Physics Essays Journal Review Classifieds

JUST PUBLISHED - Please click below on the title of the article of interest

Volume 31: Pages 104-107, 2018


Description of selected hexaquark states in terms of a first-order mass formula


J. J. Bevelacqua


Bevelacqua Resources, 343 Adair Drive, Richland, Washington 99352, USA



Volume 31: Pages 99-103, 2018


The photon element


Brian B. K. Min


Oxford Business Park, 3160 De La Cruz Boulevard, Santa Clara, California 95054, USA



Volume 31: Pages 89-98, 2018


The constancy of the speed of light


Maciej B. Szymanski


10 Coles Court, Halton Hills, Ontario L7J 2L8, Canada



Volume 31: Pages 81-88, 2018


Unification of gravitational and electromagnetic fields


Ling Jun Wang


University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, 615 McCallie Avenue, Chattanooga, Tennessee 37403, USA



Volume 31: Pages 68-80, 2018


Lorentz transformation and time dilation


Benjamin B. Dayton


209 S. Hillandale Drive, East Flat Rock, North Carolina 28726, USA



Volume 31: Pages 59-67, 2018


Measuring Zitterbewegung predicted by the Dirac equation for a free electron


James H. Wilson


Jove Sciences, Inc., 3834 Vista Azul, San Clemente, California 92672, USA




From 1980 until 1991, I served as the first Editor-in-Chief of all the journals of the American Physical Society: Physical Review, Physical Review Letters, and Reviews of Modern Physics. I remember well my first days on the job, asking Bill Havens, the Executive Secretary, and Joe Burton, the Treasurer, what I should do. Both Bill and Joe gamely responded that it was my job to define the job. Sam Goudsmit had served as Editor-in-Chief from 1966 to 1974, but his duties did not include responsibility for Reviews of Modern Physics. After Goudsmit’s retirement in 1974, the Editor-in-Chief position was not filled until I was appointed in 1980. By that time APS had decided to make the Editor-in-Chief an officer at the same level as the Treasurer and the Executive Secretary (now the Executive Officer).

David Lazarus. Photo from Department of Physics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, courtesy AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives.

The immediate problem facing the American Physical Society publications at the time, including Physical Review Letters, was that they were losing money (about half a million dollars per year) and published the work of too few non-U.S. physicists. Physical Review Letters was the brainchild of Goudsmit, a brilliant physicist and a tough manager [1, 2] . Goudsmit’s central insight was to have one journal, Physical Review, dedicated to longer work and another, Physical Review Letters, dedicated to shorter, promptly reported work; a publication in Physical Review Letters could be no more than four pages long. Under Goudsmit’s early leadership, Physical Review Letters became very popular and highly respected.

To increase the relative contributions from physicists from other nations and to encourage more submissions generally, I put in place two reforms: First, I reinvigorated the policy that authors publishing in Physical Review Letters and other APS journals were not necessarily required to pay the page charges ordinarily required of authors. Under longstanding policy, the charges were optional for those who could not afford the charge. The problem was that many physicists, especially those in other countries, were not only less able than others to afford the charges but they were also less aware that the charges could in fact be waived. Once it was clear that such charges could be waived based on financial need, physicists from other countries dramatically increased their contributions to Physical Review Letters, which went from a journal publishing mostly the work of U.S. physicists to one publishing mostly the work of physicists from other nations.

The second reform I initiated was aimed at encouraging physicists to publish their best and most important work in Physical Review Letters. The existing policy was to refuse to publish any work if the author had previously announced the results in any fashion to the news media. Times and technology had changed since that policy was established, and I believed that such an absolute bar was no longer necessary or even desirable. Instead, I felt it was important neither to discourage scientists from publicizing their scientific research in different ways nor to prevent those scientists who chose to do so from seeking its formal publication in a peer reviewed journal. I described the reasons for the new policy in an editorial published in Physical Review Letters in 1984 [3] : “It is the expressed policy of the Society to encourage widespread and timely dissemination of the results of research in physics to the public at large, particularly in view of the fact that much research is funded by public agencies. Accordingly, newspaper, television, and radio accounts of research—even if prepared by the research team as news releases—are not to be counted as inhibitions against acceptance of papers for our journals.”

To restore the profitability of Physical Review Letters, which had been running in the red for years, I changed its pricing scheme as well as that of the other APS journals. The subscription price for libraries was extremely low, far less than the price of other comparable professional journals. To achieve a substantial increase in revenue while minimizing the potential unhappiness of library subscribers, I instituted a significant increase in library subscription prices, with the price increasing by 10% increments over several years. The upshot was that Physical Review Letters became profitable even though the final higher price was still less than that charged by other professional publications. And, although library subscription prices increased, we did not charge significantly more for individual member subscriptions, even though the journal increased in both the quality of the published papers and the quantity of the published papers.

Finally, building upon Sam Goudsmit’s pathbreaking work, I sought to further improve the quality of Physical Review Letters by bringing on board as senior editors some of the nation’s most brilliant physicists. In 1974, the first such senior editor (who also was called chair of the newly formed Board of Divisional Editors) had appeared on the masthead—James Krumhansl of Cornell University, who served until 1978. His successor was Robert Adair of Yale University, who served until 1983. The senior editor played a major role in reviewing submissions and deciding which warranted publication. Because of the position’s importance I made sure to continue the high level of senior editors by choosing Adair’s successor to be George Vineyard from Brookhaven National Labs, who served until 1987, and then Jack Sandweiss from Yale, who remains senior editor. Both worked very hard at raising even higher the publication’s already high standards of excellence.

By increasing both the number of submissions and the academic rigor of the decision whether to publish, Physical Review Letters and Physical Review became journals of choice for the world. Physicists around the globe sought to publish in those journals. And, no less importantly, those seeking to stay current with recent developments in physics research also knew that they need not read ten or more journals. They could read just Physical Review Letters and Physical Review and be confident that by subscribing to just those journals, they would be aware of the most important cutting-edge research in physics.

I am delighted to join in the celebration of the first 50 years of Physical Review Letters. And I am proud of whatever role I might have played in its history. When, however, one is, like I am now, over 85 years old, 50 years does not seem very old at all. I wish the journal great success in its next 50 years too.

  1. R. K. Adair, Phys. Rev. Lett. 100, 020001 (2008).
  2. B. Bederson, Phys. Rev. Lett. 101, 010002 (2008).
  3. D. Lazarus, Phys. Rev. Lett. 52, 2101 (1984).

*David Lazarus is a solid-state physicist who specialized in defects and electronic properties of solids and in high-pressure physics. During World War II, he was a research associate in the Radio Research Lab at Harvard University. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1949. Then he joined the physics department of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he has been professor emeritus since 1987. He served as the APS Editor-in-Chief from 1980 to 1991.

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