questions of origin, and purpose in the universe.
University Educational Leadership
In 1993, I moved to Case Western Reserve University to become Chairman of the Physics Department in order to oversee a major revitalization of the department and its facilities, and also to help in launching the new College of Arts and Sciences. During the twelve years of my Chairmanship, we completed a six million dollar renovation of the Physics research and teaching facilities, hired nine outstanding new faculty, created a new nationally recognized research group in particle astrophysics with a strong theoretical group and new experimental programs ranging from dark matter detection to high energy gamma ray astrophysics, overhauled the undergraduate and graduate curricula, increased the size of the past two sophomore classes of physics majors to 28 students (perhaps the largest set of physics majors per capita of any leading research university), built and outfitted a new set of introductory physics laboratories which now service over 600 undergraduates per year, created a new Engineering Physics major, a new Bachelor of Arts in Physics degree, a new BS in Mathematics and Physics, a new BS Physics degree with a concentration in Biophysics, and created two new prominent public lecture series. The departmental college-funded operating budget increased by $300,000, and we obtained in excess of 5 million dollars in sponsored research funds per year, and raised over $8 million in new endowments from outside donors. According to the most recent national ranking of Ph. D. programs in Physics, the department ranked 16th in the country, up from 108th before I became Chair.
At the College level I have been heavily involved in various College and University projects, including fundraising, planning, and curricular issues. I have also worked intimately with the University Development Office, the Office of Alumni affairs, and the Case Alumni Association in fundraising both within Cleveland and around the world. I have taken a leadership role in visiting donors, lecturing to alumni groups, and preparing proposals for foundation support. In 1994, and again in 2006 I was elected to a three year term on the faculty Senate, dealing with University-wide issues. I have served on the Provosts advisory committee on tenure and promotion for the Business School, and also been involved on two long-term committees that have served to familiarize me with most aspects of university affairs. First, I served on the committee overseeing a year-long self-study in 1995 associated with the successful re-accreditation of CWRU, focusing on different areas of University activity, including electronic learning, undergraduate education, research, and continuing education. Next, in 1996-97, and again in 1997-98 I served on a Search Committee for Vice President for Research.Since this was a new position in 1996, the committee spent considerable effort exploring its possible scope and duties. When the position again became vacant in 1997, the new committee interviewed individuals both locally and nationally to gain advice on a variety of issues, focusing on the important question of technology transfer. As a result, I became much more aware of the challenges, and opportunities involved in this important area. I fostered the creation of an exciting new Masters Program in Physics Entrepreneurship, which we hope will be used as a new model for graduate education in physics at a national level. I raised 1.5 Million dollars to initiate this program, and have helped publicize it nationally. This program has recently been extended to incorporate other science departments at CWRU. Our first two entering classes have garnered three major business plan competition awards, and already two new companies have been created. I also served on the University Stakeholders committee, appointed by the President to raise our profile locally and nationally.
Based on my interests in expanding the research profile of the University, I was asked to Chair a President’s Commission on Graduate Education and Research, which examined ways to alter the University administrative structure and fundraising priorities in order to enhance the research and graduate education at CWRU. This commission produced a report in April of 2004, and on that basis a new Research Council has been established, of which I am a member.
I have led the creation of a new Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University, in coordination with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. This center will ultimately support the growth of the nationally ranked experimental and theoretical research program that we have built at CWRU, as well as play a leadership role in enhancing public understanding of developments in cosmology and astrophysics by (1) bringing in CERCA fellows, postdoctoral researchers who will work with faculty here, and will also interact with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History Shafran Planetarium to help develop new graphical presentations of forefront developments in cosmology and astrophysics, (2) hosting senior scientists who will visit for short terms, (3) sponsoring public lectures and conferences. The inaugural event sponsored by CERCA, and funded in part by the Kavli Foundation, was a conference on the Future of Cosmology, part of which was broadcast nationally on NPR, and which featured public lectures by Steven Weinberg and Stephen Hawking.
I have also played a key role in helping shape the form of the new Seminar Approach to General Education requirements, which was instituted in 2005 for all undergraduates at CWRU. This program was under development for several years, through a pilot process, and a great deal of discussion and debate has been taking place within the faculty to determine its final form. I led a small subcommittee of colleagues from the Humanities and Science Departments to help develop a proposal that was able to overcome an impasse in the deliberations, and which helped shape the final form of the proposal that was approved by the College of Arts and Sciences in the spring of 2004.
During the period 2005-7, I took a variety of different roles at the University, including helping to plan for the new West Quad Research Complex for the Medical School, Chairing an external Strategic Planning committee for the Dept. of Chemistry, and Chairing the Advisory Committee on Research Computing for the VP for Information Technology Services.
In 2008, I moved to Arizona State University to Direct the ASU Origins Project which will become a national center for research and education in issues associated with Origins, including origins of the universe, the galaxy, the solar system, human origins, origins of cognition, etc. This will also involve new undergraduate and graduate teaching paradigms and public outreach programs, the first of which was a major Origins Symposium held April 3-6, 2009, and live broadcast on the web (see www.origins.asu.edu). I also am co-directing a Cosmology Initiative (see www.cosmology.asu.edu).