Dates: 1994-05-22 - 1994-05-27 9.9 (2 decades 6 years ago)
Where: St. Petersburg, Politechnika, Russia Venue: Russian Academy of Sciences
Review of the III International Conference on 6/10/94 Space, Time and Gravitation on May 23-28, 1994 at St. Petersburg, Russia.
I asked a fellow attendee from USA, what he felt was the most important feature of the III international conference on Space, Time and Gravitation was held in May 23-28, 1994 in St. Petersburg, Russia. His answer was quick and to the point, "That this meeting took place." He was right. This was the 4th international conference of this type. It has grown in scope and prestige. It was cosponsored by solid scientific organizations: the Russian Academy of Sciences, Research Institute of Radio and Electronics, and the Institute of History of Science and Technology of Russia. There were 3 simultaneous session on space and time with 176 abstracts and 160 15-minute presentations. There were about 180 attendees, many with impressive academic credentials, from perhaps 16 countries and former Soviet states. About 85% of papers were in Russian and 15% in English, with good simultaneous translations. The meetings were well run and covered a surprising variety of views, almost all of which questioned orthodox relativistic views.
I found many papers of good quality (albeit some unorthodox). Some others seemed trivial (such as ones speaking of negative mass or biological relationships). None were presented in poor taste or 'vociferously'. Papers from countries beyond the former Soviet states seemed particularly well received. During these discussions, we had time to gain better understanding of alternative views, and to jointly review and bring out other (previously unrecognized) features of our own papers. This seemed especially valuable to those of us who have worked in seeming isolation. There were many who gained better perspectives and comments in short but meaningful dialogue. For those who have avoided such a distant meeting in the past, this personal interchange is reason enough to seriously consider attending their next conference in '96. Note that, unless visa requirements are lifted, attendees must request and be invited to attend (a simple formality).
Some planners of the conference, including Svetlana Tolchelnikova, were disappointed that all (correctly-submitted) papers were included in the program, rather than relegating the poorer ones to poster sessions as in previous conferences. To me, however, this is preferable to alternatives of ruling out non-conformist papers in the same manner that our dissident papers are excluded from establishment publications and meetings. With concurrent sessions, listeners can 'vote with their feet' to attend other sessions or talk in the hallways during papers of little interest.
A review meeting was held on at the end of the conference, which considered good and bad features of the meetings, and suggested improvements for the next time. With their newly? acquired democratic processes, however, they over-reacted (to my thinking) to the author's feelings that all papers should be published in the proceedings, instead of just selected ones of highest value. That would increase costs beyond their means, and the lessen the value of the conference proceedings. Proceedings from '89 and '91 are now available in Russian, and the '93 proceedings are in need of about $5000 before publication is possible. Russian scientists (and most other Russians) now are in dire financial shape (see Science (vol. 264, p. 1259?1284). Russians on the street and workers around the hotel seemed in a kind of malaise. A full professor's salary there might be perhaps $100/month, of which perhaps 15% goes for rent of a 'flat' in Russia and the remainder for food-if it can be found So, Professor Craig Spaniol from West Virginia and I have undertaken to see if we can find some type of financial support to help their scientific personnel (and hopefully do what we can to prevent collapse with unknown future consequences.) I would encourage others to also consider ways to help fellow scientists in the former Soviet states.
Neil Munch, Galilean Electrodynamics, 5 (6): 112 (1994).