Friday, October 7, 2005
Half of the Prize went to Roy Glauber, 80, a Harvard theorist who
continues to teach freshman physics. The other half was divided
between John Hall, 71, and Theodor Haensch, 63. Hall is a Senior
Scientist at NIST and a Fellow at the University of Colorado's
JILA. Haensch directs the Max-Planck-Institute for Quantum
Optics in Munich, Germany. Optics was regarded as a mature area
of physics before the invention of the laser in 1960, which made
all sorts of new experiments possible. At Harvard, Roy Glauber,
then 35, began recasting optics in terms of quantum theory. His
work provided the mathematical basis for Hall and Haensch to
develop techniques to measure frequencies with the accuracy
needed for atomic clocks and global positioning systems.
Today it was announced that Mohammed ElBaradei, director general
of the International Atomic Energy Agency, was the co-winner of
the 2005 Peace Prize, along with the agency he heads. It was a
stunning vindication of ElBaradei, who was reelected to a third
term as IAEA director in June only after the U.S. grudgingly
withdrew its opposition. Before the U.S. invasion, ElBaradei and
the IAEA repeatedly insisted, over American objections, that Iraq
had no weapons of mass destruction. None have ever been found.
Timing is everything. Yesterday, before the Peace Prize was
announced, President Bush delivered what the White House said
would be a major speech about progress in the War on Terrorism.
To a predictably friendly audience at the National Endowment for
Democracy, the President declared that 10 terrorist plots around
the world have been thwarted since 9-11. After the speech, the
White House began making a list. This is like a boy making a
list of the naughty things he hasn't done in hopes of a reward.
We can only admire the President's restraint in stopping at ten.
Balance is a good thing for tour boats, but it makes no sense at
all applied to religious explanations of the geology of the Grand
Canyon. A story in yesterday's NY Times by Jodi Wilgoren
followed two expeditions down the canyon, one led by a Christian
fundamentalist minister, the other by Dr. Eugenie Scott, a
geologist and the director of the National Center for Science
Education. The story could have been educational. It wasn't.
All a non-scientist could take from the story is that there are
two ways to interpret what you see in the canyon.
On Monday, a relatively rare annular eclipse was seen across
Spain and Portugal, which happens if the moon is at its apogee
and doesn't quite cover the Sun's disk. "It's quite spectacular,"
an Associated Press account in the NY Times quoted Dr. Stephen
Maran of the American Astrological Society. Yes, it was.