Mailed 12/23/96


Upton, NY -James W. Cronin, winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize in Physics for work he did at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, will launch a year-long celebration of the Laboratory's 50th anniversary, as the first speaker in the BNL 50th Anniversary Distinguished Lecture Series. The lecture series will feature talks on various scientific topics throughout 1997 to celebrate Brookhaven's beginning a half-century ago. The talks will be open to the public free of charge.

Brookhaven National Laboratory was established in January 1947 by the Atomic Energy Commission to perform peacetime research in nuclear science and related fields. Since then, Brookhaven has made major contributions to the advancement of science in areas as varied as biology, medicine, chemistry and physics. In fact, four Nobel Prizes in Physics have been awarded for work done at the Laboratory.

Dr. Cronin's lecture, entitled "The Highest Energy Cosmic Rays," will be held on Thursday, January 23, at 4 p.m. in the Laboratory's Berkner Hall.

Cosmic rays, subatomic particles from outer space, have been studied since their discovery in 1912, and the sources of most of them can be understood. Recently, however, scientists have observed extremely energetic cosmic rays with energies 100 million times greater than achievable with the most powerful accelerators.

The origin of these ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays is a puzzle because scientists believe that they come from no further away than about 30 million light years, but within that distance, there are no known objects capable of producing them. Could this lead to the discovery of as yet unobserved astrophysical objects? To answer such questions, detectors that are almost the size of Rhode Island need to be built to study the cascading showers of secondary particles produced when these super-energetic cosmic rays hit the Earth's atmosphere.

In his lecture, Dr. Cronin will discuss these findings and talk about an initiative he is spearheading to build huge detectors to more accurately measure the highest energy cosmic rays.

While Dr. Cronin was on the physics faculty of Princeton University in 1963, he performed groundbreaking research with Val Fitch, also of Princeton, at Brookhaven's particle accelerator, the Alternating Gradient Synchrotron. Subsequently, they were awarded the 1980 Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery - a basic physics principle known as CP violation.

James Cronin earned a B.S. in physics and mathematics from Southern Methodist University in 1951, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in physics from the University of Chicago in 1953 and 1955, respectively. From 1952-55, he was a National Science Foundation Fellow, and, for the next three years, he worked at Brookhaven's Cosmotron, the newest accelerator of the time. In 1958, he joined the physics faculty of Princeton University, and remained there until 1971, when he assumed his current position as university professor of physics at the University of Chicago.

For more information on the lecture, call Brookhaven's Public Affairs Office at (516)344-2345. The Laboratory is located on William Floyd Parkway (County Road 46), one-and-a-half miles north of Exit 68 on the Long Island Expressway.

Brookhaven National Laboratory carries out basic and applied research in physical, biomedical and environmental sciences and in selected energy technologies. Associated Universities, Inc., a nonprofit research management organization, operates the Laboratory under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy.