Monte Carlo method

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Teleconference
Abstract

Interview with Joel L. Lebowitz, the George William Hill professor of mathematics and physics at Rutgers University and Director of the Center for Mathematical Sciences Research at Rutgers. The interview begins with a brief discussion of how Lebowitz defines mathematical physics, his current interest in statistical mechanics, and his involvement in the Committee of Concerned Scientists. Lebowitz then looks back at his childhood in former Czechoslovakia, now Ukraine, where Yiddish was his first language. He recounts his memories of state-imposed anti-Semitism and his deportation to Auschwitz. Upon being liberated from the camp, Lebowitz describes his journey to the US where he studied math and theoretical physics at Brooklyn College. He talks about his graduate studies at Syracuse University with Peter Bergmann, as well as his post-doctoral position at Yale University with Lars Onsager. Lebowitz recalls his work on topics such as Coulomb forces, the thermodynamic limit, Ising spins, stochastic dynamics and more. He discusses his affiliation with the New York Academy of Sciences, of which he eventually became President, as well as his involvement in human rights issues related to the Refusenik scientists. The interview concludes with Lebowitz’s reflections on the connections between science and morality.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Yifang Wang, Director of the Institute of High Energy Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences. He describes the role of the Institute within the Chinese Academy, and he recounts his childhood in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, in China. Wang discusses his undergraduate work in nuclear physics at Nanjing University and he discusses the opportunities to being chosen by Sam Ting to go to CERN. He discusses his graduate work at the University of Florence, where Ting had the L3 experiment, and he described his work going back and forth from CERN for six years, and his involvement in the Higgs search and excited leptons. Wang discusses his postgraduate work in tau polarization and some of the theoretical bases for testing the Standard Model. He describes his work on the AMS collaboration and the search for antimatter, and he describes his postdoctoral work in neutrino oscillations at Stanford. Wang discusses the opportunities leading to his offer from the Institute of High Energy Physics in Beijing and the prospect of shooting a neutrino beam. He discusses the unique ways that the Chinese government supports physics, and the importance of the Beijing Electron-Positron Collider and the search for glueballs. Wang describes his increasing responsibilities at the Institute leading to his directorship, and he discusses his current work on the Large Circular Collider and the future prospects of high energy physics in China. He describes his tenure as director of Juno and the origins of the Daya Bay experiment. At the end of the interview, Wang asserts that the future of elementary particle physics is through the Higgs for which new understandings of space and time will be achieved, and he emphasizes the importance of scientific collaboration and the benefits of competition as a key component in the future of American-Chinese relations.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Peter Lepage, Tisch Family Distinguished University Professor of Physics at Cornell. He recounts his childhood in Montreal and his decision to pursue an undergraduate degree in physics at McGill. Lepage discusses his Master’s work at Cambridge University and his decision to do his thesis research in particle physics at Stanford. He describes the fundamental advances happening at SLAC during his graduate years and his work on bound states of electrons and muons under the direction of Stanley Brodsky. Lepage discusses his postdoctoral appointment at Cornell and his work in high-precision QED calculations in atoms, and he describes the foundational impact of Ken Wilson’s work on lattice QCD and the intellectual revolution of renormalization. He describes this period as his entrée into QCD research, and he emphasizes the beauty of Ithaca and the supportive culture of the Physics Department as his main reasons to accept a faculty position at Cornell. Lepage explains how and when computers became central to Lattice QCD research and why effective field theory was an area of specialization that was broadly useful in other subfields. He describes the ongoing stubbornness of the Standard Model, and he discusses his tenure as chair of the department, then as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and his work on PCAST in the Obama administration. Lepage explains his longstanding interest in physics pedagogy, and he discusses his current work on the numerical integration program called VEGAS. In the last part of the interview, Lepage emphasizes that the most fundamental advances in physics are in astrophysics and cosmology and that lattice QCD should be “kept alive” because it’s unclear where it is going until physics goes beyond the Standard Model.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Stephen Seltzer, retired from the National Institute of Standards and Technology where he was Leader of the Dosimetry Group in the Radiation Physics Division. Seltzer discusses his current interests in photoelectric cross sections and he explains why NIST supports research in radiation physics. He recounts his childhood in the Washington DC area, he describes his education at Virginia Tech and his first job at the National Bureau of Standards. Seltzer describes the advances in ionizing radiation at NIST during his junior years and the formative mentorship provided by Martin Berger and his pioneering work in radiation science and Monte Carlo calculations. He explains why Monte Carlo codes provide a solution to the Boltzmann Transport Equation and why electron transport research provides value to space exploration and how NIST contributed to proton therapies for cancer. Seltzer discusses his administrative service as leader of the Radiation Interactions and Dosimetry Group, and he explains his motivations to serve as a mentor to younger colleagues at NIST. At the end of the interview he reflects on the budgetary environment at NIST over his tenure and why young physicists should consider NIST as an excellent place to pursue a career. 

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Michael Creutz, Senior Physicist Emeritus at Brookhaven National Laboratory. Creutz surveys where lattice gauge theory is “stuck” and where there are promises for breakthroughs in the field. He recounts his birthplace in Los Alamos, where his father was a physicist, and his upbringing in Pittsburgh and then San Diego. Creutz describes his undergraduate education at Caltech and his graduate research at Stanford, where Sid Drell supervised his work on deep inelastic scattering. He explains his decision to take a postdoctoral position at the University of Maryland, and he discusses becoming involved in lattice gauge theory following his exposure to Ken Wilson’s work on renormalization. Creutz describes Brookhaven’s focus on proton scattering when he joined the Lab, and he explains his work during the discovery of the J/psi. He explains his motivation for writing a textbook on lattices, and the value of ever-more powerful computers for lattice gauge research. Creutz explains his “controversial” approach to staggered fermions, and his work on topology in lattice theory. At the end of the interview, Creutz discusses his current interests in chiral symmetry, he reflects on the burst of intellectual activity at the dawn of lattice gauge theory, and he explains why parity violation in neutrinos continues to confound theorists.

Interviewed by
Gianni Battimelli and Daan Frenkel
Interview date
Location
FOM (Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics)
Abstract

Use of early computers in statistical mechanics; the development of the Monte Carlo method and his role in the invention of molecular dynamics simulation; the people involved with the Monte Carlo method at Los Alamos and his own colleagues: Edward Teller, Marshall Rosenbluth, Nick Metropolis, Stan Frankel, John G. Kirkwood, Bill Wood; work at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; difficulties with acceptance of his work within the scientific community; computer simulation versus real experiments, past and present; brief account of his personal history.