Particles (Nuclear physics)

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Thomas Ramos, a physicist detailed to the Principal Associate Director for Weapons and Complex Integration at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. Ramos discusses his current work writing an unclassified history of the weapons program at Livermore and the broad perspective this has given him on the Laboratory from the postwar era to the present. Ramos recounts his childhood in Brooklyn and his military enlistment after high school, which led to a tour in South Korea and then an order from West Point to pursue a master’s degree in nuclear physics. He discusses his graduate work at MIT and his research on bubble chamber experiments at Fermilab and Argonne before being ordered back to West Point to teach nuclear science. Ramos describes the opportunities leading to his appointment at Livermore four years later and his initial work on the X-ray laser program and the origins of the SDI program. He discusses the impact of the end of the Cold War on the Laboratory and the extent to which Reagan’s military spending accelerated the Soviet collapse. Ramos discusses his work at the Pentagon as a legislative affairs officer for the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Atomic Energy, and he explains Livermore’s increasing involvement in monitoring nuclear proliferation among terrorist groups and rogue states. He describes his transition to counterproliferation as a result of the end of nuclear testing at Livermore and the signification of the creation of the National Ignition Facility. Ramos describes the transition to his current work documenting Livermore’s history, and he reflect broadly at the end of the interview on how Livermore has adapted to evolving security threats over its long history.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Murdock Gilchriese, Senior Physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. He discusses his contribution to the major project, LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ) and the broader search for dark matter, he recounts his parents’ missionary work, and his upbringing in Los Angeles and then in Tucson. Gilchriese describes his early interests in science and his undergraduate experience at the University of Arizona, where he developed is expertise in experimental high energy physics. He discusses his graduate work at SLAC where he worked with Group B headed by David Leith, and he describes his research in hadron spectroscopy. Gilchriese explains his postdoctoral appointment at the University of Pennsylvania sited at Fermilab to do neutrino physics before he accepted his first faculty position at Cornell to help create an e+/e- collider and the CLEO experiment. He discusses the inherent risk of leaving Cornell to work for the SSC project with the central design group, and then as head of the Research Division. Gilchriese describes his subsequent work on the solenoidal detector and his transfer to Berkeley Lab to succeed George Trilling and to join the ATLAS collaboration. He explains the migration of talent and ideas from the SSC to CERN and discusses the research overlap of ATLAS and CMS and how this accelerated the discovery of the Higgs. Gilchriese describes his next interest in getting into cosmology and searching for dark matter as a deep underground science endeavor, and he explains why advances in the field have been so difficult to achieve. At the end of the interview, Gilchriese describes his current work on CMB-S4, his advisory work helping LBNL navigate the pandemic, and he reflects on the key advances in hardware that have pushed experimental physics forward during his career.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Maury Tigner, Hans A. Bethe Professor of Physics Emeritus at Cornell. He discusses the origins of the "Handbook of Accelerator Physics and Engineering," and he provides perspective on the prospects of China's contributions for the future of high energy physics. Tigner recounts his childhood as the son of parents in the clergy, and he discusses his undergraduate education in physics at RPI and his interest in working on the betatron. He explains the opportunities that led to his acceptance to the graduate program in physics at Cornell to work under the direction of Bob Wilson and Boyce McDaniel. Tigner explains his decision to remain at Cornell for his postdoctoral research to assume responsibility of the 2.2 GeV Synchrotron, and he describes his initial research at DESY in Germany. He describes his work developing superconducting radiofrequency technology, and the NSF role in supporting this effort. Tigner discusses his work on the design team for the SSC and the impact of the cancellation of ISABELLE, and he narrates Panofsky's decision to replace him with Roy Schwitters. He describes his return to Cornell, and he conveys that despite the structural challenges, there is much to remain optimistic about in high energy physics.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Location
Video conference
Abstract

For information regarding this transcript, please contact [email protected].

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Barry Barish, Linde Professor of Physics Emeritus at Caltech, where he retains a collaboration with LIGO, and Distinguished Professor of Physics at UC Riverside. Barish recounts his childhood in Los Angeles and emphasizes that sports were more important than academics to him growing up. He explains his decision to attend Berkeley as an undergraduate, where his initial major was engineering before he realized that he really loved physics, and where he was advised by Owen Chamberlain. Barish describes the fundamental work being done at the Radiation Lab and how he learned to work the cyclotron. He explains why Fermi became his life-long hero and why he decided to stay at Berkeley for graduate school, even though the school’s general policy required students to pursue their doctoral work elsewhere. Barish describes his graduate research under the direction of Carl Hemholz, and he explains how he developed a relationship with Richard Feynman which led to his postdoc and ultimately, his faculty appointment at Caltech. He discusses how his interest in neutrinos led to his work at Fermilab and why the big question at the time was how to discover the W boson. Barish describes his key interests in magnetic monopoles and neutrino oscillations, and he describes his involvement with the SSC project through a connection with Maury Tigner at Berkeley, which developed over the course of his collaborations with Sam Ting. He explains that his subsequent work with LIGO never would have happened had the SSC been viable, and he describes his early connection as a young student learning general relativity as a connecting point to LIGO. Barish describes his general awareness of what Rai Weiss had been doing prior to 1994 and he relates the state of affairs of LIGO at that point. He conveys the intensity of his involvement from 1994 to 2005 and he describes the skepticism surrounding the entire endeavor and what success would have looked like without any assurance that the experiment would actually detect gravitational waves. Barish describes the road to detection as one of incremental improvements to the instrumentation achieved over several years, including the fundamental advance of active seismic isolation. He narrates the day of the detection, and he surveys the effect that the Nobel Prize has had on the LIGO collaboration and its future prospects. Barish notes the promise that AI offers for the future of LIGO, and he prognosticates the future viability of the ILC. At the end of the interview Barish explains what LIGO has taught us about the universe, and what questions it will allow us to ask in the future as a result of its success. 

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Stanley Wojcicki, professor emeritus in the Department of Physics at Stanford. Wojcicki recounts his family’s experiences in war-time Poland and his father’s work for the Polish government-in-exile in London. He discusses his family’s postwar escape to Sweden from the Communists before their passage to the United States. Wojcicki discusses his undergraduate experience at Harvard and the opportunities that came available as a result of Sputnik in 1957. He explains his decision to pursue his graduate research at Berkeley under the direction of Art Rosenfeld, and his realization at the time that Berkeley was at the forefront in the revolution of experimental elementary particle physics headed by Luis Alvarez and the bubble chamber technique used by his group. Wojcicki explains how SU(3) transitioned from a mathematical concept to a central component of particle physics, and he describes his postdoctoral work at Berkeley Laboratory and his NSF fellowship at CERN to work on K-meson beam experiments. He discusses his faculty appointment at Stanford and his close collaboration with Mel Schwartz using spark chambers. Wojcicki describes his advisory work for Fermilab and for HEPAP, and the controversy surrounding the ISABELLE project and the initial site and design planning of the SSC. He explains some of the early warning signs of the project’s eventual cancellation, and his work looking at charm particles at Fermilab from produced muons. Wojcicki explains that the endowed chairs named in his honor at Stanford were a retirement gift from his daughter Anne and her husband, Google co-founder Sergey Brin. Wojcicki reflects on his long career at Stanford, and he describes how the physics department has changed over the years and how government supported science has evolved. At the end of the interview, Wojcicki contrasts the sense of fundamental discoveries that permeated his early career, and he cites neutrino physics as a potentially promising area of significant discovery into the future.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Kenneth Lande, professor emeritus in the Department of Physics at the University of Pennsylvania. Lande recounts his early childhood in Austria and his family’s escape to New York City from the Nazis has a young boy. Lande describes his interest in science, which he developed during his time at Brooklyn Tech, which he pursued as an undergraduate at Columbia. He describes working on bubble chambers under the direction of Leon Lederman at Nevis Lab in Westchester, and why he gave no consideration to graduate schools other than Columbia. Lande discusses his research at Brookhaven and he describes the major projects of the early 1950s including the Cosmotron and Lederman’s cloud chamber. He describes his thesis research on K mesons and explains that he accepted a job offer at the University of Pennsylvania before he defended his dissertation. Lande describes Penn’s and Princeton’s joint effort to become competitive in accelerator physics, and he explains his growing involvement in neutrino physics and work at Los Alamos in the 1960s. He explains the need to work underground when studying neutrino events caused by cosmic rays, and he describes his involvement with the Homestake mine collaboration. Lande describes his research involving gallium at the Baksan Observatory in the Soviet Union, the importance of the Kamiokande experiment, and he provides a history of neutrino physics that connects Darwin to Hans Bethe. He compares his research at Brookhaven, Fermilab, and Los Alamos, and he explains why he discourages undergraduates from memorizing anything as a way to encourage critical thinking. At the end of the interview Lande reflects on how collaborations have grown enormously over the course of his career, and looking ahead, he sees his contributions to neutrino research as prelude to something much bigger and fundamental for future discovery.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Peter Zimmerman, Emeritus Professor of Science and Security in the War Studies Department, King’s College London. Zimmerman recounts his upbringing in Wisconsin and then New Mexico in support of his father’s work in civilian and military defense, and he describes his early interests in science. He discusses his undergraduate experience at Stanford and the influence of Walter Meyerhof, and his decision to remain at Stanford for graduate school. Zimmerman discusses his postdoctoral appointments at DESY and then Fermilab until his first faculty appointment at LSU. He explains his involvement with the nuclear issues at the federal level in the 1970s and his offer to join the ACDA. Zimmerman discusses his opposition to strategic missile defense and he explains how his policy analysis work at the Carnegie Endowment filtered its way into policymaking. He describes the debates around ending nuclear testing and his interest in looking at nuclear weapons in the context of international terrorism. Zimmerman explains the negative security ramifications of the ACDA being folded into the Department of State and he explains his move to become Chief Scientist of Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He describes the scene in Washington on 9/11 and the subsequent anthrax attacks in Congress, and he explains why he never believed that Saddam Hussein had a WMD capability before the Iraq War. Zimmerman discusses his professorship in London and his opportunity to create a new center on science and security, and he shares his perspective on the JCPOA and what bothered him the most about Trump’s foreign policy decisions. At the end of the interview, Zimmerman reflects on how to best translate scientific analysis into good policy outcomes, and why a lack of public interest or media coverage should never make us lose sight of ongoing security threats.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Geoffrey West, Shannan Distinguished Professor at the Santa Fe Institute. West provides a brief history of SFI as a collaborative idea between Murray Gell-Mann, Phil Anderson, and David Pines, and he explains the funding sources that launched the Institute. He recounts his childhood in England and his family’s Jewishly-observant household. West describes his switch from math to physics as an undergraduate at Cambridge and his interest in becoming involved in the origins of SLAC at Stanford. He discusses Panofsky and the “Monster Accelerator,” and studying fold factors of the triton and helium-3 nuclei under the direction of Leonard Schiff. West describes his subsequent postdoctoral work at Cornell and the formative influence of Ken Wilson, and his next position at Harvard where he pursued research on the quark proton model into a kind of a covariant framework. West explains his decision to join the faculty back at Stanford, he conveys the excitement at SLAC in deep inelastic research, and he provides a backdrop of the work that would become the “November Revolution” in 1974. He describes the importance of meeting Peter Carruthers and his reasons for transferring to the theory group at Los Alamos. West discusses his moral conflict working at a Lab with such close ties to nuclear weapon research, and he credits the Manhattan Project as the intellectual source for the Lab’s multidisciplinary approach. West discusses how the culture at Los Alamos served as a prototype for SFI, and how at that point he had migrated intellectually from high energy physics to string theory, and how both organizations encouraged the kind of multidisciplinary approach that encouraged his interests in biological populations. He describes his tenure as SFI president and his developing interest in sustainability, he prognosticates on what the SFI education model could contribute to post-pandemic higher education, and he explains how the pandemic has influenced his views on the future of cities. At the end of the interview, West describes his current interest in biological lifespans and he reflects on the extent to which is unorthodox career trajectory could serve as a model for scientists who will increasingly work in realms less bounded by strict departmental divisions.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

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.