A letter from Noble laureate Steve Chu
In celebration of your retirement, I wanted to go on record and say how glad I was to have worked with you in my days as a post-doc at Berkeley.
As I recall, I approached you when I learned that you were building a dye laser for some sort of high energy experiment, led by people at Yale. (Just kidding, Charlie!)
I was anxious to improve the laser I was building for an atomic physics test of the Weinberg-Salam theory and heard that you were building a dye laser at SLAC for the GaAs photoemission source. I sought you out to trade notes on dye laser technology. "Trading notes" is a technical term. Translated into layman's terms, what I mean is that I learned about your dye laser, especially what you had done with high-current simmering of the laser flashlamps. On the other hand, I don't remember telling you anything you didn't already know.
I also remember returning to SLAC after you and your co-workers completely stole our up-coming thunder with your beautiful electron scattering experiment. We, Gene Commins and his group, came in with a positive result, but several months later and several sigma worse. All my hard work - my thesis experiment and post doctoral work - went up down the toilet. To quote a famous movie (the reader has to sound like Marlon Brando and shake his head slowly), "Charlie, Charlie, ya don't understand...I could 'a been somebody. I could 'a become a contender! Instead, ya bought me a one-way ticket to polluka-ville."
Undaunted, I tried to rebound. Your experiment used the g-2 precession to flip the spin of the electron, and the next time I saw you, I proposed that one could use this effect to make a precision test of special relativity. I remember you saying, "We just did one of the greatest experiments ever (you were always a reticent sort of fellow) and all you are interested in a silly test of QED". I was also told that you guys already thought of the idea.
So, Charlie, I owe you a big debt. You taught me to carry on, even when thoroughly squashed by the competition! Recalling this experience reminds me of something Winston Churchill once said: "Progress is made by going from failure to failure with undiminished enthusiasm."
Congratulations on this occasion. Unfortunately for you, you not have me to kick around anymore ...
With fond memories and my best wishes,
August 16, 2001