(Concentration Editorial)

To obtain reasonably complete foundation in the physical sciences the average concentrator is confronted with the need to take the equivalent of five whole courses with an average of six hours a week spent on laboratory work in each of them. Courses such as Chemistry 4, Chemistry 6, and Physics 2 and 3, among those designed for undergraduate consumption, all provide technical experience in direct physical or chemical measurement.

It is not the inherent difficulty of the material that necessitates so much time being spent; rather is it repetitious work and the divergent methods of the two departments. Physics, on the one hand, considers an experiment concluded without a report on ten separate sheets of paper with title page and binder to be a waste of time and will mark accordingly, while the Chemistry Department, on the other hand, considers the keeping of a neat record notebook sufficient training.

There are two fundamental fields that are covered in these five courses--the detection and determination of the elements, and quantitative measurement of physical phenomena. Training in both of these is essential for either the chemist or the physicist, but the one fits obviously into the field of chemistry, the other into that of physics. As the two are well defined, might it not be possible to separate them into two one-year courses? They would both take at least 8 hours a week of laboratory work and would preferably not be taken simultaneously. The chemical course would be of slightly broader scope than the present Chemistry 4, having one or two group experiments involving mass spectra and spectroscopy, and the lecture material might cover more advanced methods of analysis than laboratory facilities allowed in practical work.

The Physics course would be more disjointed and would involve the presence of two new features in the Physics department. First, a large group of laboratory instructors interested in the students and with time to spend on them, and secondly an accurate and complete, constantly revisable laboratory manual. These two features would eliminate any need for lectures, and would be necessary because the lack of apparatus would necessitate the performance of the same experiment at widely separated times by different members of the course.

This two-course scheme involves tremendous difficulties both in equipment and personnel. It would require new laboratory space, and an as yet non-existent staff, but would offer considerable advantages to the student. First, repetition would be avoided. Secondly, practical experience with various techniques, though not of long enough duration to produce proficiency, would serve to impress on concentrators in each field the existence and utility of the techniques of the other, in two full-course rather than five.