July 2, 2004  




Nature’s Greatest Puzzles Attract Physicists to SLAC Summer Institute

By Heather Rock Woods

With youthful enthusiasm, hundreds of scientists will explore Nature’s Greatest Puzzles at the SLAC Summer Institute (SSI) on August 2-13.

Graphic by Michael Hyde

“Exploring the fundamental nature of matter, spacetime and energy has never been so exciting,” said SSI Program Director JoAnne Hewett (THP).  “There are deep mysteries to investigate, such as realizing Einstein’s dream to unify the forces, detecting and producing the dark matter particle, understanding the birth of the Universe, completing the list of nature’s basic building blocks and symmetries, unraveling the nature of neutrinos and solving the riddle of dark energy.”

To scrutinize 10 outstanding questions, the program directors changed the usual format of the 32-year-old summer school.  Each day will consist of an overview lecture on one of the puzzles, followed by talks on experimental results and detailed theory related to the day’s topic.  In addition to Hewett, the program directors are John Jaros (EA), Tune Kamae (GLAST) and Charles Prescott (EA).

“Each day is an a la carte menu, so to speak,” Kamae said.  “The puzzles are interrelated and many address common themes between particle physics and cosmology.”

“They’re great questions and a good representation of the future of the field,” Jaros said. 

So far, 200 students and scientists from around the world—about half from outside the U.S.—have registered to participate in the lectures, discussions, poster sessions and, of course, the enticing dinners, social hours and excursions.               

“When I first came here, the whole Lab would come out to the dinners.  It’s an incredible deal and a lot of fun.  I wish we had more of the Lab there enjoying them,” Jaros said.

Dinners catered by SLAC favorite Jeff Machado’s Elegant Cuisine, are $5 for students, $8 for others.  “Bring the whole family,” said conference organizer Maura Chatwell, “and wear your favorite Hawaiian shirt for the luau dinner on August 9.  We’ll also have great live music, including an appearance by Neil Calder (COM) and his traditional Irish band, The Ripping Tendons, and our own Jamie Davis (REG) will entertain us at the August 12 dinner.”

No matter how good the food and music, for the participants the real dessert is the science.

“Through this year’s institute you can learn almost everything,” said Kamae.

Last year’s institute on cosmic connections attracted people from multiple fields.  “Last year was a spectacular success, so people are really paying attention to what we do at SSI,” Kamae said.

 “We expect another good mix of people from across disciplines this year,” Jaros said.  “It should be fun.  We got some really good, naïve, fundamental and deep questions from people who weren’t an ‘expert’ in a topic.”

The expert speakers from SLAC are Michael Peskin (THP) on ‘Higgs Basics’, Tom Rizzo (THP) on ‘Experimental Signatures of Extra Dimensions’, and Roger Blandford (KIPAC) on ‘Cosmic Acceleration Mechanisms’.  Three well-known physicists are wrapping up the last day: Andrei Linde (Stanford) will discuss ‘Inflation and String Theory’, Fred Gilman (Carnegie Mellon) will give a ‘Road Map to the Future’ and Nima Arkani-Hamed (Harvard) will give ‘The Last Word on Nature’s Greatest Puzzles’.

To register, see www-conf.slac.stanford.edu/ssi/2004 or contact Maura Chatwell (Ext. 4931, ssi@slac.stanford.edu).



The Stanford Linear Accelerator Center is managed by Stanford University for the US Department of Energy

Last update Wednesday June 30, 2004 by Emily Ball