LIGO Founders and Team Receive Cosmology Prize

Ronald Drever, professor of physics, emeritus; Kip Thorne, Richard P. Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, Emeritus; Rai Weiss, MIT professor of physics, emeritus; and the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) discovery team have been selected to receive the 2016 Gruber Foundation Cosmology Prize for their observation of gravitational waves, distortions in the fabric of spacetime. The Cosmology Prize honors a leading cosmologist, astronomer, astrophysicist, or scientific philosopher for theoretical, analytical, conceptual, or observational discoveries leading to fundamental advances in our understanding of the universe.

In a press release, the Gruber Foundation called the detection of gravitational waves a "technologically herculean and scientifically transcendent achievement."

The existence of gravitational waves was predicted by Albert Einstein's 1915 general theory of relativity, but it was not until the 1960s that technological and theoretical advances made detection even possible to consider. In the 1970s, Thorne founded a research group at Caltech to study the theory of gravitational waves. Weiss had developed a design for a gravitational wave detector; he and Thorne recruited Drever, one of the leading creators of gravitational-wave interferometer prototypes, to lead what would become LIGO. On September 14, 2015, during the first observations with the newly upgraded Advanced LIGO interferometers, LIGO detected the first signal of gravitational waves—the result of the collision of two black holes to produce a single, more massive black hole. The detection was announced on February 11, 2016.

The Gruber Foundation Cosmology Prize includes a $500,000 award, to be divided equally among Drever, Thorne, and Weiss. Each will also receive a gold medal.

Past recipients of the prize include Caltech's Charles Steidel, the Lee A. DuBridge Professor of Astronomy, who received the Gruber Prize in 2010 for his studies of the distant universe.

The award ceremony will take place on July 12 at the 21st International Conference on General Relativity and Gravitation, held at Columbia University in the City of New York.

Home Page Title: 
LIGO Team Receives Cosmology Prize
Listing Title: 
LIGO Founders and Team Receive Cosmology Prize
Writer: 
Exclude from News Hub: 
No
Short Title: 
LIGO Team Receives Cosmology Prize
News Type: 
In Our Community
Exclude from Home Page: 
Home Page Summary: 
Caltech's Drever and Thorne receive the Gruber Cosmology Prize for their role in discovering gravitational waves.

Ooguri Receives Chunichi Award

Hirosi Ooguri, the Fred Kavli Professor of Theoretical Physics and Mathematics and founding director of the Walter Burke Institute for Theoretical Physics, will be the 2016 recipient of the Chunichi Cultural Award. Founded in 1947 by Japanese newspaper Chunichi Shimbun to commemorate the enacting of the Japanese constitution, the award celebrates individuals or organizations who have made significant contributions to the arts, humanities, and natural or social sciences. Other awardees this year include physicist and 2015 Nobel Laureate Takaaki Kajita, poet Toru Kitagawa, and biologist Ikue Mori, each of whom will receive the 2 million yen ($20,000) prize. Previous recipients include six other Nobel laureates and one Fields medalist.

The prize honors Ooguri for the "development of innovative methods of modern mathematics in high energy theory," according to the prize citation. His research focuses on creating new theoretical tools in quantum field theory and superstring theory, which may ultimately lead to a unified theory of the forces and matter in nature. He is particularly renowned for his work on topological string theory, which has had broad applications ranging from black hole physics to algebraic geometry and knot theory in mathematics.

This April, Ooguri was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is also the recipient of the Leonard Eisenbud Prize for Mathematics and Physics from the American Mathematical Society, the Nishina Memorial Prize, the Humboldt Research Award, the Simons Investigator Award, and is a fellow of the American Mathematical Society. He also received Japan's Kodansha Prize for Science Books for his popular Introduction to Superstring Theory in 2014.

Ooguri will receive the Chunichi Award at a ceremony to be held in Japan on June 3.

Home Page Title: 
Ooguri Receives Chunichi Award
Contact: 
Writer: 
Exclude from News Hub: 
No
News Type: 
In Our Community
Exclude from Home Page: 

Tom M. Apostol, 1923–2016

Tom M. Apostol, professor of mathematics, emeritus, passed away on May 8, 2016. He was 92.

Apostol was born in Helper, Utah, on August 20, 1923. He received his bachelor of science in chemical engineering in 1944 and a master's degree in mathematics in 1946, both from the University of Washington, Seattle. In 1948, he received his PhD in mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley. In 1950, he arrived at Caltech as an assistant professor; he was named associate professor in 1956, professor in 1962, and professor emeritus in 1992.

Apostol was the author of several influential textbooks. For more than five decades, undergraduate introductory mathematics courses at Caltech have used Apostol's two-volume text, "Calculus," which is often referred to by Caltech students as "Tommy 1" and "Tommy 2." These volumes, as well as many of his other textbooks in mathematical analysis and analytic number theory, have been translated into Greek, Italian, Spanish, Farsi, and Portuguese. Apostol also worked with a Caltech team that produced The Mechanical Universe . . . and Beyond, a 52-episode video lecture series based on The Mechanical Universe: Introduction to Heat and Mechanics and Beyond the Mechanical Universe: From Electricity to Modern Physics, the introductory physics textbooks that Apostol coauthored.

Apostol later was the creator, director, and producer of Project MATHEMATICS!, a series of award-winning computer animated videos that explore basic topics in high school mathematics such as the Pythagorean Theorem, scaling, sines and cosines, and the history of mathematics. The nine videos, which are still available for order through the Caltech bookstore, are estimated to have been viewed by 10 million people worldwide.

"Tom was a great scholar and a beloved teacher and mentor. Generations of Caltech students benefited from his passion and dedication," says Fiona Harrison, the Benjamin M. Rosen Professor of Physics and the Kent and Joyce Kresa Leadership Chair of the Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy.

"Tom Apostol was a great human being and mathematician, and an inspiration to many. He was very famous the world over for his immense talent for mathematical exposition," says Dinakar Ramakrishnan, Caltech's Taussky-Todd-Lonergan Professor of Mathematics and executive officer for mathematics. "His books set a high standard but remained accessible to many, as decades of Caltech undergraduates would testify, while his videos have stimulated high school students to pursue the beauty of mathematics."

In 1982, Apostol received an award for teaching excellence from the Associated Students of the California Institute of Technology (ASCIT). In 1998 the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) awarded him the annual Trevor Evans Award, presented to authors of an exceptional article that is accessible to undergraduates, for his piece entitled "What Is the Most Surprising Result in Mathematics?" (Answer: the prime number theorem). In 2005, 2008, and 2010, he was awarded MMA's Lester R. Ford Award, given to recognize authors of articles of expository excellence. He additionally served as a visiting lecturer for the MMA and as a member of hits Board of Governors.

He was named as one of the inaugural class of Fellows of the American Mathematical Society in 2012.

Apostol, who was an American of Greek descent, spent four months in Greece as a visiting professor of mathematics at the University of Patras in 1978. Additionally, he spent eight years as a member of an Electoral Committee selecting faculty for the University of Crete. In 2001, he was elected as a corresponding member of the Academy of Athens.

Apostol is survived by his wife, Jane Apostol; his stepson, Stephen Goddard; his sisters, Kay Navrides and Betsie Strouzas; and his brother, John Apostol.

A memorial service is being planned for later this year.

Home Page Title: 
In Memoriam: Tom M. Apostol
Writer: 
Exclude from News Hub: 
No
News Type: 
In Our Community
Exclude from Home Page: 
Home Page Summary: 
Tom M. Apostol, professor of mathematics, emeritus, passed away on May 8, 2016. He was 92.

LIGO Team Awarded Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics

The Selection Committee of the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics has announced a Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics recognizing the scientists and engineers who contributed to the detection of gravitational waves by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO).

The $3 million award is being shared between two groups of laureates. The three founders of LIGO—Caltech's Ronald W. P. Drever, professor of physics, emeritus, and Kip S. Thorne, the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, emeritus; and MIT's Rainer Weiss, professor of physics, emeritus—will share $1 million equally. In addition, 1,012 contributors will equally share $2 million; of these, 1,005 are the authors of the paper from the LIGO and Virgo collaborations, while the remaining seven are scientists who "made important contributions to the success of LIGO." This group of seven includes Caltech's Mark Scheel, senior research associate in physics, and Rochus E. Vogt, the R. Stanton Avery Distinguished Service Professor and Professor of Physics, Emeritus.

In announcing the special prize, Yuri Milner, one of the founders of the Breakthrough Prizes, said, "The creative powers of a unique genius, many great scientists, and the universe itself, have come together to make a perfect science story."

For more about Caltech's Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics laureates, read Glitz and Qubits in the current issue of Caltech's E&S magazine.

Home Page Title: 
LIGO Team Awarded Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics
Exclude from News Hub: 
No
News Type: 
Research News
Exclude from Home Page: 
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Noyes 147 (J. Holmes Sturdivant Lecture Hall) – Arthur Amos Noyes Laboratory of Chemical Physics

Administrative Contact Information Session

Gift to Spark Powerful New Projects

Caltech leaders announced today two new funds that will provide flexible resources to support top priorities and launch bold academic endeavors.

These endowments—The Ronald and Maxine Linde Center for New Initiatives and the Ronald and Maxine Linde Leadership Chair in the Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS)—were created with money allocated from one of the largest single gifts ever pledged to Caltech, made public last year: the $50 million commitment by Ronald (MS '62, PhD '64) and Maxine Linde.

Read the full story at giving.caltech.edu.

Home Page Title: 
Gift to Spark Powerful New Projects
Exclude from News Hub: 
No
News Type: 
In Our Community
Teaser Image: 
Exclude from Home Page: 

Glitz & Qubits

When the first email came, Alexei Kitaev ignored it. The subject heading said something about a physics award, but he thought it was just spam. "Then I received another email," says the Caltech physicist. "So I actually took a look and understood that it was real."

Real it was. Kitaev had won the first ever Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, established in 2012 by Russian billionaire entrepreneur Yuri Milner. And this new prize came with $3 million—three times what winners of the Nobel Prize get. Moreover, unlike the Nobel Prizes, the money is not shared among the winners, of which there were eight others. "I couldn't believe that each person received $3 million," Kitaev says.

Milner meant the award to come with a significant amount of money; his goal is not only to recognize scientists doing fundamental research, but also to raise their profiles among the general public to equal the likes of actors, sports stars, and other celebrities. "We have a disbalance in the world today that the best minds are not appreciated enough," Milner said at the 2013 prize ceremony.

A year later, theoretical physicist John Schwarz won the 2014 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. Schwarz and his corecipient, Michael Green of the University of Cambridge, were recognized for their efforts to develop a unified theory that describes all the basic forces and particles of nature--a theory of everything.

For more on how this prize puts physics in the spotlight, read Glitz & Qubits on E&S+.

Home Page Title: 
Glitz & Qubits
Writer: 
Exclude from News Hub: 
No
News Type: 
In Our Community
Exclude from Home Page: 
Home Page Summary: 
The Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics has put Caltech quantum computing and superstring theory experts in the spotlight.

American Academy of Arts and Sciences Elects Two from Caltech

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences has elected two Caltech professors—Hirosi Ooguri and Rob Phillips—as fellows. The American Academy is one of the nation's oldest honorary societies; this class of members is its 236th, and it includes a total of 213 scholars and leaders representing such diverse fields as academia, business, public affairs, the humanities, and the arts.

Hirosi Ooguri is the director of the Walter Burke Institute for Theoretical Physics and the Fred Kavli Professor of Theoretical Physics and Mathematics in the Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy. He works on quantum field theory and superstring theory, aiming to invent new theoretical tools to solve fundamental questions in physics.

Rob Phillips is the Fred and Nancy Morris Professor of Biophysics and Biology and has appointments in the Division of Engineering and Applied Science and the Division of Biology and Biological Engineering. He focuses on the physical biology of the cell using biophysical theory as well as single-molecule and single-cell experiments.

Ooguri and Phillips join 86 current Caltech faculty as members of the American Academy. Also included in this year's list are two Caltech trustees, David Lee (PhD '74) and Ron Linde (MS '62, PhD '64); as well as three additional alumni: Gerard Fuller (MS '77, PhD '80), Melanie Sanford (PhD '01), and Robert Schoelkopf (PhD '95).

Founded in 1780 by John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock, and other scholar-patriots, the academy aims to serve the nation by cultivating "every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people." The academy has elected as fellows and foreign honorary members "leading thinkers and doers" from each generation, including George Washington and Ben Franklin in the 18th century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the 19th, and Albert Einstein and Woodrow Wilson in the 20th. This year's class of fellows includes novelist Colm Tóibín, La Opinión publisher and CEO Monica Lozano, jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter, former Botswanan president Festus Mogae, and autism author and spokesperson Temple Grandin.

A full list of new members is available on the academy website at www.amacad.org/members.

The new class will be inducted at a ceremony on October 8, 2016, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Home Page Title: 
Two from Caltech Elected to AAAS
Listing Title: 
American Academy of Arts and Sciences Elects Two from Caltech
Writer: 
Exclude from News Hub: 
No
Short Title: 
Two from Caltech Elected to AAAS
News Type: 
In Our Community
Teaser Image: 
Exclude from Home Page: 
Home Page Summary: 
Hirosi Ooguri and Rob Phillips have been elected as members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Probing the Transforming World of Neutrinos

Every second, trillions of neutrinos travel through your body unnoticed. Neutrinos are among the most abundant particles in the universe, but they are difficult to study because they very rarely interact with matter. To find traces of these elusive particles, researchers from Caltech have collaborated with 39 other institutions to build a 14,000-ton detector the size of two basketball courts called NuMI Off-Axis Electron Neutrino Appearance, or NOvA. The experiment, located in northern Minnesota, began full operation in November 2014 and published its first results in Physical Review Letters this month.

The experiment aims to observe neutrino oscillations—or the conversion of one type of neutrino into another—to learn about the subatomic composition of the universe. There are three different types, or "flavors," of neutrinos—muon-, tau-, and electron-type. The NOvA experiment has made successful detections of the transformation of muon-type neutrinos into electron-type neutrinos. Discovering more about the frequency and nature of neutrino oscillations is an important step to determining the masses of different types of neutrinos, a crucial unknown component in every cosmological model of the universe.

Though neutrinos rarely interact with matter, one in every 10 billion neutrinos that passes through the detector will interact with an atom in the detector. To observe these collisions, a beam of neutrinos 500 miles away at Fermilab in Chicago is fired every 1.3 seconds in a 10-microsecond burst at the detector. The detector is made up of 344,000 cells, each like a pixel in a camera and each filled with a liquid scintillator, a chemical that emits light when electrically charged particles pass through it. When a neutrino smashes into an atom of this liquid—an event estimated to happen once for every 10 billion neutrinos that pass through—it produces a distinctive spray of particles, such as electrons, muons, or protons. When these particles pass through a cell, fluorescent chemicals light up the cell, allowing scientists can track the paths of the particles from the collision.


A muon-type neutrino interaction in the NOvA detector, as viewed by the vertically oriented cells (top panel) and horizontally oriented cells (bottom panel). By using cells oriented both ways, researchers can build a three-dimensional version of the event. The neutrino entered from the left in this image, from the direction of Fermilab. Each colored pixel represents an individual detector cell, with warmer colors corresponding to more observed light and thus more energy deposited by traversing particles. The muon produced in this collision left the long, tell-tale line of active cells along its path. Other particles emanating from the interaction point are also visible. Credit: NOvA Collaboration

"Each type of neutrino leaves a particular signature when it interacts in the detector," says Ryan Patterson (BS '00), an assistant professor of physics and the leader of NOvA's data-analysis team. "Fermilab makes a stream of almost exclusively muon-type neutrinos. If one of these hits something in our detector, we will see the signatures of a particle called a muon. However, if an electron-type neutrino interacts in our detector, we see the signatures of an electron."

Because the beam of neutrinos coming from Fermilab is designed to produce almost entirely muon-type neutrinos, there is a high probability that any signatures of electron-type neutrinos come from a muon-type neutrino that has undergone a transforming oscillation.

Researchers estimated that if oscillations were not occurring, 201 muon-type neutrinos would have been measured over the initial data-taking period, which ended in May 2015. But during this first data-collection run, NOvA saw the signatures of only 33 muon-type neutrinos—suggesting that muon-type neutrinos were disappearing because some had changed type. The detector also measured six electron-type neutrinos, when only one of this type would be expected if oscillations were not occurring.

"We see a large rate for this transition, much higher than it needed to be, given our current knowledge," Patterson says. "These initial data are giving us exciting clues already about the spectrum of neutrino masses."

The Caltech NOvA team led the research and development on the detector elements.  The goal was to make each detector cell sensitive enough to identify the faint particle signals over background noise. The team designed the individual detector elements to operate at -15 degrees Celsius to keep noise—aberrant vibrations and other signals in the data—at a minimum, and also built structures to remove the condensation that can occur at such low temperatures. By the end of construction in 2014, all 12,000 detector arrays, each serving 32 cells, had been built at Caltech.

"The spatial resolution on a detector of this size is unprecedented," Patterson says. "The whole detector is highly 'active'—which means that most of it is actually capable of detecting particles. We have tried to minimize the amount of 'dead' material, like support structures. Additionally, although the different types of neutrinos leave different signatures, these signatures can look similar—so we need as much discrimination power as we can get."

Discovering more about the nature of neutrino oscillations gives important insights into the subatomic world and the evolution of the universe.

"We know that two of the neutrinos are similar in mass, and that a third has a rather different mass from the other two. But we still do not know whether this separated mass is larger or smaller than the other two," Patterson says. Through precise study of neutrino oscillations with NOvA, researchers hope to solve this mass-ordering mystery. "The neutrino mass ordering has connections throughout physics, from the growth of structure in the universe to the behavior of particles at inaccessibly high energies," he says, with NOvA unique among operating experiments because of its sensitivity to this mass ordering.

In the future, researchers at NOvA plan to determine if antineutrinos oscillate at the same rate as neutrinos—that is, to see if neutrinos and antineutrinos behave symmetrically. If NOvA finds that they do not, this discovery could, in turn, help reveal why today the amount of matter in the universe is so much greater than the amount of antimatter, whereas in the early universe, the proportions of the two were balanced.

"These first results demonstrate that NOvA is operating beautifully and that we have a rich physics program ahead of us," Patterson says.

Home Page Title: 
The Transforming World of Neutrinos
Listing Title: 
Probing the Transforming World of Neutrinos
Writer: 
Exclude from News Hub: 
No
Short Title: 
The Transforming World of Neutrinos
News Type: 
Research News
Teaser Image: 
Exclude from Home Page: 
Monday, May 23, 2016
Brown Gymnasium – Scott Brown Gymnasium

Animal magnetism

Pages