This editorial joins a long historical line of “first editorials” from new editors-in-chief. Did you know that the American Journal of Physics goes back to 1933? It was known as The American Physics Teacher until 1940, when its name was changed because its former name, “failed to symbolize the conceptions of physics teaching, the academic grade and the standards of quality that the association and journal seek to foster, and that regular readers have come to expect of the journal.”1 The editor, Duane Roller, went on to write, “Since its inception, the journal has sought to foster broad and comprehensive conceptions of the place of physics in our modern culture, and to provide material for improving all aspects of physics instruction. Interpreted in a wide cultural sense, improvement in instruction involves not only the development of better teaching methods and facilities but the encouragement of a wide range of interests and activities on the part of physicists who teach. The journal should provide material that will encourage and assist teachers and students in all types of institutions to keep abreast of the state of the science, and to engage continually in creative work of one kind or another.”
I share Professor Roller's hopes for the journal: that it will continue to be a source you turn to both to inspire your teaching and also to remind you of all that is fun about physics. The newly revised Editorial Guidelines open with the statement, “The American Journal of Physics publishes papers that will support, inform, and delight a diverse audience of college and university physics teachers.”2 The word “delight” was chosen carefully. My highest praise for an article is that it is “delightful.” For example, I just discovered Salvatore Ganci's 2003 paper that measures molecular velocities using nothing but a digital scale, a stopwatch, and a dish of ethanol.3 How delightful is that! I'm continually impressed by how, with clever experimental design, we can measure objects from the nanoscale to the galactic. Who needs virtual reality when physics lets us perceive so much more than we can see? Similarly delightful are manuscripts that make new connections between ideas or show us a better way to derive an old concept. Have you seen David Mermin's derivation of the relativistic velocity addition equations using only the constancy of c?4 If not, go look at it now! It will make you happy. I hope that you, dear reader, will find delight in these pages. I think of you all the time when I'm working (which means I think about you practically all my waking hours—this is a big job!). Unlike research journals, which exist to help authors bring their work to other scientists, AJP exists to serve its readers. The question I ask is not, “How good is this work?” but “How useful might it be to you?”
Which brings me to another editorial from the past: Edwin Taylor and A. P. French's plea for reader comments. What they wrote in 1973 still holds today: “The journal editor lives in a curiously one-sided world. Every day he corresponds with authors, in the process learning a great deal not only about physics and physics teaching but also about the opinions, professional aspirations, and (sometimes) emotional states of those who write for the journal. With critical advice from referees the editor assembles, as best he can, a journal that will be useful. Useful to whom? From readers the silence is almost total…From those who are literally his employers and whose interests he is supposed to serve, the editor hears essentially nothing…Perhaps you can influence the new editors while they are still pliable, before they become prisoners of an unbalanced system of feedback.”5
Compared to your 1973 colleagues, you have no excuse for not sharing your thoughts. No need for a typewriter or a pen—just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org! If you're reading this editorial, you count as a regular reader. Please provide feedback. I'm looking forward to hearing from you.
Besides introducing myself, I also want to introduce you to the new assistant editors: Joe Amato, Tyler Engstrom, Claire Marrache-Kikuchi, Raina Olsen, Cameron Reed, and Todd Springer. So far, our team has assembled only via Zoom, but we hope to meet in person someday. These editors bring much-needed diversity to AJP, not only in areas of physics expertise, but also employment and nationality. We have two physicists working in industry who are deeply committed to education, three physicists living at least part-time in Canada, and, in what I believe to be a first for AJP, a non-U.S. citizen, who joins our team from Paris. I hope someday to have even more diversity on the editorial staff; please contact me if you might be willing to help me in that goal.
And, yes, you're right, there is one other “editorial first”: we now have women on the editorial staff. AJP has been open to female editors at least since 1977, when Edwin Taylor concluded his call for new editors with the sentences, “Of course, there are plenty of good reasons to avoid being editor. Other reasons are not so good; notice that neither on the back of this sheet nor on this side until this very sentence has use been made of the pronouns ‘he’ or ‘she.’”6 Sadly, being eleven years old at the time, I couldn't respond to his call. I'm truly delighted to be here now.