The New York times has an article about the three physicists who are currently congressional representatives: Republican Vern Ehlers and Democrats Rush Holt and Bill Foster. They make some great points about intellectual curiosity and problem solving, such as this:
He [Holt] recalled his exasperation when anthrax spores were discovered in the Capitol in 2001 and colleagues came to him and said, “You are a scientist, you must know about anthrax,” a subject ordinarily missing from the physics curriculum.
“The difference,” he said, “is we would be perfectly happy to pick up a copy of The New England Journal of Medicine and read about the etiology of anthrax.”
“In fact, we basically did that,” Mr. Ehlers said.
“We know more than our colleagues,” Mr. Holt said, “but not more than they could know.”
And more generally about the misconceptions of scope that affect the publics view of science, such as this:
Among other things, they said, a science adviser should be someone who will remind the next administration what science can and cannot do.
For example, Mr. Ehlers said, it is irksome to encounter people who ignore the scientific consensus that human activity contributes to global warming yet count on science to produce new sources of energy magically. “They sort of reject our reasoning,” he said. “But they will come back and say, ‘Science will find a way.’ ”
I wonder, though, aside from these three are there any other physical scientists in congress? Chemists? Geologists? Most of the other scientifically trained representatives that the article mentions are health-related scientists. Not that there’s anything wrong with keeping people well, it’s just a different field than discovering the laws that govern the inorganic universe.
Anyway, the article is worth a read.