Emeritus Faculty Association news March 2013
Friday March 1st, 10.30am Javits Room, 2nd floor library. Kristen Nyitray, Head, Special Collections and University Archives/University Archivist, will speak about several unique collections that are housed in the Melville Library. A visit to the department will follow, to view the recently acquired George Washington letters and other significant acquisitions.
Bio: Kristen J. Nyitray is a member of the Academy of Certified Archivists and co-author of the book Stony Brook: State University of New York. She is a recipient of the State University of New York Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Librarianship, SBU President's Award for Excellence in Librarianship, and a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Librarianship from the Town of Brookhaven. Special Collections was awarded the Annual Archives Award for Program Excellence in a Historical Records Repository from the New York Board of Regents and New York State Archives in 2009. The award commended Stony Brook University for "its outstanding archival program that contributes significantly to understanding the region's history" and for "its well organized and managed archives".
(This item did not make some of the mailings last month and is therefore repeated). Charles Staley, our previous newsletter editor, died peacefully surrounded by family on January 11 at Foxdale Village, State College, PA., at the age of 86. He is survived by his wife Rhoda, three children, Duncan, Blair, and Jessica, a brother Paul, and three grandchildren. After graduating from a one-room school house in Munden, Kansas in 1945, he served in the U.S. Army, then earned degrees in economics from the University of Kansas and MIT. He taught in the economics departments of the University of Kansas as well as SUNY Stony Brook. He spent a year each teaching in Costa Rica, Harvard, and Edinburgh. His academic interests included international economics and the history of economic thought, authoring two books, International Economics (1970), and A history of Economic Thought from Aristotle to Arrow (1989). In his younger years, Charles enjoyed square dancing, hiking, camping and mountaineering. Memorial contributions may be made to the Foxdale Employee Appreciation Fund, 500 E. Marylyn Ave., State College, PA 16801.
The speaker was Michael Douglas of the Simons Center for Math and Physics, speaking on String theory - a status report. The talk started by reviewing the geometric background which set the stage for the emergence of supersymmetry and string theory. This part, covering such topics as Yang-Mills geometry, Donaldson invariants, algebraic topology, and much more, was difficult for some members lacking sufficient background, including your correspondent. The speaker recommended a short book by John Morgan, the director of the Simons center, for a summary of this part of the talk. However, this turns out to be a very technical discussion of Seiberg-Witten invariants. So this summary will jump to the part on supersymmetry.
The Standard Model of particle physics, developed throughout the mid to late 20th century, was a theory which explained the dynamics of subatomic particles. The current formulation was finalized in the mid 1970s upon experimental confirmation of the existence of quarks. More recently, the apparent detection of the Higgs boson in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva completed the set of predicted particles. These particles are of two types. First the fermions, such as protons and electrons, constitute matter and obey the Pauli exclusion principle:- there cannot be two such particles in the same place. Secondly the bosons, such as photons, are the force carriers. The standard model has been very successful, but it does not include gravity, and does not explain the unknown dark matter which pervades our universe.
Supersymmetry, (SUSY), was mainly motivated by possible solutions to theoretical problems. According to it, the known fermions of the standard model should have super-partners that are bosons, and the known bosons should have super-partners which are fermions. For example, the electron should have a boson partner, the selectron. And the photon should have a fermion partner, the photino. As a bonus, one of the undiscovered super-partners such as the neutralino could explain dark matter. So far there is no direct evidence for SUSY. Since the super-partners of the Standard Model particles have not been observed, if SUSY is a true symmetry of nature then it must be a broken symmetry. This might allow the super-particles to be heavier than the known particles. But for various technical reasons, the mass of the super-partners of the Standard Model should not be too much heavier than the Higgs in most SUSY models. The Higgs particle was in fact observed at the LHC in 2012 just at the mass predicted by the standard model. But as the end of 2012 approached when the LHC was closed down for upgrading, no meaningful signs of the super-partners had been observed. To add to the mystery, at a Tokyo conference in November, LHC results were announced concerning the rare decay rates of mesons to muon+antimuon pairs which were exactly consistent with the standard model but contradictory to most versions of SUSY. These results are beginning to significantly constrain the most popular incarnations of SUSY but do not yet rule it out. After the LHC is powered up again at double the energy in 2014 this situation could be clarified. At that time, if super-partners are still not observed, it might be difficult for most physicists to continue to adhere to SUSY and the string theory which is heavily dependent upon it. Then, the entire structure of 6 extra rolled up dimensions, branes, etc, might be in question and people like Prof Douglas might have to modify their occupation. But certainly the Simons center will not lack for work on alternative geometries.
Once again, the redevelopment of the accident-waiting-to-happen scene around the Stony Brook train station has been put off. From the outset the failure of the university and the surrounding community to understand each other has ended up hurting both. For a while this town-gown fissure looked as if it might improve but recently it has been once more deteriorating. In September your correspondent reported on one aspect of this, in which errors by both sides led to the Gyrodine train wreck. Now consider another, the concept of a "college town" in the area of the Stony Brook RR station, modeled on those at Princeton and Dartmouth. If done right, such development could be a win/win for both town and gown, fostering local business growth, desperately needed multi-family housing, and university recruitment.
The recent troubles started a year ago after a 2 year study to save the Carmans river from pollution. This study, commissioned by town supervisor Lesko and chaired by long time LI planner Dr Lee Koppelman, produced a plan involving the transfer of development rights to projects such as the SB college town. It had support from the LI Builders Institute and a now very conservative Newsday. That editorial produced letters mostly opposed, and an avalanche of protest came from local residents worried about their property values declining and their property taxes increasing. Newsday wrote that there was also a fear of a repeat of the eminent domain process used in the Gyrodyne episode. All this caused town councilors Fiore-Rosenfeld and Keppert to "cross the aisle" and kill it.
This failure prompted Lesko and others to involve a wider selection of stakeholders from all sides in a planning effort towards a revitalized, enhanced, pedestrian-oriented redevelopment within approximately 30 acres of privately and publicly owned property in the SB station area. One of the stakeholders invited was a representative of the Civics Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook who wrote in part: "This portion of road is characterized by fragmented shopping areas, a lack of sidewalks, dangerous pedestrian and bicycle crossings, rambling signage, and sprawling transmission lines. Our Association has advocated for decades (for improvements in these areas). The Association has done more than advocate . . (it has) maintained the Stony Brook Train Station grounds, added hundreds of plants and shrubs to the area, stopped a four lane highway plan for this corridor (think Nesconset Highway) . . ."
However, last October a request to slow down the process was made by the Three Village Chamber of Commerce president, local realtor Michael Ardolino. And now newly elected town supervisor Edward Romaine has put the whole project on hold, saying there should be more input from the community. This was supported by Gloria Rocchio, CEO of a shopping center a mile away in Stony Brook village center. Once again Newsday weighed in with an appeal for the project not to be forgotten. This time there were 2/2 letters unfavorable, and it is instructive to read them:
"So no money for teachers, but lets fund college bars and support under-age drinking. Interesting philosophy Newsday has."
"A College town? Have you been there in the last 10 years? Stony Brook has become a Long Island "Chinatown . . ."
Evidently some members of the general community have not heard or are not receptive the university side of the issue, and if this continues and the project depends mainly on them this development will never happen. For a few examples: adjacent merchants well know that the vandalism emanating from the Park Bench bar on weekends is done by persons who arrive by car. University students could walk there if they were interested but can be seen instead in large numbers on the station platform departing for weekends due to the lack of a university town. And as far as the university's multiculturalism is concerned, each year one effect is plain for all to see in the composition of the large numbers of Intel science finalists in the local school districts. Finally according to Koppleman, studies done over the last 30 years by the Suffolk County Planning Commission and Long Island Regional Planning Board have concluded: "Multifamily housing in every single study has proven to be a tax plus, not a tax liability, . . . This style of housing does not generally accommodate families, so the number of school children is far less than in single-family developments."