Samuel Ting (1979) - Light Rays, Massive Light Rays, and new Particles in Nature

Samuel Ting (1979)

Light Rays, Massive Light Rays, and new Particles in Nature

Samuel Ting (1979)

Light Rays, Massive Light Rays, and new Particles in Nature

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The Lindau Meetings in physics, chemistry and medicine are held during a week at the beginning of summer. Around the same time as Samuel Ting in 1979 lectured for the first time in Lindau, the German electron-positron collider PETRA in Hamburg was taking data with several large detectors and Ting was member of one of the teams. The title of his talk included the phrase “New Particles in Nature”. When the data analysis from the three detectors at PETRA was finally complete, a new particle had been discovered: the gluon, the carrier of the strong nuclear force, the force that acts between the quarks of the atomic nucleus and keeps it together. At least some of the students and young researchers in the audience at Lindau must have made the connection to Ting’s talk when they, later on, heard about the discovery. Even though Ting’s name was not on top of the list of discoverers, he mentions PETRA at the end of his very interesting talk. As a true experimental physicist, Ting shows N slides, where N is a large number. But at the same time he tells his story in such a clear way that there is no real difficulty in following his arguments. He starts by describing his early work looking for new particles at DESY in Hamburg, then moves over the Atlantic to Brookhaven. There he made the discovery of the fourth quark (charm), for which he only two years later received the 1976 Nobel Prize in Physics shared with Burton Richter, the latter having made the same discovery independently at Stanford. At the time of his Lindau lecture, also the fifth quark (bottom) had been discovered and Ting mentions that some theories predicted many more quarks. We now know that, according to the Standard Model, there was only one more quark to be discovered, the sixth (top), which because of its large mass was not clearly detected until 1995. On his way from one large accelerator to the next, Ting’s story is that of a travelling physicist!

Anders Bárány

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