Today at Berkeley Lab

Physics Honors ‘1000 Years’ of Contributions by its Researchers

Seated (l-r): Tom Elioff, Art Rosenfeld. Standing: Tom Trippe, Philippe Eberhard, Mark Strovink, Pier Oddone, Herb Steiner, Mary K. Gaillard, Willi Chinowsky, John Kadyk, Lina Galtieri, George Trilling, Jose Alonso, Gerry Abrams, Dave Nygren, Bob Ely, Bob Tripp, Mike Chanowitz, Bob Cahn, Moishe Pripstein, Lynn Stevenson.

Seated (l-r): Tom Elioff, Art Rosenfeld. Standing: Tom Trippe, Philippe Eberhard, Mark Strovink, Pier Oddone, Herb Steiner, Mary K. Gaillard, Willi Chinowsky, John Kadyk, Lina Galtieri, George Trilling, Jose Alonso, Gerry Abrams, Dave Nygren, Bob Ely, Bob Tripp, Mike Chanowitz, Bob Cahn, Moishe Pripstein, Lynn Stevenson.

— By Glenn Roberts

The Physics Division honored lab scientists’ contributions to particle physics research during a special event Friday in the Building 50 Auditorium, which was followed by a reception in the Cafeteria and an offsite dinner.

The event, “1,000 Years of Particle Physics Research – From the Antiproton to the Higgs Boson: A Tribute to Our Senior LBNL Colleagues,” drew about 100 attendees, mostly lab physicists and retirees.

“I received a lot of questions about the title,” said Natalie Roe, Director of the lab’s Physics Division, who opened the event. “Someone had suggested, ‘You must be off by an order of magnitude.’ ”

But based on the collective years of research in particle physics represented by those in attendance — with dozens of them logging about 50 years in the field — “1,000 years is actually a gross underestimate,” Roe said.

“What started out as ‘Lawrence’s lab’ is today an extremely vibrant, multifaceted research facility,” Roe said, adding that the Physics Division continues to play key roles in particle physics and astrophysics experiments relating to dark matter, dark energy, neutrinos and supernovae.

Bob Cahn, a Berkeley Lab Senior Scientist who served as Physics Division Director from 1991-96, served as the event’s moderator.

Herb Steiner, professor emeritus at UC Berkeley, who was a graduate student on the 1955 experiment that discovered the antiproton, described that and other experiments taking place at the Bevatron when it began operation.

“The measure of time we used was the ‘shake,'” Steiner said, which was equal to 10 nanoseconds and came from the expression, “two shakes of a lamb’s tail.” Steiner held out a vintage wooden slide rule to offer an example of how much particle physics research has changed in the past 60 years. At the same time collaborations have grown from just a handful of physicists to thousands for the largest particle physics experiments, keeping pace with the growing scale and cost of experiments.

Lina Galtieri, a Senior Physicist at Berkeley Lab, described the analysis of particle interactions in liquid hydrogen bubble chamber experiments. The new particles and resonances discovered there fell into patterns that led to the proposal of SU(3) symmetry and ultimately to quarks, and led, as well, to the Nobel Prize for Luis Alvarez.

“I credit (Luis) for starting big science,” Galtieri said, recalling the dozens of physicists, computer scientists, technicians and engineers, and the team of students who helped to pore over photographs taken of particle interactions in the bubble chamber experiments.

George Trilling, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus who led the Physics Division from 1984-87, was among the speakers who discussed the lab’s role in the Nobel Prize-winning discovery in November 1974 of the J/Psi particle and the subsequent discovery of charmed particles.

Pier Oddone, past Deputy Director at Berkeley Lab and past Director at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, spoke about his invention of the asymmetric electron-positron collider. The idea developed into the PEP-II Asymmetric B-Factory and the international collaboration called BaBar, which put this machine to work studying the decays of B mesons.

Moishe Pripstein, a Berkeley Lab physicist for 40 years, talked about his efforts, along with other physicists at the lab, across the U.S., and abroad, to free dissident scientists in the Soviet Union through an organization known as SOS (Scientists for Sakharov, Orlov and Sharansky).

“In the late 1980s the Soviet Union decided to crack down on dissidents and a number of scientists were being incarcerated. We decided to do something about it,” he said. The grassroots group quickly grew from a core of eight or nine scientists to about 10,000 from 44 countries, with participation by Berkeley Lab scientists including Andy Sessler, Owen Chamberlain, Gerson Goldhaber, Dave Jackson, George Gidal, Mike Chanowitz, Bill Wenzel, and Bob Cahn, among others.

“The pursuit of knowledge recognizes no borders, and as a result science is an international endeavor and scientists are part of an international community,” Pripstein said.

Speakers also highlighted the lab’s important contributions to the Superconducting Super Collider project. Although the project was ultimately canceled, speakers noted how it served as a key stepping stone to later contributions by lab scientists at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, the machine that made possible the discovery of the Higgs boson.