Interview with William Marciano, Senior Physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory. Marciano recounts his upbringing in Brooklyn and his early interests in science, and he describes his undergraduate work at RPI and then NYU. He explains his decision to remain at NYU for his graduate research to study under the direction of Alberto Sirlin, and his thesis research on dimensional regularization. Marciano discusses his postdoctoral appointment at Rockefeller University where he worked on the SU(5) model of Grand Unification, and the opportunities that led to his promotion there to a faculty position. He explains his short tenure at Northwestern before joining Brookhaven, where kaon physics was taking center stage, and where ISABELLE was being built. Marciano discusses the origins of the Lab's g-2 experiment, and he compares the demise of ISABELLE to that of the SSC, for which he served on the program advisory committee. He describes the success of RHIC, and he discusses his research focus on muon and neutrino physics for the Lab's AGS program. Marciano explains his proposal that led to DUNE at Fermilab and he surveys his long record of advisory work for the HEPAP community and how the United States has contributed to the LHC. He reflects on winning the Sakurai prize and his contributions in establishing the validity of the Standard Model at the level of its quantum corrections. Marciano describes his recent work in dark physics, and he surveys the current state of play in muon physics and the Intensity Frontier. At the end of the interview, Marciano compares the diffuse network of the U.S. National Lab system to the centrality of CERN in Europe, and he explains why his work on DUNE and CP violation has been so personally meaningful.
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.
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.
Interview with John Ellis, Clerk Maxwell Professor of Theoretical Physics at King’s College London, and Visiting Scientist at CERN. Ellis discusses the g-2 experiment at Fermilab and where he sees current efforts geared toward understanding physics within the Standard Model, and pursuing new physics beyond it. He recounts his childhood in a small town north of London and his innate interest in physics before he understood that it was a proper field of study. Ellis discusses his education at Cambridge and the department’s strength in particle physics, general relativity, and cosmology, and he explains the relevance of the deep inelastic scattering research at SLAC for his thesis on approximate symmetries of hadrons. He describes the intellectual influence of Bruno Zumino and his decision to go to SLAC for his postdoctoral research to work on scale invariance. Ellis discusses his subsequent research at Caltech and he explains why he would have appreciated more the significance of asymptotic freedom had he better understood field theory at that point. He discusses his subsequent position at CERN and is collaboration with Mary Gaillard on semileptonic decays of charm. Ellis narrates the famous “penguin diagram” that he developed with Melissa Franklin and his interest in grand unification and how it differs from the so-called “theory of everything.” He describes the optimism in the 1980s that supersymmetry would be found and its possible utility in the search for dark matter. Ellis discusses his involvement with LEP and axion physics, and he reflects on the spirit of competition and collaboration between ATLAS and CMS in the run up to the Higgs discovery. He explains the new questions that became feasible as a result of the discovery and his interests in both gravitational waves and supernovae. Ellis describes the AION experiment, the important physics research currently in the works in China, and key recent developments in quantum gravity. At the end of the interview, Ellis conveys his belief in the importance of science communication, he minimizes the importance of the h-index as a measure of excellence, and in reflecting on his own career, he cautions against younger physicists becoming overly-specialized.
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.
In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Paul Langacker, professor emeritus of physics and astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania. Langacker recounts his childhood in the Chicago area and his early interest in particle physics. He discusses his education at MIT and his graduate work at Berkeley and he describes the political situation there in 1968 , his work with Owen Chamberlain, and Mahiko Suzuki and the origins of his life-long interest in weak interactions. Langacker explains his work at Rockefeller University, which was building a program in particle physics, and the circumstances leading to his hire at Penn. He talks about his research at DESY and the tenure process, and explains what he worked to accomplish as chair of the department, and in particular, his interest in increasing the diversity of the faculty. Langacker discusses his more recent interest in connecting superstring theory to particle physics during his time at the Institute for Advanced Study. Toward the end of the interview, Langacker shares his views on string theory and its role in achieving a grand unified theory in physics.
In this interview, David Zierler, Oral Historian for AIP, interviews Frank Wilczek, Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics at MIT. Wilczek recounts his family background and childhood in Queens, and he describes how his early curiosity would come to inform the many intellectual pursuits he would take on later in his career. He describes his undergraduate education at the University of Chicago, where he enrolled at the age of fifteen, and he discusses his early interest in applied and pure mathematics. Wilczek describes the key influence of Peter Freund at Chicago, and his decision to pursue graduate work at Princeton. He explains how David Gross became his advisor, and he describes his idea to apply the renormalization group to theories of the weak interaction. Wilczek describes his decision to join the Princeton physics faculty immediately after his graduate work, and his developing interest in cosmological issues, as well as his ongoing efforts to extend models of the weak interactions. Wilczek shares his ideas on a grand unified theory and what he sees as the ongoing value of particle physics to cosmological inquiry. He explains what is known and unknown in the early universe, and how his training in philosophy informs those questions. Wilczek conveys his excitement at the possibilities of computers to move science forward, and he narrates the growing interest in his research which led to the Nobel Prize in 2004. He discusses the ways he has used the platform conferred by this recognition as a vehicle for him to pursue other interests. Wilczek discusses his interest in time crystals, and he discusses the origins of the Wilczek Quantum Center in China, and he explains the collaborative work he is pursuing at Arizona State University in neurobiology and expanding human capacity for sensory perception. At the end of the discussion, Wilczek explains how the concept of beauty has always, and continues to inform his scientific pursuits.