Institute Professor and Nobel laureate Jerome I. Friedman will deliver the 29th annual Killian Award Lecture -- titled "Are We Really Made of Quarks?" -- on Tuesday, March 20 at 4pm in Wong Auditorium (Building E51).
Professor Friedman, who has been a member of MIT's physics faculty since 1960, shared the 1990 Nobel Prize for physics with the late Professor Henry W. Kendall, also of MIT, and Dr. Richard E. Taylor of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. They were key members of a research team that conducted a series of experiments on the scattering of electrons by protons, deuterons and heavier nuclei in the late 1960s and early 1970s. These experiments gave the first clear evidence for charged point-like constituents inside the nucleon and advanced the current quark, gluon and lepton picture of elementary particle structure in a way analogous to how the alpha particle scattering experiments of Ernest Rutherford pointed the way to the nuclear model of the atom.
"In 1964, quarks were proposed as the fundamental building blocks of a class of particles that includes the proton and neutron, the constituents of the atomic nucleus. The quark model, which embodied a radically new conceptual view of the structure of matter, was fiercely debated and generally rejected by the physics community," Professor Friedman wrote in the abstract for his upcoming talk.
"Despite the fact that quarks have never been isolated in the laboratory, numerous experiments have unequivocally demonstrated that quarks do exist, and theoretical developments have given us an understanding of why free quarks cannot be observed. I want to tell you how physicists came to this seemingly strange conclusion and discuss the implications of such a picture on our concept of matter."
In its May 2000 announcement of Professor Friedman's selection as the 2000-01 Killian Faculty Achievement Award winner, the selection committee cited his "wisdom and humanity" as a teacher of MIT graduate students and as head of the physics department and director of the Laboratory for Nuclear Science. "His intellectual honesty and clarity of vision in these roles are treasured by his colleagues. The Institute is in his debt for bringing these same abilities to bear, along with a compassionate concern for social justice, unceasing efforts to increase the representation of minorities in science, and service in the interests of women faculty at MIT."
The annual Killian award was established in 1971 as a tribute to the late James R. Killian, MIT's 10th president and former chairman of the MIT Corporation. It is the greatest honor the faculty can bestow on one of its members.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 14, 2001.