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In this interview, Geoffrey Burbidge discusses his life and career. Topics discussed include: his family and childhood; Bristol University; Nevill Mott; University College, London; Harrie Massey; David Robert Bates; theoretical physics seminars at Cambridge University; Richard Feymnan; Freeman Dyson; Dick Dalitz; Abdus Salam; Nicholas Kemmer; becoming interested in astronomy and astrophysics via Margaret Burbidge; Royal Astronomical Society; Clive Gregory; research into stellar parallax, stellar atmospheres; Herbert Dingle; Auger effect; Otto Struve; Harvard University; Bart Bok; Donald Menzel; Harlow Shapley; Yerkes Observatory; development of radio astronomy; I. I. Rabi and big bang skepticism; Chandrasekhar; Gerard Kuiper; Enrico Fermi; Cavendish Laboratory, Martin Ryle; nucleosynthesis; Kapitza Club; Willie Fowler; Fred Hoyle; stellar evolution; steady state cosmology; red shift; Erwin Finlay-Freundlich; Max Born; Mount Wilson Observatory; Allan Sandage; Milt Humason; Ira Bowen; status at women at Hale observatories and at the California Institute of Technology (CalTech); Edwin Hubble; Walter Baade; synchrotron radiation; Rudolph Minkowski; Californium and supernovae; Halton Arp; Hans Suess; Vera Rubin's work on anisotropy; quasars; galaxy formation.
In this interview Robert Cahn discusses his tenure and support of the Supernova Cosmology Project (SCP) as director (1991-1996) of the physics division at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (LBL). Reviews of the SCP. Saul Perlmutter as building a new field of research in distant supernovae. Astrophysics in Berkeley. Style of research in the physics division at LBL. On discoveries as gradual and the importance of statistics and systematics. Pentaquark discovery as an example of error. Physical Review's policy of what constitute 'evidence' (three Sigma) and what constitutes a 'discovery' (five Sigma). Historical example of the discovery of the neutron. Historical example of the discovery of the Psi particle. Two milestones in the discovery of positive Lambda: the first distant supernova and then, finding batches of supernovae. Use of the Hubble Space Telescope by High-z team and SCP. Controversy heated because of the possibility of winning the Nobel prize.
Deals with the events leading up to and the discovery of the Crab Nebula Pulsar. Comments on his education at Cornell University and switch to astrophysics. Teams up with Michael Disney at Steward Observatory for their first observation on a 36-inch telescope. Discovery of the Vela Supernova remnant pulsar convinces them to concentrate on the Crab Nebula rather than white dwarfs. Discussion of preparations, of observations, and of the discovery. Reaction to the discovery, effect on future work. Also mentioned are: Robert McAllister, Don Taylor, and Dr. Weyman.
Galaxy cluster cataloging, and toward finding supernovae started in 1984 while professor in Durham, England. Collaboration with Danish astronomers, using telescope at European Southern Observatory in Chile on this search. Thus, with ground-based telescopes obtained the spectra of the supernovae and measured their redshifts. Result: Nature paper of 1989. Collaboration with The Supernova Cosmology Project (SCP) beginning in 1993. Carl Pennypacker first PI of SCP. Camera at Anglo-Australian Telescope (1000 by 2000 pixels, as opposed to 600 by 500 pixels of Danish camera). Euphoria of finding supernova at record-breaking distance, at redshift of 0.45. Turning point in collaboration around 1994, 1995. On skepticism and science; Lambda, the cosmological constant, and the accelerating universe; SCP and High-z teams, the UK National Meeting (with George F. Stathew and Martin Reese), and talk at Cambridge Mathematics Institute; use of Hubble Space Telescope.
Gerson Goldhaber describes the milestones and turning point in the Supernova Cosmology Project's history; the discovery of the first supernova after three years, then discovering batches of supernovae at a time, the use of a 10 meter Keck telescope to get spectra taken. Goldhaber describes his tables of supernovae. He explains how two images are taken each time when searching for supernovae, to avoid hot pixels, cosmic rays, and asteroids in the data. Goldhaber's discovery of a peak in the data, shown in Santa Barbara on December 14, 1997. Comparison of this method to Goldhaber's previous particle physics work. Explanation of tables he made of the data.
In this interview Fred Hoyle discusses his childhood and growing up in Yorkshire; parental background and influences; early reading in science; early experience with literature; influence of Eddington's books; education at Cambridge; interest in mathematics; early interest in exploring cosmology after World War II; history of development of steady state model; influence of Dirac and preference for understanding mathematics first; thesis work with Dirac; personality of Dirac; history of work on nucleosynthesis in stars: the Cavendish Laboratory, nucleosynthesis in supernovae, carbon production in helium burning, the triple alpha reaction and the excited state of carbon, collaboration with William Fowler, important paper by Al Cameron, work with Fowler and Geoffrey and E. Margaret Burbidge; nonstellar production of helium; defense of the steady state model; "little big bangs" in the steady state picture; Hoyle and Taylor work in 1964 on limiting the number of types of neutrinos; motives in doing science; rejection of big bang model from biological considerations; reading in biology; early career as a popularizer of science; role of particle physicists in making cosmology a respectable science; Mach's principle; attitudes toward the horizon problem, the flatness problem, and the inflationary universe model; Hoyle's work on inflationary behavior within the steady state model; reasons why the inflationary universe model has been influential; attitude toward the de Lapparent, Geller, and Huchra work on large-scale inhomogeneity and influence of that work; theory versus observations in cosmology and problems with the big bang model; attitude toward work on the early universe; importance of long-range interactions and boundary conditions in the laws of physics; ideal design of the universe; question of whether the universe has a purpose.
This interview discusses John Huchra's childhood interest in science and early reading in science; education at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); education at California Institute of Technology (Caltech); move from theory to experiment at Caltech; importance of politics and Vietnam War in choosing an area of science; work on the Palomar supernova search; wide range of courses at Caltech; what questions should be asked in science; early experience with telescopes and observational astronomy; hands-on experience in astronomy; work on comets; work on galaxies; introduction to cosmology and relativity; journal club at Caltech; application for jobs after Caltech; initial idea to measure red shifts for a large sample of galaxies; work with Trinh Thuan; Huchra's world view and how his science fits in with it; role of theory in astronomy; value of the Hubble constant; origin of the infrared Tully-Fisher program; reaction to discovery of the result that the universe is much younger than previously believed; rechecking result; roles of theory and observation in science; attitude toward wide-spread belief in a flat universe; attitude toward the inflationary universe model; Jim Peebles's "school" of cosmological thinking; attitude toward the flatness problem; ideal design of the universe.
Theoretical physicist. Undergraduate work at Princeton University, graduate work at Stanford University in the early 1980s, where he studied core collapse, Type II supernovae, using them as distance indicators using the Expanding Atmosphere Method. From the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s, he criticized those who would use supernovae as distance indicators. He is the author of the cosmology textbook, First Principles of Cosmology, published in 1997. Was a senior researcher at University of Massachusetts at Amherst when discovery came out in 1998. The papers so impressed him especially the theoretical thoroughness of the SCP paper of 1999, that he was convinced of the accelerating universe, and even asked to join the SCP as a result. Now, collaborates with the SCP at LBL as theoretician.
Graduate work at U. C. Berkeley, starting in 1991, joined SCP in 1992, when it was called the High-z Search. On the discovery of group’s first supernova, 1992BG, at the Isaac Newton Telescope, and concomitant paper. Kim collaborated with Ivan Small and Matthew Kim to write IDL, the supernova search, analysis, and slice plot display software. That software has been converted to a C++ version in use now, for instance with the Hubble Space Telescope. Second batch of supernovae, approximately five found, at INT. Kim binned the first spectrum, taken by Robert Kirshner for the group, and found in it the first supernova spectral footprint. After that, began the use of the better, CTIO 4-meter telescope. Some observing done at Kitt Peak. Kim explains the taking of supernova photometry and fitting them to established light curves. Kim modified the SN-MINOW light curve fitting software. He also wrote the code to produce the Omega_Matter versus Omega_Lambda plots. He spent time in France, starting in 1997, after graduating with PhD in 1996. Kim’s attitude toward Lambda, on the process of discovery, and a few comical stories.
Robert Kirshner (of the High-z Team) is Clowes Professor of Science at Harvard University and the author of The Extravagant Universe: Exploding Stars, Dark Energy, and the Accelerating Cosmos a book that deals directly with the topic of this interview, and which includes the story of supernova cosmology with a first-hand account of Kirshner’s personal contribution. As part of his graduate work at Caltech, Kirshner discovered supernovae at Palomar in 1971, studied SN 1972e, the brightest Type Ia supernova in 35 years, and invented the expanding photosphere method for finding distances to Type IIs. His work covers various aspects of extragalactic astronomy and observational cosmology including galaxy surveys to measure galaxy clustering, the value of Omega_Matter, and the luminosity function of galaxies in addition to the co-discovery of the accelerating universe and Dark Energy. Many of the key players on the High-Z Team were, or had been his students and postdocs at Harvard. His students include Brian Schmidt, Adam Riess, Saurabh Jha, and R. Chris Smith and his postdocs include Bruno Leibundgut, Peter Garnavich and (later) Tom Matheson. Peter Challis is a long-time Harvard staff member supported by Kirshner’s grants. He describes the conceptual and observational developments that the High-Z Team used on the path to submitting the first publication with evidence for cosmic acceleration.