Akron Phy sics Club

Archive 2006    

January  Harvey Rosenthal – Science in the Golden Age of Islam 
February  Klaus Fritsch - The Physics of Flying 
March  Ernst von Meerwall - Ultrasound Devulcanization 
April  Howard Ducharme - Teaching The Ethics of Science With A Philosopher 
May  John Erdmann - RFID 
September  Martin Sentmanat - A Novel Miniature Testing Device for Broad-Range Physical Material Characterizations of Polymer Melts And Solids 
October  Thomas Myers - Global Warming 
November  Mark Foster - Teaching the Ethics of Science, With a Philosopher (An Experiment in Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration) 





Akron Physics Club


Meeting Announcement: MONDAY, January 23, 2006 - TANGIER, 6:00 PM

Thanks to our innovative Program Committee, our first meeting of the new year, will be devoted to an intriguing subject ­– one that is globally relevant, but one which in retrospect is sad. Dr. Harvey Rosenthal, Senior Lecturer in the University of Akron ’s Honors College will speak on:


Minutes, January 23, 2006

  At the first meeting of the year, the Akron Physics Club pulled in 27 members and guests — a record attendance — to hear an obviously much-anticipated speaker. The audience included Tom & Marie Brooker and their guest, Denis Feld, Dave Brown, Stu Clary, Bob Erdmann, Dave Fielder, Sam Fielding-Russell, Milian France, Dan Galehouse, Jack Gieck, Larry & Barbara Gray, Rus Hamm, Bob Hirst, Bill Jenkin, John Kirszenberg, Steve Kraus, Leon Marker, Pad Pillai, Pat Reilley, Darrell Reneker, Ernst & Marianne von Meerwall, Joe Walter, Charlie Wilson, and Wiley & Claire Tessier Youngs.

  Called upon by Chairman Ernst von Meerwall, Treasurer Dan Galehouse, maximizing minimal material, extracted a hearty, unanimous laugh solely from the news that our treasury balance had declined by six dollars to $62.60! Amazing.

  Following an invitation for any general announcements, Bill Jenkin volunteered the information that member Jack Strang was in the hospital in Canton but getting along okay. Whereupon, Program CoChairman Sam Fielding-Russell articulated our schedule for the months remaining until summer recess: In March Dr. Martin Sentmanat, who heads his own instrument company in Akron will be talking about rheological measurements. And in April Prof. Mark Foster of the University of Akron ’s Department of Polymer Science, will be speaking on “The Ethics of Science”(which is also the title of a course he is co-chairing in the University’s Philosophy Department). For May, Sam extracted a promise from Charlie Wilson that we would hear from him about a speaker. True to his word, Charlie has since advised that our May speaker will be Dr. John Erdmann, whose topic, so far, is billed as "rf ID." (Translation to follow.)

  At this point Chairman Ernst introduced our speaker, Dr. Harvey Rosenthal, Senior Lecturer in the University of Akron’s Honors College, citing his international credentials as a historian and an expert in Arab culture and Islam, reinforced by his having taught for two years in Teheran, Iran — at which point, dispelling the scholarly aura Ernst had created, an impishly smiling Harvey Rosenthal emerged from the hall wearing a sign around his neck which read, “Will Lecture for Food.” (Fun stuff like this punctuated his presentation.)

  In approaching his topic, Science in the Golden Age of Islam, our speaker first explained that he was not a scientist, but rather “an observer of the human condition — of the strange behavior of human beings,” which (he is tempted to conclude as he has aged) has been getting worse — or at least “more and more inexplicable.” And science, he pointed out, is not immune. “Contrary to the view that science has always followed disciplined, orderly rules for the last three or four thousand years, this, in fact, is not true. Science is just as caught in the web of cultural strangeness, cultural evolution, politics and economics as other endeavors of human beings.”

  In support of this view, Dr. Rosenthal distributed some handouts after his lecture. These quote famous minds from the second century to the 21st, many of whom made shockingly inept comments; e.g., Ernst Mach in 1913: “I can accept the theory of relativity as little as I can accept the existence of atoms and other such dogmas.” [I have a few extra copies. If you’d like one, e-mail me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your address.]

  Pointing out that the definition of the Middle East is a fairly arbitrary designation, Dr. Rosenthal showed us on a world map that it extends roughly from the western border of Egypt to the eastern border of Iran; and from the Black Sea to the Indian Ocean — an area roughly the size of the United States.

  The question that intrigued him, he said, is how do things happen? “How does a small, backward, nomadic people like the Arabs suddenly burst onto the scene — bursting out of their huge sandbox into the civilized world north of Arabia , accomplishing magnificent things in a very short period of time, and then just fade away? . . . And if you’re waiting for the answer,”he interjected, “You’re not going to get it, because I don’t know!” He gave us some similar examples: “Why did the Greeks, twenty five centuries ago — from that scrabby little land, not very productive agriculturally; not very productive in any other way; with a tiny population — all of a sudden a whole bunch of towering geniuses come together, same time same place?” He cited the early history of our own nation in the 18th Century: “Can we explain why Madison, Jefferson, Adams and Franklin got together to do what they did?”

  Addressing Islam, our speaker explained that in 600 A.D., the world had two “superpowers,” Byzantine Rome and the Persian empire , who competed constantly for the lands in between. The dominant faith from Spain to the Tigris was Christianity. But then a single individual “stepped out of the wings to change history.” A prosperous merchant, married [nine times according to the Encyclopedia], with several children, Muhammad had not only powerful ideas but he also had the charisma to sway people. At the age of forty in 610 A.D., he decided (actually, he believed he had been visited by the angel Gabriel) that he had been selected by God to be the Arab prophet of the true religion, prescribing a system of ethics and morals and theocracy — including heaven or hell after death.

  Although first written off as just another Christian heresy, and opposed by many Meccans (who viewed his religion as an assault on Kaaba), he fled to Yathrib, henceforth known as Medina , where he established a monastery. Within a few years, he had converted an overwhelming number of disciples and missionaries. Actually, every convert became a missionary, since there was no structured clerical hierarchy in the religion. Within a few years, Muhammad had drawn about two thirds of the Arab population (of two to three million) to his religion.

  With an unshakable faith, Muslim armies (perhaps aided by the promise that martyrs have instant access to dozens of virgins) began conquering much of the known world, including the Byzantine and Roman empires. But as they dominated the world, the Arabs began discovering vast stores of knowledge of which they were totally ignorant — in cultures like those of Greece and Rome . Perhaps motivated by feelings of inferiority (and reinforced by their faith to fear nothing), they began absorbing this new knowledge, convinced that “ideas can only give us more evidence of the wonders of nature — the product of God.” One Muhammad quote reads “Go forth and acquire knowledge from all places and all people, even if it takes you to China .” Another, “The ink of scholars is more sacred than the blood of martyrs.” [Reminiscent of the quotation attributed to Einstein, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”]

  The monastery at Medina became a center for scholarship. It’s walls were lined with Greek documents translated into Syriad. By 750, the center began to focus on science. The center was especially learned in medicine. (Medical dicta published in the Syrian Medical Virtues included “get plenty of sleep; watch what you eat; be careful what you drink; and in the morning at least wash your hands and eyes— and never lose the chance to urinate”). When the ailing Caliph of Baghdad, beset with gastric problems, sought help from Medina he was cured!

  In addition to being a soldier, the caliph was a scholar. Moved by his experience, he established a new center in Baghdad to further the acquisition of knowledge, with the goal of acquiring manuscripts from all over the world, creating an Arab library to be known as the House of Wisdom. By the Ninth Century, there were 37 libraries in Baghdad alone. It became fashionable for princes to have private libraries, which competed with each other. One of these had more manuscripts than all the libraries in Europe combined. It is estimated that even today there are about a quarter of a million manuscripts in the Muslim world — many of them not yet translated.

  There followed the golden age of Islam, from about 750 to 1250 A.D. By 900, Arab scholars had absorbed all of Greek philosophy, and they were experimenting with alchemy. When the caliph asked his medical adviser where to build the Baghdad hospital, the technician conducted an experiment, hanging strips of meat around the city. For the hospital’s location, he designated the spot where the least decomposition had occurred. Muslim science excelled in medicine, mathematics, and astronomy. There were two observatories in Baghdad . The Arabs rejected the prevalent concept of a flat Earth, embracing instead the “sphericity” of the world.

  This was at a time when science was collapsing in Europe , being suppressed by the Church — which perceived it as a threat to the faith. Muslim science precipitated an explosion of knowledge that attracted European scholars to Spain , which was under the control of the Moors until 1492 (the Moors had been converted to Muslim in the 8th century). Here, for example, “Greeks got not just their own classical heritage but all the Arab and Egyptian and Hindu and Persian, and even Chinese stuff” that had been accumulated by the Arabs.

  The Arabs had absorbed innovations from all over the world. They introduced “Arabic numerals,” which originated in India (the decimal system and the concept of zero was a Hindu contribution). They introduced coffee, alcohol and the process of distillation, they developed early cosmetics, and they made many additional contributions in medicine. But the primary message our speaker left this audient about his view of the culture was the Muslim contribution of scholarship — searching for new knowledge that could be beneficial to mankind.

  We know what Islam has become — a subject we didn’t discuss during the evening. As Hendrik Hertzberg observes in the February 20th New Yorker, although violence and terrorism are not intrinsic to it, “In virtually every iteration, it demands the subordination of women, the stunting of education, and the curbing of freedom of speech, of the press, and of religion.” How sad.

Jack Gieck


Akron Physics Club


Meeting Announcement: MONDAY, February 27, 2006 - TANGIER, 6:00 PM

We’ve had intriguing programs in the past with titles like “The Physics of Golf” and “The Physics of Sailing.” In the same tradition, this month we’re pleased to announce a program by Prof. Klaus Fritsch of John Carroll University , entitled:


Minutes, February 27, 2006

  Because each meeting this year has set yet another attendance record, our February abundance resulted in the Tangier having to give life to lines from The Chambered Nautilus (“Each vaulted chamber nobler than the last”), elevating us to the Terrace Room, replete with blazing fireplace. Because an attendance of 31(!) is too many names for a rational Newsletter reader to bear (and because Reservations Chairman Charlie Wilson confirms his reservations list for the membership anyway), we are at last declaring an end to the notably skippable documentation of attendees which has bored readers for fifteen years (replacing it with a boring opening paragraph like this one).

  We will, however, continue to record and welcome visitors, who are indeed welcome; to wit: Jerry Potts brought guest Jack Ryder, a design engineer for tire test machines as well as a private pilot who was attracted by the title of the program. We also welcomed Sam Fielding-Russell’s guest, Denis Feld, who was a fellow chemist at Goodyear, at Lockheed, and at Martin Marietta; but most importantly, Denis is Sam’s tennis partner/opponent. And student Rich Deneen was back (Rich in the throes of seeking a job when he receives his degree in a couple of months).

  When Treasurer Dan Galehouse was asked by Chairman Ernst von Meerwall for a statement of our wealth, the dedicated Dr. Galehouse couldn’t conceal his joy in reporting that we had worked our balance down to $42.65, reducing his responsibility accordingly. At which point Program Chair Sam Fielding-Russell reviewed our programs for the remainder of the spring schedule: Sam confirmed that in April Prof. Mark Foster of the University of Akron’s Department of Polymer Science will be speaking on “The Ethics of Science,” and he advised that our announced May speaker, Dr. John Erdman, had now provided a translation for his title, "rf ID": (“Radio Frequency Identification”).

  Getting down to the reason for our gathering, after being introduced by Chairman Ernst, Dr. Klaus Fritsch, Professor of Physics at John Carroll University (and licensed pilot), treated us to a program entitled The Physics of Flying — illustrated and brought to animated life by an edited DVD he had produced for the occasion! It included not only formulae and diagrams of such components as wing cross sections with free-body vectors, but also live videos from both the pilot’s point of view and long shots of aircraft in such unintended maneuvers as stalls, spins and spirals.

  Dr. Klaus began by giving us an overview of the control surfaces of an airplane and what they do. The ailerons, for example, induce roll along the longitudinal axis; they are used to start and stop turning. In the cockpit they are operated by wheel (or by sideward movement of the stick). The elevator (operated by for and aft movement of the yoke or stick) controls not only pitch, but also speed — in that when descending, one trades potential energy for kinetic energy. It does these things by controlling the angle of attack; i.e, the angle at which the wing meets the air. The throttle controls power —“if you want to go up you have to add power; if you want to go down you have to cut power.” Contrary to what most people think, the rudder (operated by the pedals) has very little to do with turning; its primary function is to control adverse yaw that is induced by a turn initiated by the ailerons (one up and one down to make a turn). “You really don’t need a rudder,” our speaker said, “except in landing and takeoff.”

  “The center of gravity,” he explained and illustrated, “is ahead of the center of lift,” so if you don’t have a tail surface, the nose will go down. The horizontal stabilizer pushes down, so it actually decreases the overall drag — but it works. With appropriate diagrams (and some custom animation!) our speaker addressed various (contradictory) theories of how a wing generates lift. The bottom line seems to be that it “works as a giant scoop that takes a bunch of air and defects it downward.” We saw a variety of wing shapes that have been tried by aircraft designers from 1904 through 1944.

  The critical forces acting on a wing are weight, lift, and drag. We saw why the familiar wing cross-section having a curved top and flat bottom (which causes the air traveling over the top to move faster than the air on the bottom) works significantly better than a flat plate, because the latter introduces much more drag.

  Dr. Fritsch addressed how a glider, without an engine, can still fly. The answer is “that we still have the same three factors: weight, lift, and drag. And drag over lift is equal to altitude over distance.” So a glider (except when it gets an updraft) is always slowly descending. How fast — the angle of descent — is determined by the L/D (lift over drag) ratio. For a space shuttle, with an L/D ratio of 1.5:1, this is 34°! For a Cessna it is 10:1, and for jumbo jet it is 17 to 19:1, resulting in an angle of descent of only 3°. A heavier plane will simply glide faster. We heard of an incident in which an AirBus was cruising over the Atlantic in 2001 at 39,000 feet when it lost power in both engines. But it managed to glide for 20 minutes, traveling 115 miles, making it to an airport in the Azores , where it had a rough landing, but it made it!

  After hearing about normal flight, we learned about what can happen when the lift/weight ratio is compromised by doing wrong things. The coefficient of lift is proportional to the wings’ angle of attack. “As one travels slower, he must crank in more angle of attack. When one reaches the critical angle of attack (16 or 18°) the plane stalls and drops. One can actually take his hands off the controls because the tail will not stall [its critical angle of attack has not been exceeded] as the nose drops, so the plane picks up speed, trading altitude for velocity, and the plane will start flying again after dropping a hundred or so feet in altitude,” perhaps oscillating up and down for a bit. The engine speed indicator in the cockpit has a stall speed indicator at the lower end (and a red line for maximum speed at the other end).

  In live action on the screen, we saw how a stall can lead to a spin, which is why all student pilots are required to practice stalls. “A stall can occur in any attitude,” Klaus explained. “You can stall a plane going up; you can stall a plane going down; you can stall a plane going sideways; you can stall it upside down. The only relative thing is the angle of attack. If the wing meets the air at more tan 18° you’re going to get a stall.”

  One can’t get into a spin without first stalling, which is why it is important to do the right thing when you stall. Klaus addressed the physics of a spin, “during which the one wing is traveling significantly faster than the other wing. So one of the wings has a much bigger angle of attack than the other wing. Because one of the wings (let’s call it the ‘up-going wing’) has a smaller angle of attack, it has more lift and less drag. The other, the ‘down-going wing,’ has a larger angle of attack, so it has less lift and more drag.” With free-body diagrams he showed us how this situation results in autorotation around the center of gravity of the airplane. We learned why a 45° bank results in 1.4 gs, 60° produces 2 gs, and 75° generates 3.8 gs — exceeding which can get most aircraft into “horrendous difficulties.”

  There followed an excerpt from a training film that vividly demonstrated getting into a stall followed by a variety of spins, and how the pilot’s actions achieve recovery through the sequential use of power, aileron, rudder, and elevator. And we saw how the pilot’s instruments give him clues as to what to do. Finally, we learned about differences between a spin and a spiral, and why the latter is something to be assiduously avoided — especially a “graveyard spiral!”

Jack Gieck & Jerry Potts (who assisted from Stuttgart !)


Akron Physics Club


Meeting Announcement: MONDAY, March 27, 2006 - TANGIER, 6:00 PM

Our speaker for March 27, 2006, meeting will be our own

Prof. Ernst von Meerwall whose topic is:


As Ernst explains: Dr. Avraam Isayev, who spoke to us several years ago, has developed a novel method for devulcanizing rubber using intense ultrasound. Dr. von Meerwall has been helping to characterize the result on a molecular level.

(Our announced speaker, Dr. Martin Sentmanat, will be talking to us in September, 2006.)

--- Jack Gieck, Secretary

Minutes, March 27, 2006

  We had 19 attend our APC meeting. Treasurer Dan Galehouse reported that we now have $116.00 in the Bill Arnold Fund (for student dinners) in addition to the $61.60 in our regular treasury. The increased responsibility documented by caring for these sums is no doubt sufficient to increase our treasurer’s anxiety. We did well financially in March, since Chairman Ernst von Meerwall insisted on paying for his own dinner (even though he was the featured speaker, and entitled to a freebie).

  Chairman Ernst (who is not only the University of Akron’s Associate Dean, College Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering, but, unknown to some of us, also has the honorary title of Distinguished Professor of Physics, Chemistry and Polymer Science) who announced that, “The talk you are going to hear is definitely a rubber talk. It involves a little bit of NMR, but not so much that you have to be an NMR expert. . . . It is an abridged version of a talk that I was asked to give as an invited speaker at a symposium in Hawaii . . . . (I’m sorry we have to go to these places) . . . And the purpose of the study was to find out what ultrasound does to the molecular structure of polymers, for the purpose of recycling.”

  What follows with the gratitude of this secretary, is a summary of Ernst’s talk, entitled A Study of Ultrasound Devulcanization of Industrial Rubbers: NMR Relaxation and Diffusion by our club’s founder, now Reservation Chairman Charlie Wilson:

  Ernst began his talk by acknowledging his collaborators on this long-term project, which has continued for more than a decade. These collaborators include two people from the Physics Dept., three from the Chemistry Dept., and eight from the Polymer Engineering Dept. It also has included financial support from NSF (DME), OBR, and A&S.

  The polymer chains of many sorts of rubbers, both natural and synthetic, are commonly "vulcanized" (that is, chemically cross-linked) by the addition of the appropriate amounts of sulfur plus the necessary heat-treatment. Fillers of various types are often also added. The resting 3-dimensional networks of typical commercial rubbers are enormously complex systems.

  There are many reasons for wanting to study possible methods for "devulcanizing", or breaking down into simpler materials, such vulcanized rubbers. Scientific curiosity is one. Recycling of the huge masses of discarded rubber products each year (tires, etc.) is another --- if this can be done economically and advantageously. Creation of polymeric materials with new properties is still another.

  Over a period of years, Ernst and his collaborators have studied the "devulcanizing" of many types of rubbers by controlled ultrasonic irradiation at 20 kHz. Ernst's main contribution has been the NMR analysis of the materials produced.

  The devulcanization was caused by extruding various crumb rubbers through a die, during which process the rubber could be exposed to the ultrasonic radiation of controlled amplitude, and controlled temperature, for varying lengths of time. The resulting "devulcanized" rubber samples could them be treated with suitable solvents to extract any soluble polymer chains (called the "sol"), leaving an insoluble residue (called the "gel"). Since no sulfur was removed from the "devulcanized" samples, there was always inevitably a considerable amount of crosslinked gel remaining.

  Ernst then studied the processed samples by his personally-designed-and-constructed Spin-Echo NMR Spectrometer, concentrating mainly on the "sol" portion --- the non-crosslinked chains.

  Ernst did a fine job of smoothly talking about the niceties of Spin-Echo NMR, including mention of free-induction decays, spin-lattice relaxation times (T-1's), spin-spin relaxation times (T-2's), rf pulse patterns, pulsed magnetic gradients, separation of sample signal components into ones having short, medium, or long relaxation times, plotting the results neatly and convincingly, etc. ............. The thing to consider, however, is that Spin-Echo NMR is also pretty complex stuff, and that you're not going to master it all in an hour talk.

  I'll conclude my remarks here by reproducing some slides that Ernst was kind enough to send me that sum up the main points he wanted to make:

Purpose: Examine the effects of intense ultrasound on production of light sol, creation and destruction of network, network segmental mobility, sol mobility and diffusion, host molecular architecture, filler particles.

Technique: Ultrasound exposure (20 kHz, 120 C, adjustable power levels, cavity gap spacings, flow rates).

Experiments: Spn-Echo NMR Spectroscopy (H-1 and C-13), transverse relaxation, and diffusion at 70° C. Multicomponent analysis of proton relaxation and sol diffusion. Supplemented by sol extraction, crosslink density, DSC Tg measurements.

Rubbers studied: SBR, NR, PDMS (& filled), BR (& melt), PU (& foam), BU. PI currently in progress .


Intense ultrasound exposure of rubber produces four main effects, all operating together. Our studies show, or confirm, that ultrasound:

(a) creates chemical crosslinks between chain molecules in some rubbers;

(b) severs some of the network crosslinks (true devulcanization), and creates dangling chain-ends (network degradation);

(c) detaches molecular fragments from the network and from unattached longer chain molecules (solcreation; long-chain scission);

(d) alters the chemical structure of a fraction of the molecules (isomerization, cyclization), stiffening the main chain.

These mechanisms have roughly similar threshholds in ultrasound amplitude, with (a) predominating at low amplitudes

The effect of filler throughout these treatments is weak.

Much of this information is unobtainable using other methods, and should be useful in the commercialization of ultrasound-based recycling.

Charlie Wilson (With publication tinkering by Jack Gieck)


Akron Physics Club


Meeting Announcement: MONDAY, April 24, 2006 - TANGIER, 6:00 PM

A unique and much-anticipated program scheduled for our April meeting is:




(An Experiment in Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration)

It will be presented by Prof. Mark D. Foster, of the University of Akron’s Department of Polymer Science. “The Ethics of Science” is the title of a course he and the head of the University’s Philosophy Department, Dr. Howard (Deweu) Ducharme are teaching at the university.

But, as reported in the April Minutes: “Dr. Foster was unable to appear— not because he was too sick to attend, but (speaking of ethics) because he didn’t want to expose the rest of us to whatever he had. So, Ernst announced, “we have a card-carrying philosopher with us tonight.” Dr. Howard Ducharme, (on three hours notice!) had agreed to take his place, and gave us some insight into a philosopher’s point of view of the experience.

Minutes, April 24, 2006

  We had 28 for dinner in April, including three guests: Rus Hamm’s wife, Rowan MacTaggert, Dave Fielder’s guest, Bill Pritchard, and Charlie Wilson’s guest, John Erdmann — our May speaker. Called upon by Chairman Ernst von Meerwall, Program Chairman Sam Fielding-Russell provided the happy news that he has five speakers lined up for the fall. Similarly summoned, Treasurer Dan Galehouse announced that our wealth had increased from $61.50 to $71.50. Whereupon club founder, author and keeper of the club bylaws Charlie, advised that he had been under whelmed by submittals for club officers, and therefore submitted a continuation of the present slate — for the annual May vote.

  Chairman Ernst then explained that our announced speaker, Dr. Mark Foster of the University of Akron’s Department of Polymer Science, who is teaching an experimental cross-disciplinary course, The ETHICS OF SCIENCE, in collaboration with Dr. HOWARD DUCHARME head of the University’s Philosophy Department, was unable to appear— not because he was too sick to attend, but (speaking of ethics) because he didn’t want to expose the rest of us to whatever he had. So, Ernst announced, “we have a card-carrying philosopher with us tonight.” Dr. Howard Ducharme, (on three hours notice!) had agreed to take his place. In addition to being Chairman of the Philosophy Department, Prof. Ducharme is also a Fellow, Intellectual Property Center .

  Our speaker began by explaining that he and Dr. Foster had decided to offer the course dealing with ethics in science (and integrating ethics into science) because of the academic split in ideas between those whose values are the objective facts of science versus those on the other side of the divide whose values are subjective. A course they offered in this vein last year was ETHICS IN THE PROFESSIONAL SCIENCES. In the course one of the questions they addressed was, “is science ethics-free.” He proposed that we look at this subject together partly because, as it turns out, granting institutions consider ethics to be a significant issue in evaluating project applications.

  Dr. Ducharme offered an example of what the course was about: The late Steven Jay Gould’s position was that science IS value-free. Science has a magisterium and domain that are completely separate and independent from philosophical and religious beliefs: NOMA for short, or “non overlapping magisterium.” Our speaker indicated that he would debate this position. He would argue that science is not value-free, but that actually science is dependent on an ethical structure — if fact science is value-loaded rather than value-free. If ethics is not a part of the structure of science, he declared, science dies.

  Examples of projects he presented showing that science is value-loaded are the current stem cell controversy, psycho-neurological studies involving the persistent vegetative state condition, and cloning (or faking same, as in the South Korean scandal). Truth, Howard stated, is essential in science. Modern science is absolutely dependent on truth in information reported by others. In studies of the universal human genome, for example, a Dr. Venter stated that he had collected data from men and women all over the world, when 90% of it was his own!

  The “Gouldish” view of the nature of man results, according to the “First Paradigm of Science,” in defining the person in purely physical, scientific parameters — leaving no room for the mind, for the philosophical or religious or moral nature of man. The artificial intelligence studies at MIT, for example, define the human mind as “anything that functions like the human body,” and if we can reproduce such a function, we have produced the human mind. Thus, the mind is physical. Francis Crick (of DNA fame) writes in his book The Search for the Soul, that person is a neural network: one’s memory, one’s joys, one’s ambitions, and one’s sense of personal identity and free will all actually boil down to a vast assembly of nerve cells and neural networks. Richard Dawkins speaks of the evolution of “selfish genes” which result in the “illusion of the self.” “In each of us are giant lumbering robots who created us, body and mind, making self preservation the ultimate rationale for our existence. We are their survival machines.” Everything we do, (apparently voluntarily) is dedicated to our survival and the reproduction of more of these same genes!

  Yet even Dawkins admits that the human mind has become capable of overruling its genes and performing truly altruistic deeds. This, to Dawkins, is a mystery. Ducharme claims that “faith in science” (faith in an ideology instead of actually doing science) is what results in the metaphysical conclusion that reduces the nature of the human personality, of the self-knowing mind, to a purely physical structure — not too different from the Buddhist view that there is no human soul, that no individual actually exists, that the current Dalhi Lama is but a reincarnation of the previous one. “Actions exist, as do their consequences, but the person that acts does not. So there is no enduring, soul, self, or mind; but there are bundles of perceptions.”

  Dr. Ducharme thinks such a view contains its own contradictions — but he seems to think that this is what science’s “First Paradigm” reduces to. No one, he offers, “has ever experienced his own neurons firing.” He also rejects Dawkins’ view that we don’t really have minds because our DNA is 98% the same as creatures that we have concluded do not have minds (“if they don’t have a moral nature, neither do we; if they don’t have free will, then neither do we; genetics proves it”). [Having read some of Dawkins, who seems to have been set up by our speaker as a straw man, this writer is not so sure this is Dawkins’ view — and I doubt it is the view of most physicists and engineers.] Summarizing “Science’s First Paradigm dogma”, Howard believes it boils down to “if all things are reducible to physical constituents, then, obviously we have death of the soul, the death of God, death of the mind, death of free will, the death of moral values, the death of the person.”

  This he claims is the current state of affairs in the modern academic environment, and he proceeded to make a case for mind-body dualism — a position that, in this writer’s opinion, most members of his audience already embrace. But he proceeded to offer many arguments against physicalism, e.g., that our mind and sense of self survives the continuous replacement of body and brain cells throughout our entire lives; that identical twins start out with identical DNA, yet they develop different personalities, etc.

  But most persuasive, he believed, was that unique, objective human trait, which in the human mind was a moral sense —a discernment in reality for ethics. He believes that this quality is what distinguishes man from “the lower animals.” He believes with Darwin that “other creatures do not have such experiences” — a position on which he was challenged during the question and answer period.

  Our speaker presented a number of conclusions that followed the arguments he had presented against physicalism, which include the maxim that “good science recognizes that empiricism has its limits.” That he fervently believes his position was reflected in his final conclusion: “Moral realism is necessary to save science and truth telling. It is also necessary to save humanity from self-destruction”

  It was a very interesting and very different program from what could be construed as the simpler, physicalist programs we are used to having.

Jack Gieck


Akron Physics Club


Meeting Announcement: May 22, 2006 - TANGIER, 6:00 PM

Speaker for our last meeting before the summer solstice, our summer recess (and more than a hundred days of vacation for our club’s multiple secretaries!) will be:

Dr. John Erdmann, President and CEO of Hana RFID
(Hana Microdisplay Technologies Inc.)

His topic, logically enough will be:


And although we have a literal translation of “Radio Frequency Identification,” a generic term for technologies that use radio waves to automatically identify people or objects most of us would be hard put to explain what Consumer Reports implied in an article entitled, RFIDs: The End of Privacy — A chip that could track your every move!"

Minutes, May 22, 2006

  Our closing program for last season brought a record turnout: 32 - Count'em -32 attendees (a notation that will be lost on those too young to remember theater ads in the 1930s enumerating the number of chorus girls in the cast). This record statistic would obviously cause Treasurer Dan Galehouse additional distress over the summer, having to bear the responsibility of preserving our treasury net of $86.60 - up from $71.60 in April as he reluctantly reported.

  Called upon by Chairman Ernst von Meerwall, Program Co-Chair Sam Fielding-Russell reported on potential speakers for the new APC season beginning in September. Our October speaker will be Dr. Thomas Myers, retired professor of chemistry at Kent State University , who will be speaking on Global Warming. Other promising subjects that Sam is working on for the new season include bioengineering, high-speed braking, sonoluminescence, free-space optical communication, and another view of science and ethics from the opposite pole of that professorial duo.

  For the record (especially mine), our Physics Club meetings in the new season (adjusted for both the national ACS meeting and Memorial Day) are: September 25, October 23, November 27, January 22, February 26, March 26, April 23, and May 21.

  Charlie Wilson then introduced our speaker for the evening, Dr. John Erdmann, President and CEO of Microdisplay Technology, Inc., a company he founded in 1999 after establishing an academic resume that included being both a physics major and a voice major (as well as an offensive lineman!) at Oberlin during his undergraduate days, before getting his MS and PhD at Kent State. Dr. Erdmann's subject was RFID, which turns out to have much more depth than the literal translation: "Radio Frequency Identification."

  As we learned, starting with concentrated input from our speaker's glorious Power Point presentation (which, this filmmaker noted, actually contained dissolves and fades) RFID is capable of tracking just about anything. Australia , for example, has a law that makes it mandatory to track every animal in every farmer's livestock herd. So they do, with an RFID ear tag capable of responding to electronic inquiry (12 million of these tags are manufactured daily by a little company in Thailand ). A micro version of these is being used for pets in the U.S. These are so small that they are shot under the skin of the pet. Not surprisingly, our government is "all over" the technology, even tracking migration patterns of fish - which is easily done by tagging a relatively few fish in a school and seeing where that group goes.

  Dr. Erdmann showed us multiple examples that ranged from tracking one's car keys, to laundries and dry cleaners who used the devices to sort clothing, to tracking company personnel who are scheduled to work on weekends (yes the transmitter is situated below the employee's epidermis.

  Tagged cars now go through turnpike toll stations in the fast lane with an automatic deduction from one's bank account; similarly the technology can be adapted for supermarkets to check out groceries without a live cashier - accelerating checkout time, and withdrawals from one's checking account! Car registration tags are next - making it easy for police to spot stolen cars. And speaking of cars, since Firestone's major recall Federal law now requires that tires be tagged, so that any stray output from bad batches can be located "before too many people die." The device is molded into the sidewall.

  Since 2003, Wal-Mart has mandated that all of its suppliers (without any extra compensation) tag every item that comes into its warehouses - thereby saving $6.7 billion annually! But there turns out to be a practical side to this kind of precise inventory tracking: Although Gillette loses 2.9% of its razor shipments to its raft of retail outlets every day, it takes no action. It has discovered that it is cheaper to tolerate 3% daily shrinkage than to absorb court costs and legal fees associated with strict enforcement and prosecution charges against truck drivers and distributors.

  RFID technology has tens of thousands of applications, of which we heard about hundreds - many of which sounded like they had been invented George Orwell. One that didn't, but which stood out in the mind of this audient, has been introduced at the Hong Kong airport: It essentially guarantees no more lost airline luggage.

  The cost of the individual "smart labels" has come down with mass usage to as little as ten cents apiece. The range of the tracking devices varies with their operating frequency. The short-distance (door monitors, clothing sorters) operate in the low frequency range of 125 kilohertz. The range increases with frequency: High = 3.56 megahertz, UHF = 300-316 gigahertz, and there are microwave frequencies higher than that.

  To encode more information on a chip and to use more of the bouncing signal to transmit information, even though the tracked item is next to a mass of metal, underwater, etc., a protocol called "frequency hopping" has been a significant aid. Frequency hopping was the invention of Austrian/American actress Hedy Lamarr, who made it possible to encode radio guidance systems of U.S torpedoes during World War II - some years after she starred as Hedy Kiesler in the infamous (because, in 1933, it actually contained a nude scene) Ecstacy.

  John Erdmann's talk was really a dialogue between him and his rapt audience, which interrupted continuously, keeping the speaker on the floor for more than an hour. Good show!

Jack Gieck


Akron Physics Club


Meeting Announcement: MONDAY, September 25, 2006 - TANGIER, 6:00 PM

After the hottest summer on record, we have a cool assemblage of potential speakers (see below) for our new Akron Physics Club season, thanks especially to the efforts of Program Co-Chair Sam Fielding-Russell.

For our opening meeting we look forward to hearing at last a program that was inadvertently postponed (which is politicalese for a snafu by your aging secretary) last year. Our speaker, Dr. Martin Sentmanat is a mechanical engineer, a rheologist, a former Senior Research Physicist for Goodyear, and an inventor/entrepreneur who founded Xpansion Instruments, LLC. He will be talking about his invention:

Broad-Range Physical Material Characterization

Minutes, September 25, 2006

  Appropriately, a proper atmosphere for our first APC meeting in Fall, 2006 was created by the cozy, flaming fireplace in Tangier’s elegant Terrace Room, where we had 21 for dinner, including young Adam Reed, an advanced high school junior who is taking a number of University of Akron courses(!), and who has his own spot for (fuel cell) research in Darrell Reneker’s and Dan Galehouse’s laboratory. And, we were all really pleased to welcome Tom Dudek back.

  Chairman Ernst von Meerwall opened our new season by calling on Treasurer Dan Galehouse, who, after relating accounting matters cloaked in mysticism (that are beyond the scope of this report), concluded that our net cash on hand (as of that moment) was $80.60. However, because Tangier had not informed us of an increase in our dinner price, this figure was eroded later by $20, to a new net of $60.60. The bottom line is that henceforth our dinner price will be $18.

  Ernst then invited Program Chair Sam Fielding-Russell to announce the speaker schedule he had been successful in putting together for the new season. And it sounds promising, indeed, especially at this point in our new year:

  After our October program (announced above), in November we will hear from Prof. Mark Foster, who will present his (polymer scientist’s) view of the cross-disciplinary course (on which we heard philosopher Howard Ducharme‘s take last April) which the pair are giving, Teaching the Ethics of Science with a Philosopher: An Experiment in Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration.

  In 2007, speakers already signed up (titles to be announced) include Prof. Glenn Starkman of Case Western Reserve for January; Prof. Claire Tessier of the University of Akron’s Department of Chemistry in February; and in March we hope to have a return of physicist Prof. Klaus Fritsch of John Carroll University (who spoke to us last year on The Physics of Flying), whose subject this time will be Sonoluminescence. In April we will hear from U of A biomechanicist Prof. Narender Reddy, whose talk is another with a very long title: Direct Control of Virtual Environments using Electromyographic Signals. And in May, we will hear from a new U of A faculty member, Prof. Kevin Cavicchi, of the Department of Polymer Engineering.

  At which point Chairman Ernst introduced our speaker Dr. Martin Sentmanat (whose name dates to Castilian Spain), whose interesting background includes becoming a mechanical engineer at Texas A & M, then heading north to Montreal, where, after getting his MS, went on to get his PhD in chemical engineering [good choice!]. After working for 8.5 years at Goodyear as a Senior Research Associate, he had the courage to go the entrepreneurial route, taking along, as exclusive Goodyear licensee, his own invention of a revolutionary rheometer, a novel miniature testing device for broad-range physical material characterization of polymer melts and solids — which was the title of his talk.

  The “SER Universal Testing Platform” is now being manufactured exclusively by Xpansion Instruments, for which company Dr. Sentmanat remains Chief Technical Consultant. As Martin’s abstract says, “although originally developed as a rheometer to be used for the extensional rheological characterization of uncured elastomers, the miniature unit can be used for molten or solid polymers, cured or uncured elastomers, testing a host of physical properties over a wide range of kinematic deformations and rates.”

  The secret of the device’s success is twofold: its tininess and its method of “gripping” the sample, as we learned from Martin’s review of classic rheometers. These were enormous, floor-to-ceiling monsters that could never fit in a temperature-controlling oven. So instead, one developed in Germany by Muenstedt in the 1980s quenched the sample in a silicone bath, gripping the sample at one end while stretching (or shearing) it by wrapping the other end around a rotating drum). An improvement devised by Meissner in Switzerland used two rotating tank treads(!) moving apart at constant velocity.

  In dramatic contrast to these behemoths, Dr. Sentmanat’s miniature rheometric device consists of two parallel 0.4-inch diameter metal rolls less than 0.9 inches long spaced 0.5 inch apart — a pair of dual counter-rotating wind-up drums. The device is small enough to fit in any standard laboratory oven. It can, in fact, be enclosed in a 2.5-inch diameter tube, or a square one 1.5 inches on a side.

  Inserted into our speaker’s excellent Power Point presentation were two videos that let us see the instrument (dwarfed by the operator’s hands) being loaded and operated in real time. In the second one we saw a close-up of the colors of the stretching sample change as polarized light passed through a butyl rubber film, showing how its refractive index changed as it underwent deformation, and the molecular structure of the material reoriented itself.

  The very versatile “SER” can, Martin explained, accumulate data thousands of times faster than by older conventional methods— testing a sample in as little as 20 seconds, or stretching out the time to several hours. It has been successfully used in distinguishing subtle differences in polymer architecture/macrostructure, the extrusion/processing behavior of green rubber compounds, as well as the high-rate fracture behavior of cured rubber compounds. It can do anything an Instron can do, but with a sample of a only a few milligrams and at speeds up to several meters per second. The SER can do adhesion testing, friction/slip characteristics, high-speed crack growth, etc. And it can test molten polymers at high temperatures at deformations of tens of thousands percent as the little drums turn at controlled speeds.

  The instrument commands a price of $12,000 for academic institutions and $13,500 for industrial use. And entrepreneur Martin’s company is doing well. We thank him for the program and wish him the best for the future

  And if you’ve just found us on the web, WE WELCOME VISITORS. Just call or e-mail Reservations Secretary Charlie Wilson, above, and we’ll see you there.

Jack Gieck


Akron Physics Club


Meeting Announcement: MONDAY, October 23, 2006 - TANGIER, 6:00 PM

After the hottest summer on record, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry Thomas Myers, Kent State University, will be speaking to our club about


Not just a “talk on global warming,” Program Chair Sam Fielding-Russell emphasizes, but, appropriately for our (astute) Akron Physics Club, Dr. Myers will address the theory of global warming, the physics and chemistry of global warming, and, hopefully, what can be done about it. And yes, visitors are welcome.

Minutes, October 23, 2006

  Our attendance at our October meeting set a new record of 35 guys and girls, promoting us once again to the Tangier’s Terrace Room, replete with fireplace and aesthetic elegance. Chairman Ernst von Meerwall opened the meeting by calling on Milian France, who was bearing the sad news that long-time member Jack Strang, who, after struggling with diabetes for many years had died the day before.

  Invited to go on to a happier news event, Milian explained that she and Bill Jenkin had just returned from Chicago, where Bill received the R & D 500 Award for his invention of a repeatable process for breaking down nickel carbonyl to produce nanofibers of nickel— a process, which thanks to his partner’s development of applications, is of major interest to the Air Force. Milian had prepared a display on the subject in the back of the Terrace Room, featuring the silver award plaque Bill received. Congratulations, Bill!

  Ernst then called on Treasurer Dan Galehouse “to let us know how broke we were.” However, because some of our number had not yet paid, and because there were ongoing pecuniary negotiations with Tangier, our treasurer seemed to be in a genuine quandary, motivating him to actually turn in a written “Respectfully Submitted”(!) Treasurer’s Report containing such details as “. . . the fruit plate remains at issue. The assistant manager did not want to charge full price for same, and came with a bill for just (34) meals, allowing the fruit plate gratis. I explained that I had already charged for it and asked for a reasonable estimate. He quoted $7.00, which with the $1.00 contribution to the speaker’s meal, would be . . .”

  There followed a lot of arithmetic that concluded tentatively, “subject to approval,” that our net wealth had grown from an Initial Balance of $60.60 to an item shown as “Final balance in the polyethylene-polypropylene tub [the plastic safe in which our treasurer husbands our hard cash] of $76.50.”

  Called upon by Chairman Ernst, Program Co-Chair Sam Fielding-Russell announced that Dr. Klaus Fritsch has confirmed that he will speak to our group on March 26 on the subject of sonoluminescence — light from sound — which, for the first time this soon in our season, completes our calendar of speakers for the year! Congratulations and thank you Sam! As became obvious with your subsequent review of programs yet to come, you’ve made this a great year for the club.

  In the process of introducing our speaker, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry Thomas Myers, Kent State University, Chairman Ernst explained that the reason for there being eight years between our speakers’ degrees from the University of West Virginia (1941 and 1949, respectively), was that he worked for the Manhattan Project during WWII.

On the screen during this introduction (actually all during dinner for us to ponder) was Dr. Myers’ first slide:

∑ F22 dfd k

  Shedding any austere image that Ernst’s intro might have created about him, our speaker explained the meaning of the formula: “Add fluorine to the tooth to defy decay.” (Perhaps he was also a clandestine triple-agent cryptographer, making it impossible for the enemy to translate anything!)

  But on the serious subject he was addressing, Dr. Myers soon made it apparent that he had studied Global Warming extensively. Showing us a photo of the Earth from space, he pointed up how the picture was naturally color-coded — the dark areas exhibiting the effects of sunlight absorption by the oceans, as well as by greenhouse gases, e.g., carbon dioxide, water, methane, nitrous oxide —and, more recently, a contribution from industry, sulfur dioxide.

  This absorption, it turns out, is not all bad: Its absence would eliminate the incubation of solar heating, resulting in an equilibrium temperature of the Earth of 0 degrees C! Our speaker showed us how the average temperature of the Earth has gone through sine-wave-like cycles for millennia, with a period of roughly 100,000 years from peak to peak, and having an amplitude of almost ten degrees.

  We are currently on the upswing. Since the last ice age, for thousands of years the average temperature of the earth had been rising 0.3 degrees per century; and in another 30,000 years we were scheduled to have another ice age. But since 1860, primarily due to an increase in carbon dioxide, this temperature has been has been rising about 0.7 degrees per century. Moreover, in the 60 years from 1940 to 2000, it has increased to 0.8 degrees C. The average global temperature in 1998 was higher than it has been for a thousand years.

  By the end of the century, the rate of temperature increase is expected to have risen to 1.0 degree per century, due primarily due to the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide. At such a rate, glaciers will be gone in 25 years, and Arctic ice will have disappeared in 50 years. By the end of the century, the oceans will have risen one to three feet. Permafrost will continue to melt, severe rainstorms will abound, and by the time Greenland ice has melted, the oceans will have risen 10 to 20 feet! Florida will be gone, as will south Texas. One billion people out of the Earth’s 6.5 billion will have to move to higher ground.

  As Dr. Myers reminded us that whenever we flip a switch we burn coal. When we start our cars we burn petroleum. The United States is the world’s biggest offender in the production of CO2 :

Tons of Carbon/Year Tons of Carbon/Person
 India 276 0.27
 Japan 127 2.3
 Russia 400 2.7
 European Union 548 1.5
 China   803 0.64
 United States 1,460 5.3

  With 5% of the world’s population, we are using 25 % of the world’s resources, and causing about 25% of the world’s pollution. For its total energy needs, the United States currently consumes 83 quadrillion British thermal units annually (that’s 83,000,000,000,000,000 Btu). Its sources are:

 Petroleum 40.8%
 Coal 22.6
 Natural Gas 22.3
 Renewable 7.5
 Nuclear 6.8

  For the production of electricity in the U.S., energy sources break down as follows:

 Coal 51.8%
 Nuclear 18.6
 Natural Gas 14.5
 Hydroelectric 8.8
 Petroleum 3.5
 Other 2.7

  Our speaker cautions that nuclear energy is not the answer because we are already running out of places to put the products of fission — which take 100,000 years before the danger they pose has dissipated. [And, this writer can’t keep from adding, neither is waterpower as some elitists propose, because, as his professor of chemical engineering tended to confirm in nearly all of his lectures in the 1940s, “One ton of water falling one mile produces the same amount of energy as the burning of one pound of coal” — which is easy to prove.]

  So what can be done to stop the juggernaut? The U.S. could stop leading the world simply by limiting its population growth. Having no more than two children per family (as is already the case in Europe) would stop our population growth in its tracks. But for more doable goals Tom Myers offers measures that could be accomplished by our Congress if its members are pressured:

1.Double current gas mileage by law.

2. Put a substantial tax on gasoline

3.Double the efficiency of manufacturing operations (which consume twice as much energy as they do in Japan and Germany).

4. Get Congress to fund R & D on renewable energy sources, especially solar power and wind.

5. Sequester CO2 from coal burning.

6. Encourage recycling, especially high-energy metals like aluminum, but also paper products, including newspapers, magazines, and even grocery shopping bags.

7. Encourage conservation: turn off lights, drive less, slow down, encourage ride-sharing, replace tungsten bulbs with compact fluorescents.

  That some people are listening is evidenced by two articles forwarded by Jerry Potts: On October 30, Business/Business World columnist Andrew Revkin warned, “Though experts agree the world faces a daunting challenge in finding nonpolluting energy sources, research into new technology has declined.” And on October 31, in article entitled “Scandal Below the Surface,” New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff offers a tool to move Congress: “The vandalism we’re committing to our planet because of our refusal to curb greenhouse gases should be one of the great political issues of this century.”

  Putting the issue on a global scale, the New Yorker for November 13th quotes a forceful report by Sir Nicolas Stern, the head of Britain’s Government Economic Service, which states that unless the nations of the world come together to control emissions, we face the risk of “major disruptions to economic and social activity later in this century and the next, on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars and the economic depression of the first half of the 20th century.”

Jack Gieck


Akron Physics Club


Meeting Announcement: MONDAY, November 27, 2006 - TANGIER, 6:00 PM

This Newsletter carried the following announcement last April:

A unique and much-anticipated program scheduled for our next meeting is:



(An Experiment in Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration)

It will be presented by Prof. Mark D. Foster, chair of the University of Akron’s Department of Polymer Science. “The Ethics of Science” is the title of a course he and the chair of the University’s Philosophy Department, Dr. Howard (Dewey) Ducharme are teaching at the University.

But, as reported in the April Minutes: “Dr. Foster was unable to appear— not because he was too sick to attend, but (speaking of ethics) because he didn’t want to expose the rest of us to whatever he had. So, Ernst announced, “we have a card-carrying philosopher with us tonight.” Dr. Howard Ducharme, (on three hours notice!) had agreed to take his place, and gave us some insight into a philosopher’s point of view of the experience.

So now at last we will be privileged to hear Dr. Mark Foster on the subject.

Minutes, November 27, 2006

  We were pleased to welcome five University of Akron students at our November meeting: Matt Beetler, Carlos Barrios, Mike Frank, Ryan Hartschuh, and Adam Reed. (Their dinners were hosted by member Bill Arnold’s Student Visitor Fund — see next paragraph). We hope they’ll visit us again. And our club’s Chair, Ernst von Meerwall, pointed out that we had another visitor who first came to an APC meeting with this evening’s speaker in the early 1990s, Dona Foster, wife of the speaker, and the other chemical engineer in the Foster family.

  When Chairman Ernst invited Treasurer Dan Galehouse to advise us “on the state of our financial decrepitude,” we learned that Bill has added another $100 to his fund — dwarfing our club’s separate “treasury,” which, after further negotiation with Tangier (over a fruit salad (!), has declined from $76.60 to $66.60. Thank you, Dan, for continuing to perform this (otherwise) thankless job. Thanks also to Program Chair Sam Fielding-Russell, who, for the first time, has succeeded in filling our club’s schedule for the whole year with the impressive list of remaining speakers he once again reviewed for the group. Then, thinking ahead, Sam invited us to submit suggestions any of us might have for next year. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  At this point Chairman Ernst introduced the other half of the Foster couple, polymer dynamicist Prof. Mark Foster, Chair of the University of Akron’s Department of Polymer Science, Associate Director of the Akron Global Polymer Academy, and our speaker for the evening. Dr. Foster is also the other half a team that has introduced an experimental cross-disciplinary course examining The Ethics of Science, in collaboration with bioethicist Dr. Howard (Dewey) Ducharme, Chair of the University’s Philosophy Department. Mark Foster had been scheduled to give us a report on how that experimental course was doing last April, but he came down with intestinal flu the afternoon of April 24th, and Dr. Ducharme filled in for him (and us) on three hours notice.

  Mark Foster began by explaining how the adventure began. The collaborators agreed that they shared a common concern: that there ought to be more integration between moral philosophy, or ethics, and in the training for science and engineering. Indeed, they believed that many of their contemporaries felt that there was an invisible “knowledge wall” between philosophy and the sciences. There is the perception by both scientists and the humanities that science, based upon objective knowledge about observable facts, is on one side of this wall — and that ethics (which is often associated with religion), is entirely subjective and is incompatible with scientific thinking.

  But our speaker pointed out that, beginning with axioms that two sides can agree on, ethical philosophy can be built in an objective way, and one of the things he hoped to leave with students is that scientists and ethicists can learn from one another. His talk, in fact, made it clear that both he and Dewey Ducharme had learned a great deal from each other not only as a result of teaching their course together but in visiting each other’s facilities (e.g., Dr. Ducharme’s observing work at the Polymer Science laboratories and Mark’s visit to his partner’s library, as well calling up websites Dewey suggested).

  The pair taught the basics of four ethical theories: Ethical egoism, cultural relativism, utilitarianism, and deontology are the categories that cover a large portion of moral or ethical theory. All of these begin with a definition of what a human being is — and there has to be some agreement on this before any discussion can begin.

  “To the ethical egoist, I am a biophysical being with desires. Everything I do is self-serving,” our speaker explained. To the ethical egoist, ethical terms don’t have any intrinsic meaning. What is good is that which serves my self-interest.

  “Cultural relativism is the theory that our beliefs and behavior are shaped not only by our genes, but by our environment — that we are born with our minds a blank slate, and the group — the family — the community — the culture we live in determines how we feel about what is right or wrong.” That which is socially approved is right. And vice versa. When you go to a different culture, Mark pointed out, you run up against different standards. It constitutes a socialization of morality.

  Utilitarianism, our speaker said, is what he believes drives most of his colleagues. Utilitarianists are consequentialists. They are concerned with what will happen to all of the people affected by a given action — and these of course, can vary widely. And one must calculate what will result in the greatest benefit, or happiness to the greatest number of people. The end justifies the means. One strives for the greatest good on balance.

  Deontology is the theory that the individual has an irresistible moral nature. As is apparent from the name, it a thesis driven by a belief that man is a creature having a relationship with God. Thus, it is wrong to treat a human being as simply an incremental entity. Human beings, to the deontologist, have intrinsic value. Therefore, it is categorically wrong to kill, to steal, to lie. Two wrongs don’t make a right. A given action will simply feel wrong in principle. Truth telling, thus, is essential in science. Fraud is intrinsically wrong. Our speaker gave us an example of a scientific study that was shockingly wrong, but was permitted to go on for 40 years: the Tuskegee study carried out from 1932 to 1972 on the course of syphilis in four infected black males, who were never told about the advent of penicillin treatment in 1947, thus passing the infection onto their wives and children, and the community for another 25 years!

  Both professors found the experience very rewarding. Both were surprised to find how much they learned from each other. Teaching their completely unscripted course, one of the two would begin by lecturing about a given topic and hands would go up to question something that the lecturer had said. This would often lead to a vigorous class discussion in which there was usually universal participation. One of the pair’s conclusions was that 50 minutes was not enough for a class of this nature.

  Interest turned out to be great enough that they gave the course to a business school during the summer — which, to this alumnus of a major corporation, seems like a great idea!

Jack Gieck, Secretary