Richard Milner’s Visualizing the Proton

Illustrating the subatomic world

Physicists have developed the “Standard Model” that successfully explains atomic structure. In this framework, the proton is built from point-like quarks and gluons. The proton has almost universally been visualized as a billiard ball with quark and gluon billiard ball constituents. Yet, we now know that this visualization is entirely wrong. Quarks and gluons can spin, have linear and circular motion, and can appear and disappear. How can this complex and seemingly “impossible” world be visualized?

To answer this question, Richard Milner, physicists Rolf Ent and Rik Yoshida at Jefferson Lab, video artists Chris Boebel and Joe McMaster at MIT, and animator James LaPlante of Sputnik Animation have taken inspiration from the colorized Hubble images of the large-scale structure of the universe from original black-and-white exposures. The creators of these images describe them as “equal parts art and science.” This project’s goal is to create similarly scientifically authentic, visually inspiring images of the microcosm and explore the creative process, the challenge of scientific “accuracy,” evidence, and the very concept of “understanding.” Milner and his colleagues are motivated by new and planned electron accelerators that aim to deliver snapshots of the fundamental structure of matter with unprecedented clarity.

In Visualizing the Proton, physicists will work collaboratively with animation and video artists to depict the subatomic world in a new way with an innovative animation that conveys the current understanding of the structure of the proton in terms of its fundamental constituents. The animation will be the centerpiece of a 5–7 minute film that is aimed at grades 7–12 science students and the general public.

Richard Milner has been a professor in the MIT Department of Physics since 1988. He did his undergraduate studies at University College Cork, Ireland, and received his PhD in 1985 from Caltech. His research focuses on understanding nucleon and nuclear structure using the lepton probe, frequently using spin observables and over the energy range of 2.5 MeV to 27 GeV. He has proposed and led experiments at SLAC, IUCF, MIT, DESY, and Jefferson Lab.

Milner served as director of the MIT-Bates Linear Accelerator Center from 1998 to 2006 and as director of MIT’s Laboratory for Nuclear Science from 2006 to 2015. He has served on numerous national and international advisory committees, was chair of the Division of Nuclear Physics of the American Physical Society (APS) in 2007, and served as chair of the International Spin Physics Committee from 2014 to 2017. He is a fellow of the APS and the recipient of an award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Germany. At MIT, he has supervised 27 undergraduate students, 18 graduate students, and 15 postdoctoral researchers.

A proponent of an Electron-Ion Collider (EIC) for over two decades, Milner was also an EIC advocate in the U.S. Nuclear Physics Long Range Planning exercises of 2002, 2007, and 2015. He was a co-organizer of the Electron Ion Collider Collaboration that played a key role in the years 2005 to 2010 in developing the EIC science case and in stimulating the involvement of users across the worldwide quantum chromodynamics (QCD) community.

Richard Milner has been a professor in the MIT Department of Physics since 1988. He did his undergraduate studies at University College Cork, Ireland, and received his PhD in 1985 from Caltech. His research focuses on understanding nucleon and nuclear structure using the lepton probe, frequently using spin observables. He has proposed and led experiments at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC), the Indiana University Cyclotron Facility (IUCF), the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (English German Electron Synchrotron or DESY), MIT, and Jefferson Lab.

Milner served as director of the MIT-Bates Linear Accelerator Center from 1998 to 2006 and as director of MIT’s Laboratory for Nuclear Science from 2006 to 2015. He has served on numerous national and international advisory committees, was chair of the Division of Nuclear Physics of the American Physical Society (APS) in 2007, and served as chair of the International Spin Physics Committee from 2014 to 2017. He is a fellow of the APS and the recipient of an award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Germany. At MIT, he has supervised 27 undergraduate students, 18 graduate students, and 15 postdoctoral researchers.

A proponent of an Electron-Ion Collider (EIC) for over two decades, Milner was also an EIC advocate in the U.S. Nuclear Physics Long Range Planning exercises of 2002, 2007, and 2015. He was a co-organizer of the Electron Ion Collider Collaboration that played a key role in the years 2005 to 2010 in developing the EIC science case and in stimulating the involvement of users across the worldwide quantum chromodynamics (QCD) community. He was a member of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that assessed and favorably endorsed the EIC science case in 2018.

More at the MIT Physics Department website: Richard Milner.

 


 

Chris Boebel is a filmmaker based at MIT, where he is media development director at the MIT Office of Open Learning and teaches documentary filmmaking. He is the writer/director of many short films and videos and three feature films, including Exit Zero: An Industrial Family Story. His work has screened at more than 50 film festivals, including the Sundance Film Festival, and has received many awards including a New England Emmy.

More at the MIT Open Learning website: Chris Boebel.

 


Joe McMaster is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and science journalist. He currently is the senior producer at MIT Video Productions, where he makes videos about all things MIT. Prior to that, he worked for more than two decades as a television producer, director, writer, series producer, and executive producer—much of that time on staff at the PBS science series NOVA. His broadcast credits include the acclaimed miniseries The Elegant Universe, The Fabric of the Cosmos, Intelligent Design on Trial, and more than a dozen other programs on everything from the engineering of the world’s tallest buildings to the formation of Earth, the rise of life, veterinary medicine, social robots, and the Indonesian tsunami. He has also written, produced, and directed programs for NOVA’s magazine show ScienceNOW and worked for the PBS series American Experience and Frontline, among others.

McMaster’s work has been recognized with many of the industry’s highest honors, including multiple Peabody Awards and AAAS Science Journalism Awards; a Writers Guild of America Award for Outstanding Documentary Script and four WGA nominations for other scripts; multiple national Emmy nominations including “Best Documentary” and “Outstanding Science Program”; and a New England Emmy for a documentary he produced at MIT. Twice he was the finalist for the National Academies Communication Award. McMaster was an MIT Knight Science Journalism Fellow (2005–06), and is the author of a visual history book of Boston’s iconic and infamous Charles Street Jail.

More at the MIT Open Learning website: Joe McMaster.

 


 

Rikutaro (Rik) Yoshida joined Jefferson Lab (U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science) in 2016 as the EIC Physics Group Leader. He had been a senior scientist and Deputy Division Director at the HEP division of the Argonne National Laboratory prior to this appointment. Yoshida received his PhD from Northwestern University in 1990 working at Fermilab on the photoproduction experiment, E687. He was a postdoctoral fellow at NIKHEF Amsterdam and then at the University of Bristol, UK, working on the ZEUS experiment at the HERA collider at the DESY laboratory in Hamburg. He joined Argonne in 1996. In 2007, Yoshida joined the ATLAS experiment at CERN. He has been a member of the Large Hadron Collider Committee (2005–09) and served on the HEPAP subpanel on Accelerator R&D in 2014. Yoshida is currently the chair of the Program Advisory Committee of Japan Proton Accelerator Research Complex (J-PARC) and the founding director of the EIC Center at Jefferson Lab.

More at the Jefferson Lab website: Rolf Ent.

 


Rolf Ent is the associate director of Experimental Nuclear Physics at Jefferson Lab (U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science), and is responsible for the management of the fundamental research program carried out using the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) and the associated experimental equipment. He also coordinates the support Jefferson Lab provides to the international community of scientists who carry out research using CEBAF. Before coming to Jefferson Lab in 1993, Ent received his PhD from the Free University of Amsterdam in 1989. He did postdoctoral research with UVA at CERN, and then with MIT until 1993. Ent has performed experiments at NIKHEF-EMIN, the VU and KVI cyclotrons, CERN, SLAC, MIT-Bates, IUCF, NIKHEF-ITH, and JLab, serving as spokesperson on a number of these experiments. He has been largely involved in defining the Electron-Ion Collider science project since 2000, and has authored articles in the CERN Courier and Scientific American related to this. Ent has been integrally involved in fostering collaborations with universities and mentoring young people in the field through his appointment at Hampton University, and as organizer of the HUGS Graduate School since 2000 and the HU/MIT Undergraduate Summer Program from 2006 to 2010.

More at the Jefferson Lab website: Rolf Ent.

Scientific American: The Experiment That Will Probe the Deepest Recesses of the Atom, June 2019

MIT News: Physicists calculate proton’s pressure distribution for first time, February 2019

MIT News: 3Q: Richard Milner on a new U.S. particle accelerator, July 2018

PBS: What is the Shape of a Proton?, November 2014

 

Richard Milner.
Richard Milner.