Joe Lykken

Joe Lykken is the Fermilab deputy director.

Deep science

Joe Lykken I clipped my harness to some webbing in the corner of the open work cage, and a few seconds later foreman George Vandine signaled the hoist operator to begin our descent of the Ross Shaft. Our headlamps barely penetrated the Stygian gloom, enough to see the brand new tubular steel frames and other modernizations that will provide high-speed access and utilities to the Ross Campus, almost a mile underground. The inspection tour halted more than 2,000 feet down,…

ELBNF is born

Joe Lykken At approximately 6:15 p.m. CST on Jan. 22, 2015, the largest and most ambitious experimental collaboration for neutrino science was born. It was inspired by a confluence of scientific mysteries and technological advances, engendered by the P5 report and the European Strategy update, and midwifed by firm tugs from Fermilab, CERN and Brookhaven Lab. Going by the placeholder name ELBNF (Experiment at the Long Baseline Neutrino Facility), the newborn had the impressive heft of 145 institutions from 23…

Joe Lykken “Later in life, I discovered I do love science, and I do love physics.” —Anne Hathaway, The New York Times, Oct. 22, 2014 In the new movie “Interstellar,” a brilliant theoretical physicist played by Jessica Chastain waits in a government laboratory, surrounded by cornfields, for the “quantum data” that will make sense of the tensor calculus equations scrawled on her blackboard. To me, this sounds like a typical day on the third floor of Wilson Hall, but the…

Viva Italia

Joe Lykken Last month I attended a celebration of the 450th anniversary of the birth of Galileo, co-hosted by the Italian Embassy in Washington. The keynote speaker was Nobel laureate Carlo Rubbia, the former Director General of CERN, who was recently appointed senatore a vita by the President of Italy. Hearing one giant of physics describe the achievements of an even bigger giant got me thinking about Galileo’s legacy to modern physics. Galileo understood that mathematics, theories, experiments and experimental…

Neutrinos are us

Joe Lykken Last month marked the successful completion of the NOvA project. The NOvA experiment is our biggest step yet toward realizing our ambition of Fermilab leading the world in neutrino science with particle accelerators. NOvA will be the most powerful probe so far of a key question: Which is the heaviest of the three known neutrinos? The resolution of this mass hierarchy puzzle will be crucial to understanding all of the other mysteries of neutrinos. Tomorrow’s labwide celebration reminds…

Joe Lykken Nature is an analog computer with a bahzillion parts (bahzillion = much more than a zillion), so there are tremendous intellectual challenges in getting even the most powerful digital computers to emulate the processes that particle physicists are interested in. These challenges include making sense of the data from experiments, predicting what experiments should see, and simulating new accelerator and detector systems that will enable the experiments of the future. Our Scientific Computing Division at Fermilab comprises almost…

CMS excitement

Joe Lykken When I joined the CMS collaboration seven years ago, I was motivated both by the exciting discovery potential of the Large Hadron Collider and by the fact that many of my friends from the Tevatron experiments were starting to move into leading roles for CMS. In the years leading up to the July 4, 2012, announcement of the Higgs boson discovery, I witnessed from the inside how the momentum carried over from the Tevatron era enabled, on many…

Joe Lykken When I first arrived at Fermilab as a wide-eyed, wet-eared associate scientist 25 years ago, my experience was mostly limited to working on the more mathematical end of particle physics. Over time, mostly from chatting with other Fermilab scientists, I started to gain an appreciation for the challenges and excitement of working on experiments. This led me to get involved with Tevatron physics and eventually to join the CMS collaboration two years before the turn-on of the Large…