In this interview, Fabiola Gianotti, Director-General of CERN, reflects on being the first woman in this position and the multi-layered challenges of maintaining operations at CERN during the pandemic. She recounts her upbringing in Milan and the scientific influence of her father, who was a geologist. Gianotti describes her education at the University of Milan and her formative interactions with Carlo Rubbia at CERN. She describes her work on the LEP and ADELPH collaborations and how the cancellation of the SSC affected CERN. Gianotti narrates the origins of the LHC and parallel concentration on supersymmetry and she describes the ATLAS and CMS teams and her advisory work for P5 in the United States. She discusses her election and responsibilities as Spokesperson of ATLAS and she describes the careful process of detecting and analyzing the signals that confirmed the Higgs. Gianotti describes the unique opportunity to engage a global audience given the magnitude and interest in the discovery, and she explains LHC’s planning, post-Higgs, for new physics. She describes the shutdown period that started in 2013 and the circumstances to her being named Director-General in 2013. Gianotti surveys what has, and has not, been detected at the LHC over the past decade, and how dark matter searches at CERN are complementary to those using Xenon detectors. She conveys optimism about the high luminosity upgrade at the LHC and how she frequently operates in political realms given the international nature of CERN. At the end of the interview, Gianotti observes that current projects at the CERN are reminiscent of the buildup to the LHC, and why this bodes well for the future of experimental particle physics.
In this interview, Bernard Sadoulet, Professor of the Graduate School at the University of California, Berkeley, discusses his time working in France as well as the study of dark matter. He discusses getting his Master’s degree in theoretical physics at the University of Paris in Orsay, and how this background was beneficial for his interest in experimental physics. Sadoulet speaks about his time working at CERN as part of the official committee managing the collaboration between Europe and the Soviet Union. He also details his work on the UA1 experiment while at CERN. He describes his role in the “Wise Men Committee,” and there task of producing a report about civil nuclear programs in France. Sadoulet discusses his time as a postdoc at Berkeley and his discovery of the Chi states. He speaks about his growing interest in dark matter in the 1980s and the interest he had in the possibility of building detectors to search for dark matter particles in the halo of our galaxy. He describes his collaborations with Blas Cabrera Navarro at the Center for Particle and Astrophysics. Lastly, he reflects upon how to meaningfully involve the public in science.
Interview with James Brau, Philip H. Knight Professor of Natural Sciences at the University of Oregon. Brau describes his career-long interest in pursuing physics beyond the Standard Model and his consequent campaign to realize the ILC. He recounts his childhood in Washington, and he describes his early interests in science before enrolling in the U.S. Air Force Academy. Brau explains the opportunities that led him to MIT for graduate school before serving at Kirtland Air Force Base to work in the weapons lab before returning to MIT to complete his PhD where Richard Yamamoto supervised his research on high energy interactions. He describes his postdoctoral appointment at SLAC in the bubble chamber group before taking a faculty position at the University of Tennessee. Brau describes his involvement with SLD at SLAC, and he narrates his involvement with SSC planning while he was transferring to Oregon where he established the Center for High Energy Physics and where he became involved in the LIGO collaboration. He explains the origins of the ILC idea and how his research group joined ATLAS at the LHC. At the end of the interview, Brau reflects on the importance of encouraging public support for fundamental science.
Interview with Edward Witten, Charles Simonyi Professor in the School of Natural Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study. Witten discusses his current interests in quantum information theory in gravity, and he recounts his childhood in Baltimore and the influence of his father Louis Witten, who is a physicist. He describes his undergraduate education at Brandeis, where he majored in history, a brief stint working for the McGovern campaign, and a false start in graduate school to study economics before landing at Princeton to study first applied mathematics and then theoretical particle physics with David Gross. He describes the significance of deep inelastic scattering in the emergence of QCD and his earliest exposure to the ideas that would develop into string theory. Witten describes his postdoctoral appointment at Harvard to work with Steve Weinberg, Sidney Coleman, Shelly Glashow, and Howard Georgi. He discusses t’ Hooft’s success at solving the U(1) problem and his early work in supersymmetry by the time he joined the faculty at Princeton. Witten narrates the string revolution of 1984 and the early optimism that string theory would be able to describe the real world. He describes his involvement in topological quantum field theories and he explains his decision to move to the Institute from Princeton. Witten discusses his work with Nati Seiberg on N=2 super Yang Mills in four dimensions, the origins of M-theory in the 1994 string revolution, and the impact of Juan Maldacena’s work on AdS/CFT. He describes his collaboration with Seiberg on noncommutative geometry, his interest in the Langlands program, and the role of axions in string theory. Witten conveys the sense of optimism when the LHC turned on and the significance of Khovanov homology and Morse theory. He explains the need to revisit perturbative superstring theory and the possibility that the g-2 muon anomaly experiment at Fermilab will lead to new physics. At the end of the interview, Witten reflects on how little has been seen at the LHC after the Higgs discovery, and he expresses hope that string/M-theory and quantum gravity make meaningful contact during his lifetime.
In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Lowell Brown, emeritus professor of physics at the University of Washington. Brown recounts his childhood growing up on a farm in California and his early interests in nuclear physics. He describes his undergraduate experience at Berkeley, where he worked with Burton Moyer’s group in the radiation lab. Brown describes his decision to go to Harvard for graduate school, and the considerations leading to his focus on theoretical work with Julian Schwinger. He describes his dissertation work on a field theory description of elementary particle decay. Brown recounts his postdoctoral research at the University of Rome and at CERN and he discusses his collaborative work at Imperial College. He explains the circumstances leading to his faculty position at Yale, and his decision to join the physics department at UW. Brown provides an institutional history of the department and the major research projects he took on during his career, including the 3-by-3 matrix, the g-2, experiment, quadratic Brownian motion, general relativity, and quantum field theory, about which he wrote a major book in 1994. At the end of the interview, Brown discusses his work at Los Alamos, where he has worked on theoretical research as a consultant, and he describes his lifelong passion for Ferraris.
Varian Physics Building, Stanford University, California
Recollections of physics community in 1920s and early 1930s; opportunities for physics work in Europe; awareness of political climate in Germany (1932); relationship with Werner Heisenberg at University of Leipzig; awarded Rockefeller Fellowship to study at University of Rome; contacts with physicists after Leipzig and before Rome; John Von Neumann's list of refugee physicists; offered appointment to position at Stanford University; visit to University of Copenhagen and Niels Bohr's advice to accept appointment; relinquishing of second half of fellowship; influenced by Bohr, Heisenberg and others; Bloch's influence on Enrico Fermi leading to theory of neutrino; met by Gregory Breit on arrival in New York; initial teaching duties at Stanford; theoretical physics in America in 1934; distinctions between Europe and America on theory vs. experiment; seminars with J. Robert Oppenheimer; first interest in experimental work; early research on neutrons; recollections of 1935 Michigan Summer School; started Stanford Summer School in 1936 with George Gamow as first visitor (Fermi 1937, Isidor Isaac Rabi 1938, Victor F. Weisskopf 1939); origin of idea of neutron polarization; 1936 paper proposing neutron magnetic moment experiment; 1937 Galvani Conference in Bologna; use of Berkeley 37-inch cyclotron for magnetic moment experiment; decision to build cyclotron at Stanford; construction supported by Rockefeller Foundation; initial involvement with Manhattan Project; recollections of receiving news of fission; neutron work for Manhattan Project at Stanford; marriage in 1940; work on implosion at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory; reasons for leaving Los Alamos; work on radar at Harvard University; first ideas on measuring nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR); helpfulness of radar experience in NMR work; William W. Hansen and the klystron; fate of the first Stanford cyclotron; knowledge of Edward M. Purcell's work on NMR; publication of initial results, 1946-1948; Rabi and Polykarp Kusch's work on molecular beams; development of NMR field; Nobel Prize award; association with CERN, 1954; contributions of greatest impact.