By Stormy Burns, music department office coordinator
As many of you know, in December Shane and I attended an exciting celebration. The Berkeley astrophysics group that Shane helped establish was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work. I’d like to share some “bests” of our trip to Stockholm.
Best big event: The Royal Ball after the ceremony and banquet.
Best little event: The Christmas markets we found in the squares around Stockholm.
Best walk: Strolling in the cold and looking at the department store windows at night.
Best ride: The taxi ride from the hotel to the Town Hall to join our spouses for the banquet. (Five women in ball gowns and wraps can really fill a vehicle!)
Best big meal: The royal banquet, complete with fireworks as dessert was served.
Best small meal: Lunch in a diner in old town Stockholm. (No burgers, however.)
Best drink: All that French champagne!
Best conversation: Overhearing why there is no Nobel prize in mathematics.
Best gifts: Little wooden Swedish horses; tiny wooden star ornaments and candle holders.
Best tacky gift: Replica dynamite sticks made of black licorice and wrapped in paper.
Best group gathering: The Swedish lunch on the island of Fjaderholmarnas, in Stockholm’s archipelago, with the physics team.
Most fun in a museum: Watching the Nobel Laureates and other Ph.D.s romp on the play structures in the Pippi Longstocking Museum lobby.
Best hair: Judy Goldhaber’s electric shade of orange that she chose for the celebration week.
Best tiara and gown: The Crown Princess of Sweden’s blue gown and headpiece.
Best trumpet fanfare: At the beginning of the royal promenade to the banquet hall.
Best tourist event: The bus tour of the city with the Nobel laureates and their families.
I wrote and posted pictures to a blog I called “Stormy Adventures”: http://stormybburns.blogspot.com/ There are lots of photos of each day of our adventures and some video clips of the trumpet fanfare and banquet. At this time, the blog has had almost 4,000 hits – it must be people looking for Saul and Shane in their white tie and tails!
The link to the official Nobel website is www.nobelprize.org
When the Nobel Prize in physics was announced Tuesday, Shane Burns, Colorado College physics professor, shared the special elation of knowing a great deal about the work that went into the award.
Burns is one of a small group of people, including Nobel winner Saul Perlmutter, who began the work that resulted in the 1998 discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe. Burns has continued to work with the group, now known as the Supernova Cosmology Project, since its inception in 1989.
Burns and Perlmutter searched for supernovae, which are massive exploding stars, when they were graduate students in the 1980s at the University of California at Berkeley. Burns fell in love with teaching and eventually came to Colorado College, while Perlmutter remained at Berkeley, where he is a professor of physics.
With Perlmutter the “undisputed leader” of the group that became the Supernova Cosmology Project, Burns worked with as many as 30 other scientists to observe supernovae. He is a co-author of the team’s most recent paper, published in June 2010 in the Astrophysical Journal. They were in intense competition with another supernova research team, whose two leaders shared the Nobel with Perlmutter.
Using time on the Hubble space telescope, Burns worked on the project by studying the infrared brightness of supernovae during the summers and blocks off from Colorado College. Some of his calculations were done on a high-powered Mac workstation on his office desk in Barnes Science Center, in contrast to his work two decades earlier on the largest computer at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the PDP1144, a behemoth the size of a washer-dryer combination with a fraction of the capacity of his current desktop computer.
One summer in Berkeley, Burns brought in a Colorado College physics student, Katy-Robin Garton ‘01, who did measurements for the project. Garton and Burns are co-authors, with several others in the Supernova Cosmology Project, of a 2003 paper published in the Astrophysical Journal. Garton lives in Missoula, Montana, and is a documentary filmmaker.
“It was beautiful science,” said Garton, who remembers the project for its elegance and accessibility.
Brian P. Schmidt and Adam G. Riess, leader of a competing supernova research team, shared the Nobel Prize with Perlmutter.
The Colorado House of Representatives recently awarded Burns a commendation for his part in the Nobel Prize.
Burns lives in Colorado Springs with his wife, Stormy, an office coordinator in the music department. They have two children.