The year 2008 was a very special year for the Swiss Physical Society which celebrated its 100th anniversary with great pride. For this special occasion, the book “Die Gründung der Schweizerischen Physikalischen Gesellschaft” by Alessandra Hool and Gerd Graßhoff of the University of Bern has been published.
The first event was the SPS annual meeting that took place at the University of Geneva on 26 - 27 March 2008. Organized together with the three NCCR programs of MaNEP, NANO and Quantum Photonics about 500 persons attended the meeting. At the plenary session outstanding talks were given by Tilman Esslinger on Bose-Einstein Condensation, Christian Schönenberger on Molecular Electronics, Albert Fert (Nobel laureate 2007) on Spintronics and finally by Gaetano Mileti on recent advances on time and frequency measurements. In addition to the sessions on astro- particle and nuclear physics (TASK), condensed matter physics (KOND) and applied Physics (ANDO), sessions on the physics of atoms and lasers, on plasma physics, theoretical physics and multiferroics were organized.
A poster session and scientific exhibition with 12 exhibitors were also on the program. Hundred participants joined the visit of the Science History Museum of Geneva, and shared the conference dinner in the restaurant “les Vieux-Bois – Ecole hotelière”.
The attribution of the three 2007 SPS prizes followed by the best papers awards of the Annales Henri Poincarré for 2005 and 2006 took place during the SPS Award Ceremony.
An important organizational event for the SPS members is its general assembly that took place during the annual meeting on Wednesday March 26, 2008. After acceptation of the financial results 2007, the renewal of the committee was on the agenda. At the head of the Society, Christophe Rossel was elected president and Tibor Gyalog took over the function of vice-president, a switch that became effective on June 27, at the 100th Anniversary Ceremony in Bern. Urs Staub from the PSI in Villigen was elected chairman of the Condensed Matter Physics section. All other committee members were confirmed in their respective position, in particular Bernhard Braunecker as secretary and Pierangelo Gröning as treasurer for another 2-year term. Information on the planning of the centennial ceremony in Bern was provided. The date (2-4 Sept. 2009) and location (Innsbruck) of the joint meeting with the Austrian Physical Society were also announced.
The second major event was the Ceremonial act organized at the Kultur-Casino Bern on June 27, 2008 (cf. SPG Mitteilungen 24, July 2008, for full summary).
About 300 persons attended the festivities, among them the secretary of state for education and research, six Nobel laureates in physics, all living past presidents of the SPS as well as the presidents of our partner societies in Switzerland and in Europe. The ceremony was moderated by David Jans who led the audience through a program reflecting 100 years of physics in Switzerland, addressing today’s problems of science and taking a look into the future. A round table discussion addressed issues such as perception and promotion of physics in the public, in particular among youngsters. The Nobel laureate Theodor W. Hänsch from the Max Planck Institute in Garching outlined in his keynote speech "Vision for Physics" the challenges of the physics of tomorrow, based on his personal research work.
As part of the program young high school and university students met in a casual way with the Nobel laureates H. Rohrer (1986) and G.‘t Hooft (1999), J. G. Bednorz (1987), P. Grünberg (2007), and T. W. Hänsch (2005). After the ceremony the foyer of the Kultur-Casino was transformed into a well attended physics fair, where pupils and different associations could present their activities. In the evening a gala dinner was organized at the Hotel Bellevue Palace.
In the executive committee the creation of two new sections was proposed (to be voted at the next general assembly):
- Atomic Physics and Quantum Optics (nominated chair Antoine Weiss, Uni Fribourg)
- Education and Promotion of Physics (nominated chair Tibor Gyalog, Uni Basel)
The SPS took an active part in the evaluation of the Implementation of Bologna Process into Physics Study in Europe, organized by the EPS and lead by the International Centre for Higher Education Research (INCHER) at Kassel University, Germany. Altogether 25 European National Physical Societies are involved. The first step was to identify the physics department in each country, mail a questionnaire on the Physics Curricula at the Bachelor level to them and evaluate the responses. The next step will address the Master studies.
Stronger contacts have been established with SATW by initiating direct discussions. The SPS is interested in contributing to a better integration process between schools, universities and industry. On Sept. 24, 2008, SPS participated at a SATW workshop at the EMPA-Akademie, Dübendorf, aimed to coordinate the activities in education and promotion of engineering studies (Ingenieurnachwuchsförderung).
The SPS participated also in an EPS meeting, at CERN, on Sept. 25-26, 2008, which aims in establishing a European Technology Network for large scale facilities in physics. If needed such a network could provide technical and managerial support in building large facilities and devices for high energy physics, fusion research, high intensity radiation, neutron studies, space and astrophysical research, large detectors for particles and waves, etc.. On the Swiss side PSI was also represented.
In November a letter was mailed to about 80 physics professors in the Swiss universities, non-members of the Society, asking them to support our efforts by joining the SPS and encouraging their students to participate in the annual meetings and by the same token become active members (free for them the first year). The result of this mailing is still open.
On Nov. 28, the SPS was represented at the 4th Swiss Olympiads Day in Bern. After several discussions with Claudia Appenzeller, head of the "Verband Schweizer Wissenschafts-Olympiaden" it was decided that SPS will sponsor the Swiss Physics Olympiads and create two new SPS Prizes (2 x 500.- CHF) for the best female and male finalist of the Swiss selection.
Christophe Rossel, March 2009