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Office of Science Director Orbach outlines bright future for SLAC

Photo by Diana Rogers

Click here for a high resolution photograph.

Raymond Orbach, director of the Office of Science at the Department of Energy, lavished praise on SLAC’s past accomplishments and promising future during a special address Thursday on the Lab’s Green.

“This is the finest laboratory in the world, with a history of discovery and a future of excitement,” he said to an audience of more than 800 SLAC staff gathered under a 50-by-100 foot tent built for the occasion.

“No other place has a history and future of this magnitude,” Orbach said, listing the many Nobel laureates and other distinguished scientists whose discoveries were made possible by SLAC.

Orbach emphasized the importance of SLAC’s close ties with Stanford University, as illustrated by the Kavli Institute, whose nascent metal frame at the entrance of SLAC could be seen through the arches of the tent.

He congratulated the recent success of the SPEAR3 team, who ran the synchrotron source at 500 mA “without a hiccup” this week for the first time, as an example of the ingenuity of SLAC’s engineers, faculty and students working together.

Orbach expressed great faith in the promise of the LCLS, which will produce X-ray beams “ten billion times brighter than any light source on Earth,” he said.

He ended his talk by asserting his belief in American leadership, particularly in the field of ultrafast science.

“We’re going to insist on U.S. leadership in world science, which we could not carry out without the SLAC family and the support of Stanford University,” Orbach said.

SLAC’s director Jonathan Dorfan thanked Orbach for his enthusiastic and thoughtful remarks and assured him that SLAC would do its part.

“We will make this place not just one of the best, but the best,” Dorfan concluded, as the audience broke into applause.

Text from Ray Orbach's SLAC Address

Thank you, President Hennessy, for your very kind words; Jonathan, for your kind words, and the hospitality of SLAC and Stanford University. It is a great pleasure and privilege to be back amongst you and especially to receive this kind of welcome. Thank you all for coming out. It is a special tribute to SLAC to note, as we have seen it develop, that this is the finest laboratory in the world with a history of discovery and a future of excitement.

About 40 years ago, SLAC was started with the visionaries who had the dreams of building a pioneering physics center. Through the contributions of thousands of people, including scientists, engineers and staff, and collaboration with other scientists from around the world SLAC has successfully made those dreams come true and pushed forward our understanding of physics.

Some examples are:

Pief, who pretty much wrote the book on how things get done.


Bjorken: The elucidation of the Parton Model in scaling behavior in QCD, who won the Lorentz award in 1978.

Sid Drell: Quantum theory of radiation, arms control and more prizes than you can name.

Taylor: Key experiment proving protons are made up of smaller constituents; Nobel prize in 1990 with Kendall and Friedman.

Perl: Discovering the tau lepton; Nobel prize, 1995.

Richter: Discovery of the charm quark; Nobel prize in 1976 shared with Ting, led construction of SPEAR in the first detector, MARC I.

Quinn: Theory of CP violation and unified theories.

Addis et. al.: Created the first high-energy physics database in the mid-1970s, later evolving into SPIRES.

Prescott: Demonstrated a parity violation in neutral currents.

Winick et. al.: Development of the SSRL, using wiggler magnets to develop multiple high-power beams for users.

Farcas and Wilson: RF pulse compression technology, effectively doubling the energy delivered by the main linac.

Kunz, Johnson et.al.: First United States www site and web server.

Breidenbach: Design, development and execution of the SLAC Large Detector, including the SLC, Stanford Linear Collider Controls.

Arnold: Led numerous fixed target experiments demonstrating electromagnetic properties of nuclei and their connection to QCD.

Atwood et al.: Led applications of high-energy physics technology, the space-based astrophysics missions—in particular, GLAST.

Dorfan: Spokesman for the first SLAC linear collider experiment, revamping MARC II and project manager for the PEP-II B-Factory.

Seeman: Design and commissioning of PEP-II as well as ongoing upgrades.

These are shining examples of how SLAC’s family involvement and appreciation of the pioneering effort has always been the hallmark of this laboratory. It is, and will be, a strong foundation for new directions of the laboratory as it’s about to embark on future success to come of comparable magnitude. There is no other place in the world that has a history and tradition and future of that magnitude.

Just recently—in fact, in an e-mail dated June 21st of this year, Tuesday—Pat Dehmer, who is the Associate Director of Basic Energy Sciences for the Office of Science, wrote, “The attainment of 500 milli-amps in SPEAR 3 is a great accomplishment. The fact that SPEAR 3 marched up to 500 milli-amps without a hiccup is a real tribute to the engineers at SLAC.”

It’s again a statement of the remarkable ingenuity and increase in current that you were able to bring about without a hiccup—a tribute to the faculty, to the staff, to the students at SLAC and your commitment. What I like most of all was the exciting remark and explanation made by Dave Dungan—“The machine behaved as designed”—which is pretty telling about the way in which things are done here and we are very grateful in the Office of Science to have the quality and the achievement that this laboratory presents.

I also want to make a comment about Stanford, because as you know, Stanford is the contractor for this laboratory and in the Office of Science, when we measure the importance and the relevance of our contractors, we look at what we call “value-added.” The value added by Stanford to SLAC—to our laboratory—is remarkable. The President has already mentioned the facility, the guest house. Behind us, we have the Kavli Institute. That was a private gift to Stanford University, which the university placed here on a federal government site—leased from Stanford, but run and owned by the federal government. I know of no other example of a contractor who has taken their own personal gifts and contributed it to the success of a national laboratory. With the Kavli Institute, of course, begins a whole new field of science that is becoming ever more relevant and more exciting to the future of science. But there’s much more.

There will be the LCLS, the Linac Coherent Light Source. That concept started here. It started because of the quality of the beam in the linac and the ability to use that beam for spontaneous amplification of stimulated emission. And very, very true to the SLAC tradition, if you read the original paper by Herman Winick—this is dated 1993. Herman talks about, “The first laser would start operation at a wavelength of around 10 nanometers,”—that is a hundred angstroms—“in a single sub-picosecond pulse.”

Well, thanks to the ingenuity of the SLAC staff, the wavelength will be one and a half angstroms in the hard x-ray range, the luminosity will be ten billion times any other light source on Earth at that wavelength, and the pulse length can be as short—with some real photons present—as three hundred attoseconds. When I first heard that, when Keith told me that number, I had to look up what an attosecond was because I hadn’t heard it. If you remember your h-bar, that’s of the order of a couple of eV—which means that that machine, which Herman described so modestly a little over a decade ago, will be able to envisage—able to see—the structure of a single macromolecule and see the chemical bond change in time—in real time—as the chemical processes develop. It opens up a field, both theoretical and experimental, with untold future opportunities. And it would not have happened had it not been for the ingenuity of the SLAC family.

The ability to see the structure of macromolecules that cannot be crystallized, the ability to see the chemical bond being formed during the process of a chemical reaction—Pauling never dreamed about it. It gives us opportunities—just think of time-dependent Hartree-Fock calculations, which we know to be modest in their accuracy—whole new areas of theoretical science will be developed. I’ve mentioned already the computational prowess of SLAC. The combination of the very large database research and the high-end computation power of SLAC, together with these opportunities, in the experimental domain, will give us simulation opportunities again not available elsewhere.

When you package them altogether, ultrafast science becomes a new science, a new field of study. And it’s very reassuring that Stanford University has invested in a center for ultrafast science, that we will have a home in the LCLS building for ultrafast science here at SLAC. It’s going to be a future opportunity that will not be available elsewhere. The United States will have a lead of at least a decade over the XFEL in Germany, if not longer. And we already have plans for an upgrade at the LCLS that will continue American leadership in this field for another decade to come. This is the commitment of the Office of Science. We can make it because of what you provide. We are going to insist on U.S. leadership in world science. And we will structure our investments, our budget and our commitment to being the very best in the world at what we do. We could not carry that off without the SLAC family and the support of Stanford University. Thank you.



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