[Virtual Physics]

number 05.             July 1, 1996


a forum for virtual meetings of scientists and students involved in a research activity on:

Editors: Dr. Zbigniew J.Koziol, (Editor-in-Chief) webex@ra.isisnet.com, WebExperts Inc.
Dr. Michal Spalinski, Michal.Spalinski@fuw.edu.pl, Institute of Theoretical Physics, Warsaw University
Copyright (C) 1996 by Zbigniew Koziol.


Letter from the Editor
Some Problems of Manuscript Refereeing and Possible Solutions, by Ross Macdonald
Condensed Matter News
Letter to Virtual Physics: Alan Sokal's "experiment", by Alexander Berezin
2nd Edition of Tinkham's Introduction to Superconductivity
First Step to Nobel Prize in Physics



Dear Readers of Virtual Physics,

We would like to welcome all new readers of Virtual Physics and wish to all of you a pleasent stay with our electronic journal.

In this issue, we present an interesting essay by Professor Macdonald, concerning matters important to the whole scientific community, i.e. the process of manuscript refereeing. We are proud that the full version of this article, published by us, can reach already more than a thousand scientists all over the world.

This time, we begin to provide very brief reviews of selected, recently published research articles from the field of condensed matter physics. We would be pleased to receive your comments about that and your contributions to Condensed Matter News, concerning either your own work or any other published articles.

A very interesting initiative organized by the Institute of Physics, Polish Academy of Sciences, has been reported to us by Dr. Gorzkowski. This year, the Fifth International Competition in Research Projects for Secondary School Students is being organized. Please distribute this information between students and encourage them to participate in that competition. We will publish more details in the next issues of Virtual Physics. Some additional information can be found at WWW pages of Virtual Board.

Sincerely yours,
Zbigniew Koziol


Ross Macdonald

Received: June 15, 1996

A shortened version of this essay appeared in PHYSICS TODAY, January 1996, pp. 86-87.

In 1968, Alvin Weinberg (Minerva 16 (1978) 1) said, "Of all the traits which qualify a scientist for citizenship in the republic of science, I would put a sense of responsibility as a scientist at the very top. A scientist can be brilliant, imaginative, clever with his hands, profound, broad, narrow -- but he is not much of a scientist unless he is responsible." Here, I discuss a few aspects of such responsibility and some ways which may help it to be better met.

It is an important responsibility of those who publish refereed papers to be willing to review manuscripts themselves when so requested. This reciprocity is inadequately recognized by some authors, and those who agree to review far fewer manuscripts than they themselves publish thereby require others to review more than their fair share.

Here, I first summarize a few other common problems of omission and commission by editors or reviewers, ones which many readers will recognize from their own experiences. Problems with refereeing may significantly and unnecessarily delay an editor's decision on a submission, much to the dismay of its author, and such obstacles may even prove detrimental to science. Perhaps it is not much of an exaggeration to remark that while everyone complains about review problems, no one does anything about them. Talk is cheap, but effective action can be difficult, especially when it must deal with matters of common courtesy between colleagues. Second, a modest proposal to achieve useful action is presented below, one whose implementation would reduce substantially the incidence of one of the most serious reviewer problems.

Some editors request review of a MS by mailing it to a selected reviewer without securing prior agreement from the reviewer. This practice can be especially inefficient when the request goes to a person who has never reviewed for the journal before. When that person has moved, is abroad, is uninterested, or is ill or dead, total lack of response can easily delay the submission of the MS to another reviewer by a month or more. Next, if editorial procedures do not ensure that the latest address of the selected reviewer is checked before use, another month may be lost. The remedy for the above problems is obvious. Further, avoiding "cold" requests, at the least to potential first-time reviewers, is likely to save both money and time on the average.

I am aware of numerous occasions where a review of a MS reaches the author of the MS ten or more weeks after submission. When one considers that many journals request that completed review reports be returned no more than two or three weeks after receipt, there is clearly much slack in the system in such instances. The primary problem here is reviewer procrastination. In my opinion, reviewers who take substantially more than a month to review a MS should never have agreed to review it in the first place.

Clearly, the standard editorial request for a speedy review is more honored in the breach than in the observance. If editors included with manuscripts sent for review a return postcard containing a line to specify the expected date of mailing the completed review by the reviewer, it would not only help editorial planning but would provide a definite self-established goal for the reviewer. Routinely tardy reviewers would seem to have little empathy for other authors, yet they would likely be in favor of an unsymmetrical application of the golden rule. Because reviewing reduces the time available for one's own work, some reviewers consciously or unconsciously unduly delay their response, and thus reduce the probability of receiving another request during the review period or after its completion.

There has been considerable recent discussion of the potential abuses and conflict-of-interest problems inherent in anonymous peer review. Berezin, Gordon, and Hunter (APS News, March 1995, p.7) have called for a halt to such reviewing and proposed that all reviews be signed. In the best of all possible worlds, this would indeed be appropriate, but it involves its own problems, such as finding enough reviewers who agree not to be anonymous. In the absence of the millenium, and, hopefully, as a stop-gap solution, I propose below a middle ground approach which, I believe, is more likely to be practical.

To ameliorate some of the problems of anonymous reviewing mentioned above, I suggest two new possible approaches which incorporate desirable feedback procedures without necessarily sacrificing anonymity. First, editors should not only strongly emphasize the importance of adherence to the requested two- (or three-) week review response time, but in addition, they should inform a potential reviewer that if the review has not been received by the editor within a month (six weeks?) of mailing to the reviewer, then (barring rare extenuating circumstances) that reviewer's name will be disclosed to the author of the MS. This tactic by itself would certainly reduce average review time.

Even if the above disclosure procedure is deemed to be too draconian, the following procedures should encourage reviewers to be less tardy. One or two lists of reviewer names should be published by each journal at the end of the year. The first list should contain the names of those reviewers who were dilatory (by the above criterion) during the year. A potential author would then have the option of avoiding referencing anyone on the list and even of requesting that no one on the list be selected as a reviewer of his/her submission. Further, publication of such lists at the same time of the year by many journals would allow their editors to accumulate the various listings and thus be better able to recognize and pass over slow reviewers when appropriate. Finally, and of essential importance, when a reviewer on the "slow" list submitted a MS, it would be particularly appropriate that any referees selected for that MS be chosen from the "slow" list! Such selection would also be desirable for MS's submitted by authors who have published in a given journal but have rejected several reviewing requests since such publication. Although such negative reinforcement of civilized norms of behavior would certainly help ameliorate the problem, the approach could be even more strengthened by simultaneous publication of the list of reviewers who met their obligations in timely fashion during the year.

Widespread implementation of the above proposals might initially reduce the supply of willing reviewers, an undesirable result. But this is not likely to be the case for the steady state when the procedure becomes well known and lists are routinely published. Although it might tend to weed out some of the worst offenders, especially if they did not expect to ever publish again themselves, it should cause most slow reviewers to mend their ways and begin to meet their professional responsibilities with courtesy and empathy, rather than apathy. It is remarkable what strong light on a subject can do to reverse ingrained bad habits previously shielded by a cloak of anonymity and perpetuated by inadequate accountability.

J. Ross Macdonald
William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Physics, emeritus
Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3255
tel. (919) 967-5005, fax: (919) 962-0480,



Universal Formulae for Percolation Thresholds

A very simple, and still accurate approximation for the percolation thressholds has been found by Serge Galam and Alain Mauge. The Authors report that a power law,


where d is the space dimension, q is the coordination number, predicts the percolation thresholds for a broad range of parameters d and q.

They find that three universality classes should be introduced, which are defined by a set of values of p0 and a. For the first two classes, b=0 for site dilution while b=a for bond dilution, For the fird class, b=2a-1 for sites and bonds percolation.

The article may be treated also as a nice introductory review to the present status of the percolation theory.

A TEX and PostScript versions are available at LANL server, cond-mat/9606081


Nonlinear transverse magnetic moment in anisotropic superconductors

In a recent article by Igor Zutic and Oriol T. Valls from the University of Minnesota, the nonlinear transverse magnetic moment is considered that arises in the Meissner state of superconductors with a d-wave, anisotropic order parameter. The clue to those effects is presence of nodes on the Fermi surface, changing significantly electrodynamic properties.

While the existence of nonlinear effects in the magnetization has been predicted in earlier works, and (unsuccesfull) experimental attempts of detecting them have been reported already (see for instance: J. Buan, et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 72 (1994) 2632), the study of Zutic and Valls is of great value. It seems that it is the first one addressing concistently the issue of the presence of a transverse magnetic moment, perpendicular to the direction of an applied magnetic field. The authors compute numerically the magnetic moment as a function of applied field and geometry for several realistic situations useful for comparison with experiment.

The authors argue that these effects should be potentially capable of yielding a signature for the structure of the order parameter function, and therefore for the nodal structure of the gap itself. The Editor of Virtual Physics (Z.K.) is more sceptical, however, and he is convinced that measurements of the ac susceptibility rather (a method which is much more sensitive in detecting any nonlinear contributions to the electrodynamic response) would be able to resolve the issue of the presence of gap nodes.

A TEX and PostScript versions are available at LANL server, cond-mat/9606102

Compiled by Zbigniew Koziol


Letter to Virtual Physics : Alan Sokal's "experiment"

by Alexander Berezin

Received June 19, 1996
I got copies and read both articles by Alan Sokal [ original in 'Social Text' of 30+ (!) pages and his pseudo-Galilean 3-page 'recant' in Lingua Franca, May-June 1996 ].

He is undoubtedly a very talented writer and knows his art.

Yet, I am convinced that his experiment proves nothing in substance and his intention to make a mockery of the 'holistic' science was not delieverd. The issues he wants to ridicule are far too serious to be dismissted by a spoof, even if the spoof is a very clever and smart.

Contrary to his intentions, this episode will likely add even MORE fuel to the (de)constructivist discourse. Thank you, Alan Sokal for the service you apparently did not intend to offer.

Alexander A. Berezin, PhD
Department of Engineering Physics
McMaster University, Hamilton,
Ontario, Canada, L8S 4L7
tel. (905) 525-9140 ext. 24546


2nd Edition of Tinkham's Introduction to Superconductivity

McGraw-Hill has published recently the second edition of one of the best known toolbooks on the superconductivity, Introduction to Superconductivity by M. Tinkham. The Editor of Virtual Physics is pleased to provide you the following information (with the permission of Professor Tinkham):

The new version has been expanded by over 50% to include new chapters on high-temperature superconductivity, superconductivity in mesoscopic tunnel junctions, and nonequilibrium superconductivity. In addition, the chapter on the classic Josephson effect has been completely rewritten to make it more inclusive and up-to-date, including a brief introduction to arrays of Josephson junctions. Also, a new introductory chapter on electrodynamics at the level of the London equations has been inserted before BCS, to provide a gentler introduction to the subject of superconductivity.

Zbigniew Koziol



Fifth International Competition in Research Projects
for Secondary School Students

organized by Polish Academy of Sciences

Received: June 18, 1996
Some of secondary school students interested in physics perform their own research works in physics. Sometimes their results are very interesting and valuable.

In the academic year 1996/97 the Institute of Physics, Polish Academy of Sciences, organizes the Fifth International Competition in Research Projects in Physics for Secondary School Students.

General Rules:

  1. All the secondary (high) school students regardless of the country, type of the school etc. are eligible for the competition. The only conditions are that the school cannot be considered as a university college and the age of the participant should not exceed 20 years on March 31, 1997.
  2. There are no restrictions concerning the subject matter of the papers, their level, methods applied etc. All these are left to the participants' choice. The papers, however, have to have a research character and deal with physics topics or topics directly related to physics.
  3. Every participant can submit one or more papers but each paper should have only one author. The total volume (i.e. text + figures + captions + tables + references) of each paper should not exceed 25 normal typed pages (about 25,000 characters).
  4. The papers will be refereed by the Organizing Committee and the best will be awarded. The number of awarded papers is not limited. All the awards will be considered equivalent. The Authors of the awarded papers will be invited to the Institute of Physics for one month's research stay (the stays are scheduled on November 1997). The stay expenses in Poland will be paid by the Institute of Physics (unfortunately, the travel expenses to and from Poland cannot be paid by us as well).
  5. In addition to the regular awards the Organizing Committee may establish a number of honourable mentions. The participants who won the honourable mention receive diplomas, but they are not invited to the research stay.
  6. The participants send their papers in two copies in English only by March 31, 1997 to:

    Dr. Waldemar Gorzkowski
    Secretary General of the "FIRST STEP"
    Institute of Physics, Polish Academy of Sciences
    al. Lotnikow 32/46, (PL) 02-668 Warszawa

  7. IMPORTANT: Each paper should contain the name, birth date and home address of the Author and the name and address of his/her school.

We hope that our competition will provide the students with an opportunity to compare their own achievements with these of their colleagues from other countries. Also we hope that the stay of young scientists in our Institute will result in friendly relationship between them, what seems especially valuable for the future.

On behalf of the Organizing Committee

Prof. Henryk Szymczak
Director of the Institute of Physics

Additional information on the competition and on the proceedings of the past competitions can be obtained from Dr. Waldemar Gorzkowski - phone: (022)435212; tlx: 812468 ifpan pl; fax: (022)430926.

Current information on the competition and related topics can be found on the ftp server ftp.ifpan.edu.pl/pub/competitions.

Virtual Physics: a forum for virtual meetings of scientists and students involved in a research activity on THE SOLID STATE PHYSICS AND SUPERCONDUCTIVITY is available for a free subscription in an e-mail version. To subscribe: send a request to the Editor.


Dr. Zbigniew J. Koziol (Editor-in-Chief), WebEx@ra.isisnet.com, WebExperts Inc.,
2-6032 Compton Ave., Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3H 1E7 Canada, tel. (902) 423 2149
Dr. Michal Spalinski, Michal.Spalinski@fuw.edu.pl, Institute of Theoretical Physics,
Warsaw University, Hoza 69, 00-681 Warsaw, Poland, tel. (+48)(2) 628 3031
Virtual Physics URL address: http://www.isisnet.com/MAX/vp.html
To subscribe a F R E E e-mail version or submit materials for publication, write to the Editor.
Copyright (C) 1996 by Zbigniew Koziol.
this copyright notice concerns the whole of the Virtual Physics edition but not specific articles published there which are property of their respective copyright holders
No responsibility is assumed by the publisher for any damage to persons or property as a matter of the product liability, negligence or otherwise, or from any use of methods, instructions or ideas contained in the material herein. The opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Editor and certainly they have nothing to do with WebExperts Inc.
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