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-Subject: Latest PhysicsWeb Summaries (text) News

* Grand challenges for the US: (1 May)

Every decade or so the physics and astronomy communities in the United States carry out surveys of their subject areas.

Along the way six "area volumes" have been published on the major subfields of physics - atomic, molecular and optical physics; plasma science; elementary particle physics; nuclear physics; condensed-matter and materials physics; and gravitational physics - along with four shorter volumes. These reports all make recommendations that are relevant to these specific areas. In the final report in the series, Physics in a New Era: An Overview, a panel chaired by Thomas Applequist of Yale University addresses the bigger picture.

The six grand challenges in the report were identified on the basis of "their intrinsic scientific importance, their potential for broad impact and application, and their promise for major progress during the next decade". The panel recommends that these six challenges - developing quantum technologies; understanding complex systems; applying physics to biology; creating new materials; exploring the universe; and unifying the forces of nature - should be supported strongly by universities, industry, the federal government and others in the years ahead.

Surprisingly, the report does not comment on the fact that the US's share of world physics papers declined from 32% in the early 1980s to 26% in the late 1990s. However, it does present a highly readable summary of the latest developments within and between the major subfields of physics.

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