Oral history of British science

Woodworth, Philip (Part 5 of 9) An Oral History of British Science

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  • Recording locations

    British Library studio, London and Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory, Liverpool

  • Interviewees

    Woodworth, Philip 1949- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 5: [1:41:02] [Session two: 26th May 2011] Corrected description of final year practical project, UOD [see start Track 4]. [4:19] Comments on development of wire proportional chambers [WPC] (replacing bubble chambers) by Georges Charpak at CERN; beginnings of work as CERN research Fellow [1975-1977], in group led by Bernard French [BF], using Omega Spectrometer [OS]. Brief description of use of spark chambers [SC] in OS to view particle paths. Comments on use of OS by other CERN research groups. Mentions use of hydrogen/deuterium ‘targets’. Mentions development of ‘triggers’ to record specific SC ‘events’; camera recording of SCs. Mentions publications. [7:48] Description of use of OS to identify J/psi particle (fourth quark). Mentions presence at CERN of Sam Ting; group leader for own J/psi work, Dick Hubbard [DH]. [12:22] Comments on shift work during weeks of allocated OS ‘beam time’. Mentions checking/analysis of data. Description of procedure for computer analysis of magnetic tape recorded by OS/SC cameras. [14:23] Comments on analysis of OS data. [15:27] Description of control room, OS, including CAMAC crates of electronic equipment. [17:55] Mentions distinction between permanent CERN employees/ temporary Fellows/visiting scientists; mix of specialist equipment/general CERN facilities. Comments on modular form of CERN electronics; enjoyment of learning electronics involved. [21:24] Description of use of oscilloscopes to check correct functioning of OS; monitoring of OS experiments from control room. Comments on numbers of European groups working with OS. [24:45] Comments on relatively large numbers of British group leaders at CERN; successive nature of experiment proposals. [27:29] Comments on work ethic of US (United States of America) group; leadership of DH; relations between groups; own tendency to focus on work of own group. [29:41] Mentions exclusively male British groups at CERN; female members of Italian groups; living arrangements of CERN staff. [31:17] Comments on social life in/near Geneva, including skiing. [34:37] Mentions motivations in J/psi work to rival achievements of US physics. Comments on DH’s management/leadership. [32:21] Comments on importance of PP; view of criticisms of funding for ‘big science’; increase in size of CERN research groups. [38:49] Description of magnetic tape record from SC (three-dimensional [3D] image of sparks). Comments on computer conversion of image into numbers (3D co-ordinates), then a vector (trajectory); calculation of momentum in ‘exclusive’ interaction; calculation of incoming energy; 4C (four constraint) fit, involving deduction of particle type; ‘inclusive’ studies of interactions, involving focus on single particle. [42:45] Brief description of use of WPC to fix trajectory of particles through SC. Comments on use of time of flight counters [TFC]. Description of final output of computer: DST (Data Summary Tape) containing vectors/momentum of all interacting particles. Comments on use of DSTs by offsite scientists. Description of content of DST. Comments on statistical analysis of DST data; use of CERN software. [46:18] Brief descriptions of CERN computing facilities, involving Cray 6600, and 7600 computers, card input, printed output, copies of DSTs used by university departments/laboratories. Mentions Rutherford Appleton Laboratory [RAL], Oxfordshire. [48:10] Story of end to CERN Fellow post; appointment as Senior Research Associate, RAL, based at DESY (Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron), Hamburg, Germany [1978-1983]. Comments on PETRA colliding storage ring [CSR] at DESY. Mentions SERC (Science and Engineering Research Council) funding. [50:55] Track 5 [cont. from 50:55] Brief description of advantages of CSR in PP. Mentions Large Hadron Collider [LHC]. Comments on discovery of fifth quark ‘bottom quark’[BQ]; aim/failure to discover sixth ‘bottom quark’ [BQ], using PETRA. [52:15] Comments on perception of earnest working culture of DESY, contrasted to CERN. Mentions group leader David Saxon; colleagues Brian Foster, Steve Lloyd. Brief description of Hamburg, compared to Geneva; living arrangements, Geneva/Hamburg; limited social life, Hamburg. [57:00] Mentions publications. Comments on discovery of gluon particles, PETRA, DESY. Description of gluons and related subatomic particles. Comments on leaders of PETRA groups: Gunter Wolf/Paul Soding. [59:30] Comments on own project TASSO (Two Arm Spectrum Solenoid); scale of British contribution to TASSO; role of British scientists (from RL) in TASSO. Mentions own role in developing TFCs. Description of operation of TFCs; muon chambers. Description of arrangement/role of equipment around PETRA. Mentions weaknesses of experiment design. [1:04:46] Description of own role on TASSO: installing TFCs/shift work/data analysis. Comments on writing/internal reviewing of papers. [1:09:10] Mentions role of RL engineers in building TFCs. Description of calibration/operation of TFCs. Mentions RL technicians. [1:13:39] Story of application to post as Lecturer in Physics, University of Manchester [UOM]. Comments on reduction in size of British PP community, linked to reduction in status of PP as applied (defence) science; decision to leave field of PP, 1983. Mentions application to CERN. [1:19:06] Comments on decision to move back to UK, linked to mother’s illness; disappointment at not being appointed, UOM. [1:19:55] Mentions father’s death, 1979; parents’ visits to Geneva. Comments on father’s interest in CERN work. Story of visiting father in hospital, shortly before his death. [1:22:15] Further comments on decision to leave field of PP. Mentions job offer, RL. Story of interview for Natural Environment Research Council [NERC] computing job, involving interviewer David Pugh [DP]; invitation from DP to apply (successfully) for job concerned with analysis of satellite altimetry [SA]/tide gauge [TG] data on sea level [SL]/ocean currents [OC], at Institute of Oceanographic Sciences (Bidston) [IOSB], Liverpool. Mentions contemporary Director IOSB, David Cartwright [DC]. [1:26:35] Comments on own unsuitability for NERC computing job. [1:27:10] Comments on maintenance of own interest in PP, including reading of CERN Courier/CERN email updates. [1:27:47] Mentions similarities between PP and oceanographic work, including handling/analysis of large data sets, similar computing. Comments on proximity to ill mother; mother’s recovery from cancer. Mentions job offer in PP, University of Liverpool. [1:29:28] Comments on preparation for IOSB interview. Mentions other oceanographers, IOSB, with backgrounds in physics/PP; colleagues: DP, DC, Trevor Baker, Bob Edge, Tom Allen. [1:33:30] Description of IOSB, early 1980s. Mentions NERC computing centre, IOSB, with Honeywell mainframe; Institute of Oceanographic Sciences (Wormley) [IOSW] [formerly National Institute of Oceanography]; closure of Taunton laboratory [Unit of Coastal Sedimentation]; separation of IOSB from Institute of Oceanographic Sciences, c.1990, involving renaming of ISOB the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory [POL]. [1:35:32] Mentions IOSB’s focus on tides, SL, coastal oceanography (in contrast to IOSW); own specialism in tides/SL. Mentions recent institutional changes, centred on National Oceanography Centre UOL/University of Southampton. [1:36:27] Comments on funding of ISOB research by EXXON and MAFF. Mentions own focus on SL data (from SA and TG) acquisition/analysis. [1:37:47] Description of IOSB.

  • Description

    Interview with oceanographer Philip Woodworth

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    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

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