About 425 Brookhaven Lab employees, students, and guests played the part of protons on July 30 in the “Collide-the-Ions” walk to benefit autism research. The walk was part of a daylong event to recognize Setauket-based Renaissance Technologies for its support of research at the Lab’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC).
In 2006, five years after its start-up, RHIC’s scheduled polarized proton run was almost cancelled due to federal funding constraints and an unexpected increase in electricity costs. But thanks to $13 million provided by several partners at Renaissance Technologies, Inc., RHIC and its 1,000 visiting researchers were able to continue their explorations.
The resulting 20-week RHIC run was the first solely dedicated to the study of polarized protons. This unique ability is needed to investigate spin, an intrinsic property of all particles that is somewhat analogous to a child’s spinning toy top. The spin of the proton is put to use, for instance, in magnetic resonance imaging of the human body.
Last week, as data from that saved physics run finds its way into scientific publications, the Brookhaven community thanked the Renaissance partners for their generosity by re-dedicating two Laboratory roads – Railroad Avenue and Ring Road, now known as Renaissance Road and Renaissance Circle, respectively. Personal perspectives on the 2006 run were given by University of California at Riverside Ph.D. student Astrid Morreale, Stony Brook University professor and PHENIX spokesperson Barbara Jacak, and Collider Accelerator Department Chair Derek Lowenstein. Walkers then gathered in two ion-like bunches – one dressed in yellow T-shirts representing RHIC’s Yellow Ring, the other wearing blue shirts as a nod to RHIC’s Blue Ring – and headed in opposite directions around the 1.8-mile circle that follows the accelerator’s path.
At the halfway point, the bunches symbolically “collided” in a sea of yellow and blue, albeit at a much slower pace than the real protons, which zip around the ring at nearly the speed of light. For every participant, Brookhaven Science Associates contributed $10 to the Autism Science Foundation, bringing the total funds to $4,250.
The event continued in the Berkner Hall Auditorium with a series of talks, including a special address by William F. Brinkman – the newly appointed Director of the Department of Energy’s Office of Science – who toured RHIC and other lab facilities earlier that day. Speakers Robert Jaffe, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dmitri Kharzeev, BNL’s Nuclear Physics Theory Group, and Steven Vigdor, Associate Laboratory Director for Nuclear and Particle Physics then discussed everything from the history and importance of research on particle spin to the future of physics at the Laboratory.
If you’d like to add to BSA’s autism research contribution, please send a check – made payable to the Autism Science Foundation – to Jane Koropsak, Media & Communications, Bldg. 400C.
2009-1334 INT/EXT | Media & Communications Office