Physicists Fear Civil War

Particle physicists battle solid-state physicists over slice of a shrinking pie BALTIMORE--Inside the gleaming vaults of the Baltimore Convention Center last month, 1,900 researchers were giving 1,200 talks, seminars, and press conferences, all part of the usually festive spring meeting of the American Physical Society. But in the corridors, much of the talk was anything but festive. The APS is torn by a bitter internal squabble pitting the society’s largest constituency, 9,000 solid-s

Charles Mann
May 15, 1988

Particle physicists battle solid-state physicists over slice of a shrinking pie

BALTIMORE--Inside the gleaming vaults of the Baltimore Convention Center last month, 1,900 researchers were giving 1,200 talks, seminars, and press conferences, all part of the usually festive spring meeting of the American Physical Society. But in the corridors, much of the talk was anything but festive. The APS is torn by a bitter internal squabble pitting the society’s largest constituency, 9,000 solid-state physicists, against its smaller but better-known group of 4,700 high-energy physicists. Reduced to its most basic level, this is a battle between advocates of Big and Little Science, or, given the actual size of the funding requests involved, between Big and Not-So-Big Science. It comes in the era of the Great Deficit, so money is tight. Condensed-matter physicists want a big infusion of funds to explore high-temperature superconductors. Particle physicists want to build the super-conducting supercollider,...

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