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William H. Goldstein

William H. Goldstein
Associate Director of Physics and Advanced Technologies

From Quarks to Livermore to the Cosmos

PHYSICISTS face a thorny set of basic questions that do not yet have definitive answers. These questions embrace physics from the smallest to largest scale. In the 2002 report Connecting Quarks with the Cosmos: Eleven Science Questions for the New Century, the National Research Council boiled these questions down to eleven. Livermore Laboratory is involved in efforts to answer at least seven of them.
The article Small Particle May Answer Large Physics Questions describes an experiment, spearheaded by the Laboratory, that may ultimately provide the definitive answer to the question “What constitutes the dark matter of the universe?” This experiment searches for the axion—a particle more elusive than the neutrino. The axion may be the dominant component of cosmological dark matter, which we know cannot consist of already-discovered particles.
Livermore is also involved in developing the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), which is designed to probe the nature of dark energy, another mysterious entity in the universe. Each night, the LSST will yield 10 or more terabytes of data. Sorting through these enormous databases requires high-performance image- and signal-processing capabilities, some of which Livermore’s engineers and astronomers pioneered in the Massive Compact Halo Objects experiment. These efforts on behalf of LSST will also benefit Livermore programs that must handle large imagery databases in other contexts.
Through its support of the Main Injector Neutrino Oscillation Search (MINOS), the Laboratory is aiding the effort to measure neutrino masses. In this experiment, a beam of neutrinos generated at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, about 13 kilometers west of Chicago, is aimed at a detector deep in a former iron mine in Soudan, Minnesota, 735 kilometers away. Livermore engineers and physicists contributed the design of the MINOS detector planes, which allowed sections of the planes to be lowered into the mine and assembled underground. (See S&TR, April 2003, An Elusive Transformation—The Mystery of Oscillating Neutrinos.)
Creating new states of matter at extremely high densities and temperatures is the task of the Relativistic Heavy-Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory, another major physics collaboration with a significant Livermore connection. Inside this accelerator, gold ions collide with enough force to recreate a quark–gluon plasma on Earth. Livermore engineers designed three powerful magnets for the Pioneering High-Energy Nuclear Interaction Experiment detector at the RHIC, and Livermore physicists are leading two major experiments using the detector. (See S&TR, January/February 2003, A Question of Quarks.)
Determining how the elements from iron to uranium were created will require a new facility—the Rare Isotope Accelerator (RIA). Recently, Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Spencer Abraham endorsed the RIA as a high priority in his outline of DOE’s 20-year science facility plan. The RIA will be the world’s most powerful research facility dedicated to producing and exploring forms of nuclear matter. These experiments will allow scientists to view the processes that occur in supernovas as well as provide a greater understanding of the radiochemistry of nuclear weapons. Livermore has been active in the preliminary engineering and in defining the science goals of this new facility.
Livermore was one of four DOE national laboratories given the task of basic research and development (R&D) for the Next Linear Collider (NLC), which is the other major accelerator project endorsed by Secretary Abraham. The NLC is a 30-kilometer accelerator that will push the energy frontiers of physics to the teraelectronvolt (TeV) range, where physicists expect to find answers to some of the most fundamental questions of science, including the nature of mass and the mechanism of grand unification. In addition to accelerator R&D, the Laboratory has the lead in developing a photon–photon collider for the NLC. This machine will bounce high-power, high-repetition laser pulses off the particle beams with the goal of exploring physics beyond TeV energies, possibly approaching the Planck scale, where gravity is thought to unify with electromagnetism and the nuclear forces. (S&TR, April 2000, The Next Accelerator for Revolutionizing Physics.)
Why is Livermore involved in these basic science research projects? The answers are clear: Livermore has unique engineering expertise and capabilities, and as a result, major science projects seek our involvement. In addition, these projects push the frontiers in science and technology. Our participation is essential to maintaining a vigorous science and technology base at the Laboratory and is crucial in attracting the best and the brightest—those who in future years will lead the Laboratory in carrying out its challenging national security missions.


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UCRL-52000-04-1/2 | January 6, 2004