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From the Director: PPA Scores a Hat-Trick!

(Photo - Persis Drell)I am not a sports fan, but I could not come up with another way to describe the achievements of the Directorate of Particle Physics and Astrophysics (PPA) this past week.

First: The Gamma-Ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) had its first science data run last week, taking four days of gamma ray observations as part of their turn-on plan for the instrument. While data plots will not be public until the first light celebration in early August (when a new name for GLAST will be announced), the collaboration members use adjectives like "spectacular," "beautiful" and "outstanding" to describe the data. As a Large Area Telescope team member, I have been privileged to see some of the early sky maps. They are truly gorgeous. From a only few days of data, the outstanding power of the instrument is evident and the tremendous science potential is clear.

Second: Wednesday, BaBar announced the discovery of the ηb. For those of you who remember your quantum mechanics, this is the singlet state of the b anti-b quark bound state, analogous to the singlet ground state of the positronium atom. We have been looking for the ηb for 30 years, ever since the Upsilon resonances were first discovered. The analysis can only be described as a tour de force.

Third: Monday through Wednesday marked the annual Department of Energy (DOE) High Energy Physics program review. A team of 12 reviewers, nine DOE program office staff and an observer from the National Science Foundation listened to two long days of talks about all aspects of the PPA program, framed by the strategic vision presented by Steve Kahn and his team. The closeout was outstanding, and private comments from the reviewers included phrases such as, "we were blown away." The reviewers were well aware of the challenges that the PPA program and the lab as a whole has faced this year. They know that there are challenges for the future. However, they were very, very impressed with the positive, forward looking attitude of the staff (no whining!) and the excellent, organized and focused presentations that they heard. They were also tremendously impressed by the leadership and vision of the PPA management team under Steve’s leadership.

I hope that everyone at the lab will join me in congratulating PPA on their tremendous achievements this week.

Persis Drell, SLAC Today, July 11, 2008