Physics and Astronomy
|Lessons Learned in Decadal Planning in Space ScienceSummary of a Workshop
The National Research Council (NRC) has been conducting decadal surveys in the Earth and space sciences since 1964, and released the latest five surveys in the past 5 years, four of which were only completed in the past 3 years. Lessons Learned in Decadal Planning in Space Science is the summary of a workshop held in response to unforseen challenges that arose in the implementation of the recommendations of the decadal surveys. This report takes a closer look at the decadal survey process and how to improve this essential tool for strategic planning in the Earth and space sciences. Workshop moderators, panelists, and participants lifted up the hood on the decadal survey process and scrutinized every element of the decadal surveys to determine what lessons can be gleaned from recent experiences and applied to the design and execution of future decadal surveys.
|Views of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering on Agenda Items at Issue at the World Radiocommunication Conference 2012
The passive, receive-only Radio Astronomy Service (RAS) and the Earth Exploration-Satellite Service (EESS) provide otherwise impossible scientific observations of the Universe and Earth through the use of advanced receiver technology with extreme sensitivity and the employment of complex noise reduction algorithms. Even with such technology, RAS and EESS are quite adversely affected by what most active services would consider low noise levels.
To ensure their ability to use the radio spectrum for scientific purposes, scientists must be party to the discussion in the lead-up to the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC), which will next be held in January and February 2012 in Geneva, Switzerland. By request of the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Research Council was convened to provide guidance to the U.S. spectrum managers and policymakers as they prepare for the WRC in order to protect the scientific exploration of the Earth and Universe using the radio spectrum. While the resulting document is targeted at U.S. agencies, representatives of foreign governments and foreign scientific users will find its contents useful as they plan their own WRC positions.
|High Magnetic Field Science and Its Application in the United StatesCurrent Status and Future Directions
The Committee to Assess the Current Status and Future Direction of High Magnetic Field Science in the United States was convened by the National Research Council in response to a request by the National Science Foundation. This report answers three questions: (1) What is the current state of high-field magnet science, engineering, and technology in the United States, and are there any conspicuous needs to be addressed? (2) What are the current science drivers and which scientific opportunities and challenges can be anticipated over the next ten years? (3) What are the principal existing and planned high magnetic field facilities outside of the United States, what roles have U.S. high field magnet development efforts played in developing those facilities, and what potentials exist for further international collaboration in this area?
A magnetic field is produced by an electrical current in a metal coil. This current exerts an expansive force on the coil, and a magnetic field is "high" if it challenges the strength and current-carrying capacity of the materials that create the field. Although lower magnetic fields can be achieved using commercially available magnets, research in the highest achievable fields has been, and will continue to be, most often performed in large research centers that possess the materials and systems know-how for forefront research. Only a few high field centers exist around the world; in the United States, the principal center is the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (NHMFL).
High Magnetic Field Science and Its Application in the United States considers continued support for a centralized high-field facility such as NHFML to be the highest priority. This report contains a recommendation for the funding and siting of several new high field nuclear magnetic resonance magnets at user facilities in different regions of the United States. Continued advancement in high-magnetic field science requires substantial investments in magnets with enhanced capabilities. High Magnetic Field Science and Its Application in the United States contains recommendations for the further development of all-superconducting, hybrid, and higher field pulsed magnets that meet ambitious but achievable goals.
|Adapting to a Changing WorldChallenges and Opportunities in Undergraduate Physics Education
Adapting to a Changing World was commissioned by the National Science Foundation to examine the present status of undergraduate physics education, including the state of physics education research, and, most importantly, to develop a series of recommendations for improving physics education that draws from the knowledge we have about learning and effective teaching. Our committee has endeavored to do so, with great interest and more than a little passion.
The Committee on Undergraduate Physics Education Research and Implementation was established in 2010 by the Board on Physics and Astronomy of the National Research Council. This report summarizes the committee's response to its statement of task, which requires the committee to produce a report that identifies the goals and challenges facing undergraduate physics education and identifies how best practices for undergraduate physics education can be implemented on a widespread and sustained basis, assess the status of physics education research (PER) and discuss how PER can assist in accomplishing the goal of improving undergraduate physics education best practices and education policy.
|Assessment of Inertial Confinement Fusion Targets
In the fall of 2010, the Office of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Secretary for Science asked for a National Research Council (NRC) committee to investigate the prospects for generating power using inertial confinement fusion (ICF) concepts, acknowledging that a key test of viability for this concept—ignition —could be demonstrated at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in the relatively near term. The committee was asked to provide an unclassified report. However, DOE indicated that to fully assess this topic, the committee's deliberations would have to be informed by the results of some classified experiments and information, particularly in the area of ICF targets and nonproliferation. Thus, the Panel on the Assessment of Inertial Confinement Fusion Targets ("the panel") was assembled, composed of experts able to access the needed information. The panel was charged with advising the Committee on the Prospects for Inertial Confinement Fusion Energy Systems on these issues, both by internal discussion and by this unclassified report.
A Panel on Fusion Target Physics ("the panel") will serve as a technical resource to the Committee on Inertial Confinement Energy Systems ("the Committee") and will prepare a report that describes the R&D challenges to providing suitable targets, on the basis of parameters established and provided to the Panel by the Committee. The Panel on Fusion Target Physics will prepare a report that will assess the current performance of fusion targets associated with various ICF concepts in order to understand:
1. The spectrum output; 2. The illumination geometry; 3. The high-gain geometry; and 4. The robustness of the target design. The panel addressed the potential impacts of the use and development of current concepts for Inertial Fusion Energy on the proliferation of nuclear weapons information and technology, as appropriate. The Panel examined technology options, but does not provide recommendations specific to any currently operating or proposed ICF facility.
|An Assessment of the Prospects for Inertial Fusion Energy
The potential for using fusion energy to produce commercial electric power was first explored in the 1950s. Harnessing fusion energy offers the prospect of a nearly carbon-free energy source with a virtually unlimited supply of fuel. Unlike nuclear fission plants, appropriately designed fusion power plants would not produce the large amounts of high-level nuclear waste that requires long-term disposal. Due to these prospects, many nations have initiated research and development (R&D) programs aimed at developing fusion as an energy source. Two R&D approaches are being explored: magnetic fusion energy (MFE) and inertial fusion energy (IFE).
An Assessment of the Prospects for Inertial Fusion Energy describes and assesses the current status of IFE research in the United States; compares the various technical approaches to IFE; and identifies the scientific and engineering challenges associated with developing inertial confinement fusion (ICF) in particular as an energy source. It also provides guidance on an R&D roadmap at the conceptual level for a national program focusing on the design and construction of an inertial fusion energy demonstration plant.