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Spotlight on Hidden Physicists
Ben Stein, Director, Inside Science, American Institute of Physics
Twenty-five years ago, I was, like you may have been once, a physics major and Society of Physics Students member. One of my favorite ways of taking a break during a study session at the science library was to go to the newspaper stacks, get the Tuesday New York Times, and read the latest science news. I know what you are thinking—what are newspaper stacks? There’s no hiding the fact that news dissemination has changed dramatically since I was an undergraduate. Technology pushed the stacks aside, and, as a result, it’s now easier than ever to keep up with the latest research advances.
I have been fortunate to be a part of this news evolution, ever since I traded in my college lab notebook for a reporter’s notebook in grad school. Equipped with a bachelor’s in physics and master’s in science journalism, I began my career in science communication. Within a year I was working in the American Physical Society’s newsroom at a major national physics meeting, helping to inform famous science correspondents about a new discovery concerning the afterglow of the big bang that would win the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics. Between 2007 and 2011, I was the director of media relations at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland, where I got an inside look at physicists developing the latest quantum-computing technology and studying the behavior of ultracold gases unbelievably close to absolute zero. My physics background gave me the ability to understand and communicate these amazing scientific accomplishments to a wide audience, including my nonscientist family members.
To this day, my most treasured experience has been helping to create Inside Science, a nonprofit news service for the general public that covers research developments in all fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Produced at the American Institute of Physics in College Park, Maryland, Inside Science publishes news articles, videos, guest columns, and blog entries prepared in an accurate, engaging way and picked up by other news outlets. Visit Inside Science’s website (www.insidescience.org) to watch students fire ping-pong balls faster than the speed of sound through solid aluminum, find out how the fascinating D-Wave quantum computer is raising new questions, learn how only eight percent of Usain Bolt’s energy usage contributed to his world-record-setting performance, and read about one physicist’s theory that our universe may be inside a black hole. I never knew a newspaper stack that could deliver all of that in one fell swoop, and it brings me enormous satisfaction to help spread the word about science.
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