The March issue of Rensselaer magazine had an interesting article on Rensselaers Center for Terahertz Radiation. Unfortunately, the chart on page 23 shows visible light with a wavelength around 5 x 10 (-4) meters. When I went to RPI, even the chemists knew that visible light has a wavelength of around 5 x 10 (-7) meters. I initially thought this new research center was not living up to the excellence we all expect from RPI. Upon closer inspection, I was relieved to find that the chart was copyrighted by the Center for Science Education at UC Berkeley. It restored my faith in Rensselaer, but it does make me wonder about all those heavy radioactive elements.
Tyler Housel 83
I was really surprised to see what can, at best, be called an oversimplification in the article The Next Wave. I wouldnt expect to see the statement, Radio waves, the lowest frequencies, carry sound through space.... in an article aimed at lay persons, much less in an alumni magazine for a technological university.
I suppose that the statement is based on the fact that the kHz frequency range is used for the AM broadcast bands. I recognize that the article is about T-rays, but I think that it might have been appropriate to mention applications such as induction heating and over-the-horizon radar (both of which work at frequencies lower than AM broadcasting).
I also think that suggesting that sound is carried by these waves creates confusion about the difference between sound waves and transverse electromagnetic (TEM) waves. In my opinion, it would have been helpful to the reader if it was made clear that T-rays are TEM waves, and if a distinction was made between T-rays and ionizing rays, such as X- and gamma rays.
Martin Markson 59
Great Neck, N.Y.
I was enthralled by President Jacksons talk to our alumni Class of 51 in Troy at our 50th anniversary, and again at her talk to Westchester alumni at the Rye Town Hilton, about the great plans for RPI in the new technologies and how those plans are being achieved. Having said that, I read her Presidents View in the latest Rensselaer magazine, which presented a realistic view of the risks it takes to make progress, highlighting NASA as an example. Thats the good news.
The bad news: Having worked 50-plus years in industry and commerce with the first 26 years in a variety of aerospace high-tech research and development, I felt one thing was missing from her message identifying the aging of NASA personnel: the woeful lack of recognition in the form of salary levels accorded the senior practitioners with the necessary technical engineering skills working in government agencies and in their contractors firms. Add to that the generally short duration of many of its contractors contracts. Engineers do read the want ads and can figure the generally penurious retirement benefits offered by industry and the excessive longevity to reach an acceptable level. They are not about to jump into that mix without looking at other options first. Also, some American firms are doing their engineering and programming in Second and Third World nations.
With the title of Engineer still attached to train drivers and hoist operators among others (who incidentally are paid well above the average professional engineer), there is a large gap between NASAs need and people who will be available to fill that need.
There is no one solution; however, better PR is required. Perhaps as a first step, subsidizing engineering education as a way of attracting more students into our ranks, just as students are subsidized in education and medicine with their promising to work in certain fields and locations and even the military for a given number of years, some thought might be given to doing the same for engineers.
Norman Zelvin 51
I was very interested in reading about and learning the fate of the Portsmouth table in the March 2003 issue of Rensselaer (From the Archives). During my time at RPI, the table was in the library, which then was housed in the basement of Amos Eaton Hall, and was located near the checkout deska fiefdom tightly controlled by Harriet (Hattie) Peck, chief librarian, and Jane Spoor, assistant librarian. Hattie ran a tight ship. She permitted no talking, shoe scuffling, and frowned on deep breathing if it generated more than one decibel of sound. Jane was more moderate.
I was pleased to learn of the tables proper location in the Meiji-mura Museum. It must be noted that was the only article in the magazine that I fully understood.
John Byron 36
Wed love to hear from you! To provide space for as many letters as possible, we often must edit them for length. Please address correspondence to: Rensselaer Magazine, Office of Communications, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180, or e-mail to email@example.com, or call (518) 276-6531.