Still more on the Maiani querelle: Enzo Boschi’s envious tirade February 23, 2008Posted by dorigo in news, physics, politics, science.
Enzo Boschi, a geophysicist in Bologna, wrote about the issue of the appointment of Maiani as President of CNR. The themes of his letter funnily resemble those of on.Carlucci. I translated the letter below, but since it is quite long, let me first offer my executive summary in ten lines.
I wanted Maiani’s seat, and am pissed off he got it instead. I owe my career to Zichichi, who is a great, but really unlucky, physicist. I think Maiani, Cabibbo, Parisi, and the other physicists in Rome are overestimated, and I am a bit envious of their recognition, where Zichichi should instead be credited. I moved on to geophysics because of an earthquake in 1980, but I can’t explain what I did before then. I owe my career to Zichichi, and he is my teacher. I think writing a private letter to the rector of “La Sapienza” to disagree with the invitation of the pope equates to being delirious. Maybe my teacher Zichichi should have gotten Maiani’s seat instead.
Ok. Here is his text, in a very quick-and-dirty translation. I took the liberty to highlight a few passages which, in my opinion, reveal quite a bit about the motives behind the text. Oh, another important input. The text is titled “A note of purely scientific evaluation on the search for a president of CNR”.
It is my duty to explain, to those that have esteem of me, the reasons for which I hold that an act of selection not based on scientific merit was made. It was in fact said that the choice of prof. Luciano Maiani was a forced one being the scientific career of Maiani above that of any other candidate. Maiani has been presented as one of the greatest physicists, if not the greatest italian physicist and perhaps even in Europe. And even the greatest leader of national research institutes (INFN) and european ones (the CERN of Geneva).
I will first deal with the scientific value and then with that of extraordinary “manager”. Few know that my scientific activity has started just in the field of research where Maiani worked. I obtained a degree in 1968 and I was the first student in Bologna University to graduate with professor Antonino Zichichi, who gave me as a research topic the problem of “neutral currents” when nobody spoke about them. It was 1968 and in the lessons of prof. Zichichi I learned to know the works of Weinberg (1967) and Salam (1968) on the unification of electromagnetic and weak currents. After the degree I continued to work with Prof. Zichichi and I remember the enthusiasm that he instilled in us when in 1971 the work of Gerardus ‘t Hooft came out, solving the great difficulty of making renormalizable the electroweak theory of Salam, Weinberg and Glashow. I had the privilege of coming to know personally prof. Salam, since Zichichi and Salam were close friends. The experimental discovery of weak neutral currents at CERN was for me a reason of great satisfaction, since that was the topic on which five years before I had written my thesis.
This long introduction explains that the field where Maiani has worked with Glashow and Iliopoulos was to me well-known. In fact in the lessons of prof. Zichichi there were hours spent discussing the frontiers of physics of those days, and the universality of weak forces was one of the central themes. I thus learned the existence of the Cabibbo angle and the difficulty connected to the fact that they predicted the existence of decays never observed (the so-called neutral currents with strangeness change, the quantum number introduced by Gell-Mann to describe the property of “strange” particles realized in the laboratory of prof. Blackett from which my teacher prof. Zichichi was coming). In the lessons of prof. Zichichi I learned that that was the reason why Gell-Mann and Levy only wrote a footnote in their famous theoretical model published in 1960. That brief note however precedes the introduction by Cabibbo of his “angle”, and in fact that angle should be called after Gell-Mann, Levy, and Cabibbo, and not Cabibbo angle. An angle that however did not allow to explain for what reason nobody had ever seen the processes generated by “weak neutral currents with strangeness variations”. That explanation was found by Glashow with his collaborators Iliopoulos and Maiani. Maiani in fact had the luck to be working that year with Glashow. It was Glashow to have the idea that a new quark had to exist and be endowed with a new charge of subnuclear flavour, to which Glashow gave the name of charm. Glashow did anything he could to convince the scientific community to try to find experimentally this new type of quark. It was necessary to find particles endowed with charm in order for what we now call GIM mechanism (from the initials of Glashow, Iliopoulos and Maiani) could have the blessing of experimental proof. On these themes professor Glashow held during those years several lessons in the most prestigious school of subnuclear physics in the world, founded and directed by my teacher prof. Zichichi. While physicists were busy with these formidable themes the totally unexpected (in Zichichi’s words) discovery of a narrow resonance arrives, at the mass of 3.1 GeV. This discovery was obtained almost simultaneously at the BNL laboratory (in New York) by Samuel Ting and at SLAC (Stanford) by Burt Richter. We are in the fall of 1974. Note that in 1967 prof. Zichichi had presented a research project in Frascati for the new machine colliding electrons and positrons (named ADONE) to study “narrow resonances” and the so-called third lepton. As he wrote in a memorable work of review prof. Claudio Villi (president of INFN during those years), the two biggest discoveries of the second half of the XXth century could have been realized in Frascati if the project of Zichichi could have been approved. These researches had however been labeled by Carlo Bernardini, the supervisor of the searches in Frascati, comrade of Maiani in the signature of the delirious letter against pope Benedict XVI to the Sapienza University. with the sentence “Zichichi is looking for butterflies”. Facts however showed that those butterflies could have produced two nobel prizes not to Ting and Richter (for the narrow resonance) and Perl (for the third lepton) but to Antonino Zichichi that on these searches had concocted a project in which were included some technological inventions he had made in Geneva to prove their perfect realizability.
What I syntetically discussed here is proven in the scientific literature with all the necessary detail. Let us go back to Frascati in the fall of 1974. Zichichi had left the Laboratories since his project for a search of narrow resonances and the third lepton had been dubbed “butterflies” by Bernardini. And just on the first of these butterflies Maiani, Cabibbo, Petronzio, Parisi (another signer of the letter against Benedict XVI) and Salvini, lose their scientific credibility. The works published by the Frascati physicists on the discovery of the narrow resonance are in fact all wrong. Maiani, author with Glashow of the work predicting the existence of a new quark, should have thought at once to the correct interpretation in terms of a new meson made with a quark-antiquark pair endowed with charm, as predicted by Glashow. Instead, the great physicists in Frascati, Cabibbo, Parisi, Petronzio, Altarelli, they all launch in the incredible mistake of explaining it as if it was the weak boson, forgetting that this boson should have been at least thirty times more massive. The Salvini group instead publishes a work where the new particle decays into two photons of high energy. Thus the narrow resonance could be explainable as due to electromagnetic forces. The results of other experiments realized at SLAC have demonstrated that the experimental results of Salvini on two-photon decays were (and are) wrong.
To summarize, the physicists of Frascati (friends of the famous 67 scientists with whom Bernardini, Cini, Frova, all signers of the delirious letter against Benedict XVI) have taken a series of blatant blunders, with the aggravating clause that some of them (Cabibbo,Maiani, and Parisi) should have had the right knowledge to interpret correctly the narrow resonance discovered in America. That resonance in fact has nothing to do either with weak forces (as Cabibbo, Maiani, Petronzio and others claimed to have understood) nor with the electromagnetic forces (Salvini group). And let’s not forget that that narrow resonance would have been discovered in Frascati by Zichichi if the theory of “butterflies” impoesd by Carlo Bernardini and his comrades against Zichichi had not prevailed. The conclusion emerging from this short review is that neither Maiani nor his colleagues author of the ridiculous interpretation of the narrow resonance can be considered great physicists. In physics to make a reputation one needs a lifetime, to lose it a single mistaken work on a problem of fundamental importance is sufficient (words that my master Zichichi was used to repeat to us young researchers).
Let us move on to the great scientific manager that Maiani allegedly is, since he directed INFN and CERN. He who made INFN flourish is not Maiani but prof. Antonino Zichichi who in 1977 opened INFN to new projects, Gran Sasso (in the Abruzzi), CS (superconducting cyclotron at Milano and Catania), LEP (CERN, Geneva) and HERA (DESY, Hamburg). For what concerns the CERN suffices to read what was written on Nature and other foreign newspapers to know what mistakes have characterized the guidance of CERN by Maiani. Two concluding words: if it had not been for the earth-quake in Irpinia my scientific career would have been conducted in the same field of physics where Maiani has worked. And in fact it was from that earthquark that my career was subjected to a turn, thanks to Zichichi and Pertini. But this is another scientific adventure.