Superconducting Super Collider

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
Steve Weiss
Interview date
Abstract

Interview with Alvin Trivelpiece, American physicist who served as Director of the Office of Energy Research in the United States Department of Energy from 1981-1987. Trivelpiece provides an overview of his graduate studies at Caltech and his background in plasma physics. He discusses in detail his involvement in the beginnings of the SSC (Superconducting Super Collider), including cost estimations, funding requests, site selection, and attempts to secure international collaboration. Trivelpiece shares stories involving many key players who were supporters of the SSC, as well as some who were opposed. He also touches on the creation of other DOE projects such as Fermilab and CEBAF (Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility).

Interviewed by
William Thomas
Interview date
Location
Potomac, Maryland
Abstract

This wide-ranging interview explores the career of Jim Decker, most of which has been at the U.S. Department of Energy and its predecessor agencies. Decker first worked in the fusion energy program, and from 1985 to 2007 he was Principal Deputy Director of the DOE Office of Energy Research, which was renamed the Office of Science in 1998. The position was the highest-level career position within the office. The interview covers the evolving fortunes of fusion research in the U.S., including expanding support in the 1970s, U.S. participation in the international ITER project, and deep funding cuts in the 1990s. The leadership of Al Trivelpiece at the office, the development of DOE’s high-performance computing efforts, and the management of the Superconducting Super Collider project are discussed in some detail. Other subjects include the origins of DOE’s support for the Human Genome Project, the development of DOE’s procedures for oversight of major projects, recent trends toward funding “centers” and special initiatives, the evolving status of the Office of Science within DOE, and Decker’s experiences with Congress and successive presidential administrations.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Location
Teleconference
Abstract

The interviewee has not given permission for this interview to be shared at this time. Transcripts will be updated as they become available to the public. For any questions about this policy, please contact .

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview dates
June 15, July 8, July 29, August 19, September 8, 2020
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with David Gross, Chancellor’s Chair Professor of Physics at University of California in Santa Barbara and a permanent member of the Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics (KITP). Gross begins by describing his childhood in Arlington, Virginia and his family’s later move to Israel. This led to his decision to enroll at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for his undergraduate studies in physics and mathematics. Gross recalls his acceptance at Berkeley for his graduate studies, where Geoffrey Chew became his advisor. He explains his early interests in strong interactions, quantum field theory, and S-matrix theory. Gross then describes taking a fellowship at Harvard after completing his PhD, where he recalls his early involvement in string theory. He speaks about his subsequent move to join the faculty at Princeton, as well as his introduction to Frank Wilczek, one of his first graduate students with whom he later shared the Nobel Prize. Gross takes us through the discovery of asymptotic freedom, the development of quantum chromodynamics, and the impact these had on the Standard Model. He discusses his decision to leave Princeton for UCSB, where he focused on growing the KITP and securing funding. Gross describes how his research interests have shifted over the years across topics such as confinement, quantum gravity, and more recently back to string theory. Toward the end of the interview, Gross speaks about his work to develop institutes similar to KITP in other countries, as well as his term as President of the American Physical Society in 2019.

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

Interview with Daniel R. Marlow, Evans Crawford Class of 1911 Professor of Physics, at Princeton University. Marlow recounts his childhood in Ontario and his father’s military appointment which brought his family to the United States when he was fourteen. He describes his undergraduate experience at Carnegie Mellon and the considerations that compelled him to remain for his graduate work in physics. Marlow describes his thesis research under the direction of Peter Barnes and his research visits to Los Alamos, Brookhaven, and JLab, and he surveys the theoretical advances that were relevant to his experimental work. He explains his decision to stay at CMU as a postdoctoral researcher and as an assistant professor, and he describes his interests which straddled the boundary between particle physics and nuclear physics. Marlow describes the opportunities leading to his faculty appointment at Princeton by way of the research in k+ and pi+nu nu-bar experiments at CERN. He discusses his involvement in planning for the SSC, and how the Gem collaboration was designed to find the Higgs and supersymmetry before the LHC. Marlow discusses the e787 experiment and the lesson gained that rare kaon decay experiments are more difficult than they appear at first glance. Marlow describes the origins of the Belle project in Japan at KEK and its relationship to BaBar, and he explains how finding the Higgs was the capstone to the Standard Model. He surveys the current state of play in experimental particle physics and why he encourages students to follow their interests without overly analyzing future trends in the field. At the end of the interview, Marlow describes his current interest in studying displaced vertices and long-lived particle searches, and he muses that toward the end of his career, he wants to become more of a “graduate student” so that he can focus more exclusively on the physics that is most compelling to him.

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
Teleconference
Abstract

In this interview, Elizabeth Simmons discusses: role as Executive Vice Chancellor (EVC) at UC San Diego; impact of COVID-19; current developments in the field that she finds exciting; family background and childhood; experiences as a woman in physics; M.Phil at Cambridge in Volker Heine’s group working on condensed matter theory; study of condensed matter theory at Harvard; Howard Georgi; work on models exploring electroweak symmetry breaking and quark masses; opinions on why SSC died and the impact on the field; collaboration with Cynthia Brossman on the Pathways K12 outreach project supporting girls’ involvement in STEM; research on the top quark; interest in supersymmetry and physics Beyond the Standard Model (BSM) using a Higgless model; papers with husband Sekhar Chivukula and others exploring the idea of a five-dimensional spacetime; leading Lyman Briggs College; MOOSE model; reaction to the discovery of the Higgs boson; post-Higgs work distinguishing which models can and can’t be consistent with the data; consulting work for the American Physical Society (APS) and the wider academic and scientific community on matters of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI); advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQ community; advisory work for the Center for High Energy Physics in China; collaborations at the Aspen Center for Physics to support EDI in the field; role creating career development workshops for women at the International Center for Theoretical Physics; work increasing EDI in curricula and faculty hiring; building cross-field collaboration at UCSD; collaboration with other EVCs in the UC system; current physics work on model building and how to get the most out of available data; and current work on graviton-graviton scattering. Toward the end of the interview, Simmons reflects on intersectionality and the value of diversity in science and discovery.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
video conference
Abstract

In this interview, Michael Peskin discusses: his childhood in Philadelphia; Alan Luther; particle physics at Cornell; relationship with David Politzer; Leonard Susskind; reactions to Gabriele Veneziano’s string theory paper; overview of Ken Wilson’s career and publications; Thirring model; the Harvard Society of Fellows; Nambu-Jona-Lasinio model; quark confinement work; thinking Beyond-the-Standard-Model (BSM); the problem of electroweak symmetry breakage; Stanley Brodsky and Peter Lepage; work on technicolor models to try to explain the quark and lepton mass spectrum; involvement in discussions around the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC); interest in e+e- colliders; collaboration with Bryan Lynn; question of the mass of the top quark; developing the Introduction to Quantum Field Theory textbook with Daniel Schroeder; impact of the collapse of the SSC on physics research; involvement in planning discussions for the International Linear Collider (ILC); movement into cosmology and astrophysics; dark sector theories; reaction to the term “God particle;” discussion of his book Concepts of Elementary Particle Physics; explanations of various views of the top quark; experiences working with Stanford graduate students; changes at SLAC and its contributions to the field; topics in string theory; AdS/CFT duality; BaBar and Belle experiments and CP violation; current work on electroweak symmetry breaking in Randall-Sundrum models; ILC as the future of high energy physics and physics BSM; China’s proposed Circular Electron Positron Collider (CEPC); technical details of proposed Future Circular Collider (FCC); plasma wake field accelerators; work on particle physics website for Michael Cooke of the DOE; and the technological contributions of particle physics, especially in regards to informatics development, machine learning, and unique sensor development. Toward the end of the interview, Peskin reflects on the utility and limitations of the Standard Model, and details the most likely opportunities for discovery, especially those made possible through the construction of an e+e- collider.