Alex Filippenko

Big Science in Action: Nobel Laureate Barry Barish Helped Open a New Window on the Universe

The year was 1956. Barry Barish was a junior at Cal doing research at the California Radiation Laboratory, or Rad Lab (known today as the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory). When his professors were too busy to see him, he’d wander into the 184-inch cyclotron—a larger sequel to Ernest Lawrence’s fabled particle accelerators—invented at Berkeley and famous for blasting into existence an array of new heavy elements, including plutonium, berkelium, and californium.

From the Winter 2017 Power issue of California.

What’s the Deal with Gravitational Waves? An Explainer

After much speculation and bated breath, two-time UC Berkeley alumnus Barry C. Barish (BA ‘57, PhD ‘62)  has been awarded this year’s Nobel Prize for Physics.

Barish shares the prize with fellow Caltech physicist Kip Thorne and MIT physicist Rainer Weiss. The trio earned the recognition for their groundbreaking detection of gravitational waves—ripples in the fabric of space that spread through the universe.

We Lost It at the Eclipse

Until last Monday morning I was what Berkeley astrophysicist Alex Filippenko calls an “eclipse virgin.”  I’d seen partial solar eclipses before, which mostly meant observing the shadows cast on the ground through leaves or through a pinhole in cardboard. A total solar eclipse is different. It’s like a brief opening of the heavens, a fleeting glimpse at celestial perfection. The lead up is an interesting mix of sensations. The temperature drops, the light takes on an eerie quality, and shadows become impossibly crisp.

Lick Gets Googled—But Is Cool Million Enough to Save the Endangered Observatory?

For everyone who cares about saving the University of California’s cash-strapped Lick Observatory, news that Google is donating $1 million is a boon in more ways than one. Not only will the contribution—a full third of Lick’s current barebones operating budget—support the observatory’s day-to-day activities, but it’s already inspiring other donors to chip in.

Not Licked Yet: The Fight to Keep an Iconic UC Observatory Open

A move to pare a modest $1.8 million from UC’s operations budget has blown up into a public relations storm, with the fury directed at the Office of the President. That’s because the savings would result from halting funding for Mount Hamilton’s Lick Observatory, the world’s first permanent mountain summit observatory and a facility still responsible for major cosmological findings—most recently the discovery of scads of earth-like exoplanets.

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