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Stanford Report, October 3, 2001

Martin Perl

Martin Perl, professor at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC); at Stanford 1963-present. Awarded the 1995 Nobel Prize in physics "for the discovery of the tau lepton." He shared the award "for pioneering experimental contributions to lepton physics" with Frederick Reines, who was cited "for the detection of the neutrino."

Since receiving the prize, Perl has continued in basic scientific research. He conducts what he calls "unpopular experiments in elementary particle physics that could yield unexpected and profound results." These experiments consist of searches for isolated elementary particles with a fraction of the electric charge of the electron. (All elementary particles either have no electric charge, or the same charge as the electron, or some integer multiple of that charge.) Most scientists in particle physics, astrophysics and cosmology do not believe such particles exist, but Perl thinks that searches for them have not been comprehensive and that no accepted theory objects to their existence. His group is looking for these particles in meteoritic material from an asteroid formed four or five billion years ago when the solar system was new. Perl also works on the SLAC-based B Factory collaboration to study matter and antimatter.


Eleven-year-old Andrew Akre, left, and his brother, Brian Akre, 8, helped Nobel Prize winning physicist Martin Perl explain research at SLAC. The boys’ father, Ron Akre, is a microwave engineer at the center. Photo: L. A. Cicero

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