Jefferson Lab celebrates 25 years

A quarter century after a doubly improbable genesis, the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility – Jefferson Lab – in Newport News, Virginia, held a 25th anniversary celebration on 29 September, attended by the US Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu.

Until 1996 Jefferson Lab was called CEBAF, for the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility – the name still used for the five-pass recirculating accelerator that serves experiments in three end-stations and makes Jefferson Lab the US Department of Energy’s main facility for electromagnetic nuclear physics.

CEBAF’s genesis began following the 1979 conference "Future Possibilities for Electron Accelerators" at the University of Virginia. Within a few years, a plan for a giga-electron-volt-scale electron machine in Virginia had prevailed over proposals from prestigious, long-established sources. By early 1986, in a second surprise, the approved plan had been switched from using conventional accelerator technology to become the first large-scale application of superconducting radiofrequency (SRF) technology.

The anniversary celebration involved tours, luncheons, journalists and speeches. John Dirk Walecka, the laboratory’s original scientific director, offered a combined scientific and historical retrospective on why and how scientific user demand brought CEBAF into being, on what it meant for nuclear physics, and on what it means for science.

Walecka talked of the three electron-scattering experiments at Stanford that had "formed the physics base for CEBAF" and emphasized the inception and evolution of quantum chromodynamics – QCD, the field theory of quarks and gluons. "The challenge and opportunity for CEBAF at the outset," he said, "was to use electron scattering to study just how the traditional picture of the nucleus, involving static potentials, and eventually mesons, evolves with increasing resolution into the quark picture and QCD. In addition, parity-violation experiments could access the weak neutral current."

He also spoke of "disarray" in nuclear physics in the US in the 1960s and 1970s, and praised the evolution of the US Nuclear Science Advisory Committee as a focus and mechanism for long-range planning, as illustrated in part by CEBAF itself. "One cannot overstate the impact it has had to have the entire community argue and set priorities internally, and then stand united in their defence," he said.

Walecka closed his speech with lines from Victor Weisskopf, his thesis adviser, who later served as CERN’s director-general. "The dynamics of nuclear matter are probably much more essential to the life of the universe than are terrestrial atomic and molecular physics," the quoted passage began, while ending: "After billions of years of benign radiation from the solar furnace, thinking beings evolved who investigate the processes that may lie nearer to the heart of the universe than the daily world in which we live."

Walecka’s retrospective established a context for the other speeches, which included wide-ranging remarks by Chu as well as a scientific overview of Jefferson Lab’s evolving research programme by Berthold Schoch of the University of Bonn. Chu’s comments included support for basic research and attention to energy and anthropogenic global warming. Schoch’s speech included an emphasis on the importance of CEBAF’s upgrade to 12 GeV, now in progress (CERN Courier April 2009 p15).

Incremental improvements in SRF performance have raised CEBAF’s pre-upgrade energy from the originally specified 4 GeV to the 6 GeV now routinely delivered. The origins and success of Jefferson Lab’s efforts in this growing field did not escape Chu’s notice. He said he especially wanted to thank CEBAF’s original director Hermann Grunder and his colleague (and successor) Christoph Leemann because he had "read of the early history and essentially this eleventh-hour decision to go to superconducting". He called the decision "spectacular" and attributed to it "the fact that Jefferson Lab is the leader in superconducting accelerator cavity technology".

Euroscience prize goes to CERN team

CERN has received an award for its efforts in communicating the events surrounding the first beam in the LHC to the media and the public. James Gillies, head of the Communication Group, received the AlphaGalileo Research Public Relations Award on behalf of his team on 14 October during the Euroscience Media Award Ceremony in Hannover.

The team worked hard both before and after the remarkable "first-beam event", in which the protons circulated for the first time round the LHC under the eyes of the world, as regular live action from the CERN Control Centre was broadcast by many TV channels from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (CERN Courier October 2008 p7). Although common practice for the launch of space vehicles, for example, this was a "first" in the world of particle physics.

The CERN Communication Group also works with communication professionals in all of the CERN member states and major physics labs around the world, through the European Particle Physics Communication Network and the InterAction collaboration. "Without them," says Gillies, "the impact would have been much smaller."

This is the first presentation of the AlphaGalileo Research Public Relations Award, which is worth €5000 and includes a "golden" statue of Galileo Galilei.

The team at CERN will be using the award to give a young communication professional the chance to join the team as an intern throughout the LHC-restart period.