Emeritus Faculty Association #123, April 2007
Next Meeting: Friday 13 April. 10.30 am Javits room, 2nd floor library.
Note: usual place but NOT usual date. After both Brookhaven Lab and Rennaissance Technology recently featured colloquia on cosmology so we too are getting into the act. Kenneth Lanzetta (Astronomy) will give a talk about recent developments, entitled "The New Age of Precision Cosmology".
Since Hubble's discovery of the expansion of the Universe in the 1930's, cosmologists worldwide have sought to measure the parameters that describe our cosmological world model. But these are difficult measurements to make, and until very recently, even the most fundamental cosmological parameters--like the rate of the expansion and the age of the Universe--have been uncertain by factors of two.
Over the past several years, a variety of new measurements by ground- and space-based astronomical telescopes have pinned down the cosmological parameters to within unprecedented precision, ushering in what some have called a "new age of precision cosmology." With these new measurements in hand, cosmologists have been emboldened to push beyond the standard questions of cosmology and to ask new questions that address the formation of structure in our Universe.
In this lecture, Prof. Lanzetta will describe the new measurements of the age of precision cosmology and will discuss how these measurements have affected our thinking about the nature of the Universe.
Kenneth M. Lanzetta is a Professor of Physics and Astronomy in the Department of Physics and Astronomy of Stony Brook University. He obtained a BA in Physics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983 and a PhD in Physics from the University of Pittsburgh in 1988. He subsequently held a postdoctoral appointment at the Institute of Astronomy of the University of Cambridge in England and a postdoctoral Hubble Fellowship at the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences of the University of California, San Diego before joining the faculty of Stony Brook University in 1993. His research interests span various disciplines of observational cosmology, including quasar absorption lines, galaxy formation and evolution, and evolution of the intergalactic medium. He is a world-recognized expert on quasar absorption lines and on the development and application of image processing techniques utilizing large-scale scientific computing facilities for measurement of sensitive observations of faint galaxies.
Last Meeting, Friday, February 2
Homer Goldberg introduced the speaker, Les Paldy. After graduating from Stuyvesant High School in 1951, Les enlisted in the marines as a private and emerged from the Korean War as an infantry captain. In 1958 he joined Oyster Bay's second entering class. Among his teachers were Clifford Swartz, Arnold Feingold, Leonard Eisenbud, Herb Muether, Sei Sujishi, Bob Schneider, Fausto Ramirez, Albert Carlson, and Bob DeZafra. After graduate study at Maryland and Hofstra, in 1967 he returned to Stony Brook as a member of the physics faculty. He subsequently served as dean of the Center for Continuing Education (now SPD) from 1976 to 1985 and since 1990 has been Distinguished Service Professor of Technology and Society. Editor of The Journal of College Science Teaching for twenty-six years, he also served as associate editor of The Physics Teacher under Cliff Swartz, and on the editorial board of Physics Today. He is the recipient of teaching awards from the American Association of Physics Teachers and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. But he is perhaps best known locally as the husband of Judith Paldy, a fellow Oyster Bay graduate who taught biology and other sciences for a quarter century at Murphy Junior High School.
Les began by reviewing nuclear testing proposals over the past several presidencies, beginning with Eisenhower,who expressed his hope that nuclear testing could be stopped. President Kennedy, shocked to learn that radioactive rain was falling on eastern states as a result of above-ground nuclear testing in Nevada, and taking notice of the anti-nuclear protests outside the White House, sent Averell Harriman to Moscow. He returned with Khrushchev's agreement to halt all aboveground nuclear testing. President Johnson proposed a treaty whereby the U.S. would provide any nation forgoing nuclear weapons development the technology for peaceful use of atomic energy, an offer that still stands. The Nixon-Ford administration proposed setting a limit on the size of underground nuclear explosions (10 times the size of the Hiroshima bomb), but the Senate failed to ratify the treaty. Carter proposed a treaty to stop testing entirely, but was opposed by the testing laboratories and members of Congress. Reagan insisted that any testing limitation agreement must allow American inspectors on the Soviet testing site. (No complete ban on testing is politically possible in the United States because of the economic benefits to states where there are weapons laboratories: New Mexico, Nevada, California, and Texas. An estimated four trillion dollars of weapons research money have been poured into these areas since l945.)
Les traces his own interest in nuclear testing to a talk given by Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling at the campus Peace Center in 1967. His professional involvement began in the early 1980s, when Bob Gallucci, a Stony Brook graduate serving in the State Department, invited him to Washington as a visiting scholar, to see how things "really worked." As a result of this and subsequent visits, in 1989, the first Bush administration invited Les to join the State Department delegation to Geneva negotiating a nuclear testing limitation agreement with the Russians, a process that eventually reached a nuclear testing agreement with president Mikhail Gorbachev at the 1990 Washington Summit. At Geneva Les learned that inter-agency struggles within the American delegation were often more difficult than negotiations with the Russians, the State Department wanting an agreement with the Russians but the Defense Department opposed. General consternation, and adjournment for panic messages back to Washington, occurred one time when a meeting opened and the Russians unexpectedly announced that they agreed to U.S. demands. Bush's purpose was to demonstrate to the world that the U.S. wanted limitations placed on nuclear testing without, however, outlawing testing entirely.
The Russian delegation was similarly divided by inter-agency rivalries.
A major problem arose when the Russians insisted that no American observer would be allowed at the Russian test site, yet at the same time were reluctant to allow any American test measurement equipment to be present lest the equipment in fact be for the purpose of spying on the Russians. This and other obdurate technical problems might have stalled the Geneva deliberations indefinitely, were it not for decisive actions by the political leaders on both sides. Once Russian Foreign Secretary Schevernadze met with Secretary of State Baker at Baker's Montana ranch and reached an overall agreement, they so informed their Geneva negotiators, instructing them to reconcile their outstanding differences quickly. Under this pressure from above, the impasse over American surveillance of the Russian test site was resolved when the Americans agreed to ship two plane loads of equipment to Russia, inviting the Russians to dismantle and examine either one of them, leaving the other intact and functioning -- a compromise that doubled the cost of this technology from $10 million to $20 million. Bush and Gorbachev later signed the agreement, although, to Les's disappointment, he and the other Geneva delegates were not invited to the White House signing ceremony.
The major conclusion Les drew from his experience is that if the leaders of two countries want an agreement, an agreement will follow regardless of technical difficulties and bureaucratic opposition (and vice versa if they don't!). Applying this principle to the current efforts to negotiate with North Korea, it is important to keep in mind that the North Korean leader carries with him the memory of the Korean War, when American planes bombed the North's cities and dams, and killed hundreds of thousands of Koreans, a history that could well make any negotiations more difficult than those with Russia.
Note: if you are reading this in the US-mailed newsletter, it will be easiest on your computer to access the pointers from the website "next meeting" version.
Former dean of Engineering and occasional visitor to our meetings, passed away on February 16. A private service was held in Huntington for family. An obituary contributed by emeritus Tom Liao, may be found here: http://www.sunysb.edu/est/news/jt.html
former chair of the English department, died on March 18. A memorial service was held Sunday 25 March at the Old Field Club.
Regular member of our group and former Professor and founding chair of Material Sciences, passed away on March 20.
Informative obituaries for the last two appear in the current issue of the Village Times Herald, see:
Click on page 19 and then click again to enlarge.
Nobel laureate and former professor of chemistry, died on 27 March. An obituary appeared in the New York Times, see:
More on Carbon Offsets
In the US media we continue to hear grumbling that Al Gore is overstating the case for the downside of global warming. However, about the same time as our own upcoming meeting, the IPPC (see last month's newsletter) is set to release the second of its four reports this year, predicting more dire effects by the end of the century. And with the administrations of California, UK, and France (unlike some other governments) undertaking serious action, and Earth day coming up, I (drs) thought it would be appropriate to expand on my remarks on carbon offsets. To wit, I am going to compute the carbon footprint of my own household.
First, and the largest component, is our house. By the usual professional yardstick (floorspace) this runs about 3000 square feet, perhaps a little on the large side, but much much less than most mc-mansions, here and nationally. Electricity for my lighting and minimal air conditioning is coming entirely from wind, because we pay extra for LIPA's 100 per cent wind enrollment option, (slightly dishonest - don't expect any relief from the company's surcharges imposed to pass on the increasing cost of oil!). To learn more, see https://www.windenrollment.com/CommunityWebEnrollment/WebEnrollment.aspx?pid=6&rid=0
For your house, if you have good sun exposure, you might also consider solar. You can estimate local installment cost at:
So my carbon footprint here is due solely to the gas to heat our house in the winter, and for our cooking. A calculation based on my zip code and last month's gas bill estimates it at 38,000 lbs carbon per annum (for this I averaged the last three years, since this February was unusually cold).
Next comes our travel. Again this is probably less than yours, because although we have two cars, they are both small and one is a hybrid. I am retired, and I use a bicycle for many of my errands. Based on the model-year of the cars and our low average mileage over the last 5 years, the carbon in our exhausts is only 4500 lbs. Airplane trips for my wife and me incorporate vacations with visits to far-flung family members. This is not more than 20,000 miles per year, with our share of the aviation fuel at 7,500 lbs carbon equivalent.
So our total carbon footprint is 50,000 lbs, which excludes the cost of transporting food across the world to us. (buy local produce!)
Its easy to do all these calculations for your own situation by visiting www.terrapass.com and following the simple instructions. Slightly different anwers result from the calculator at www.nativeenergy.com. While at either site you can also purchase an offset to render you and yours virtuous.
For our own household the "carbon tax" comes to $257 p.a.