From SURF: A giant among men

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March 23, 2015 [Just appeared in social media]
Constance Walter

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Ernest Orlando Lawrence sitting on a hillside above the 184-inch cyclotron, circa 1950s. Photo courtesy of Berkeley Lab

South Dakota native won Nobel Prize 75 years ago

In 1928, 27-year-old Ernest Lawrence left the security of Yale to become an assistant professor in the University of California, Berkeley’s fledgling physics department. Friends predicted he would “quickly go to seed in the unscientific climate of the west,” Luis Alvarez wrote in a biography of Lawrence.

They couldn’t have been more wrong. Just 11 years later, Lawrence received the Nobel Prize in Physics for his invention of the cyclotron, the world’s first particle accelerator.

Lawrence grew up in Canton, S.D., where his father served as superintendent of schools. After graduating from high school, Lawrence attended college at St. Olaf’s in Northfield, Minn. but returned to his native state one year later to finish his bachelor’s degree. He went on to receive his Ph.D. from Yale in 1925.

From early childhood, Lawrence demonstrated scientific ingenuity and daring, wrote Alvarez, a Nobel Laureate. Lawrence and his childhood friend Merle Tuve built and flew gliders and constructed a very early short-wave radio transmitting station. They “carried the friendly rivalry of their boyhood days into the formative stages of American nuclear physics, and all nuclear physicists have benefitted greatly from the results,” Alvarez wrote.

This year marks 75 years since Lawrence accepted the Nobel. His work in the field of nuclear science runs deep—all the way back to South Dakota and Sanford Lab. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) are named for him and both are connected to the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment. “The particle accelerator principles developed by Lawrence will be reflected in LBNF and used to study neutrinos,” said Jaret Heise, Director of Science at Sanford Lab.

LLNL Plate

LBL Big

LUX Xenon experiment at SURF
LUX Xenon experiment at SURF

Lawrence called his first cyclotron, which had a 5-inch accelerating chamber, his proton merry-go-round. Lynn Yarris, a writer for LBNL, described it as “a pie-shaped concoction of glass, sealing wax, and bronze. A kitchen chair and a wire-coiled clothes tree were also enlisted to make the device work.” Despite it’s crude appearance, Lawrence proved that accelerating particles to very high velocities was the best way to smash open atomic nuclei.

Lawrence would go on to develop far more sophisticated cyclotrons that required more space. In 1931, Berkeley turned over its Civil Engineering Testing Lab to Lawrence and renamed it the Radiation Laboratory. It housed the 27-inch, 36-inch, and 60-inch cyclotrons. In 1946, a new facility was built for his 184-inch cyclotron.

During World War II, Lawrence worked on the Manhattan Project, which produced the first atomic bombs. Later, Lawrence was part of an effort that sought an international agreement to suspend atomic bomb testing.

On February 29, 1940, Ernest Lawrence accepted the Nobel for his invention in a ceremony held at UC Berkeley—the war made international travel nearly impossible. In his acceptance speech, he expressed “a profound feeling of gratitude and appreciation for this great honor, which I share with all those outside who have contributed to make our work possible and above all with my valued colleagues and co-workers both past and present.”

Lawrence died on August 27, 1958, of a chronic illness. He was 57 years old. Alvarez, his friend and colleague, wrote, “For those who had the good fortune to be close to him both personally and scientifically he will always seem a giant among men. He will always be remembered as the inventor of the cyclotron, but more importantly, he should be remembered as the inventor of the modern way of doing science.”

See the full article here .

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About us.
The Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, South Dakota, advances our understanding of the universe by providing laboratory space deep underground, where sensitive physics experiments can be shielded from cosmic radiation. Researchers at the Sanford Lab explore some of the most challenging questions facing 21st century physics, such as the origin of matter, the nature of dark matter and the properties of neutrinos. The facility also hosts experiments in other disciplines—including geology, biology and engineering.

The Sanford Lab is located at the former Homestake gold mine, which was a physics landmark long before being converted into a dedicated science facility. Nuclear chemist Ray Davis earned a share of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2002 for a solar neutrino experiment he installed 4,850 feet underground in the mine.

Homestake closed in 2003, but the company donated the property to South Dakota in 2006 for use as an underground laboratory. That same year, philanthropist T. Denny Sanford donated $70 million to the project. The South Dakota Legislature also created the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority to operate the lab. The state Legislature has committed more than $40 million in state funds to the project, and South Dakota also obtained a $10 million Community Development Block Grant to help rehabilitate the facility.

In 2007, after the National Science Foundation named Homestake as the preferred site for a proposed national Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL), the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority (SDSTA) began reopening the former gold mine.

In December 2010, the National Science Board decided not to fund further design of DUSEL. However, in 2011 the Department of Energy, through the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, agreed to support ongoing science operations at Sanford Lab, while investigating how to use the underground research facility for other longer-term experiments. The SDSTA, which owns Sanford Lab, continues to operate the facility under that agreement with Berkeley Lab.

The first two major physics experiments at the Sanford Lab are 4,850 feet underground in an area called the Davis Campus, named for the late Ray Davis. The Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment is housed in the same cavern excavated for Ray Davis’s experiment in the 1960s.
LUX/Dark matter experiment at SURFLUX/Dark matter experiment at SURF

In October 2013, after an initial run of 80 days, LUX was determined to be the most sensitive detector yet to search for dark matter—a mysterious, yet-to-be-detected substance thought to be the most prevalent matter in the universe. The Majorana Demonstrator experiment, also on the 4850 Level, is searching for a rare phenomenon called “neutrinoless double-beta decay” that could reveal whether subatomic particles called neutrinos can be their own antiparticle. Detection of neutrinoless double-beta decay could help determine why matter prevailed over antimatter. The Majorana Demonstrator experiment is adjacent to the original Davis cavern.

Another major experiment, the Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment (LBNE)—a collaboration with Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) and Sanford Lab, is in the preliminary design stages. The project got a major boost last year when Congress approved and the president signed an Omnibus Appropriations bill that will fund LBNE operations through FY 2014. Called the “next frontier of particle physics,” LBNE will follow neutrinos as they travel 800 miles through the earth, from FermiLab in Batavia, Ill., to Sanford Lab.

Fermilab LBNE
LBNE