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Crisis Looms as Berkeley Lab’s Last Main Road is Named for Nobelist Perlmutter

October 15, 2012
Paul Preuss 510-486-6249  paul_preuss@lbl.gov
Feature
Physics Nobelist Saul Perlmutter with the newly revealed Perlmutter Road sign

Physics Nobelist Saul Perlmutter with the newly revealed Perlmutter Road sign (Photo Majed Abolfazli)

There may be billions of stars up in the sky but there are no more full-length streets left at Berkeley Lab to be named after Nobel Prize winners. After Oct. 13, they’ve all been used up. When it comes to road names, the Lab’s future Nobelists may face a serious road shortage.

At the Lab’s Open House this past Saturday, the last remaining unnamed main road was christened for the 2011 Nobel Prize winner in Physics, Saul Perlmutter.

Perlmutter Road is the latest to be named for Nobelists affiliated with Berkeley Lab, twelve individuals in all, including Alvarez Road, Calvin Road, Chamberlain Road, Chu Road, Glaser Road, Lawrence Road, Lee Road, McMillan Road, Seaborg Road, Segrè Road, and Smoot Road.

“We’ve heard how much you appreciate the parking place UC Berkeley gave you down on campus,” said Berkeley Lab Director Paul Alivisatos to Perlmutter during the unveiling event, “but at Berkeley Lab we give you the whole street.”

Perlmutter Road leads southward from Chu Road — named after former Berkeley Lab director, current Secretary of Energy, and Physics laureate Steven Chu — uphill past the building where Perlmutter has his office to the main entrance of the Computational Research and Theory building, or CRT, now under construction.

“I think this is a particularly appropriate location,” Perlmutter said. “More and more these days, the road to cosmology leads through advanced computing.”

An imaginary view of Perlmutter Road, not quite in its real position, used for the virtual unveiling by Berkeley Lab Director Paul Alivisatos

An imaginary view of Perlmutter Road, not quite in its real position, used for the virtual unveiling by Berkeley Lab Director Paul Alivisatos

Because the CRT construction site made an outdoor gathering impractical, the unveiling was done 21st-century style: virtually, with artwork of what the site will look like someday. At least one thing was very real about the presentation: the steel road sign itself, a duplicate that Alivisatos presented to Perlmutter.

Perlmutter won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics after leading the Lab’s Supernova Cosmology Project in the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe, caused by dark energy, with half the prize shared by Brian Schmidt and Adam Riess of the competing High-z Supernova Search Team.

Just as the Nobel that led to the new road was inspired by the expansion of the universe, the road itself warns of a looming calamity in Berkeley Lab’s own expansion. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and fortunately the approaching scarcity has been anticipated with plans for more space outside the Lab’s present boundaries.

As Alivisatos remarked, “Here’s one more good reason for the Lab to expand to a second campus – we’ve just about run out of roads we can name for our future Nobelists.”

Are other National Laboratories and universities facing this kind of crisis? According to anonymous sources, they wish they were.

Additional information

(Just in case we fooled you — which we doubt — there’s no real crisis. But with 12 individual Nobel Prize winners in Physics and Chemistry closely affiliated with Berkeley Lab, plus key members of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, Berkeley Lab boasts a truly exceptional array of Nobelists.)

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world’s most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab’s scientific expertise has been recognized with 13 Nobel prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. For more, visit www.lbl.gov.


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