Red shift

Interviewed by
Jim Lattis
Interview date
Location
Kissimmee, Florida
Abstract

Interview with Mehmet Alpaslan, NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow. The interview begins with Alpaslan recounting his childhood in Turkey and several other countries, as his parents worked for the Turkish Foreign Ministry. He recalls reading Carl Sagan’s Cosmos as a teen, which sparked his intereste in astronomy. Alpaslan discusses his decision to attend the University of St. Andrews where he studied physics and astronomy. He describes his undergraduate research in modified Newtonian dynamics, as well as his introduction to extragalactic astronomy by Simon Driver, who eventually became his PhD advisor. Alpaslan discusses his PhD work with the Galaxy and Mass Assembly Survey (GAMA), including his time at the Anglo-Australian Telescope and his work writing code for data analysis. He then explains the connections which led him to the NASA Postdoctoral Program where he is a fellow at NASA Ames Research Center. Alpaslan describes the joys of observation and working with telescopes, as well as the benefits and challenges of writing your own code from scratch. At the end of the interview, he shares that although careers in academia can be difficult, the ability to work on exciting science makes it worthwhile. 

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, Robert P. Kirshner, Clowes Research Professor of Science at Harvard University, discusses his interests in supernovae and work as Chief Program Officer for Science at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. He reflects upon the shifting terminology pertaining to astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology. He discusses his experience as an undergraduate at Harvard University. Kirshner details his experience at Caltech as a graduate student and his time studying supernovae under Bev Oke. He discusses his post-doc position at Kitt Peak National Observatory and the competition they had with Palomar. Kirshner speaks about his experience working with undergraduate students at the University of Michigan and eventually becoming the chair and observatory director. He details his role as head of Optical Infrared at the Harvard Smithsonian Center. Lastly, Kirshner discusses his Nobel Prize winning discovery of using observations of distant supernovae to discover the accelerating universe.

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin
Interview date
Location
Center for Astrophysics
Abstract

In this interview George Field discusses topics such as: his time at the University of California, Berkeley; Charles Townes; Lick Observatory; working with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); radio astronomy work with Ed Purcell; detecting neutral hydrogen gas at big red shifts; Fred Whipple; moving to the Harvard College Observatory; planning for the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; Charles Lundquist; Riccardo Giacconi; Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory; Northeast Radio Observatory Corporation (NEROC); orbiting solar observatories (OSOs); Dave Challinor; Bart Bok.

Interviewed by
Alan Lightman
Interview date
Location
Monte Sereno, California
Abstract

Interview covers Sandra Faber's childhood experiences; parental background; early reading; early preference for steady state model; relationship between questions and answers in science; confusion over being a woman and being a scientist; lack of female role models in science; education at Swarthmore and the influence of Sarah Lee Lippincott there; graduate work at Harvard; husband's job; graduate work at the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism; influence of Vera Rubin; early results of dark matter by Morton Roberts in the late 1960s; thesis work on photometric studies of elliptical galaxies; community's attitude toward excess mass in rotation curves in the late 1960s; motivation for work on the Faber-Jackson relationship between luminosity and velocity dispersion; motivation for work with the Seven Samurai (Burstein, Davies, Dressler, Faber, Lynden-Bell, Terlevich, and Wegner) on peculiar velocities; attitude of the community toward the Seven Samurai work on peculiar velocities; attitude toward the big bang assumption of homogeneity; attitudes toward the horizon problem, the inflationary universe model, missing matter, the flatness problem; discussion of what types of problems can be addressed in cosmology; attitude toward Center for Astrophysics (CfA) red shift surveys by de Lapparent, Margaret Geller, and John Huchra; importance of understanding how large-scale structure is formed; issues of gender in science and the experience of being a woman in science; the ideal design of the universe; the question of whether the universe has a point.

Interviewed by
Alan Lightman
Interview date
Location
Princeton, New Jersey
Abstract

This interview discusses Robert Dicke's childhood experiments; early reading; education at University of Rochester; attitudes of older scientists about research in relativity; work on the Eotvos experiment; early reading in cosmology; early work in the 1950s setting a limit to the cosmic background radiation; motivation for predicting the cosmic background radiation; preference for an oscillating universe; Dicke's evening seminars at Princeton; the origin of the flatness problem, which Dicke first proposed in 1969; Dicke's lecture at Cornell on the flatness problem, attended by Alan Guth; the anthropic argument in connection with the flatness problem; attitude toward the inflationary universe model; attitude toward Center for Astrophysics (CfA) red shift surveys by de Lapparent, Margaret Geller, and John Huchra; Dicke's amazement at the existence of so much matter in the universe; discussion of the anthropic principle; images and metaphors in scientific work; the relationship between theory and observations in cosmology; attitude toward extrapolating the big bang model back to very early time; why Dicke prefers an oscillating universe; the origin of the universe; the question of whether the universe has a point; the question of why cosmology was not taken seriously as a science for a long time.

Interviewed by
Alan Lightman
Interview date
Location
Austin, Texas
Abstract

Interview discusses Gerard de Vaucouleur's childhood in Paris and family background; early reading; membership in the French Astronomical Society; early work on astronomical catalogues; work at the Paris planetarium in 1937; undergraduate work at the University of Paris; education at the Sorbonne; introduction to Julien Peridier; early work in astronomical photography; discussion of French astronomy in the 1930s; early attitude toward the big bang model; work at the Sorbonne; move to the new Institute of Astrophysics in 1945; work on the r1/4 law for the brightness distribution in galaxies; work on the supercluster of galaxies in the 1950s; influence of Vera Rubin's work; community's reception of de Vaucouleurs's work on the supercluster and his challenge of the assumption of large-scale homogeneity; interaction with Fritz Zwicky; attitude toward the Center for Astrophysics (CfA)  redshift surveys by de Lapparent, Margaret Geller, and John Huchra; a hierarchical model for the universe; discussion of the meaning of homogeneity; attitudes toward the horizon problem, the inflationary universe model, dark matter, the flatness problem, work on the very early universe, and the big bang model; relationship of theory and observation; the ideal design of the universe; the question of whether the universe has a point.

Interviewed by
Alan Lightman
Interview date
Location
Berkeley, California
Abstract

Marc Davis discusses his childhood in Canton Ohio and family background; early reading; education at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and at Princeton University; thesis work with Jim Peebles and discussion of Peebles; early work on the correlation function of galaxies; creation of the Center for Astrophysics (CFA) redshift survey in 1978; attitude toward the horizon problem; attitude toward the inflationary universe model; biasing, cold dark matter, and models of the formation of large-scale structure; attitude toward the flatness problem; attitude toward the CFA redshift surveys by de Lapparent, Geller, and Huchra; the question of whether the universe is homogeneous; relationship of theory and observation; important outstanding problems in cosmology: the Great Attractor, biasing, dark matter, galaxy formation; the ideal design of the universe; the question of whether the universe has a point.

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin
Interview date
Location
American Institute of Physics, New York City, New York
Abstract

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.

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin
Interview date
Location
University of California, Santa Cruz
Abstract

Discusses her childhood and education; her developing interest in astronomy; studying with C. C. L. Gregory at the University of London Observatory and University College; her thesis work on the variations in Gamma Cassiopeia; meeting and marrying Geoffrey Burbidge; discrimination against women in the Carnegie Followships; the conflict between her work and having a family; the decision to go to the U.S. and Yerkes; use of the 82-inch telescope at McDonald; recollections of Shapley; disagreements between Kuiper and Urey; development of interest in abundance of elements; Baade's inspiration; offers for Geoffrey Burbidge from Manchester and Cambridge and move to Cambridge University; Geoffrey's differences with M. Ryle involving source of radio emission; meeting Willie Fowler; decision to return to the U. S. and Caltech; observing time at Mt Wilson; reactions of the old guard to women observers; collaborations with Baade on supernovae synthesis (1956); work on barium II stars; the search for permanent positions; advantage of position at Chicago/Yerkes/McDonald; move to Chicago and work on galaxies (1957-1962); observations of Centaurus A at 82-inch McDonald telescope; leaving Yerkes to go to La Jolla with Revelle; continued research on quasars and general research; cosmological implications of quasars; summer in Pasadena with Hoyle; development of Hoyle's Institute; challenges of Burbidge, Fowler, Hoyle concept of nucleosynthesis; Unsold's arguments; Arp's work; lack of satisfactory gravitational red shift models; university's relationship with Lick; infra-red work future of Greenwich and changes in the power structure in the British Astronomical establishment; offer of position as head of the Science Research Council; decision to take a leave of absence from La Jolla and accept; difficulties of the position and the decision as to where to locate the Northern Hemisphere Observatory; decision to return to the U. S.; American Astronomical Society presidency (1976-1978); AAS and the Equal Rights Amendment; her most satisfying work in nucleosynthesis, B2FH. Among those prominently mentioned: Arp, Baade, Bowen, Chandrasekhar, Greenstein, Hoyle, Kuiper, P. Merrill, H. Minkowski, R. Revelle, M. Ryle, Sandage, Shapley, Stromgren, Unsold, Urey.

Interviewed by
Paul Wright
Interview date
Location
Perceptions of Scientific Works
Abstract

Childhood and unconventional early education; Harvard University: impressions of courses and social climate; Caltech, Mt. Wilson, comments on Walter Baade and background of Baade’s theory; differences between astronomy and astrophysics; early professional career work on Magellanic clouds; interest in peculiar galaxies, Viktor A. Ambartsumian at the 1957 Solvay Conference; Fritz Zwicky; Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies; comments on published papers: Distribution of Quasars compared to Maarten Schmidt’s work with similar title; Edoard Stephan’s quintet; work on discrepant red shift with respect to the Friedman universe; future research interest, non-professional interests. Also prominently mentioned are: Basch, Bart Jan Bok, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, William Alfred Fowler, Jesse Leonard Greenstein, Edwin Powell Hubble, Milton Lasell Humason, Bernard Lovell, Rudolph Leo Bernhard Minkowski, Jan Hendrik Oort, Edison Petit, Robert Richardson, Allan Sandage, Maarten Schmidt, Harlow Shapley, Dick Stoy, Vanderlaan, Gerard Henri de Vaucouleurs; Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies, Institut de Physique at Solvay, and United States Navy.