Physi­cist who found charm quark won No­bel

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - SUNDAY LEISURE -

DR BUR­TON Richter, an Amer­i­can physi­cist who shared the 1976 No­bel Prize for dis­cov­er­ing a sub­atomic par­ti­cle, the cu­ri­ously named “charm quark”, that be­came a foun­da­tion stone of the mod­ern un­der­stand­ing of mat­ter at its deep­est lev­els, died in July 18 in Palo Alto, Cal­i­for­nia. He was 87.

His death was an­nounced by Stan­ford Univer­sity, where he was a long-time pro­fes­sor.

In ad­di­tion to serv­ing as direc­tor of a ma­jor Depart­ment of En­ergy lab­o­ra­tory, Richter also be­came known in his later years for other con­tri­bu­tions to aca­demic and pub­lic life. Along with ex­ert­ing in­flu­ence in the US gov­ern­ment on sci­ence mat­ters, he pub­lished a book on cli­mate change.

At Stan­ford, by first de­sign­ing and fi­nanc­ing, then build­ing and fi­nally us­ing a high-en­ergy par­ti­cle ac­cel­er­a­tor and an ad­vanced par­ti­cle de­tec­tor, Richter made a dis­cov­ery that star­tled sci­ence.

In Novem­ber 1974, he found the par­ti­cle that con­firmed the ex­is­tence of what was known as the charm quark. It was the miss­ing piece needed to adopt a new the­ory of the com­po­si­tion of mat­ter at its most fun­da­men­tal level.

His dis­cov­ery, and the re­assess­ments that it prompted, be­came known as the “Novem­ber Rev­o­lu­tion” re­call­ing the “Oc­to­ber Rev­o­lu­tion” in Rus­sia that changed 20th-cen­tury his­tory.

At the same time, physi­cist Sa­muel Ting of the Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Technology made a sim­i­lar dis­cov­ery.

“The sud­den­ness of the dis­cov­ery cou­pled with the to­tally un­ex­pected prop­er­ties of the par­ti­cle are what make it so ex­cit­ing,” Richter and Ting jointly wrote in 1974.

“It is not like the par­ti­cles we know and must have some new kinds of struc­ture.”

Each sci­en­tist had found the first ex­per­i­men­tal traces of a sort of physi­cist’s grail – the ea­gerly sought charm quark. In par­tic­u­lar, they had found a par­ti­cle com­posed of a charm quark bound to­gether with an anti-charm quark.

“It’s some­thing that ev­ery­body hopes they’re go­ing to do,” Richter later said, “and I was a lucky one be­cause it hap­pened.”

The two sci­en­tists shared the

1976 No­bel Prize for Physics. – Wash­ing­ton Post

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