APS Honors Physics Professor For Research Contributions
Alma College Professor Cameron Reed has been granted Fellowship in the American Physical Society, the largest organization of physicists in the country, for his contributions to the history of both the physics and development of nuclear weapons in the Manhattan Project.
Nominated a year ago, Reed was officially elected by the APS Council at the organization’s November 2009 meeting. The organization limits this honorary recognition to one-half of one percent of its members per year.
“For him to read the papers I was writing, I was really kind of flabbergasted,” says Reed of the retired physicist who nominated him. “I was humbled and honored when he put this forward.”
While Reed’s background is in astronomy, some of the physics involved in stars, such as how they shine and function, isn’t so dissimilar from nuclear weapons, he says. Because of this, he is able to apply his knowledge in both areas to his teaching.
A lot of the basic physics that was learned by scientists while developing the first nuclear weapons in the 1930s is still applicable to today’s students.
“There is a breadth of physics involved,” says Reed of the Manhattan Project, the U.S. government-led initiative during World War II that resulted in the development of the first atomic bomb. “Every course in a physics curriculum has, in some way, connection to it, so I am able to go into a classroom and talk to students about it.”
In addition to the physics of the project, Reed finds the history to be interesting as well. This includes the people, politics and process involved.
“When a nuclear weapon is detonated, it takes one microsecond for the whole reaction to happen,” says Reed. “It’s literally not even a blink of an eye, yet the engineering has to be incredibly precise.”
While many books describe the project in non-technical terms for the average reader, Reed thought the science community might find technical details helpful. He has published about a dozen educational papers about the various aspects of the project, which resulted in a book.
His ultimate goal is to write a book about the project that combines descriptive prose supplemented by technical calculations.
Posted: Tue, December 1st, 2009 at 4:27PM