By Nina Adelman Stolar
Harvey Lynch (BABAR) is one of 12 winners of the American Physical Society’s (APS) 2005 Leo Szilard Lectureship Award for work on boost phase intercept systems for national missile defense. The annual prize, established “to recognize outstanding accomplishments by physicists in promoting the use of physics for the benefit of society in such areas as the environment, arms control and science policy,” was awarded to members of an APS study group formed in early 2001. Previous recipients include Sid Drell and W.K.H. ‘Pief’ Panofsky.
Lynch, who was asked to participate based on his expertise in high power lasers, found the topic interesting. “Someone in my position has a responsibility to give back to society for the resources given in my professional life,” he stated. “I feel the obligation to repay society with technical expertise gained through my career.”
He also saw the opportunity to provide policy and decision makers–and the public–with an independent assessment on the technical feasibility of this approach. Lynch felt he could make a contribution and stepped forward. “In particular,” Lynch stated firmly, “it should be unbiased.”
The group of physicists and engineers analyzed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) systems and delivered a report concluding that intercepting incoming ICBMs in their boost phase (just after launch, when they are still under power) would be challenging at best. The full report was published in a special issue of the APS’ Reviews of Modern Physics in March.
The APS award, whose previous winners include Hans Bethe and Andrei Sakharov, was established in 1974 to honor Hungarian-born physicist Leo Szilard, who proved the possibility of a nuclear chain reaction and helped initiate the Manhattan Project. After World War II, Szilard took an active role in policy issues, becoming one of the first to call on scientists to devote their time and expertise to issues of public concern.
For more information, see: http://www.aps.org/praw/szilard/