In this interview, Michael Turner discusses his life and career. topics include: Kavli Foundation; Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics; Fred Kavli; Aspen Center for Physics; Rand Corporation; California Institute of Technology (Caltech); Robbie Vogt; Ed Stone; Barry Barish; SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory; B.J. Bjorken; University of Chicago; Dave Schramm; Kip Thorne; Fermi Institute / University of Chicago Institute for Nuclear Studies; Bob Wagoner; University of California, Santa Barbara; Larry Smarr; Dan Goldin; quarks-to-cosmos study; National Science Foundation; Rita Colwell; Advanced LIGO; Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA); IceCube South Pole Neutrino Observatory; Department of Energy; Argonne National Laboratory; Paul Steinhardt.
Interview with Wit Busza, Francis L. Friedman Professor of Physics Emeritus at MIT. He recounts his birth in Romania as his family was escaping Poland at the start of World War II, and his family's subsequent moves to Cyprus and then to British Palestine, where he lived until he was seven, until the family moved to England. He describes the charitable circumstances that allowed him to go to Catholic boarding school, his early interests in science, and the opportunities that led to his undergraduate education in physics at University College in London, where he stayed on for his PhD while doing experiments at CERN working with Franz Heymann. Busza describes the development of spark chambers following the advances allowed by bubble chambers, and his thesis research using the Chew-Low extrapolation to calculate the probability that the proton is a proton plus a pi-zero. He describes meeting Martin Perl and the opportunities that led to his postdoctoral position at SLAC, which he describes in the late 1960s as being full of brilliant people doing the most exciting physics and where he focused on rho proton cross-sections. Busza describes meeting Sam Ting at SLAC which led to Busza's faculty appointment at MIT, where he discovered his talent for teaching. He discusses the complications associated with the discovery of the J/psi and his developing interest in relativistic heavy ion physics, the E178 project at Fermilab to examine what happens when high energy hadrons collide, and the E665 experiment to study quark propagation through nuclear matter. Busza describes the import of the RHIC and PHOBOS collaborations, and he discusses his return to SLAC to focus on WIC and SLD. He describes the global impact of the LHC and CERN, and his satisfaction at being a part of what the DOE called the best nuclear physics group in the country. In the last part of the interview, Busza reflects on the modern advances in atomic and condensed matter physics, which were inconceivable for him to imagine at the beginning of his career, he describes the considerations leading to his retirement, and why, if could re-live his career, he would think harder about being a theorist.
n this interview, Stephon Alexander discusses current research into quantum gravity and possible extensions to string theory; work to merge quantum mechanics and general relativity; research into the connection between music and cognitive science; experience as a jazz musician; intersections of philosophy and physics; experience as president of the National Society of Black Physicists (NSBP); challenges and stigmas associated with being a Black academic; growing up in both rural Trinidad and the Bronx; undergraduate experience at Haverford; graduate work at Brown; guidance from Robert Brandenberger into the field of quantum gravity, applying particle physics to astrophysics and cosmology; thesis research on solitons and topological defects and its role in string cosmology and theory; decision to take postdoc at Imperial College London focusing on M-theory and integrating string theory with cosmic inflation; influence of Alan Guth; work on D-brane driven inflation; experience in the underground London music scene; decision to go to SLAC in Stanford and work under Michael Peskin; loop quantum gravity; time as faculty at Penn State; the role and responsibility of the Black academic; recruitment by Brown University; intellectual influence of David Finkelstein; the process of becoming president of NSBP. Toward the end of the interview, Alexander reflects on his books, The Jazz of Physics and Fear of a Black Universe; being an outsider in the field of physics; and revisits his current work on quantum gravity. He emphasizes the importance of in-person collaboration and improvisation.
In this interview, Junko Shigemitsu, Professor Emerita in the Department of Physics at the Ohio State University, surveys the field of lattice gauge theory over the course of her career, and she recounts her childhood moving around the world because her father was a diplomat for Japan’s foreign ministry. She explains the circumstances that led her family back to Japan, and her decision to pursue a degree in physics at Sophia University in Tokyo. Shigemitsu discusses her interest in attending Cornell for graduate school, where she studied under the direction John Kogut. She discusses Ken Wilson’s revolutionary work on renormalization, and her thesis work on QCD. Shigemitsu describes her postdoctoral work at the Institute for Advanced Study at a time when lattice gauge theory was beginning to mature, and she discusses her subsequent postdoctoral position at Brown. She explains that opportunities that led to her faculty position at Ohio State and her subsequent research on QCD at non-zero temperatures. Shigemitsu discusses the international HPQCD collaboration and more recent advances in understanding subatomic particles in partnership with SLAC and KEK in Japan. She places the greatest excitement in finding physics beyond the Standard Model in the period starting in 2009, and she explains the increasing utility of computers as their power has grown over the decades. At the end of the interview, Shigemitsu conveys her excitement that the field will yield new discoveries, perhaps including new physics, and that quantum computing will likely be central to these prospects.
In this interview, Fred Gilman, Buhl Professor of Theoretical Physics at Carnegie Mellon University discusses his career as a theoretical physicist and hopes for the future. He discusses being a postdoc in the theoretical physics group at SLAC and his work on deep inelastic scattering. He details his involvement with the Superconducting Super Collider and the eventual decision to shut down its construction. Gilman reflects on his involvement with the Snowmass Conference as well as his work on the High-Energy Physics Advisory Panel. Lastly, Gilman speaks about his excitement for future discoveries from the Vera Rubin Observatory and his hopes for Carnegie Mellon and their involvement with physics.
Interview with David G. Hitlin, Professor of Physics at California Institute of Technology. Hitlin discusses his thesis work on high-resolution muonic X-ray studies with his advisor and mentor Chien-Shiung Wu, and his subsequent transition to elementary particle physics at SLAC. He relates his experiences with kaon physics as a member of Mel Schwartz’s group at SLAC and Stanford. As a member of the Richter group at SLAC he worked on the Mark II experiment and then founded the Mark III experiment at SPEAR. After moving to Caltech in 1979, he worked on the SLD experiment at the SLC and then as founding Spokesman of the BABAR experiment at PEP-II. The interview ends with a discussion of his current involvements with the Fermilab experiment Mu2e and the nascent SLAC experiment LDMX.
Interview with Pierre Sikivie, Distinguished Professor of Physics at the University of Florida. Sikivie explains how the social isolation imposed by the pandemic has been beneficial for his research, and he recounts his childhood in Belgium and his family’s experiences during World War II. He discusses his undergraduate work and his natural inclination toward theoretical physics, and the opportunities that led to his graduate work at Yale under the mentorship of Feza Gürsey. Sikivie explains that his initial interests were in elementary particle physics which was the topic of his research on Grand Unification and the E6 group. He describes his postdoctoral research at the University of Maryland where he worked on CP violation, and he explains his decision to pursue his next postdoctoral position at SLAC to work on non-Abelian classical theories. Sikivie explains that his interests in cosmology and astrophysics only developed during his subsequent work at CERN, and the circumstances that led to axion research becoming his academic focal point. He describes his appointment to the faculty at the University of Florida and when he became sure that axions would prove to be a career-long pursuit. He narrates his invention of the axion haloscope and how this research evolved into the ADMX collaboration. Sikivie explains why he was, and remains, optimistic about the centrality of axion research to the discovery of dark matter, and he discusses the import of QCD on axion physics over the past thirty years. At the end, Sikivie surveys some of the challenges working in a field whose promise remains in some way hypothetical but which nonetheless holds promise for fundamental discovery.
Interview with Joel Primack, Distinguished Professor of Physics Emeritus at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Primack discusses what he has been able to do in his free time since his retirement, including writing papers, giving lectures, hosting meetings at UC Santa Cruz, leading international collaborations, and supervising research. He sees the new data coming from the Vera Rubin Observatory and the Gaia Survey as exciting developments in the realm of astrophysics, and he is looking forward to adding to this data when we begin receiving images from the James Webb Space Telescope. Primack discusses his work with various simulations that he has utilized to understand what may be occurring within galaxies, and the growing importance of astrobiology in these simulations. He takes us back into his early years in Montana, where his passion for science began to develop, and how his high school education and internships led him to Princeton University for his undergraduate career. While at Princeton, Primack took classes from John Wheeler, worked at the Jet Propulsion Lab under Bill Pickering, and participated in the Students for a Democratic Society, where his interest in the combination of politics and science began to grow. Primack discusses how important the communication between politicians and scientists is, and he saw this need for improved communication early on. He started the Congressional Science and Technology Fellowship program as a preliminary way to work on the relationship between government and science. He then recounts his experiences at Harvard University and his eventual move to Santa Cruz, where he continued working on dark matter and dark energy, among other things. He remarks on his relationship and work with Nancy Abrams, including the courses they taught and the books they wrote together. He ends the interview talking about his family, his recovery from cancer, and the people he’s looking forward to working with in the future.
In this interview, Fred Gilman, Buhl Professor of Theoretical Physics at Carnegie Mellon University discusses his career as a theoretical physicist and hopes for the future. He details his early passion for theoretical physics and his decision to attend Michigan State University for his undergraduate degree. He discusses attending Princeton University for graduate school and his thesis on Baryon Electromagnetic Mass Differences with his advisor Murph Goldberger. Gilman describes his time at Caltech as an NSF postdoctoral fellow. Gilman reflects on his involvement with the Snowmass Conference as well as his work on the High-Energy Physics Advisory Panel.
Interview with Jonathan Dorfan, emeritus director of SLAC, and emeritus president of the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, Graduate University. Dorfan recounts his childhood in South Africa and his experiences with apartheid, and he explains how he developed his early interests in science. He discusses his time at the University of Cape Town and a formative visit he made to SLAC where his older brother was working. Dorfan describes his subsequent studies at UC-Irvine and he explains his interest in pursuing a graduate degree in particle physics and high-energy physics during the excitement surrounding the Standard Model. He discusses his move to SLAC to conduct research with rapid cycling bubble chambers which turned into his thesis. Dorfan describes his postdoctoral research at SLAC with Martin Perl and his involvement with the Mark I and Mark II experiments, and he describes the opportunities leading to his faculty position at SLAC. He discusses the centrality of the B-factory project, and he describes his considerations when he was offered the directorship at Fermilab. Dorfan describes the impact of the rise and fall of the SSC on SLAC, and he explains the leadership positions which at a certain point put him on track to assume the directorship of SLAC. He describes SLAC’s entrée to astrophysics and the strategic partnership it developed with NASA, and he reflects on whether this transition would have been conceivable to Panofsky’s founding vision for the lab. Dorfan describes the changing culture of SLAC and its increasingly bureaucratized nature toward the end of his directorship, his work in support of advancing cancer research at Stanford, and he discusses the circumstances leading to his directorship of the Okinawa Institute. At the end of the interview, Dorfan emphasizes continuity over change as the dominant theme of his career in science with an arc that has increasingly bent toward concerns of broad societal relevance.