Charles Townes & Shirley Jackson at MIT – 2007 Physics Symposium

Charles Townes & Shirley Jackson at MIT – 2007 Physics Symposium


[MUSIC PLAYING] MODERATOR: Thank
you very much, Bob. Good morning. As the new department
head of physics, I’m delighted to welcome you
to this celebration of physics at MIT in connection with the
dedication of our new Green Center for Physics. Physics is the science
of energy, matter, and their interactions. – Today, we celebrate
the energy and vision of our faculty and staff,
especially Marc Kastner, Bob Jaffe, and Shawn Robinson. We thank our generous
donors, especially Neil and Jane Pappalardo, Virgil
Elings, and Jim and Sylvia Earl. We thank Susan Hockfield
and the Institute for bringing the Green Center
Project and the PDSI Project around it to completion. The efforts and
dedication of many people brought forth a
partial unification of the physics department
that began as a dream about 30 years ago. Today, we also celebrate
the origin of new mass, not the Higgs boson, not yet,
rather the new infill Building named “6C” in MIT parlance and
the transformation of matter in the surrounding buildings
comprising the Green Center. The Green Center now
provides a focal point for many departmental activities
and a home for about one fourth of our faculty. Today, we celebrate the
increased interactions, especially those among and
across our theory groups made possible by the New
Green Center for Physics. This is an exciting time
and place to be a physicist. At this juncture of
departmental history, it’s appropriate to survey the
broad panorama of MIT physics, our contributions to
science, our place in the national and
international stages, and our prospects
for the future. We’re delighted and
very fortunate to have today, this morning,
the reflections of four distinguished physicists
with MIT connections. I’d like to thank
them for coming. I’d like to thank our
staff led by Gretchen Pullman for
organizing and running this tremendous enterprise. And I would like to thank
each and every one of you for coming and sharing with us
in this celebration of physics. And now, I’d like to turn
the baton to Professor Dan Kleppner, recent awardee of
the National Medal of Science who will introduce our
first symposium speaker. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] DAN KLEPPNER: So
it’s a great pleasure to welcome and
introduce Charlie Towns. In the physics
community the name Towns is synonymous with the
maser and the laser. And those devices have had
a transformative effect on large areas of
science and on society and on my own career,
because without the ammonia, maser– there would not
have been a hydrogen maser, and that’s what launched
my career many years ago. Also, he had a transformative
effect in another sense. He was the provost of MIT
when I came here and played a role in my coming to MIT. And he also played a role
in the transformation of MIT because in those days,
MIT was known primarily as a school of engineering. Now, it’s known as a school
of science and engineering. And the emergence of science as
a major feature of the MIT life is due in no small part
to Charlie’s influence in those days. Since then, he has
devoted himself to his love of radio
astronomy and astrophysics. But his career has also
been marked by large areas of public service. He was one of the original
officials of the Institute for Defense Analysis. He helped to set up JASONS. Over the years, he has
advised the government on innumerable
problems for which wisdom and technical
knowledge were required. So in my mind and the mind
of people who know him, that Charlie Towns
is a role model for what’s very best in physics. And we’re very pleased
that you’re here with us today, Charlie. [APPLAUSE] CHARLES TOWNES: Well, I’m
absolutely delighted to be back here at MIT. It’s been a little over
40 years since I was here. [LAUGHS] And the place has change some. On the other hand, great
memories still with me. And I’m delighted to just
meet with you in celebrating the Green Center. This is a very important center,
and it’s kind of indicative of what MIT is about and
what we hope it will be. It is right in the
middle of the campus and bringing together
theorist and particle physics, solid state physics, and so on
and hopefully bring together all of physics together. Now, this is an important aspect
of science and technology. It’s an important aspect of MIT. MIT has been great in uniting
science and technology. That’s extremely important
to our societies. It’s extremely
important to the advance of both of those fields– both of those, very,
very, very broad areas. And this center will help
continue to strengthen MIT and these important fields. Now MIT, of course, has a– already had an enormously
important role. I just counted up recently,
MIT has 15 Nobel prizes on its faculty, many of them in
science, wide variety of fields and in science and training. It’s been just such
an outstanding place for our country
and for the world. I want, particularly,
to emphasize importance of basic research,
importance of basic research and, hence, of this new center
and of the department and also the MIT. There’s enormous payoff. Not only does it help
us in our understanding of our universe, our
philosophy, so on, our thoughts, but it’s very important
to also to our technology and to our economy. Now, in fact, one of
your Nobel laureates, Bob Solow, who some
time ago, says, “for every dollar of products
sold by the United States, less than one penny is invested
in research and development. But research, I assume,
has much more than 1% effect on the final product. So economically
speaking, investing more in scientific
research is sensible.” He was one of the
first to point out this, one of the
first economists to point this out strongly. As I say, not only does
it help our economy, but it advances us
culturally and helps us understand philosophically
what we’re all about. Now, basic research
gives us many surprises, and we never know what’s
going to be there. And this is one of the
problems, particularly with our politicians
and financial people. You know, just why is this
about some basic research? You can’t say what
it’s going to do. Now, truly, you can’t say
exactly what it’s going to do. But we know historically
it’s done wonderful things, remarkable things. And they come about
suddenly and surprisingly. I just want to mention two
technological things you see, which is to say,
well, the technology, it’d come out of
basic science, yes. I was at Bell
Telephone Laboratories when the transistor
was invented. And my friends were Brattain
Bardeen and [? Shaw ?] [? Cleavland. ?] And Brattain,
he was examining the resistance of oxide on copper wires. He was examining that,
just studying it. He found a funny effect. He couldn’t understand it. Now, this is another example of
the importance of interaction between different fields. He went to his friend, John
Bardeen, who was nearby. And Bell Labs had all these
people together, you see. John Bardeen’s a theorist– said, what in the
world is going on? And John Bardeen looked at it
carefully and thought about it. He says, hey, you’ve
got amplification. You’ve got amplification. Did you realize that? No, no, no, well
for goodness sake. So they, of course, patented it. And Bill Shockley was another
theorist, was a [INAUDIBLE].. And he added some
more things to it and thus came about
the transition. Now, just think
about what effect the transistors had on us? This result of trying to study
the oxide, properties of oxide on copper water of all things. I might mention also the laser. Now, I was working on
microwave spectroscopy, and that was giving a lot
of interesting science. And getting a very high
spectral resolution, I wanted to get higher
and higher resolution, but in higher
frequencies, because in most spectral
higher frequencies– and I wanted to get down,
oh, down the wavelengths a millimeter or shorter
than a millimeter, down in the infrared if possible. I kept working on and thinking
about how in the world can I do this? Now, here’s another example of
the connection between science and engineering. You see, I’ve been
at Bell Laboratories and had a good experience
with radar and engineering and feedback
oscillators and so on. Well, not so many physicists
had that kind of experience, but I also, because
of the physicists, I knew some quantum mechanics. And I kept thinking about
how can we possibly get the shorter wave lengths? I can’t build
oscillators that small. We can’t make them that
small with any power in them and so on. Well, of course,
molecules and atoms give the exact frequencies, but
well, you have to heat them up to get high-intensity radiation. And you have to heat them so
hot that they then fall apart– too bad. And I was sitting on park bench
and said, hey, wait a minute, wait a minute. We don’t have– they
don’t have to be described by a temperature. We can put them all
on the higher state. Oh, oh, boy. And I wrote it down, and put
out an envelope from my pocket and wrote down the equation. Oh, looks like it worked. [LAUGHS] It was very exciting. Well, now, this required
feedback, of course, and oscillators. And many of my
physicist friends didn’t think it was very
practical where it wouldn’t work very well. In fact, the chairman
my department said, oh, stop working on that. That’s not going to work. You know it’s not going to work. It’s a waste of time,
wasting department’s money. Well, fortunately, I had tenure,
and then I could say, no, I’m going to continue. [LAUGHTER] So it worked. We built the first what
you call a [INAUDIBLE].. It was a first, we’ll make
it operate in the microwave region, which I knew
all about, and I could make it work
there first, and then I’d go on to
shorter wavelengths. Getting shorter wavelengths was
difficult. And with our channel with Bell Telephone
Laboratories, we decide how to get on
the short wavelengths and make a laser. And when the laser came
along, again, people thought, well, okay, that’s a
nice idea, but what good is it? [LAUGHTER] What good is a laser after all? Well, I could
foresee some things. And even the Bell
Laboratories’ lawyers, who we suggested patent it. They didn’t see any point, and
said, well, light had never been used for communications. We don’t think Bell
Laboratories’ interested in patenting it, and– [LAUGHTER] –so I told [INAUDIBLE] don’t
going to go back to them. Tell them, yes, it can be
used for communication. So they said, well,
okay, if you’re sure how it’s used, used in
communication, we’ll patent it. So well, now, you
see the resistance to new ideas we’ve
got to have new ideas and our society has
to be open to them. And that’s what you
people are doing. And that’s what
physics is doing, basic science and
new ideas, things that break open new things. And the laser, of course, is
a multibillion dollar business now. And people said, oh, yes, it’s a
nice idea, but what good is it? Well, it turns out to be
several years of this. [LAUGHTER] In fact, I’m just
delighted how useful it is. And now you may know, one
of the very first gas laser was built by Ali
Javan here at MIT. I came to MIT
shortly after that. And Ali Javan built the
very first gas laser. And then went on a
nonlinear optics, was another new field,
nonlinear optics, which also produces
a lot of new science and a lot of new technology. Now, the United States has
generally done pretty well in science and technology. And then the percent of our
GDP, which we invest in it, is a little bit larger than the
percentage that Europe invests. It’s not as large as what Japan
invests, little bit larger than what Europe invests. Nevertheless, we publish
somewhat more papers per person in the United
States than the Europeans do. In fact, you want the numbers? We published 809 papers per
year per million people, whereas Europe publishes 639. Japan publishes 569. So we were doing
substantially better. And our technological
exports, well, let’s say our
technological exports as a share of total
manufactured products. United States is about 29%,
whereas in Europe, it’s about 20%. So we’re doing–
we’ve been doing well. On the other hand, recently,
we’ve been sagging, and I think we must
recognize that. We’ve got to speed up. We’ve got to speed up. Europe and Japan,
Europe, particularly, is going to get ahead of us. Example, the fractional
share of publications back about 15 years ago,
we were publishing 38%. Europe, preparing
and publishing 32%. Now, they are publishing 38%. We’re publishing 32%. So we’re going downhill
compared to Europe. And they’re putting
more into it. And they recognize
importance of it, and we’ve got to
recognize the importance. We’ve been so successful
at it, I think, maybe we’re a little
overconfident. And I think we must recognize,
our public must recognize, and our politicians
must recognize, we must all recognize the
importance of basic research, the importance of
the interaction of different fields. And here, MIT is a great place– the interaction in
different fields. And your department has
many different sections, but I know science and
engineering interact there strongly, and that’s
enormously important– importance of those
interactions and importance of different field,
importance of basic research, importance of new discoveries,
unexpected discovers. And as I say,
that’s the problem, and we must emphasize
that the public. We must keep giving
them examples and so on. You have to keep at it, because
it’s difficult to say, well, I don’t see what’s going
to come out of this. No, we can’t predict what’s
going to come out of it. But we know historically that
a lot of wonderful things do come out of it, and they
pay off enormously, enormously. And so we want to keep going. Now, there are lot of– also a
lot of fascinating new fields and fascinating
fields, and they’re not all new, but fascinating fields
in the physics these days. Cosmology just think cosmology–
what cosmology is doing, and it affects our philosophy,
our thinking and so on. One of my students, Arnold
[? Pendges, ?] was looking– again, you’ll see
surprises– he was– he did a theses with
me looking for hydrogen in interstellar space. He didn’t find it. He went to Bell Labs. He kept looking. He didn’t find it. What did he find? He found radiation
from the big bang of the origin of the universe,
discovered the origin of the universe of all things. Now, we know it had an origin,
which surprised all physicists. It happened only 13
billion years ago. Universe was small. It blew up– fantastic. And that affects our
philosophy and our thinking. And so this cosmology–
and cosmology is just a fascinating field now. And there’s, well,
a lot to be learned. Then there’s nanoscience–
nanoscience and nanotechnology. The very big and
the very small– [LAUGHS] –this exciting field. Biophysics is a great field now. And then there’s so many
puzzles, dark matter. The great majority of the
matter in the universe, we don’t know what
in the world it is. 95% of the universe, we
don’t know what in the world it is– dark matter
and dark energy. What is it? We can see some of its
effects, but we can’t really see what in the world it is. What could be less
important, finding what’s most of this universe made of? [CHUCKLES] What to do with. And then there’s all kinds of
new puzzles and new things. How did it begin? The apparent discrepancy
between quantum mechanics and relativity, how did
matter form and so on. If you go still further,
then think about free will. How can we possibly
have free will? So there’s all kinds of
fascinating and puzzling problems for us. Well, I want to
finish by thanking very much the Greens
and the other people who have contributed to this
great establishment. Congratulations to all of
you for the new building, and very best wishes
to MIT, the personnel. The students, and for the
new scientific insights. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] PRESENTER: So I’m looking for
Patrick Lee, who is there. So Patrick from our Condensed
Matter Theory Group, which we in particle theory
are delighted to have within shouting distance, will
introduce Shirley Jackson. PATRICK LEE: OKAY, well,
I think many of you know Shirley Jackson from her
pictures, which MIT proudly displays along the
Infinite Corridor. And it’s a thrill for me
today to introduce you to the real person. So while Shirley, of course,
was there, real MIT product. She was an undergraduate here
and also a graduate student. She received her
PhD from the Center for Theoretical Physics in
Particle Theory in 1973. And after a few years, she
decided that she wanted to– she wanted to change
fields and become a condensement of theorists
known as [INAUDIBLE] physics in those days. And so she went to
Bell Labs, and I happened to be working
at Bell Labs at the time. And so soon after she arrived,
we started collaborating and became good
friends since then. And well, since Shirley has
a history in both particle physics and condensed
matter physics, so it’s very,
especially appropriate for her to address us
today because while part of– one of the goals
of the Green Center is to bring these two
communities together. So while Shirley was
making a name for herself in research, first in Bell
Labs and then at Rutgers, another side of her, great
talent, began to emerge. You see, even folks from these
very early days when I first met her, she has shown
that special leadership quality that are very apparent. She won’t hesitate to
speak her mind on issues that concerns here
deeply, be it signs, sign policy, or social issues. And when she speaks, she
speaks with great eloquence and conviction. This talent did
not go unnoticed. Shirley was appointed
by President Clinton to head the Nuclear
Regulatory Agency in 1995. And she became the president
of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1999 where she
still has that position today. Throughout her
distinguished career, Shirley has maintained
close ties with MIT. She served as a life member
of the MIT Corporation and on our Visiting Committee,
the physics department. Today, Shirley is recognized
as a national leader in science policy and education. She has received many awards. And the most recent
one is selection by the National Science
Board as a recipient of the Vannevar Bush Award. That’s another MIT connection. For quote, “a lifetime
of achievement in science, scientific research,
education, and senior statesman like contribution to
policy, public policy.” unquote. So let us welcome
Shirley Jackson. She is going to speak to us on
“Science the Endless Frontier, the Continuing Relevance
of Vannevar Bush.” [APPLAUSE] SHIRLEY JACKSON:
Well, good morning. I’m told that one is known
by the company one keeps. And so to be included
on the panel of speakers is a great honor. Now, it is no secret that I
have a great attachment to MIT. I did receive all of my
degrees here, all two of them. I spent the formative years
of my young adulthood here. And as a life member of
a corporation, the MIT corporation, I get to help
steward the university today. So my reverence for MIT
is profound and strong. But most of all, I revere
the transformational ideas, which regularly germinate within
and around this great place and the living presence of
these ideas in our lives, in our society, in our nation,
and throughout our world. Now, may I say as we celebrate
the opening of the MIT Green Center for Physics, these ideas
cannot but better germinate with the inspired design and
building adaptation achieved here? I must say when your
new chair talked about the idea of being around
for 30 years, I remember that. [LAUGHTER] And creating a core center
for the study of physics, particularly uniting condensed
matter theory with particle and nuclear theory, strengthens
the academic community and importantly strengthens
the physics department and fosters a productive
cross-fertilization of ideas. None that, needless
to say, it is also considerably more convenient
for students and faculty and easier to administer. Now, I’m delighted to
be at this dedication because Cecil Green, of
course, was MIT alumnus, a life member of the MIT Corporation
and great benefactor. Now, J. Erik Jonsson was
an RPI Alumnus trustee and great benefactor. He was a co-founder
with Cecil Green and Eugene McDermott
of Texas Instruments. And he was the mayor of Dallas
and brought that town back together in the aftermath of the
assassination of President John F Kennedy. Now, having received
my doctorate in theoretical elementary
particle physics here, now my own career
has led me, as you’ve heard, to positions
in government, industrial research,
and academia. In each of the sectors in which
I’ve had the privilege to work, I have found a vision
and overall guidance in the work of a distinguished
MIT alumnus and professor. Dr. Vannevar Bush– now, as
you know his seminal work, Science, the Endless
Frontier, has helped to shape science
policy in this country for more than six decades. And if we, I believe,
continue to adhere to its basic principles,
we will see a continuation and a revitalization of the
unprecedented era of discovery and innovation, which our
previous speaker so eloquently spoke to and which has
benefited our quality of life and our national
security, but importantly has enhanced life for
people around the globe. Now, I said that Van
Bush was a MIT alum, but actually he was a 1913
graduate of Tufts University. But then he entered
graduate school at MIT and received his doctorate
in electrical engineering jointly from MIT and
the place up the street called Harvard in 1917. Now, during the last
year of World War I, Dr. Bush worked at the
National Research Council improving techniques for
detecting submarines. And while he was there, he
observed a lack of coordination between civilian scientists
and the military. And he began to
formulate his ideas about the interrelationships
among scientists in the government, academic,
and industry sectors. And later, he
returned here to MIT, joining the Department
of Electrical Engineering a professor where he
was from 1923 to 1932, becoming vice president
and dean of engineering from 1932 through 1938. And while here, he built a
mechanical analog computer designed to solve
differential equations with as many as 18 variables
using wheel and disk mechanisms to perform the integration. This was before the invention of
the discovery of the transistor effect and the invention
of other things. Now, one of his grad students
was Claude Shannon and another, Frederick Turman, who was
instrumental in the genesis of Silicon Valley. Now, in 1939, Dr. Bush
assumed the presidency of the Carnegie
Institution of Washington, which supported
intramural research and awarded scientific
research grants to researchers at other places. And subsequently,
he held a series of federal scientific
research titles. Now, throughout much of the 19th
century, I have to tell you, federally sponsored
scientific research had been centered at
federal establishments such as the Smithsonian
Institution, the US Geological Survey, and a network of
agricultural experiment stations established
by the 1887 Hatch Act and was charged with
conducting research to improve American agriculture. Now, scientists at
universities, on the other hand, were involved in advanced
scientific research funded primarily by private donors,
philanthropic foundations, state legislatures, and, of
course, student tuitions. Now, during the period
between World Wars I and II, the science community
expressed skepticism, even some antagonism toward the
concept of federal funding. Their experience of conducting
research within a university environment fostered their
allegiance to academic freedom. And they feared that
government funding might lead to government
control and the relinquishment of intellectual freedom. But singular events
shift paradigms. And World War II was really a
war of science and technology in which military strategy and
technology developed in tandem. And with the war’s
onset, Dr. Bush convinced President
Franklin D. Roosevelt that the United States needed
an all out mobilization for defense based on
collaborative scientific research among the
different sectors. Science was mobilized
under civilian control to assist with strategy and to
develop technological measures to improve allied tactics
and effectiveness. Scientists evaluated
military problems and developed
devices and weapons to resolve these problems
and to oppose enemy tactics. Let me just tell you about
one, because it says something actually about the ingenuity
of people in those days before quantum
science came to be. The German V-1 or what was
known as the Buzz Bomb, powered by an Argus
pulsejet, terrorized, and devastated London. And this first guided missile
used a simple autopilot, which was really a
weighted pendulum to provide for an aft attitude
measurement to control pitch. And it was damped and stabilized
by a gyromagnetic compass. A countdown timer on the nose
driven by a vain anemometer was set according to prevailing
wind conditions to reach zero upon arrival at the target. But these were
effective as area bombs. And the characteristic
buzzing, which ceased moments before these bombs
struck and exploded, terrorized and psychologically
demoralized the people in London. Now, allied countermeasures
included antiaircraft fire, but the V-1 speed and
altitude were more than the rate of traverse of the
standard British, what was called QF 3.7 inch mobile gun. And there were a
number of other methods that were only
minimally effective, but the threat was reduced when
more effective measures were developed. And these were electronic
aids for anti-aircraft guns developed here at the MIT
radiation laboratory or the Rad Lab, as it was called, which
was still in existence when I came as a student. And it was a division then of
what was called the National Defense Research Committee under
the leadership of MIT president Karl Taylor Compton and
then, Dean of Engineering, Vannevar Bush. And these devices were based
on the cavity magnetron, radar-based automatic gun
laying and the proximity fuse. In addition, Bell
Telephone Laboratories produced an anti-aircraft
predictor fire control system based on an analog computer. Now, you’re already
beginning to see the point I’ve
been trying to make about this marriage of research
universities, industry, and the government. And so as the war was drawing
to a close at the end of 1944, President Roosevelt
asked Dr. Bush to evaluate the lessons learned
from the wartime mobilization of scientific expertise
and how that might be applied to peacetime pursuits. And so they were four advisory
panels convened by Dr. Bush. And in July of 1945,
Dr. Bush produced his strikingly prescient report,
Science, The Endless Frontier, which he submitted
to President Truman since President Roosevelt
had died that April. Now, read in its entirety,
the report is comprehensive. It sets forth a national
intellectual roadmap focused on science. But what most people
didn’t realize in balance with other national need for
high ability in the humanities, the social sciences,
and studies essential to national well-being. And it is a science policy
model for knowledge creation and application
encompassing the elements required for
innovation, a blueprint for a new area of science. And the fundamental principles
of Dr. Bush’s report are simple. First, that the results
of scientific research could be adapted readily
to shifting national needs and could accelerate
the pace of innovation, assisting not only
in national security, but importantly in medical
advance, economic growth, quality of life, and
overall societal benefit. And Dr. Towns has told
you some of the outcomes. Now, Science, The
Endless Frontier, set forth to the
important dictum. One posits that basic
science is performed without thought of
practical use to derive fundamental understanding. A second offers that basic
research discoveries will be converted and
can be converted to become powerful drivers
of technological innovation. Now, the report’s release
made front page headlines in The New York Times. Now, do you think that
would happen today? It probably wouldn’t, but the
results that that report drove have been dramatic and enduring. In 1935, the federal
government contributed only about 0.35% of national income
for research and development. By 1962, that investment
had risen to more than 3.3% of national income,
an increase of nearly 10 orders of magnitude. And since the issuance of
the Bush Report in 1945, a science policy infrastructure
has developed more or less in line with Dr. Bush’s
concepts and a science funding apparatus. Now, there have been
several differing yet identifiable periods
in the decades since then that have
affected science and reflect global events in
US interests and concerns. The first, of course, was the
Cold War period immediately after World War II. And this period
was characterized by a robust investment
in defense, space, and nuclear energy research. And that is where the genesis
of high energy physics really came and concomitant,
vigorous support for students in science and engineering
and mathematics to pursue studies in higher
education and beyond. Now, a second period took
place during the Great Society Program under President
Lyndon B. Johnson, but it wasn’t a great
period for science because it was characterized
by a dip in support for basic research. And instead, funding
was focused largely on social priorities
and public sector needs. There was one area where
research support did increase, and that was for social
and behavioral science. Now, a third period
developed in the mid 1970s when there was an
increased interest in national economic
competitiveness, and that was because of Japan
because there were questions as to whether the US
could compete seriously in engineering
and manufacturing. And after the 1973
world oil crisis, Japan itself invested
heavily in conservation and in reducing oil dependence
and, at the same time, enhanced its productivity. Advances in microcircuitry
and semiconductors led to new growth industries
and consumer electronics and computers. The net result expanded
knowledge intensive in service industries. But US concern over
global competitiveness however, was short-lived
when Japanese economic growth slowed. So today, the context of
the Vannevar Bush paradigm has shifted somewhat. And there is a greater call
for public accountability, greater less
discretionary funding and a narrower focus
on short-term outcomes. Federal investment in
scientific research has been shrinking, driven by
concern over big government, the limits on federal
spending, the federal deficit, and its growth, as
well as more confidence in market-driven
private sector research. Now, the AAAS, of which I was
president in 2004, the American Association for the
Advancement of Science, estimates that overall,
federal science research spending has declined by half as
a percentage of GDP since 1970. Now, you know, 50
years ago, this week, I think, in fact, 50
years ago yesterday, we met the challenge of the
Soviet launch of Sputnik by employing elements
of Dr. Bush’s paradigm in much the same way we
did to win World War II. With the breakup of the
former Soviet Union, however, there’s no
longer a Cold War with imminent
thermonuclear standoff. There are other nuclear
threats, however. And the interesting thing
is that the outcome of wars fought since that time have been
determined less by opponents’ advanced technology, but as much
by cultural and other factors often beyond the scope of
science and technology. And so today, 50
years after Sputnik, we sit with a need to focus
on another great global challenge– energy security
and sustainability. And I believe it is the
space race of this century. We are in a race against
time, as we were then. Success requires multiple sector
collaboration as it did then, but it requires a base rooted
in fundamental research with no product in mind. But research always
seeds new ideas leading to yet unknown advances. And research, we
should not forget, is important in its own right. But this will
require rejuvenation on a massive scale of the
university government industry mobilization in basic
research and education, which powered our efforts
in World War II and beyond. Now, there was a recent law
passed calling the America Competes Act that a
number of different groups worked to have enacted. And I was part of one of
those, actually two of those. One of them being a
National Academies Panel whose report
was entitled, Rising Above the Gathering Storm. And the legislation
that was signed into law supports a
comprehensive strategy to keep America
innovative and competitive and focuses on K through 12
through higher education, but with a particular
focus on energy. Now, I am not going to spend
the time to tell you everything that it is about, but it does
authorize strong increases for the NSF as well as for
other federal funding agencies. But the few– the
elements of the act really barely scratch the
surface, but to the degree that appropriations meet
authorization levels. It will begin to
refresh the compact to rejuvenate its strengthen
to develop more of you, new generations of
scientists and engineers. And today, Dr. Bush’s model
of multi-sector collaboration is being realized not
only at the federal level, but increasingly in regional
initiatives and at state levels as well. And of course, I have
to tell you about one, being the university president. Last month, for
example, Rensselaer opened what we call the
Computational Center for Nanotechnology
Innovations, which results from a $100
million partnership between and among IBM,
Rensselaer, and New York State. And it makes possible
a supercomputer that ranked seventh in the
world in computational power. And it’s the most powerful
at any purely university in the world. And it will generate
more than 100 teraFLOPS of computational power
and large storage. Now, but it’s only a tool. But with its sheer
computational power and with the ability to
handle and manipulate massive amounts
of data, this will support computationally-driven
discovery and innovation across a broad front, including
in theoretical physics, computational biology and
chemistry, engineering design, climate change
modeling, and more. Now, our intent is
to link this platform with another unique platform
that we call the Experimental Media and Performing
Arts Center. And because of its
unique physical spaces and its technology,
impact will be a technology-enabled creative
arts program and platform. But it’s a research
platform as well because it will, as an umbrella,
for drawing the arts, sciences, and technology together, it will
allow unique performances when married with the computational
power of the Supercomputer Center. And you say, why? Well, it is our intent– and I’m giving– talking to you
about this because of this link I’ve always found in scientists,
especially physicists, between the science and culture. It is our intent to assemble
the world’s best orchestra or at a more modest level, the
world’s best string quartet to play in one of our spaces,
in one of our studios, except they will not
all be in one room. And to create the
real-time, real presence, three dimensional
experience with an audience in the room of dispersed
musicians playing simultaneously together is
its own research problem. Now, but why did I spend the
time to talk to you about this? Because this is about the
Green Center for Physics. I talked to you about it because
the kinds of things that people are trying to
understand in cognition and learning in perception,
in artificial intelligence actually have roots in
the kind of thinking that– and the actual
work of that physicist. Why did I spend the time
to talk about Dr. Vannebar Bush at this symposium
celebrating the New Green Center for Physics? Well, Dr. Bush’s understanding
that fundamental research powered by multidisciplinary
collaboration to do great things
is being played out here today in the
Green Center, as you draw multiple sub disciplines of
physics together in one space. And I can always remember I sat
in this room for many lectures, by the way. I always sat where the
gentleman in the yellow shirt sat, the middle seat of the
second row so I could look the professor in the
eye, but he usually didn’t pay that much
attention to me. He was busy writing his
equations on the board. But the real message is that one
is always true to one’s roots. And drawing disciplines together
and sub-disciplines still, I think, is a paradigm for
the advance of science. I also chose to do this because
Cecil Green, like Dr. Bush, was a visionary. Because the success of the
company that he founded, based on originally
instrumentation for oils prospecting and
drilling, required in an industrial framework,
the same multi-sector, multidisciplinary approach
we taught so much today. But let me just
close by telling you a little bit about my physics
experience here at MIT. It was unique, and it allowed
me, even at an early stage, to do basic research
as an undergraduate as I’m sure many of you do. But even then, I was
a bit of a contrarian who reached into other fields. In my case, materials,
science, and engineering to combine the thinking
in those arenas with physics to do
my bachelors’ thesis, which was on tunneling
density of states in superconducting
niobium titanium alloys. And I remember one of my
physics professor saying to me, well, you know, you’ve
done pretty well here. In fact, you’ve done well enough
to go to grad school here, but why solid state physics? If you wanted to do nuclear
physics or elementary particle physics, this would be
a great place for you. Well, stupid me, I
stayed here anyway. But I did concentrate in
particle theory for my PhD, but I switched later to
condensed matter theory when I had the chance, of
course, to work at Bell Labs with great physicists
like Patrick Lee and Maurice Rice who were
my mentors when I first went to Bell Labs. But my physics
experience at MIT has enabled me to do basic research
in elementary particle theory at Fermilab and CERN
to do condensed matter theory at Bell Labs. And in those days
they’d hire you if you were smart enough,
even if you weren’t trained in condensed matter physics. And there, I spent time studying
the electronic and optical properties of
two-dimensional systems, starting with charge density
waves and layered transition metal dichalcogenides
and moving on from there. And I told a good story
about using studies that I had started doing on
the topological properties of solutions to
non-linear field theories and elementary
particles that they would be applicable to
something in condensed matter. And it turns out
that in that problem I worked on with Patrick
and with Maurice Rice, we actually did discover a
topological structure that controlled the thermodynamics of
the charge density wave system. But I also been able to do
science-based regulation and to help develop national
and global safety policy, the policy, as chairman of
the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which
likewise enabled me to form an International
Nuclear Regulators Association, which drew together
the chief and heads of regulatory bodies in Canada,
France, Germany, Japan, Spain, Sweden, the UK, and
the US to work together to try to improve the
global safety network and to work with countries of
the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union to
improve their safety and safety culture. Now, I must confess to feeling
a little as though I have shadowed Dr. Bush all my life. Now, we share the
MIT experience, but my career path
through my positions in government industry,
research, and academia parallels the essential
elements of his life. Dr. Bush became a life member
of the MIT corporation, as am I, and a Regent of the Smithsonian
Institution, as am I. But the real
privilege for me was to receive the Vannevar
Bush medal last spring from the National
Science Foundation– not National Science Board. Now, I did not know where my
career would lead as I left MIT at an uncertain time. In fact, when I began
graduate school, most of us were told we should
kind of give it up, particularly in theoretical
physics, but stupid me, I stayed on. And so I left MIT armed with
my bachelors and PhD degrees in physics, and
my life and career have unfolded in ways that
I could not have predicted, but it has been an exciting
journey to this point. And that is the real
beauty of an MIT education, of an MIT physics
education, which reflects the beauty of physics, itself. Thank you for inviting me. [APPLAUSE] PRESENTER: If it’s all right
with the first two speakers, we actually have some time for
questions from the audience if any of these stimulating
ideas have raised them. Surely, Virgil. VIRGIL: Well, Professor Townes
mentioned three things– I think, [INAUDIBLE]
writing down– the laser, the transistor,
radiation, all of which were my ideas. They were actually
sleeping with their eyes open to seeing something
different than what they taught. How do you educated
people too see thing different than what
they think they’re doing? CHARLES TOWNES: Well, I think
that’s why MIT should be an illusion, I think, they do. But keep your eyes
open to go and explore. Think about things to explore. Try out new things and so on– open-mindedness. How to do this? I don’t know, but
every professor has to imagine his own ways. [LAUGHS] AUDIENCE: Or whatever
[INAUDIBLE] say. I know other people
have seen this. They just don’t believe it. CHARLES TOWNES: [LAUGHS]. I’m familiar with that. Go ahead. SHIRLEY JACKSON: Oh, I
would to like comment on that if I could. I think MIT has a unique way of
educating students because it actually challenges them. Things are not textbook-based
even in traditional courses. And it certainly allows students
to explore open-ended problems through research. And I think what one really
does is one does not create creativity; one nurtures it. And I think that’s what the
education here is all about. CHARLES TOWNES: Students
should not necessarily believe their professors. SHIRLEY JACKSON: Absolutely. [LAUGHTER] CHARLES TOWNES: Questions? PRESENTER: It’s very
hard to convince students that they should tell their
professors they’re wrong, but that’s the first step. Other questions? Anybody want to raise a point? Okay, well, I have a
question principally directed at Shirley, but anybody
can answer this, I think. Shirley, you painted a
picture of a time when government interaction
with basic science was very optimistic, and
the collaboration that grew out of that was
incredibly productive. Many of us feel like, in
the present generation, we live in some
kind of world that is a fantasy creation where
the government speaks openly in political discussions
about science, contradicting the
basic laws of science, and ignoring the advice
of good scientists. Do you have any advice
about where we went wrong and how to solve that problem? [LAUGHTER] SHIRLEY JACKSON: Now, you’re
asking me a political question. [LAUGHTER] Let me just say this that,
I don’t disagree with you. And a lot of scientists, a
lot of university presidents, a lot of people in public
policy are worried about that. And that is actually why I
do spend a part of my time that I think it’s part of
my job because I’m educating scientists and engineers as
well to use the platform I have to speak to the issues. And I think what we have to try
to do is to educate politicians to the fact that they
shouldn’t kind of mess with science if
they want science to do what they believe it
should do because there’s been a disconnect
between people’s understanding of the
linkage of all the things they think are
important, whether it’s defense or energy, security,
whether there issues related to public health, pandemics,
whatever, to our ability to let science
emanate and germinate ideas in an unfettered way. But it is not easy,
but I think we just have to keep working at it. And that’s something I
certainly intended to do. PRESENTER: Any other questions? If not, we’ve got a break for
a little over half an hour. There are refreshments outside. It’s a beautiful summer
day, unfortunately. And the possibility of going
up and walking around the Green Center is still available. We’ll regather a
couple of minutes before 12:00 for our
second two speakers. Let’s thank the
first two speakers. [APPLAUSE]

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