Vietnam War, 1961-1975

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Dr. Elliot H. Lieb, professor of physics emeritus and professor of mathematical physics at Princeton University. Lieb opens the interview discussing the primary differences between physical mathematics and mathematical physics, and he outlines how modern mathematical ideas have been used in physics. The interview then looks to the past, to Lieb’s childhood and adolescence in New York City, where his passion for physics began. Lieb discusses his experience as a student at MIT, particularly his political involvement during the McCarthy Era. He also mentions his time working at Yeshiva University, and compares the political sentiment there to that at MIT and other universities around the United States. He talks about the work he was able to do abroad in the United Kingdom, Japan, and Sierra Leone, and about the lessons he learned from each of these experiences. Eventually, Lieb returned to Boston and joined the applied math group at MIT, while also working on the six-vertex ice model. In 1975, Lieb moved to Princeton, where he has collaborated with a number of scientists on a variety of topics and papers, including the 1987 AKLT Model (Affleck, Kennedy, Lieb, and Tasaki). The interview ends with Lieb looking to a future of continued experimentation and collaboration on the subjects that interest him most.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview dates
July 27 & August 2, 2020
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, Peter McIntyre, Mitchell-Heep professor of experimental physics at Texas A&M University, and president of Accelerator Technology Corporation discusses his career and achievements as a professor. McIntyre recounts his childhood in Florida, and he explains his decision to pursue physics as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago and the influence of his longtime hero Enrico Fermi. He discusses his interests in experimental physics and he explains his decision to stay at Chicago for graduate school, where he worked with Val Teledgi, during a time he describes as the last days of bubble chamber physics. McIntyre conveys his intense opposition to the Vietnam War and the extreme lengths he took to avoid being drafted, and his dissertation work on the Ramsey resonance in zero field. He describes Telegdi’s encouragement for him to pursue postdoctoral research at CERN where he worked with Carlo Rubbia on the Intersecting Storage Rings project. He describes his time as an assistant professor at Harvard and his work at Fermilab, and the significance of his research which disproved Liouville’s theorem. McIntyre describes the series of events leading to his tenure at Texas A&M, and he explains how his hire fit into a larger plan to expand improve the physics program there. He discusses the completion of the Tevatron at Fermilab and the early hopes for the discovery of the mass scale of the Higgs boson, and he describes the origins of the SSC project in Texas and the mutually exclusive possibility that Congress would fund the International Space Station instead. McIntyre describes the key budgetary shortfalls that essentially doomed the SSC from the start, his efforts in Washington to keep the project viable, and the technical shortcomings stemming from miscommunication and stove-piping of expertise. He describes his involvement in the discovery of the top quark and the fundamental importance of the CDF, DZero, and ATLAS collaborations. McIntyre discusses his achievements as a teacher to undergraduates and a mentor to graduate students, and he assesses the current and future prospects for ongoing discovery in high energy physics. At the end of the interview, McIntyre describes his current wide-ranging research interests, including his efforts to improve the entire diagnostic infrastructure in screening and early detection of breast cancer.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview dates
January 30, February 6, 13, 20 & 27, 2021
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview Dr. Kenneth Watson, Dr. Richard Garwin, Dr. Curtis Callan, and Dr. Roy Schwitters participate in a roundtable discussion on the origins and early history of the JASON scientific advisory group. Watson, an emeritus from University of California San Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography, discusses the early efforts of Charles Townes and Marvin Stern in forming JASON. Garwin, IBM Fellow Emeritus at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Laboratory of IBM, reflects upon IDA, the management organization that allowed for the formation of the JASON group. Callan, Professor of Physics at Princeton University, discusses the Charney Report and the sponsorship of Ari Patrinos of the Department of Energy, and his relationship with JASON. Schwitters, Regents Professor Emeritus from University of Texas Austin, and Garwin detail JASON’s 1980 report on tunnel detection. The group reflects upon the launch of Sputnik in 1957, and how it added urgency to the creation of JASON. Watson and Garwin discuss the early agenda of JASON and their focus on detection of missile launches, nuclear effects, and Nick Christofilos work with particle beam weapons. They discuss the involvement of JASON in the Vietnam War effort and how some members were targeted by protestors for their involvement. Watson and Schwitters reflect on the presence of Claire Max and the time it took to get more women involved in JASON in face of the traditional “boys club” atmosphere that was present in professional circles at the time. Garwin speaks about the development of the sonic boom report. Callen talks about his study on neutrino detection and the purpose of JASON in a post-Cold War era. He also discusses JASONs work on CHAMMP, Computer Hardware, Advanced Mathematics and Model Physics. The group describes the Human Genome project of the late 1990s. Schwitters and Garwin discuss how JASON can offer independent judgment in ways U.S. Intelligence agencies cannot, such as in 2009 when they were commissioned to study North Korean nuclear capability. Lastly, Watson speaks about how he believes GPS will become an important issue of study for JASON in the future, a point which is furthered by Garwin who also cites cybersecurity in general as a main focal point for JASON moving forward.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview dates
July 17 & 19, 2020
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Sean O’Keefe, Professor at the Syracuse University Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. O’Keefe describes moving around as a child when his father worked for the Navy. He discusses his undergraduate work at Loyola in New Orleans, and he explains his interest in pursuing a career in public service in the post-Watergate, post-Vietnam era when there was much cynicism about working for the government. O’Keefe describes his participation in the Presidential Management Intern Program and his work for the Department of the Navy and after that, for the Appropriations Committee on Capitol Hill, where he worked on budgetary policy against the backdrop of the Cold War in the 1980s. He describes his work at Comptroller for the Department of Defense where he worked on identifying budgetary waste at the Pentagon. O’Keefe describes the scene at the Pentagon during the Gulf War, and he discusses the opportunity that led to him becoming Secretary of the Navy. He describes his career prospects outside of government after George H.W. Bush lost re-election and the opportunity leading to his professorship at Syracuse University, where he mentored students in public service leadership. O’Keefe describes being named NASA administrator in the administration of George W. Bush and some of the challenges he encountered coming from a defense background. He discusses the tragedy and his strategy in dealing with the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, both in terms of lessons learned from the engineering failures, and the grief that he shared with the families of the astronauts who died. O’Keefe describes some of the ways he attempted to turn the disaster into institutional opportunity at NASA and its impact on the Hubble space servicing mission. He describes his decision to become Chancellor at Louisiana State University, where he focused on building up the school’s endowment, dealing with Hurricane Katrina, and working to keep LSU graduates in the state. O’Keefe describes his tenure as CEO of Airbus North America before returning to Syracuse to teach in his current position. At the end of the interview, O’Keefe reflects on what he has learned about organizational leadership over the course of his career, and what he tries to convey to his students as they prepare to become the nation’s next generation of leaders.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Milton Dean Slaughter, Affiliate Professor of Physics at Florida International University. Slaughter recounts his childhood in New Orleans, his involvement in the civil rights movement, and he describes his undergraduate work in physics at Louisiana State University and his graduate work in theoretical physics at the University of New Orleans, where his dissertation focused on electron-laser pulse scattering. Slaughter discusses his long tenure in the department of physics at UNO, and prior to that his research in theoretical physics at Los Alamos. At the end of the interview, he discusses his long-term interest in gravity.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview dates
August 5-7, 10, 11 & 13, 2020
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Ronald E. Mickens, Distinguished Fuller E. Callaway Professor Emeritus, Department of Physics, at Clark Atlanta University. Mickens recounts his childhood in segregated Virginia and how his entrepreneurial instincts and exposure to farm life fed into his budding interest in science. He explains the opportunities that led to his undergraduate education at Fisk University, where he majored in physics on the basis of his ability to combine his talents in math and chemistry. Mickens describes his formative summer research at Vanderbilt University on thermodynamics, and he explains the influence that his graduate advisor Wendell Holladay played in his life and his decision to continue at Vanderbilt for his graduate work. He discusses his involvement with the Civil Rights movement during his time in Nashville and how he dealt with the possibility of getting drafted for military service in Vietnam. Mickens describes his postdoctoral research in the Center for Theoretical Physics at MIT, and he explains how events that can appear to be supernatural must be explicable within the single physical world. He describes his research at MIT as a time to expand on his thesis work on Regge poles, and he explains how his work with James Young connected him with his research at Los Alamos. Mickens describes his teaching and research record while he was a professor at Fisk, and he discusses his summer research at SLAC and his focus on the Pomeron and elastic scattering. He describes his many research visits to Europe and his work at CERN where he probed the theoretical underpinnings of high energy scattering. Mickens explains his fascination with Newtonian formulation equations and the utility of his visits to the summer Aspen Institute program. He describes some of the frictions he experienced with the administration at Fisk, his work at JILA, and the professional and personal considerations that compelled him to accept a professorship at Clark Atlanta and its transformation from Atlanta University. Mickens conveys the fundamental importance that geometry and numerical modeling has played in his career, and he contextualizes his academic achievements by emphasizing that everyone in his family has achieved a terminal degree. At the end of the interview, Mickens offers a history of the origins of the National Society of Black Physicists, and explains the significance of, and the lessons that should be learned, from Edward Bouchet’s life.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Henry Tye, professor emeritus of physics at Cornell, and subsequently professor emeritus of physics at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), and currently, Researcher at the Jockey Club Institute for Advanced Study at HKUST. Tye provides a brief history of HKUST, and he offers his views on China’s long-term goals in high energy physics. He recounts his childhood in Hong Kong where his family fled from mainland China during the Communist revolution, and he explains the opportunities that led to his undergraduate admission to Caltech. Tye describes how discussions of the Vietnam War permeated his college experience, and he describes the influence of Gerry Neugebauer on his interest in physics but that cosmology was far from his considerations at that point. He discusses his decision to study at MIT, where Francis Low became his advisor, and how he worked closely with Gabriele Veneziano on the relationship between the Thirring model and bosonic string theory. Tye explains the excitement surrounding the “November Revolution” which was unfolding just as he arrived at the SLAC Theory Group in 1974. He describes the origins of his interests in cosmology, and the source of his collaboration with Alan Guth during his postdoctoral work at Cornell, where he pursued matter-antimatter asymmetry. Tye explains how this collaboration ultimately created the field of inflation and why this addresses fundamental cosmological problems associated with flatness and the horizon. He explains how and why the original theory of inflation was revised by Andrei Linde and Paul Steinhardt, among others, and why he developed a subsequent interest in cosmic superstrings and branes which he recognized would give a perfect model for inflation. Tye describes why he is optimistic that technological advances will make cosmic superstrings a testable proposition, and that collaborations including the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and LIGO/Virgo are positive steps in that direction. He bemoans the dearth of string theorists focused on phenomenological work and why he thinks string theory will solve the quantum gravity problem. Tye describes his decision to join the Cornell faculty, why his notions of a “string landscape” suggest philosophical implications, why the cosmic landscape is central for understanding the wavefunction of the universe, and why both the universe and all multiverses can begin from truly nothing. At the end of the interview, Tye discusses his recent interests on the cosmological constant problem, the KLT relation, and the observations and experiments that are most likely to push cosmology into new and exciting areas of discovery. 

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

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.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview dates
April 13, April 15 and April 22, 2021
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Pierre Ramond, Distinguished Professor of Physics at the University of Florida. Ramond recounts childhood in Paris, he describes his family’s experiences during World War II, and he explains that opportunities that led to his education in electrical engineering at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He discusses his graduate degree in physics at Syracuse University to focus on general relativity and his first exposure to the earliest iterations of string theory. Ramond describes his work at Fermilab on Veneziano modelling, his postdoctoral research at Yale, and his subsequent work at Los Alamos. He describes Gell-Mann’s interest in grand unified theories and the influence of Ken Wilson. Ramond explains the excitement regarding the muon anomaly experiment at Fermilab, and he narrates his decision to join the faculty at the University of Florida. He explains how the department’s stature has risen over the past forty years, and he reflects on his involvement with the superstring revolution in 1984. Ramond describes the difference between effective and fundamental theories in particle physics and he conveys the productive intellectual ferment at the annual Aspen conferences. He describes his service work on the faculty senate and he describes his leadership position at the APS during the discovery of the Higgs. Ramond explains why he thinks supersymmetry would have been detected at a completed SSC and he reflects on receiving the Dirac medal in 2020. At the end of the interview, he discusses Einstein’s misgivings on quantum mechanics, he imagines how string theory might be testable, and he explains why he remains interested in CP violation.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

This is an interview with Howard Bassen, Research Engineer in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, Division of Biomedical and Physical Sciences. Bassen recounts his childhood in Rochester and then suburban Washington DC. He describes his early interests in science and electronics, and discusses the impact of Sputnik on his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering at the University of Maryland. Bassen describes his post-college work at Harry Diamond Labs, where he designed radio frequency transmitters, and he explains how his opposition to the Vietnam War compelled him to move to the U.S. Postal Research Labs in Rockville, where he worked on surveillance and package security with X-ray systems. Bassen discusses his first encounter with the Bureau of Radiological Health and his first job in the Microwave Radiation Branch, where his main project was testing home microwave ovens for radiation levels. He describes his work measuring radiation and tissue implantable probes in the human body, and he explains his motivation for taking a job as branch chief of the Microwave Research Branch at Walter Reed, where he studied the effects of very high power microwaves emanating from missile-jamming technology. Bassen explains the absorption of the Bureau of Radiological Health by the FDA, and he describes his decision to return to work on electromagnetic compatibility and cell phone safety. He explains the importance of ensuring electromagnetic compatibility of medical devices so that, for example, an implanted pacemaker does not malfunction when exposed to a cell phone or an MRI machine. At the end of the interview Bassen reflects on his career and singles out his work in determining the safety of electromagnetic fields as the most impactful aspect of his career.