TPT 50th Anniversity book - page 4

My career as a physics teacher began 64
years ago when I was Eric Rogers’ teaching
assistant in an optics lab. It continues now as
I tutor students online and occasionally get
called to sub in a classroom. For almost 50 of
those 64 years,
The Physics Teacher
has been
important to me.
I have to admit there was a period early in
my career when my copy of
may have
been hard to find underneath copies of
. I even let my AAPT membership lapse
for a few years and went without
for that
period. But I recovered
from that aberration and
never again thought that
dedication to research
teaching were at cross
purposes or that I need
be at all embarrassed
about trying to do the
best job I possibly could
as a teacher. There is joy and satisfaction
in research. There is joy and satisfaction in
My first contribution to
was a 1966
article called “The Key Ideas of Quantum
Mechanics.” Cliff Swartz, the then-new editor—
or maybe he was only an assistant editor at that
time—doubted that this article, drawn from a
textbook I was working on, could be suitable
for the journal. Then he decided it was OK and
published it. (Perhaps he was suffering a dearth
of submissions. If so, it extended into the next
year, when he let me publish two articles
“explaining” thermodynamics.) My most
recent contribution, a small letter to the editor,
was published in 2012. In between there were
a few articles, letters, notes, book reviews, and
a guest comment or two. One of my favorites
was a short piece in 1975 titled “Why is Your
Image in a Plane Mirror Inverted Left-to-Right
but not Top-to-Bottom?” in which I imagined
a mythical world where the inhabitants, who
turned around horizontal instead of vertical
axes, would wonder at such an odd question.
The editor at the time was, of course, Cliff
Swartz. That piece elicited an interesting
exchange with Philip Morrison, proving that
MIT professors read
The Physics Teacher
that I still like was a 2000
article, “The Physics of
Soaring,” which allowed
me to bring together
On this article I dealt
with—who else?—Cliff Swartz. I caught him
at the beginning and at the end of his long,
illustrious career as
Indeed for
, more than for many
journals, the editor not only shepherds
but shapes the product. Cliff Swartz did a
wonderful job. Karl Mamola has been a superb
successor, exceeding even the Swartz standard.
What a job! I don’t envy Karl, but I admire
him tremendously. Imagine keeping authors
as well as readers happy. Karl, with the help
of his talented assistant, Pam Aycock in North
Carolina, and the AAPT elves, Jane Chambers
and Matt Payne in Maryland, has done just
that (mostly!).
Ken Ford
After receiving his PhD degree in 1953, Ken Ford conducted research in
theoretical nuclear physics and taught in several universities, including UC
Irvine, where he was the founding physicist. After retiring in 1993 from the
directorship of AIP, he taught high school physics and continued writing.
His books include
Basic Physics
101 Quantum Questions
and a 2007 memoir,
In Love with Flying
. He was President of AAPT in
1972. He cites as his most cherished honor the 2006 Oersted Medal.
There is joy
and satisfaction
in teaching.
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