Speaker: Carl Akerlof (U-M Physics)
Despite the fact that art and emotion are not topics that are prominently discussed in research proposals and annual progress reports, these are the motivating forces that attracted most of us to enter fields such as physics. A number of developing political and institutional pressures now threaten to erode the freedom and spontaneity that have characterized our working environment since the end of World War II. Ineptitude and indifference to the core values of science have had a direct effect on the education of our children for whom the levels of competency are among the lowest within the developed nations of the world. These issues will be raised in the context of a career that has tried to pursue interesting physical problems by shamelessly taking advantage of resources provided by nuclear weapons labs and the enthusiastic contributions of students and post-docs. By describing both the successes and the failures, I hope to provide a broader understanding of the challenges that confront the exploration of new frontiers. Following this talk, the audience is invited to play with a number of physics experiments and demonstrations that were developed over the past few years to help spark a deeper appreciation of the wonder and beauty of the physical sciences.