[House Hearing, 109 Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]
VIEWS OF THE NIST NOBEL
LAUREATES ON SCIENCE POLICY
SUBCOMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,
COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED NINTH CONGRESS
MAY 24, 2006
Serial No. 109-51
Printed for the use of the Committee on Science
Available via the World Wide Web: http://www.house.gov/science
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COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE
HON. SHERWOOD L. BOEHLERT, New York, Chairman
RALPH M. HALL, Texas BART GORDON, Tennessee
LAMAR S. SMITH, Texas JERRY F. COSTELLO, Illinois
CURT WELDON, Pennsylvania EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON, Texas
DANA ROHRABACHER, California LYNN C. WOOLSEY, California
KEN CALVERT, California DARLENE HOOLEY, Oregon
ROSCOE G. BARTLETT, Maryland MARK UDALL, Colorado
VERNON J. EHLERS, Michigan DAVID WU, Oregon
GIL GUTKNECHT, Minnesota MICHAEL M. HONDA, California
FRANK D. LUCAS, Oklahoma BRAD MILLER, North Carolina
JUDY BIGGERT, Illinois LINCOLN DAVIS, Tennessee
WAYNE T. GILCHREST, Maryland DANIEL LIPINSKI, Illinois
W. TODD AKIN, Missouri SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
TIMOTHY V. JOHNSON, Illinois BRAD SHERMAN, California
J. RANDY FORBES, Virginia BRIAN BAIRD, Washington
JO BONNER, Alabama JIM MATHESON, Utah
TOM FEENEY, Florida JIM COSTA, California
RANDY NEUGEBAUER, Texas AL GREEN, Texas
BOB INGLIS, South Carolina CHARLIE MELANCON, Louisiana
DAVE G. REICHERT, Washington DENNIS MOORE, Kansas
MICHAEL E. SODREL, Indiana DORIS MATSUI, California
JOHN J.H. ``JOE'' SCHWARZ, Michigan
MICHAEL T. MCCAUL, Texas
MARIO DIAZ-BALART, Florida
Subcommittee on Environment, Technology, and Standards
VERNON J. EHLERS, Michigan, Chairman
GIL GUTKNECHT, Minnesota DAVID WU, Oregon
JUDY BIGGERT, Illinois BRAD MILLER, North Carolina
WAYNE T. GILCHREST, Maryland MARK UDALL, Colorado
TIMOTHY V. JOHNSON, Illinois LINCOLN DAVIS, Tennessee
DAVE G. REICHERT, Washington BRIAN BAIRD, Washington
JOHN J.H. ``JOE'' SCHWARZ, Michigan JIM MATHESON, Utah
MARIO DIAZ-BALART, Florida
SHERWOOD L. BOEHLERT, New York BART GORDON, Tennessee
AMY CARROLL Subcommittee Staff Director
MIKE QUEAR Democratic Professional Staff Member
JEAN FRUCI Democratic Professional Staff Member
OLWEN HUXLEY Professional Staff Member
MARTY SPITZER Professional Staff Member
SUSANNAH FOSTER Professional Staff Member
CHAD ENGLISH Professional Staff Member
DEVIN BRYANT Majority Staff Assistant
C O N T E N T S
May 24, 2006
Witness List..................................................... 2
Hearing Charter.................................................. 3
Statement by Representative Vernon J. Ehlers, Chairman,
Subcommittee on Environment, Technology, and Standards,
Committee on Science, U.S. House of Representatives............ 6
Written Statement............................................ 7
Statement by Representative David Wu, Ranking Minority Member,
Subcommittee on Environment, Technology, and Standards,
Committee on Science, U.S. House of Representatives............ 8
Written Statement............................................ 9
Statement by Representative Mark Udall, Member, Subcommittee on
Environment, Technology, and Standards, Committee on Science,
U.S. House of Representatives.................................. 33
Written Statement............................................ 33
Dr. William D. Phillips, Scientist, Physics Division, NIST
Laboratory; NIST Fellow; 1997 Nobel Prize Winner for Physics
Oral Statement............................................... 10
Written Statement............................................ 12
Dr. Eric A. Cornell, Senior Scientist, NIST Laboratory; Fellow,
JILA; 2001 Nobel Prize Winner for Physics
Oral Statement............................................... 17
Written Statement............................................ 19
Dr. John ``Jan'' L. Hall, Scientist Emeritus, NIST Laboratory;
Fellow, JILA; 2005 Nobel Prize Winner for Physics
Oral Statement............................................... 22
Written Statement............................................ 24
Gravitational Red Shift........................................ 27
Use of Previous Research....................................... 29
Gravitational Red Shift (cont.)................................ 31
NIST Program Decline........................................... 31
Education (cont.).............................................. 33
K-12 Education................................................. 34
NIST's Merits and Facilities................................... 36
American Research Position..................................... 38
Higher Education and Jobs in Industrial Research............... 39
American Innovation and Education.............................. 40
Career Inspiration............................................. 42
K-12 Education, Informed Voters, and the Federal Government.... 43
American Ingenuity and Investment.............................. 45
VIEWS OF THE NIST NOBEL LAUREATES ON SCIENCE POLICY
WEDNESDAY, MAY 24, 2006
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Environment, Technology, and
Committee on Science,
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 9:45 a.m., in
Room 2318 of the Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Vernon J.
Ehlers [Chairman of the Subcommittee] presiding.
SUBCOMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY, AND STANDARDS
COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Views of the NIST Nobel
Laureates on Science Policy
wednesday, may 24, 2006
10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
2318 rayburn house office building
On Wednesday May 24, 2006, at 9:30 a.m., the Subcommittee on
Environment, Technology, and Standards of the House Committee on
Science will hold a hearing to learn the views of the Nobel Prize
winners from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
on science policy.
Dr. William D. Phillips is a scientist in the physics division at the
NIST laboratory in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He won the 1997 Nobel Prize
Dr. Eric Cornell is a senior scientist at the NIST laboratory in
Boulder, Colorado, and a fellow at JILA, the joint institute between
NIST and the University of Colorado. He won the 2001 Nobel Prize for
Dr. John (Jan) Hall is a scientist emeritus at the NIST laboratory in
Boulder, Colorado and a fellow at JILA, the joint institute between
NIST and the University of Colorado. He won the 2005 Nobel Prize for
The hearing will address these overarching questions:
1. Why has NIST been so successful at cultivating Nobel Prize
2. What are the implications of the Nobel Prize-winning
research at NIST and how can that work get used outside of
3. What steps are most necessary to improve U.S. performance
in math, science and engineering, and U.S. competitiveness?
Overview of NIST
The National Institute of Standards and Technology, created by
Congress in 1901, is the Nation's oldest federal laboratory. NIST's
mission is to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by
advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that
enhance economic security and improve our quality of life. NIST has two
laboratory campuses, one in Gaithersburg, MD, and the other in Boulder,
CO, and a joint institute for physics research with the University of
Colorado at Boulder, known as JILA.
The NIST's research programs are carried out through eight
Building and Fire Research Laboratory
Chemical Sciences and Technology Laboratory
Electronics and Electrical Engineering Laboratory
Information Technology Laboratory
Manufacturing Engineering Laboratory
Materials Science and Engineering Laboratory
Technology Services Laboratory.
In addition, NIST houses major facilities that play a critical role
in measurement and standards research, as well as supporting technology
development for future industries. These facilities include the atomic
clock, the National Center for Neutron Research, and the National
Nanotechnology and Nanometrology Facility.
NIST's FY 2007 Budget Request
NIST is one of the three agencies included in the President's
American Competitiveness Initiative. (The other two are the National
Science Foundation and the Department of Energy Office of Science.) The
Initiative, announced in the State of the Union message and included in
the Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 budget, calls for a doubling of the combined
budgets of the three agencies over 10 years. (The Initiative does not
include NIST's extramural research programs--the Manufacturing
Extension Partnership program and the Advanced Technology Program.)
For details on the NIST budget, see the chart below.
The proposed increase in laboratory programs for FY 2007 would fund
major upgrades and enhancements of NIST's two national research
facilities in Gaithersburg, MD: the NIST Center for Neutron Research
and the Center for Nanoscale Research and Technology. The budget
request would also fund expansion of NIST's existing presence at the
National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven National Laboratory.
The request for NIST will increase the ability of U.S. researchers to
develop, characterize, and manufacture new materials. In addition, the
proposed budget would increase NIST laboratory and technical programs
directed at solving measurement and other technical problems in energy,
medical technology, manufacturing, homeland security, and public
NIST Appropriations and Reauthorization
In May 2005, the House passed H.R. 250, the Manufacturing
Technology Competitiveness Act, which included authorization language
and funding levels for NIST, using the President's FY 2006 request of
$426 million as a baseline. The Senate Commerce Committee recently
reported out S. 2802, a bill that also includes a NIST authorization.
How NIST Supports Promising Scientists
There are several means available to NIST to reward or encourage
scientists who are pursuing promising avenues of research: the
Competence program, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists
and Engineers (PECASE), and increasing support for individual
scientists from NIST's base funding. Each of NIST's Nobel laureates
benefited from one or all of these programs.
The NIST Competence program was established to provide five years
of funding for high-priority research by NIST researchers. The focus is
to develop new technical competence required to support national
measurement science or standards. If, at the end of the five years, the
research has been successful, the Competence funding can be replaced
with more permanent program funding to continue the research. For
example in 1992, John Hall was awarded $340,000 per year for five years
in Competence funding to pursue research ``Beyond Quantum Limits,''
funding that he used in part to hire Eric Cornell to create a Bose-
Einstein Condensate (BEC).
The NIST Director can nominate NIST scientists for PECASE, which
was established in 1996 to support the extraordinary achievements of
young scientists and engineers in the Federal Government. Dr. Cornell
received this award in 1996. NIST and the Department of Commerce also
have some internal awards that are made in recognition of outstanding
service by their employees.
Finally, the NIST Director can support talented scientists with
additional funding from the NIST laboratory budget. For example, in
recognition of Dr. Cornell's achievement of BEC in 1995, the NIST
Director gave him an additional $250,000 in base lab funding. Dr.
Cornell has stated that this research funding, received without making
a request or proposal, was one of the reasons he decided to stay at
NIST, despite personally lucrative offers elsewhere.
Nobel Prize-winning work at NIST
Two of the NIST Nobel laureates won their Prize for work related to
low-temperature physics. NIST scientists conduct low-temperature
physics research because understanding the properties of atoms and
materials at low temperatures can improve the science of measurement,
which is critical to improving the competitiveness of U.S. industry.
One application of low-temperature physics is technology to improve
the accuracy of atomic clocks. By cooling atoms of cesium, scientists
have made atomic clocks that are a billion times more accurate than an
ordinary wristwatch. Highly accurate clocks are essential to navigation
instruments and other devices that use the Global Positioning System
(GPS), because the GPS depends on atomic clocks that circle the earth
in satellites. By comparing time information from several satellites,
GPS receivers in cars, airplanes, or hand-held instruments can
determine their location on earth with an accuracy of just a few
meters. The more precise, accurate, and better synchronized the clocks,
the more accurate the associated locational data becomes.
Dr. William D. Phillips' Nobel Prize, which he shared with Dr.
Steven Chu and Dr. Claude Cohen-Tannoudi in 1997, was awarded for the
development of a technique called ``laser trapping and cooling.'' This
technique allows researchers to use lasers as pincers to immobilize
individual or small groups of atoms.
Dr. Eric Cornell won his Nobel Prize, which he shared with Dr. Carl
Wieman, for creating a Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC), a previously
unobserved state of matter, predicted in 1920s by Albert Einstein and
an Indian colleague. In the BEC state, a gas, cooled to super-low
temperatures, behaves like a superfluid--neither a gas nor a liquid nor
a solid. Cornell and Wieman used the laser cooling technique pioneered
by Dr. Phillips, together with another technique.
Dr. Jan Hall won his Nobel Prize, which he shared with Theodor
Hansch, for his contributions to laser-based precision spectroscopy,
including the development of the ``optical frequency comb'' technique.
The optical frequency comb is a new measuring method for the frequency
of light, and is critical for the solution to the problem of
measurements, including the standard definition of the meter. Optical
frequency combs are now commercially available.
The witnesses were asked to briefly describe the research that led
them to the Nobel prize-winning discoveries, and answer the following
1. Describe the role that NIST plays in your field of science.
2. Describe the steps that you had to take from the
development of the initial scientific concepts through to the
experiments for which you won the Nobel Prize. What are the
applications or potential applications of your discoveries and
what steps have been or will be taken to translate this new
science into technology and other applications?
3. What do you believe are the most important steps the
Federal Government should take to improve the competitiveness
of U.S. scientific research?
Chairman Ehlers. Good morning. This hearing will come to
It is a real pleasure to conduct this hearing today. As I
told our witnesses, this is likely to be a love fest rather
than an interrogation, and the brief conversation I had with
them before the meeting made me think perhaps I should resign
my position and get back into research. You folks have all of
But at any rate, if I weren't here, you probably wouldn't
have as much money to do your research, either. So to each his
own. We all contribute in our own way to the enterprise of
Welcome to today's hearing entitled ``Views of the NIST
Nobel Laureates on Science Policy.'' It is my great privilege
to chair the Science Subcommittee that oversees the National
Institute of Standards and Technology, also known as NIST. This
gives me the opportunity to hold hearings such as this one,
where we can highlight some of the best science being done in
the world today by U.S. researchers at a humble federal science
agency. Although if they get more Nobel Prize winners, they may
no longer be humble. NIST has become the world leader in
standards by employing superb scientists who do excellent work.
Nothing more clearly demonstrates the phenomenal quality of the
Agency's work than the three Nobel Laureates NIST has produced
in less than 10 years, a truly remarkable accomplishment.
Having been a physicist myself, I have some understanding
of how difficult your job can be.
I might mention this as an entirely Pavlovian operation in
the Congress: the bells ring, we vote. In this case, we do not
vote. We are just starting the--a sequence, and the Prime
Minister of Israel will be addressing us later. So we can be
assured of an uninterrupted hearing today.
Continuing, having been a physicist myself, I have some
understanding of how difficult your job can be: science is hard
work. I think the public understands in an abstract way that if
you win the Nobel Prize, you must be very smart. That is one of
the prerequisites. But what people frequently do not think
about and do not realize or appreciate is the incredible amount
of time, effort, and often frustration that goes into a
successful, or even unsuccessful, scientific experiment.
Optical and low-temperature physics, in particular, are fields
where everything has to work perfectly. The margins for error
are very tiny, the precision required is sublime, and
experiments that work well in theory take months or years, time
that is more often than not fraught with setbacks and
frustrations, to produce a result in the laboratory. It takes
true dedication and tenacity to push back the frontiers of
science the way you have, and I think everyone here stands in
awe of your achievements.
We are not here today just to learn about your research. In
1945 Vannevar Bush, Director of the Office of Scientific
Research and Development, laid out a bold new vision for
science in this country in the book ``Science: the Endless
Frontier.'' The publication of this historic document resulted
in the creation of the National Science Foundation and launched
a new era in U.S. scientific research. In 1998, I decided that
the book by Vannevar Bush, although excellent, is somewhat
outdated, and I worked together with House Speaker Newt
Gingrich and Science Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner and
re-released ``Unlocking the Future: Towards a New Science
Policy,'' a document that I had worked for two years with the
aid of Sharon Hayes, a document that was intended to guide the
development of a long-term science and technology policy for
the United States. We did not claim that it was a new science
policy in itself, but we tried to point the direction to and
the need for a good launch from science and technology policy
for the United States.
These policy documents are important, because they help us
take a long view of the critical role of science in our
society, and they force us to organize and update our science
priorities. Now we are, once again, due for an update, and you
are helping in the beginning of that update.
As leading scientists in your fields, we look forward to
hearing your perspectives. You are products of the U.S.
education system and have benefited from federal support for
scientific research. The Science Committee is interested in
learning your opinions about how the United States can improve
both its education and its research systems so that we will
continue to be at the cutting edge of science and winning Nobel
Prizes in the future. Now I might add, the goal is not so much
to win prizes, per se, but they symbolize the progress that we,
as a nation, make.
I am pleased today to welcome Dr. William Phillips, who has
been here several times before since receiving his Nobel Prize,
Dr. Eric Cornell from Boulder and the JILA arm of NIST, and my
former colleague, Dr. Jan Hall, also from JILA whom I worked
with years ago, and I spent a year and later three summers at
JILA--a wonderful institution, wonderful people, and good
research. It is my pleasure to welcome all three Nobel
Laureates in Physics from NIST as our witnesses today.
I now recognize Mr. Wu for an opening statement.
[The prepared statement of Chairman Ehlers follows:]
Prepared Statement of Chairman Vernon J. Ehlers
Good morning, and welcome to today's hearing, entitled ``Views of
the NIST Nobel Laureates on Science Policy.'' It is my great privilege
to chair the Science Subcommittee that oversees the National Institute
of Standards and Technology, also known as NIST. This gives me the
opportunity to hold hearings such as this one, where we can highlight
some of the best science being done in the world today by U.S.
researchers at a humble federal science agency. NIST has become the
world leader in standards by employing superb scientists who do
excellent work; nothing more clearly demonstrates the phenomenal
quality of the Agency's work than the three Nobel laureates NIST has
produced in less than ten years, a truly remarkable accomplishment.
Having been a physicist myself, I have some understanding of how
difficult your job can be: science is hard work. I think the public
understands in an abstract way that if you win the Nobel Prize you must
be very smart. But what people frequently do not think about and do not
appreciate is the incredible amount of time, effort, and often
frustration that goes into a successful, or even unsuccessful,
scientific experiment. Optical and low-temperature physics in
particular are fields where everything has to work perfectly, the
margins for error are very tiny, the precision required is sublime, and
experiments that work well in theory take months or years--time that is
more often than not fraught with setbacks and frustrations--to produce
a result in the laboratory. It takes true dedication and tenacity to
push back the frontiers of science the way you have, and I think
everyone here stands in awe of your achievements.
We are not here today just to learn about your research. In 1945
Vannevar Bush, Director of the Office of Scientific Research and
Development, laid out a bold new vision for science in this country in
the book ``Science: the Endless Frontier.'' The publication of this
historic document resulted in the creation of the National Science
Foundation, and launched a new era in U.S. scientific research. In
1998, I, together with House Speaker Newt Gingrich, released
``Unlocking the Future: Towards a New Science Policy,'' a document that
was intended to guide the development of a long-term science and
technology policy for the United States. These policy documents are
important because they help us take a long view of the critical role of
science in our society and they force us to organize and update our
science priorities. Now we are once again due for an update.
As leading scientists in your fields, we look forward to hearing
your perspectives. You are products of the U.S. education system and
have benefited from federal support for scientific research. The
Science Committee is interested in learning your opinions about how the
U.S. can improve its education and research systems so that we will
continue to be at the cutting edge of science and winning Nobel Prizes
in the future.
I am pleased to welcome Dr. William Phillips, Dr. Eric Cornell, and
my former colleague Dr. Jan Hall, the three Nobel laureates in physics
from NIST as our witnesses today.
Mr. Wu. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing.
And I would like to take this opportunity to welcome everyone.
And I want to congratulate the NIST Nobel Prize winners before
The Chairman was a scientist, and I was just a science
wannabe, or a scientist wannabe, but had I known when I bailed
out on medical school, or took an extended leave of absence
from medical school 25 years ago, that 25 years later the most
important thing that I would be doing is making sure that our
education and research functions were funded. Well, who knows?
I could have been a doctor.
But I want to take just a couple of minutes to make two
You all before us today are outstanding in your fields. And
it is my impression that we have many, many outstanding
researchers at NIST. NIST's work in metrology and standards has
put at the forefront of many fields in scientific research, and
I wouldn't be surprised if Dr. Debbie Jin, the 2002 McArthur
Genius Grant winner, is a Nobel Prize recipient in the near
future. In reading through these summaries about your work, I
was struck by how this work represents a strong commitment to
NIST in cutting-edge research. It is a tribute to the vision
and the foresight of past NIST directors and managers.
Second, I welcome the opportunity to interact and to
question you all about our support for research and for
education. I am especially interested in the role of federal
support for scientific research and the concerns that we
sometimes have about losing our research edge, whether it was
two decades ago to the Japanese or whether it is today to,
potentially, some other countries.
And also, I am deeply concerned about our application of
resources to education in all its forms, whether it is graduate
education, undergraduate education, or K-12 education and would
be very interested in your perspective and views on those
topics, and especially on a comparative basis between us and
And so I intend to use today's opportunity to hear about
your opinions and recommendations. And again, congratulations
and welcome to the Committee.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Wu follows:]
Prepared Statement of Representative David Wu
I want to welcome everyone to this morning's hearing and I want to
congratulate the NIST Nobel prize winners before us today.
I want to take a few minutes to make two points. While the
researchers before us today are outstanding in their fields, it is my
experience that all the researchers at NIST are first rate.
NIST's work in metrology and standards has put the agency at the
forefront of many fields of scientific research. I wouldn't be
surprised if Dr. Debbie Jin, the 2002 MacArthur genius grant winner, is
named NIST's fourth Nobel Prize recipient.
In reading through the summaries of these three individual's work,
I was struck by how their work represents a forty year commitment by
NIST to cutting-edge research in related fields. This is a tribute to
the vision and foresight of past NIST directors.
I welcome the opportunity to learn about our panelists' research
efforts and their potential impact. However, I am especially interested
in their thoughts on federal support for scientific research.
We hear many reports that the U.S. is losing its research edge and
that China, India and Mexico are outpacing us in the graduation of
scientists and engineers.
There has also been great concern that the quality of our K-12
science education is putting us behind other countries. So I intend to
use today's opportunity to ask them about their opinions and
recommendations on these topics as well.
Again, my congratulations to all our witnesses on their
Chairman Ehlers. Thank you, Mr. Wu.
I mentioned earlier the little pamphlet we produced some
years ago, or booklet, ``Unlocking the Future: Towards a New
Science Policy.'' My aid, Amy, was good enough to loan me her
copy so I could show you. It was an immense amount of work.
Science policy is an immense amount of work and not nearly as
rewarding as research. But it is very essential to the future
of this nation, and I think we have fallen down in not paying
attention to science policy during the 50 years between
Vannevar Bush's work and this document, and I would hope we
take it more seriously in the future.
Having said that, if there are any other Members who wish
to submit additional opening statements, those statements will
be added to the record. Without objection, so ordered.
At this time, I would like to introduce our witnesses.
First of all, Dr. William Phillips, winner of the 1997 Nobel
Prize for Physics, a very fine physicist. I happen to have a
personal connection to all three. My connection with Dr.
Phillips is that one of his graduate students who worked on his
prize-winning research is now teaching at Calvin College in
Grand Rapids, Michigan, not only my hometown, but also my home
institution where I taught for many years and helped develop
the department and the equipment base that your student is
I was hoping to recognize Dr.--pardon me, Congressman
Udall, who wanted to be here to introduce the next two
witnesses, because they are from his district, but
unfortunately, he has been tied up in a meeting. But I am
pleased to also introduce Dr. Cornell from the Joint Institute
for Laboratory Astrophysics, which is now just called NIST--
pardon me, JILA, which is partly supported by NIST. And Dr.
Cornell is a staff member of the National Institute of
Standards and Technology.
Also, Dr. Hall, who was very active when I spent my time in
JILA years ago, but I hardly ever saw him, because he has a
unique habit of hiding behind a desk, which is covered with
six-foot stacks of paper, and so it is very hard to see him,
because you really have to make a concerted effort. But that is
good planning. I have adopted that technique partially myself
to intimidate visitors to the office. But both have done very,
very good work in the case of Dr. Hall for many, many years at
JILA. He was outstanding when I was there, and he has continued
Dr. Cornell is a junior member here, but did a very, very
important experiment on Bose-Einstein condensates. It is kind
of neat to do an experiment that shows that Bose and Einstein
were both right, almost a century ago, wasn't it, when they
worked for NIST.
So we are pleased to have all of you here.
As I assume the witnesses have been told, your spoken
testimony is limited to five minutes each, and after that, we
would take turns in rotation asking five minutes worth of
questions of you. We are not. In view of the nature of the
panel and the time we have and the lack of other Members here,
we will let you exceed the five minutes, if you wish.
We will start by hearing the testimony of Dr. Phillips.
STATEMENT OF DR. WILLIAM D. PHILLIPS, SCIENTIST, PHYSICS
DIVISION, NIST LABORATORY; NIST FELLOW; 1997 NOBEL PRIZE WINNER
Dr. Phillips. Thank you, Chairman Ehlers and Members of the
Subcommittee. It is a great honor to be here, and it is a
pleasure to be with Eric Cornell and Jan Hall who are friends
and colleagues in government service and distinguished
scientists whose work has profoundly influenced my own.
For more than 27 years at NIST, I had been cooling gases of
atoms with laser light. I was not hired to do this, but because
cold slow atoms could make better atomic clocks, NIST
management encouraged me to pursue my crazy idea as a sideline
to my main job. Ten years later, laser cooling was my main job.
We made atoms as cold as a gas had ever been, but things
didn't behave quite as expected. Driven by our scientific
curiosity, we pursued the discrepancies rather than colder
temperatures and discovered, much to everyone's surprise, that
our gas could be colder than anyone had thought possible. By
1995, we had gotten under a millionth of a degree above
absolute zero, the coldest anything had ever been.
This exciting development illustrates an important lesson
about mission-driven research. Had we not taken a detour into
basic understanding of the underlying physics, we never would
have reached our goal.
Today, laser-cooled atoms define time. At the naval
observatory, they keep time for our military. They synchronize
GPS, which guides everything from military jeeps to commercial
aircraft. NIST's standard clock is accurate to less than one
second in 60 million years. We like to call this ``close enough
for government work.''
And that is just the start.
Jan Hall's work promises even better clocks. But most of
laser cooling's applications were undreamed of at the outset,
something that is typical of basic research. One of the most
exciting applications is quantum information. Eric Cornell, who
cooled atoms 1,000 times colder than our 1995 record, will say
more about this. But quantum computation and communication has
code-breaking potential and guaranteed privacy with crucial
national security implications.
Secure quantum communication is here and now. Quantum
computing needs a lot more basic research and technology
development, but NIST is leading the way.
What role does NIST play in my work and in my field
To put it succinctly, I would not have done any of this
work had I not been at NIST, and NIST is the field's world
leader. The mission of NIST is measurement science, and so I
pursued laser cooling. The mission was the motivation, but the
NIST environment made the research flourish. NIST encourages us
to take a long view of our mission and to pursue targets of
scientific opportunity. NIST didn't just tolerate my sideline
research; they encouraged it and supported it.
But the most important feature of NIST's environment is the
quality of the people. People often ask why am I still at NIST
when I could make a lot more money some place else, and the
answer is my colleagues. NIST has assembled some of the best
scientists in the world, and it has maintained them in an
atmosphere that nurtures the best possible basic research. The
payoff has been obvious: three Nobel Prizes in eight years,
world leadership in measurement science, lines of research with
applications in commerce, science, industry, and the military.
You have asked what the Federal Government can do to
improve the competitiveness of U.S. research.
First, support basic research strongly, especially in the
physical sciences and in universities and in government
laboratories. Basic research created, for example, the
electronics industry where innovation keeps America's position
strong in spite of cheaper production overseas. A landmark was
the invention of the transistor at Bell Labs. But today, that
tradition of far-sighted industrial research has virtually
disappeared. Where industry has stepped back, government must
step up. And it is vital that--what should I do? Just go on?
Chairman Ehlers. Just--it will take just a second.
Dr. Phillips. Okay. Thank you.
And it is vital that mission-focused government
laboratories like NIST do not adopt this same short-term
thinking that infects industry. NIST has always recognized the
importance of strong investment in basic research for the long
haul, and I believe this is the correct path for all mission
agencies, civilian and military. The recent legislative and
executive initiatives to dramatically increase basic research
in physical sciences are right on target. America's economic
advantage depends on her research advantage. Unless we invest
in basic research in good times and in bad, in war and in
peace, we risk being unable to compete in the world market, and
we risk being unprepared to respond to threats.
A great strength of U.S. science is the diversity of
funding: the NSF, NASA, DOE, DARPA, ONR, AFOSR, ARO all provide
opportunities for basic research funding with different
cultures, styles, and missions. We should resist attempts to
homogenize the approach to funding. We should maintain all of
these opportunities, each with their own approaches, and each
with a strong basic research component. We need the diversity.
I don't want every funding agency to be like DARPA, and I don't
want every funding agency to be like the NSF. That diversity
that we have is one of the most important things making our
nation's research great.
Finally, the American research environment is crucial. It
is a magnet drawing the best scientific minds from around the
world. Unfortunately, legitimate concerns about national
security may have the unintended consequence of isolating the
United States scientifically. Many foreign scientists now see
the United States as a less friendly place scientifically. At
the same time, foreign-born workers fill close to half of our
science and technology jobs. We must improve the educational
pipeline supplying Americans for our high-tech needs, and we
must welcome the best of the foreign scientists as students,
collaborators, and new Americans. If we do not, we risk putting
ourselves out of the main marketplace of ideas and out of the
I want the United States to be the world leader in making
the great discoveries of the 21st century and in claiming the
fruits of those discoveries, and I know that you do as well.
Thank you very much for your attention. Thank you
especially for your concern about this issue. I will be happy
to answer questions.
[The prepared statement of Dr. Phillips follows:]
Prepared Statement of William D. Phillips
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:
As a Federal Employee and, like each of you, a public servant, it
is a great pleasure for me to appear before you. And it is an honor to
appear along with Eric Cornell and Jan Hall, friends and colleagues in
government service, and distinguished scientists whose work has had
such a profound influence on my own research. I have worked for the
National Institute of Standards and Technology (formerly the National
Bureau of Standards) for more than 27 years. I was hired to make
precision electrical measurements--an activity directed toward the NIST
missions of providing the high quality measurement services needed for
modern industry and science and of exploring the frontiers of knowledge
relating to measurement science. At the same time I was encouraged by
the management of NIST to pursue, as a side interest, topics in laser
physics that could benefit NIST's mission, broadly interpreted.
In my spare time, with scrounged equipment and funds, I
investigated a seemingly crazy idea--that you could cool something by
shining laser light on it. The ``something'' I wanted to cool was a gas
of atoms, and the motivation was to make the atoms move more slowly,
since colder simply means that the atoms are moving more slowly. Why?
Because if the atoms were moving more slowly, we could measure them
better, and better measurement is one of the key services we at NIST
deliver. In particular, I wanted to make better atomic clocks--to make
our best timekeepers even better.
How could laser light cool a gas of atoms? The idea was to use the
light to push on the atoms in such as way as to make them slow down. Or
at least that was the dream that I pursued, in odd moments, as a young
physicist in 1978. I was inspired by the fact that earlier that year,
Dave Wineland and his colleagues at the NIST laboratories in Boulder,
CO, had done just that--laser cooling ions, electrically charged atoms
that were easier to hold onto. It was going to be harder to do that
with neutral atoms, which, lacking an electric charge, were harder to
control and confine. And I was eager to take on the challenge.
With the strong support of NIST and of the ONR, by 1988 laser
cooling had become my sole assignment. The international scene had
changed considerably. In 1978 a lone group in the Soviet Union was our
only competitor in laser cooling of neutral atoms. By 1988 groups
across the U.S. and around the world had joined in the fun. At NIST, we
had first learned how to slow down beams of atoms from well over the
speed of sound to human running speeds. We learned to trap the atoms,
suspending them in vacuum using first magnetic fields and then lasers.
Things were going well. We were learning to use the tools of laser and
magnetic manipulation of atoms to make them do what we wanted. But
there were problems. Things were not behaving exactly as our
calculations had predicted. We tried modifying the theory in reasonable
ways, but nothing worked.
Physicists are, by nature and by training, driven to make sense out
of what we see in the world and in the laboratory. And things were not
making sense. Things were working well enough, and we were well on our
roadmap to slow our atoms down, but not everything was adding up. And
we could not let it rest. We turned our attention to figuring out what
was going wrong. Or, more precisely, what was going on. And, after
something like a year of investigation, we learned, much to our
surprise, and to the surprise of colleagues around the world, that the
strange behavior was tied to the fact that we were cooling our atoms to
temperatures far lower than we or anyone had thought possible. We were
astounded! Experiments rarely work better than expected, and, in trying
to get temperatures as low as possible, we had gotten to temperatures a
lot lower than thought possible.
The results were so unexpected that we confirmed them four
different ways before we reported them publicly. After other
laboratories had reproduced our results and theorists had deduced a new
mechanism for laser cooling, we eventually (in 1995) reached
temperatures more than a hundred times lower than had been thought
possible. We achieved temperatures lower than millionth of a degree
about absolute zero--at that time, the coldest temperature ever
achieved. It was one of the most exciting and satisfying experiences a
scientist could hope for, and it illustrates an important feature about
mission driven science and basic research. We had set out to laser cool
a gas of atoms in order to make better clocks. We were sidetracked by
basic scientific questions about the nature of the interaction of light
and matter, and by studying those questions, we learned new and
unexpected things about light and matter. And although we did not know
at the outset how important it would be, that knowledge, gained through
our digression into basic research, was what made it possible to
achieve our mission goal of making a better clock.
Today, clocks using laser cooled atoms provide the official
definition of the second, the unit of time. Clocks based on this
principle are in use at the US Naval Observatory, and laser cooled
clocks provide the accurate timekeeping needed for modern military and
commercial needs. The Global Positioning System or GPS, which guides
everything from jeeps in the desert to commercial aircraft to private
cars, is synchronized using laser cooled clocks. The best of these
clocks is NIST's F-1 cesium fountain clock with a fractional inaccuracy
of better than 5x10-16, or less than one second
in 60 million years. At NIST, this is known as ``close enough for
So, laser cooling is already in use for military and commercial
purposes. But this has only been the beginning of the story. A still
more advanced generation of clocks using both laser cooled ions and
laser cooled neutral atoms is under development and these clocks have
achieved performance that already promises to be ten times better than
the best current clocks. But most of the things that laser cooling is
now used for were completely unanticipated when we began our studies.
(This is a common feature of the fruits of basic research--the best of
those fruits are often evident only well after the inception of the
work.) One of the most exciting applications of ultra-cold atoms is in
the emerging field of quantum information. Here, single atoms or single
ions are used to store information in the form of quantum bits or
``qubits.'' Computation and communication of information with qubits
can perform feats impossible with ordinary computers or ordinary secure
communications systems. Eric Cornell will say more about this in his
remarks. Among the most important applications of quantum information
are code breaking and eavesdropping-proof communications. These
applications are crucial to issues of national security, and NIST is
pursuing them. Quantum communication is now a reality, with a testbed
at NIST producing quantum cryptographic code at live-video rates.
Quantum computers are still a distant dream, with a great deal of both
basic research and technological advancement needed before they are a
The Committee has asked for a discussion of the role that NIST
plays in my work and my field generally. To put it succinctly, I do not
believe that I would have done any of this work had I not been at NIST.
When I was a young postdoctoral fellow at MIT, I had lots of ideas
about where to take my future research. One of those ideas was laser
cooling. But had I gone to a university or to an industrial research
laboratory, I would have pursued other goals. It was because the
mission of NIST involves measurement and improving measurement science
that I decided to pursue laser cooling. In this case, the application
provided the motivation. But it was the environment of NIST that made
the research flourish. NIST encourages its scientists to think
``outside the box,'' to take a long and broad view of our mission, and
to pursue targets of scientific opportunity at the same time that we
are attending to the problems at hand. My dabblings in basic atomic
physics were not just tolerated--they were encouraged and supported.
And some of the things that my colleagues and I accomplished laid the
foundations for the things that Eric Cornell and Jan Hall achieved,
just as their achievements enabled much of what we did and set us onto
NIST holds a leading position in Atomic, Molecular and Optical
Physics. The three recent Nobel prizes in the area are but one
testament to that fact. The strong research environment in this area
was crucial to the development of my own research program, and the
cross-fertilization was and continues to be extremely important.
This brings me to what is probably the most important aspect of the
NIST scientific environment--the quality of the researchers themselves.
People often ask me why I am still at NIST; why I have not accepted
offers of greater salaries in other institutions. The main answer is my
colleagues. I cannot imagine a better and more stimulating environment
than the one I enjoy at NIST. The colleagues in my own research group,
plus people like Eric Cornell, Jan Hall, and a long list of others from
whom I learn and benefit on a daily basis, are what makes working at
NIST such a rewarding and stimulating experience. When I hear someone
characterize government workers as clock-watching slackers, I know they
haven't met my colleagues. When I hear claims that the government
should hire people who are just good enough to do the job I am
horrified. NIST has assembled some of the best scientists in the world,
and has kept them by providing an atmosphere which nurtures the best
kinds of research. The pay-off has been obvious: three Nobel prizes in
eight years; world leadership in measurement science; and lines of
research with present and future applications in commerce, science,
industry and the military.
Finally, you have asked for my perspective on what the Federal
Government can do to improve the competitiveness of U.S. scientific
research. When we speak of the competitiveness of American science,
there are two aspects. One is how well science itself competes with the
science of the rest of the world. The other is how well American
science contributes to the economic competitiveness of the U.S. in the
global marketplace. My view is that the one enables the other. We often
talk, quite rightly, about technology transfer. But most important is
having technology to transfer. I think that resources of the Federal
Government devoted to discovery are extremely productive, and that the
good results will be taken up commercially as long as the environment
for doing that is kept friendly and relatively free of artificial
impediments. I must emphasize that these perspectives are my own
personal ones and not necessarily those of NIST's management. Also,
while I may be an expert in laser cooling, I am not an expert on the
sociology and economics of science research. But I have developed some
ideas about what makes American science strong and what we need to do
to continue to maintain our position in the increasingly competitive
international research landscape.
First I believe it is essential to maintain and in fact increase
support for basic research, especially in the physical sciences. Post
WWII, the physical sciences had strong support, in large part because
of the correct understanding that a legacy of basic research had played
a key role in the development of such crucial wartime technologies as
radar and nuclear weapons. That strong support for physical science
research led to the development of a computer and consumer electronics
market where American leadership in innovation has allowed us to retain
a strong position in the face of cheaper production overseas.
Similarly, advances in medical and life sciences were underpinned by
strength in the physical sciences. Tools like magnetic resonance
imaging and other modern medical diagnostic tools had their roots in
the basic physics research conducted earlier in the 20th century. That
basic research was being carried out in a wide variety of
environments--university labs, supported by both civilian and military
agencies, military and non-military government labs, as well as
The invention of the transistor at Bell Telephone Labs set the
stage for a booming electronics industry that has sustained much of the
U.S. economy. It came from a strong and sustained program in basic
research at Bell Labs, one that was mirrored in other industrial labs
like RCA, Raytheon, Ford, Xerox, IBM, and so forth. Today, many
business analysts seriously contend that AT&T never got a significant
return on its research investment and denigrate the value of any long-
range, basic research in any industry, focusing instead on very short-
term return on investments. Today, Bell Labs is a shadow of its former
self in regard to basic research and that sort of far-sighted support
of research has virtually disappeared from American industry. I don't
know if we can ever expect to return to the golden age of industrial
research, but I strongly believe that we must, as a nation, regain and
maintain that level of basic research if we are to remain competitive
in a world economy. If industry cannot or will not take its traditional
share of this responsibility, I believe that government must
compensate. Furthermore, in my opinion it is vital that government
laboratories like NIST, with a mission focus, do not fall into the same
short-term thinking about research that infects industry. Imagine where
the U.S. economy would be today if we as a nation had not made the
long-term investments, done in part by industrial labs, which led to
the current semiconductor electronics industry. My reading of our
history is that NIST has always recognized the importance of
substantial investment in basic research for the long haul, and I
commend this attitude to all other mission agencies, both civilian and
The recent initiatives by the executive and legislative branches of
the Federal Government to dramatically increase the support for basic
research in physical sciences certainly have the right spirit in regard
to basic and long-term research, and I applaud these efforts.
In a global economy where both manufacturing and service can be
provided half a world away, it is through innovative use of new
knowledge that America can expect to maintain a competitive edge. And
the first ones with the best opportunity to make use of new knowledge
are the ones who create it in the first place. That is why basic
research is so vital, and why America continues to compete successfully
in a world where labor and other costs are so much less elsewhere. But
unless we strengthen our position in basic research investment, we run
the risk of losing what edge we have. I believe that it particularly
important to make these investments in both good times and bad. One
never wants to be in a position of eating one's seed-corn, and a
reduction of our research portfolio in times of tight budgets would
amount to exactly that. An extension of that reasoning says that for
Defense purposes we should invest in basic research both in times of
war and peace, and in times of global superpower competition and in its
absence. Being able to respond to threats with technology depends
greatly on having the basic understanding that underpins that
technology, and basic research is the way one gets that.
I believe that one of the great strengths of the U.S. research
climate compared to that of other nations is the diversity of
environments for doing research and of sources of funding for research.
Many countries have their research centralized under a ``ministry of
science'' and one periodically hears calls for similar centralization
in the U.S. My opinion is that this would be a big mistake. Here in the
U.S. we have university labs, military labs, national labs, both
civilian and government operated, with both classified and unclassified
work. Each has a different environment and culture and therefore a
different opportunity to make discoveries. I firmly believe that we
need to maintain this diversity of research opportunities and maintain
the strength of all of these different parts of our research landscape.
Similarly, researchers can go to a multitude of agencies for
support of research in their own institutions. The National Science
Foundation, NASA, the Dept. of Energy, the intelligence agencies, and
the various military agencies like DARPA, ONR, AFOSR, and ARO all
provide opportunities for funding basic research with different
missions, styles and cultures. The NSF relies on extensive peer review
from multiple outside experts, while the ONR often makes decisions
based on the judgment of a single internal program manager. NASA often
provides support for projects over decades while DARPA changes its
portfolio on a much shorter time scale. I got my start in large part
because a single manager at the Office of Naval Research believed in me
and was interested in the military applications of better clocks.
Different aspects of my work have, at various times also been supported
by NASA and the NSA. I am keenly aware of the importance of the ability
to seek support from agencies with different agendas and styles. And I
believe that it is vital that we maintain each of these various
sources, with their individual cultures, with a strong basic research
component: I do not believe that any research institution is well
served if it lacks a strong basic research program. I urge that we
resist attempts to homogenize the approach to funding. I do not believe
we would be well served if all agencies acted like DARPA, or if they
all acted like the NSF. I do not believe we would be well served if all
research were done in universities or if all research were done in
mission agencies like NIST. We need that diversity--it is one of the
most important things that makes our nation great in the sphere of
Finally, just as the research environment that we enjoy at NIST has
been crucial to the success of our NIST mission, the research
environment in the U.S. is essential to American competitiveness on the
global scene. That environment has been the magnet that has drawn the
best scientific minds from around the world to the U.S. to study, to
collaborate with U.S. scientists, and often to remain in the U.S.,
become Americans, and add permanently to our scientific strength.
Unfortunately, legitimate concerns about national security may have the
unintended consequence of isolating the U.S. scientifically. There is a
strong perception among many foreign scientists that the U.S. has
become a less hospitable place for scientific collaboration. The
organizing committees of some international conferences are avoiding
venues in the U.S. because of concerns that some participants may be
denied visas. U.S. researchers are concerned that students or visitors
from certain countries may be unable to work in their laboratories
because of deemed export regulations regarding who is allowed to work
with certain classes of equipment. Foreign students, who provide a
substantial fraction of the manpower for the discovery engine of
American university research, are now choosing other countries in which
to pursue advanced degrees in part because of their perceptions about
the U.S. attitude toward foreigners. Today, close to one half of the
high tech science and engineering positions filled in the U.S. are
filled by foreign born workers. We need to improve the educational
pipeline supplying American workers for our high-tech needs, and we
need to find ways, compatible with our real national security needs, to
continue to welcome the best of the foreign scientists as students,
visitors, collaborators, and immigrants. If we do not, we run the risk
of marginalizing the U.S. scientific enterprise, of putting ourselves
outside of the mainstream marketplace of ideas; we run the risk of not
being in the game.
The beginning of the 21st century is an incredibly exciting place
to be for any scientist. We look at a physical world that is still full
of mystery-unsolved problems of the most fundamental sort, problems
whose solutions are likely to change our lives in unanticipated ways,
just as the revolutionary discoveries of the 20th century did. I want
the U.S. to be the world leader in making the great discoveries of this
century and in claiming the fruits of those discoveries. I know that
you do as well, and I trust that you will work hard to make it happen.
I know that I will.
Thank you very much for your concern and for your attention. I will
be happy to respond to questions.
Biography for William D. Phillips
Date of Birth: 5 November 1948
Place of Birth: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, USA
Citizenship: United States
Camp Hill High School, Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, diploma (Valedictorian)
Juniata College, Huntington, Pennsylvania, B.S., Physics, summa cum
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Ph.D.,
Physics, 1976. Thesis under Prof. Daniel Kleppner, thesis
title: I. The Magnetic Moment of the Proton in H2O;
II. Inelastic Collisions in Excited Na.
Scientific Experience after Ph.D.:
1978-present: Physicist, National Bureau of Standards (Now National
Institute for Standards and Technology; 1990-96: Group Leader
of the Laser Cooled and Trapped Atoms Group of the Atomic
Physics Division; 1996-98, NIST Fellow; 1998-present: NIST
Fellow and Group Leader of the Laser Cooling and Trapping
2001-present: Distinguished University Professor, University of
Maryland, College Park MD (on leave).
2002-2003: George Eastman Visiting Professor, Balliol College and
Clarendon Laboratory, Department of Physics, University of
1992-2001: Adjunct Professor of Physics, University of Maryland,
1989-1990: Visiting Professor at Ecole Normale Superieure, Paris, in
the laboratory of Claude Cohen-Tannoudji and Alain Aspect.
1976-1978: Chaim Weizmann Postdoctoral Fellow at Massachusetts
Institute of Technology.
Awards and Honors:
Pennsylvania State Scholarship, 1966-1970.
C.C. Ellis Memorial Scholarship, 1969-1970.
Election to Juniata College Honor Society, 1969.
Woodrow Wilson Fellow, 1970.
National Science Foundation Fellow, 1970-1973.
Chaim Weizmann Postdoctoral Fellow, 1976-1978.
Outstanding Young Scientist Award of the Maryland Academy of Sciences,
Scientific Achievement Award of the Washington Academy of Sciences,
Silver Medal of the Department of Commerce, 1983.
Samuel Wesley Stratton Award of the National Bureau of Standards, 1987.
Arthur S. Flemming Award of the Washington Downtown Jaycees, 1988.
Gold Medal of the Dept. of Commerce, 1993.
Election to American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1995.
Election as a NIST Fellow, 1995.
Michelson Medal of the Franklin Institute, 1996.
Distinguished Traveling Lecturer (APS-DLS), 1996-98.
Election to the National Academy of Sciences, 1997.
Nobel Prize in Physics, 1997. Nobel Prize Citation: ``for development
of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light'' The 1997
prize was shared with Steven Chu of Stanford University and
Claude Cohen-Tannoudji of the Ecole Normale Superieure, Paris.
Honorary Doctor of Science, Williams College, 1998.
Doctor Honoris Causa de la Universidad de Buenos Aires, 1998.
Arthur L. Schawlow Prize in Laser Science (APS), 1998.
Honorary Doctor of Science, Juniata College, 1999.
American Academy of Achievement Award, 1999.
Gold Medal of the Pennsylvania Society, 1999.
Richtmeyer Award of the Am. Assoc. of Physics Teachers, 2000.
Election to the European Academy of Arts, Sciences and Humanities
(titular member), 2000.
Condon Award of NIST, 2002.
Archie Mahan Prize of the OSA.
Election as an Honorary Freeman of the Worshipful Company of
Scientitific Instrument Makers, London, 2003.
Election as an alumni member of Juniata College's chapter of Omicron
Delta Kappa, the National Leadership Honor Society, 2004.
Election as an Honorary Member of the Optical Society of America.
Appointed an Academician of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 2004.
Chairman Ehlers. Thank you very much.
STATEMENT OF DR. ERIC A. CORNELL, SENIOR SCIENTIST, NIST
LABORATORY; FELLOW, JILA; 2001 NOBEL PRIZE WINNER FOR PHYSICS
Dr. Cornell. Chairman Ehlers and Members of the
Subcommittee, please allow me to briefly introduce myself and
My name is Eric Cornell. I was hired by NIST in 1992 to do
research in quantum optics. Then, as now, NIST was known in the
world of physical sciences as a place where great technology
meets great ideas and, I must say, great people. In those days,
Jan and Bill here were already great draws and a good reason to
come to NIST and the idea that I could work with the likes of
that was a thrill for me.
The management at NIST encouraged me to pursue a high-risk
research program at the cutting edge of modern physics, and
today, NIST continues to be, and perhaps even more so, an
incubator for quantum science in the United States. And many of
the leaders in the field, even if they don't work at NIST at
the time, have come through a NIST lab at one time or another
in their careers.
I won't spend a lot of time rambling about my favorite
topic, the physics of the ultra-cold, suffice it to say that
when you chill a gas down to within a millionth of a degree or
a billionth of a degree of absolute zero, the atoms in the gas
all merge together to form a ``super atom,'' and this state of
matter, called the Bose-Einstein condensate, was what I was
awarded the Nobel Prize for in 2001.
What has Bose-Einstein condensation been good for?
Well, for example, it is being use in an effort to develop
a new generation of sensitive accelerometers, which you could
use for remote sensing and for navigation by dead reckoning,
like in submarines. But in the long run, Bose-Einstein
condensation is likely to be more important because of its role
as a scientific building block, a tool to help us understand
and to tame quantum mechanics, and there are many examples of
how taming quantum mechanics has made, and will make, a big
difference to our country in the coming two decades. And I will
tell you just one example, which is called quantum computing.
Bill has already alluded to it.
Quantum computing is this really amazing idea that came out
of the 1990s. Inside any computer, there are millions of tiny
switches, called bits, and these switches can either be on or
off, one or zero. And these bits are what a computer uses to
make calculations. A quantum computer has something called
quantum bits, and magic--or Q-bits, and the magic of quantum
bits is that unlike conventional transistors, which are either
on or off, quantum bits can simultaneously be both one and
zero. It is a weird idea, something hard to bend your mind
around, but the power of this possibility comes in when you
start stringing many of these bits together with 60 ordinary
computer bits, conventional bits. If you string them in a row,
you can represent any number between one and about a
quadrillion. Okay. But with 60 quantum bits in a row, with each
bit being both one and zero at the same time, you can
simultaneously represent every number between one and a
So, why would you want to do that?
Well, a major computational problem, which is very
important to our national security and to our economy, is
breaking very large numbers up into their prime factors, into
the two numbers you multiply together so that it comes out
evenly. Roughly speaking, a very large number is like a code,
and its prime factors are a key to the code. Prime factors are
at the heart of modern cryptography, and that is what makes
possible secure military and diplomatic communications and also
the secure electronic transactions that are at the heart of our
banking and finance system. And if this system of cryptography
were to be threatened, it could cripple our economy in days or
So this is where quantum computing comes in. Suppose, as a
cryptographer, you want to know the two numbers that multiply
together to make up some huge number near a quadrillion. You
want to know its prime factors. You want to crack this code.
One way you could do it is to take this--take every number
between one and a quadrillion and try and divide it into the
huge number. And if it goes evenly, those are the prime
factors. Those are the keys to the code. But even for a very
fast computer, it takes a long time to do a quadrillion
Suppose, instead, that your computer were made of quantum
bits. What you can do is take your 60 quantum bits, which
simultaneously represent every number between one and a
quadrillion, and use your quantum computer to try and divide
that number into the huge number you are trying to factor. And
in a single computational process, you can find out which ones
work, and you can break the code maybe a billion times faster
than a conventional computer.
The implications for secure economic transactions are
profound. These quantum computers could also find use in
solving difficult problems like protein folding in order to
design a new generation of pharmaceuticals.
None of this is going to happen next week, maybe not even
in 2007. It is a hard problem, but I think we need to try.
Members of the Committee, I wish I could tell you what will
be the big new industry of the year 2020, but no one can know
the answer for sure, and that, really, is why scientific
research and discovery is so important to our country. Without
knowing for sure what the next big thing will be, no one can
know. We can still remain cautiously optimistic that that next
big thing, like the Internet, like computers, like transistors,
or whatever the next big thing, we can remain somewhat
cautiously optimistic that it will be an American thing.
Optimistic, because over the last 50 years, as the American
economy has benefited from many cycles of emerging technology
becoming high tech and then becoming low tech and being moved
overseas, the one thing that hasn't changed has been America's
lead in scientific research. We stay on the cutting edge and we
We have to be cautious because, while our lead has been
emplaced for five decades, the next five decades are no sure
thing. Let us protect our lead.
I would like to conclude my testimony by pointing out that
not every measure that Congress could take to nurture the
science research requires additional spending. In my personal
opinion, and I want to echo what Bill has said, one fact that
has made America's high-tech industry and research so
successful over the years has been the steady influx of
brilliance and creative, hardworking, driven science and
engineering students from all around the world who come here.
After their graduation, many of these students have stayed in
our country to contribute to the vitality of our high-tech
sector. When this happens, the big winners are American
industry and the American people. Other nations' brain-drain
has been America's brain-gain. When we make it easier for the
smartest of the world's young people to come here to study and
easier for them to stay here afterwards and apply their skills
to work in the American economy, we help no one more than we
I would like to thank this subcommittee once again for
allowing me to testify before you today, and I am very happy to
answer any questions.
[The prepared statement of Dr. Cornell follows:]
Prepared Statement of Eric A. Cornell
Chairman Ehlers and Members of the Subcommittee, please allow me to
briefly introduce myself and my research. My name is Eric Cornell and I
was hired by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
in 1992 to do research in quantum optics. Then as now NIST was known in
the world of the physical sciences as a place where great technology
meets great ideas, so I was thrilled to get the job. Management at NIST
encouraged me to pursue a high-risk research program at the cutting
edge of modern physics. NIST continues to be something of an incubator
for quantum science in the U.S. Many of the leaders in the field have
come through a NIST lab at one time or another in their careers.
For my part, I set out to make the World's Coldest Gas, building on
techniques developed by my fellow NIST scientists, Drs. Jan Hall and
Bill Phillips. Why would we want to make the World's Coldest Gas? There
were several reasons. It turns out that cold gases are a useful
environment for making extremely precise measurements, which is a
capability at the heart of NIST's standards mission. Perhaps more
important to me personally was that I knew that often times you can do
the most exciting science if you can work right at the boundary of a
current technological frontier, and one of science's key frontiers is
the frontier of very low temperature. Every time we've been able to
reach new heights (really ``depths'') in low temperature, exciting
physics has followed.
I won't use the Committee's time to ramble on about my favorite
topic, the physics of extreme low temperatures, but I will tell you
that when a gas, made of atoms, gets colder and colder, those atoms,
sure, move slower and slower. But there are also more subtle changes.
For one thing, at room temperature, atoms act like little billiard
balls, bouncing off the walls and off each other. But close to the very
lowest possible temperatures, (known as ``absolute zero'') atoms stop
acting like little balls and start acting instead like little waves.
And at the VERY lowest temperatures, within a millionth of a degree of
absolute zero, the atoms all merge together to form one super-atom-
wave, a new state of matter called a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC).
Predicted by Albert Einstein back in 1925, the Bose-Einstein condensate
had never been achieved until we finally found it at NIST in 1995. It
was for this achievement that I shared (with my colleague from
University of Colorado, Carl Wieman and with Wolfgang Ketterle) the
2001 Nobel Prize in physics.
Where has Bose-Einstein condensation led us, in the ten years since
we first created it? What, in particular has it been good for? BEC has
found several direct applications, and in particular we and other
research groups around the country are trying to develop precision
accelerometers, gravitometers, and gyroscopes, to be used for remote
sensing and navigation by dead reckoning. In the long run, BEC is
likely to be still more important because of its role as a scientific
building block, a tool to help us understand and tame quantum
mechanics, and to put quantum mechanics to use on problems with
relevance to our economy, our health, and our national security.
Let me share with you two examples of how the taming of quantum
mechanics may make a big difference to our country in the coming two
decades. The first is quantum computing.
Quantum computing is one of the most amazing concepts to come out
of the 1990s. What puts the ``quantum'' in quantum computing is so-
called ``quantum bits.'' In an ordinary computer, there are millions of
tiny switches, called bits, that can be either on or off, one or zero.
The bits are the memory of the computer, and the bits are what a
computer uses to make calculations. A ``quantum bit,'' or ``qbit,''
transcends the traditional requirement that a bit be either ``on'' or
``off.'' A qbit instead can simultaneously be in a combination of
``on'' or ``off.'' The power of this possibility comes in when you
start stringing many qbits together. With ten bits in a row, with
different combinations of ``ones'' or ``zeros,'' you can represent any
number between zero and 1023. With ten quantum bits in a row, each in a
superposition of one and zero, you can simultaneously represent every
number between one and a thousand.
Why would one want to do that? We can take as an example a
computational problem which is extremely important to our national
security and our economy--breaking large numbers up into their prime
factors. Prime factors are at the heart of our cryptography systems,
which allow for secure military and diplomatic communications, but also
are at the heart of our banking and finance system. Businesses, banks,
and increasingly ordinary consumers do not send cash or even checks for
transactions--they send encrypted ones and zeros. If this system of
cryptography is threatened, it could cripple our economy in days or
hours. Roughly speaking, very large numbers are the code, and the prime
numbers that divide in evenly are the key to the code.
Here is where quantum computing comes in. Suppose you want to find
out what are the factors of 999,997. One way you could do that is to
take every number from one to a thousand, and try to divide it into
999,997. The ones that go in evenly, those are the prime factors! Even
for a modern computer, it takes a while to do one thousand divisions.
Suppose instead your computer is made of quantum bits. What you can do
is take your ten quantum bits, which simultaneously represent every
number between one and a thousand, and try to divide that number into
999,997. In one single mathematical operation, you can find out if any
of those numbers divide in evenly, and thus crack the code in one
operation instead of in one thousand.
For cryptography, you don't care about numbers like 999,997--you
care about numbers that are a trillion trillion times larger, and what
are the prime factors of those numbers. Using a quantum computer, you
could answer that question in principle a trillion times faster than
you can with an ordinary computer, even a so-called ``super-computer.''
The implications for secure communications and economic transactions
There are other extremely difficult problems in computing, problems
which are too hard for even the fastest modern computers to solve. One
of these is the problem of protein folding, the way in which chains of
amino acids bundle in on one another to form the parts that make up
living biological cell. If this folding goes wrong, you get mad cow
disease. The flip side is if you can learn to control and predict
protein folding, you have a very powerful tool for designing the next
generation of drugs. This is the sort of problem that a breakthrough in
quantum computing could hugely impact, again by allowing one to do
trillions of calculations all at once.
None of this is going to happen tomorrow. What I have left out of
this whirlwind geewhiz presentation of the potential of quantum
computing is that there is no working quantum computer now, and don't
count on there being one in 2007, either! The scientific and technical
challenges associated with constructing quantum bits, and stringing
them together into an integrated computer, are immense. In a modern
conventional computer, there are literally billions of zero-one bits. A
modern quantum computer would be so much more powerful than a
conventional computer that it would not need billions of quantum bits
in order to do amazing things. But it would need thousands of quantum
bits. Currently the best experimental quantum computing teams are able
to string together about four, maybe six quantum bits. Still, my own
opinion is that quantum computing is such a powerful idea, it really
must be explored.
So why is it important that the U.S. conduct this research? As with
any problem, human nature dictates that there will always be curious
people trying to come up with a solution. Quantum physics is no
different. Teams from around the globe are conducting research trying
to solve the riddle of quantum computing. If the U.S. stays on the
sidelines, then we will watch others make profound discoveries that
will ultimately improve the competitiveness of their industries and
quality of life. The big question is what is going to be the big new
industry of 2020? If I knew the answer, I would not be here in front of
you testifying--I'd be off setting up my own high-tech venture capital
company instead. No one knows the answer for sure, that is why
scientific research and discovery is so important. Without knowing for
sure what the next big thing will be, we can remain cautiously
optimistic that that big thing will be an American thing. The reason
for optimism is that, over the last fifty years, as the American
economy has benefited from many cycles of emerging technology, the one
big thing that hasn't changed has been America's lead in science
research. The reason for caution is that, while our lead has remained
in place for 50 years, it need not remain for another 50. It needs to
I'd like to conclude my testimony by pointing out in that not every
measure that Congress could take to nurture science research requires
additional spending. In my personal opinion, one fact that has made
American high tech research and industry so successful over the years
has been the steady influx of brilliant, creative, and hardworking
science and engineering students from all around the world. After their
graduation, many of these students have stayed on in our country to
contribute to the vitality of our high-tech sector. When this happens,
the big winners are American industry and the American people. Other
nations' brain drain has been America's brain gain! When we make it
easier for the smartest of the world's young people to come here to
study, and easier for them to stay here afterwards and put their skills
to work in the American economy, we help no one more than we help
I would like to thank the Subcommittee once again for allowing me
to testify before you today. I will be happy to answer any questions.
Biography for Eric A. Cornell
B.S., Physics, with honor and with distinction,
Stanford University, 1985
Ph.D., Physics, MIT, 1990
Fellow, JILA, NIST and University of Colorado at
Senior Scientist, National Institute of Standards and
Technology, Boulder, 1992-present
Professor Adjoint, Physics Department, University of
Colorado, Boulder, 1995-present
Assistant Professor Adjoint, Physics Department,
University of Colorado, Boulder, 1992-1995
Post-Doctorate, Joint Institute for Laboratory
Astrophysics, Boulder, 1990-1992
Summer Post-Doctorate, Rowland Institute, Cambridge,
Research Assistant, MIT, 1985-1990; Teaching Fellow,
Harvard Extension School, 1989
Research Assistant, Stanford University, 1982-1985
Honors and Awards
Member, National Academy of Sciences, 2000
Fellow, Optical Society of America; Elected 2000 R.W.
Wood Prize, Optical Society of America, 1999
Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics, 1999
Lorentz Medal, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and
Fellow, The American Physical Society; Elected 1997
I.I. Rabi Prize in Atomic, Molecular and Optical
Physics, American Physical Society, 1997
King Faisal International Prize in Science, 1997
National Science Foundation Alan T. Waterman Award,
Carl Zeiss Award, Ernst Abbe Fund, 1996
Fritz London Prize in Low Temperature Physics, 1996
Department of Commerce Gold Medal, 1996
Presidential Early Career Award in Science and
Newcomb-Cleveland Prize, American Association for the
Advancement of Science, 1995-96
Samuel Wesley Stratton Award, National Institute of
Science and Technology, 1995
Firestone Award for Excellence in Undergraduate
National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship,
Chairman Ehlers. Thank you very much.
Dr. Hall. Just push the button, and perhaps pull it closer
STATEMENT OF DR. JOHN ``JAN'' L. HALL, SCIENTIST EMERITUS, NIST
LABORATORY; FELLOW, JILA; 2005 NOBEL PRIZE WINNER FOR PHYSICS
Dr. Hall. Mr. Chairman, Honorable Congressmen, other
colleagues acting in the public's service, and ladies and
gentlemen, I am absolutely delighted to have the chance to
interact with your public forum about the issues which I see as
challenging us for the next time. If I have a moment at the
end, I would even, since I am now retired, undertake to discuss
some of the 600-pound gorillas that are in our room and somehow
never get attention.
In brief, the NIST has gone from, when I first joined in
1961, mixed strengths to a case where it is, really, I think,
the world's strongest research organization, at this point. But
we, in earlier times, had other American organizations carrying
letters, like IBM and Bell Telephone Laboratories and General
Electric, but we know that story. We have somehow gotten
confused about where our strengths are. No one is taking care
of--or few people are taking care of the long-term interests,
which are about basic research and about application of
resources to training the next generation of people.
In JILA, I had seen the possibilities of this quantum
optics, the precursor to the quantum computing that Eric
mentioned, and the NIST was responsive to my proposal to start
one post-doctorate project. We interviewed for candidates, and
one candidate showed up who was completely smarter than the
rest of them, but he had his own dream. He wanted to fool
around with Bose-Einstein condensation. So I hired Eric
Cornell, helped to hire him, and used my money, which was for
quantum optics. And less than this chart. They didn't say
anything. They didn't say, ``Oh, that is really a bad thing.
You can't do that. We have this programmatic objective.'' They
understand that the best-trained, smartest people are the
fundamental resource for the country. So in the end,
collaboration with Jeff Kimble at Cal-Tech, we did get to the
place that this quantum optics works, and it is basically the
tool, which, along with the laser stabilization and cold atom
control, which made possible this new scenario that we will
have quantum-based computing.
So again, the people are the resource, and if we don't take
advantage of the people who would like to come and work here,
that is really going to be a pity for us.
A second thread that I would like to focus on is the issue
about motivations. And my experience has been that people can
work together and they can make nice progress when there is
some reciprocal respect between them. And it may be a long-
distance respect, for example, the collaborators that I didn't
know anything about. In 1960, lasers were invented. One of them
was running continuously and was a little bit steady, and I saw
the prospect to make it even more steady and even more steady.
And so completely boring, it would never change, even in a few
seconds. The other people saw the possibility to bring a lot of
energy in a short time, melt some steel, then it would be
better if it melted it quicker. And finally, you have probably
seen glass exhibits where there are white dots inside. Those
are burned in by lasers with extremely short pulses. So these
two ideas, cultures went around the world and met again in JILA
when we hired another person that was a laser specialist. His
laser needed my control techniques, and that merger made
possible the stable lasers that are the basis of this optical
comb. Another thing were people who were trying to design
fibers that would carry signals under the sea. And with that,
one would like to have all of the colors go at the same speed.
Well, that turns out to be wrong for that purpose but perfect
for making white light out of the laser impulse. So here are
two more current ones, and one from industry as well, which
made possible the comb and the comb is now a tool, which, I
guess, is our best measurement tool. So then the question of
what will you find, who knows, but we do know that there are
lots of scientific puzzles. For example, we have dark matter
that is 70 percent of all of the matter that there is and we
don't know anything about it.
The last topic that I would just like to say about is about
the consequences of--unintended consequences from choices. I
feel that industry is the place where the last step of research
ought to happen. We have students that really know how to do
something. Oftentimes, they are students now for five years or
something. And they may be from another country. And then if
they need to change their visa status to be employees, there is
a problem. So we absolutely need to deal with the issue of
being able to retain trained people. The universities have
access to visitors' visas, and the companies ultimately have
it, and in the meantime, there is either a lost year or a lost
genius, which is just happening in my lab.
The second thing is the companies should be economically
encouraged to try to make investments in research. And I think
some kind of tilt so that there was a tax about trading would
be a good idea. I don't know any of the details, but my general
concept is that there is no advantage to the country to have
fast churning. And someone who says he made money by trading
shares in the weekend I think is not helping us. Somebody who
keeps money in his project for five years, he should have some
just reward. So we should have a tax at those--anyway, those
are just suggested ideas.
The main issue is about kids. I absolutely love kids. Many
people think I am wasting my time going to magnet schools
talking to the seventh and eighth graders. That is where the
energy is coming from, and that is--I just love those kids. I
only hope I last long enough to see them when they get into our
Thanks for letting me testify.
[The prepared statement of Dr. Hall follows:]
Prepared Statement of John L. Hall
Mr. Chairman, Honorable Congressmen, other Colleagues engaged in
the Public's Service, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I believe I have been invited briefly to discuss the role of NIST
in my field of Science, namely precision spectroscopy, and several
broader issues. However, now being a little older and thereby
predisposed to give advice, at the end if there is time I will make use
of my retirement status to speak of several ugly 600 pound Gorilla that
trouble our space, but are not often a part of public discussions.
The role that NIST plays in my field of science
To be brief, the NIST has developed from mixed strengths in the
1960's to the present status of one of the strongest research
organizations that exist. Regrettably, perhaps I should have said
``that still exist.'' What NIST (and its predecessor, NBS) have done
well is to establish a climate of excellence and intellectual openness
wherein the research staff are proud to be members, and to recruit the
most talented young scientists as they become available from time to
time. For example, I pursued development of a series of Optical
Frequency Standards, and related technology, from the late 1960's until
my retirement in 2004. By articulating a vision of research into
Metrology, broadly defined, NIST has gradually awarded freedom to each
of us to follow our own sense of what is important to NIST's mission.
It is not abdication of the Management's control and oversight role,
rather it is development of a cooperative vision and synthesis of
insights of our working-level people who are in the research labs and
can make suggestions for new frontier opportunities and research areas.
My relationship with NIST is a success story about trust--and the use
of really long ropes in the exercise of control. Typically the NIST
scientists can see some technical opportunity that will be of
significant interest to NIST's metrology responsibility. Once this was
about a program proposed by me, and accepted by NIST Management, of an
exploration into the field of Quantum Optics, which has now become a
really hot research field, at the edge of entering actual practical
application, in the distribution of secret cryptographic keys. Among
the candidates who applied for this new JILA position, there was a
young fellow with a persistent interest in some hypothetical process
called Bose Condensation. Dr. Eric Cornell's vision and capability for
achieving BEC later was wildly successful as you know, leading to his
Nobel Prize in 2001. About the JILA Quantum Optics Program, later on we
did succeed well in this research in a collaboration with Professor
Jeff Kimble at Cal Tech. I note also that NIST did not say a single
word of criticism to me for urging my JILA colleagues to welcome Eric
Cornell into this JILA/NIST position, even though it assured only a
delayed success on our nominal Quantum Optics super-sensitive detection
program. Evidently, and much more importantly to NIST, we caught
another ``really good one'' into the organization. It confirms the
NIST's respect for the eternal reality that brilliant well-trained
people are the fundamental resource of the Nation. We need them on-
board. We need to learn how to produce more. And we need to reduce the
negative aspects, as I note below.
The steps between ideas, realizations, and the Nobel Prize
My professional work has been to understand the issues in building
Atomic Clocks that would be based on the using ``clicks'' provided by
optical--rather than radio domain--reference transitions. With more
vibrations completed per second, but with only the same blurring
effects, clearly we can win resolution by enjoying the many-fold more
counts associated with the optical system. After the opening up of
China in the early `80's, when my first Chinese colleague arrived, I
announced to him my career dream--to make a laser so stable that one Hz
would be the operative level of accuracy. At the time, five million Hz
was a good narrow linewidth. In these 40 quick years, the JILA/NIST/
University of Colorado enterprise has spun off a half-dozen of the
world's best researchers in this field, most of whom continue as NIST
employees still pushing this frontier. Indeed in the two years since I
retired their advances have been nothing short of spectacular. AND
we've reached below one Hz with a simpler approach!
Well, perhaps this objective of achieving a factor of five million
linewidth improvement did seem profoundly optimistic. But with the
clear NIST interest and standards need, and a diversity of support by
various agencies by our emphasizing one aspect or another of the
research, it was possible to have this 25 additional years running
toward the goal line. On two occasions NBS/NIST supported massive
development programs (scale of 5-8 persons times three or four years),
with the purpose of measuring the optical frequency on an absolute
scale. The laser standards had clear promise, but they lived in an
isolated measurement domain with frequencies five million-fold higher
than the FM radio band uses. So while everyone can expect the narrow
optical lines would offer better frequency stability, no one knew an
effective way to actually measure their frequencies--their vibrations
occurred about 100,000--fold faster than we were able to processes
electronically. This big gap had been spanned first in 1972 by a heroic
cooperation of about eight NBS scientists in a four-year program to
measure the frequency of a methane-stabilized laser, the first laser
stabilized effectively by molecules. I had developed this scheme in
1969 with a NBS colleague, the late Richard Barger. The concept of that
time was to use step-after-step factors of two increase in the working
frequency--a dozen steps or so--with different technologies adapted for
their different wavelength bands. This was really hard work.
Barger and I measured the wavelength of the laser by comparison
with the then-existing international Krypton wavelength standard, based
on a discharge lamp light source. The frequency measurement team was
headed by Dr. Ken Evenson, also now deceased. The product of wavelength
and frequency is the speed of light, and in this way we obtained the
value which essentially was the basis for the official redefinition of
the Metre in 1983.
The first of the new enabling ideas for better frequency
measurement methods came in 1978 from Veniamin Chebotayev in
Novosibirsk and from Ted Hansch at Stanford. Both colleagues admired
the always-shorter pulses available from the newest generations of
lasers, and were moved to think of the correspondingly increased
frequency bandwidth, according to the Uncertainty Principle. One decade
later their audacity had reached the place where they were thinking
about pulses 100-fold shorter than the best actual results, since this
shorter pulse would be short enough to bring the associated frequency
bandwidth up to cover most of the visible domain. If such as laser were
to be given a reliable and steady ``heartbeat'' of repeating pulses,
the broad visible spectrum would be changed from a smooth, broad lump,
into a lump of the same overall envelope, but no longer smooth, but
rather intensely structured. Because of the uniform time pulsing, a
uniform ``comb'' of optical frequencies was to be created. Lasers of
the day could be amplified to produce broad spectra, but were not
rapid-firing. This essentially mathematical basis for the ``Comb'' was
documented in Ted's writeup of 1996 or '97.
A crucial new element showed up in 1999, a fast-repeating mode-
locked laser just coming into the market. Its power was just a normal
level (less than a watt), but the pulses were exceedingly short in
time. This means really high power on the peak, since the laser is ON
only one millionth of the time. Indeed those lasers were able to zap
many objects. Perhaps you have seen solid glass objects with bubbles
inside, produced by the extremely high intensities available with
focusing such a laser. A Bell-Labs team explored the results that could
be produced by focusing part of this power into an optical fiber. This
idea seemed especially attractive since, if the light could ever be
focused into it, the fiber would keep it spatially confined. Some
broadening of the spectrum was observed, but nothing incredible.
What really made the difference was an added idea, that of a
special fiber design using tiny air tubes surrounding the inner glass
rod that carries the light. Because tube-size to rod size ratio could
be varied, the Bell Labs team had a fiber designed so that light of all
visible colors could travel at basically the same speed. Then those
powerful laser pulses would stay sharp in time, keeping a sharp hammer
pulse traveling through even some meters of the fiber. But the high
peak power affects the glass to respond in a nonlinear way, generating
new colors as the light traveled through the ``Magic Rainbow Fiber.''
After we finally managed to get a sample of this fiber, we needed about
one month to merge the fiber plus the femtosecond pulse laser plus my
frequency-stabilized reference laser, which we had developed for
standards work in my lab.
An interesting aspect of this ``race for the finish'' was the mixed
cooperative/competitive relationship between our labs and the ones of
Professor Ted Hansch in Munich. I had met Ted just when his University
studies were ending in 1969, and we have been friends for many years. I
have been on ``sabbatical'' study at his labs in Stanford, which led to
a nice joint patent on laser stabilization. Later I was a Humboldt
Senior Visiting Scientist at his new Max Planck Institute labs in
Munich. By exchanging Postdoc colleagues regularly when the competition
got hot, each group was kept up-to-date about the other group's
progress and new techniques. Their group got the first publication
showing the principle, published on 10 April 2000. Our first paper
showed an additional nice aspect of the time behavior of the pulses,
and was published on 29 April 2000, merely 18 days later. A joint paper
appeared a month later. Five years and a few months later we ``got the
The first generation of applications are essentially in science:
synchronizing UltraFast lasers, providing spectral extension by adding
the outputs of two lasers, providing ``Designer'' optical waveforms for
Quantum Control experiments. One hugely exciting area is already
demonstrated by my colleague, Dr. Jun Ye. This is using the comb laser
pulse as the input beam to a resonant cavity with its cavity modes
matching the frequency intervals in the comb. Then there are 10,000
parallel experiments prepared: he watches the ``ring-down'' curves, in
principle, of all of these illuminated modes. At frequencies where
intra-cavity molecules provide additional absorption, the stored cavity
power ring-down will be quicker in time. This wavelength-time picture
is captured on a CCD camera, with one axis showing the wavelength-
dispersed colors, and the other direction is a time-sweep imposed by a
fast deflector. This is parallel processing in the extreme. They have
already demonstrated sensitivities at a level of possible interest in
the Airport Sniffing application, and several companies have expressed
interest in the concept.
Exciting applications of the comb will be in measurement
applications, but now of big things. Like Boeing airplanes. The comb
has sharply defined temporal AND wavelength aspects, which allow one to
do ranging for getting the first distance estimate and then enhance the
sensitivity by using interferometry. This comb scheme will be
definitive for NASA in Formation-Flying projects.
Issues that negatively impact the development of science and
technologists in the U.S.
A. Bad feedback discourages self-investment efforts
1. to students: electronic and computer engineering is done
2. World-leadership scientists have been preparing apparatus
for flight experiments in the next several years. However, the
abrupt change of NASA's direction shows young people that there
is no real use for them to prepare themselves to do great
3. bad feedback to high achievers also--for example, a Nobel
Prize is ordinary income (seems like long-term gain on
investment to me--44 years investment +9 in college)
B. Taxation Implications in business
1. Tax structure should encourage research in companies. Need
to make such investment attractive, is spite of concern to keep
research results inside.
a. Just giving a tax credit is probably not enough.
2. Have to change investor behavior to accept longer-term
a. Make capital gain tax high for weekend traders--
they don't contribute to progress, represent friction
b. A tax on gains may not damp this enough--also tax
on the purchase?
c. But reduce capital gain tax slowly over time. Maybe
ends in seven years.
C. Immigration Problems
1. Visa Problem is causing the U.S. to become isolated
a. Can't organize meetings in U.S. because visa
processing is too slow
b. Can't get new crop of postdocs because of limit on
2. University research can't be transferred to industry and
developed because of visa limit. Industry has to apply for new
H1B visa, and this usual means waiting until October for the
next quota. This prevents capitalizing on our creative works.
D. Counting of jobs changes in economy is dishonest in the extreme. We
lose jobs in manufacturing and research, and create ones at minimum
wage. Net disposable income is lower. Now Mom has to work too. Family
is under stress. Parents are too tired to help kids by interest in
school affairs. This means Disaster at school. No wonder things are
going bad for our competitiveness: only the very first cost was
considered by the business managers. The societal costs of going
offshore may be sinking us. WHO IS THINKING ABOUT THESE COUPLED
E. Other issues. System of just-in-time delivery is wasteful of
energy. We don't have storage of parts anymore. Often I have to wait
for next manufacturer run. For thin Tungsten wire we had a one-year
delivery, used to get it from their stock. No inventory is kept--reason
is inventory tax on Finished Goods, not on parts.
Gravitational Red Shift
Chairman Ehlers. Thank you very much for your comments.
We will now open our first round of questions. And I have
numerous questions. Obviously, I can't be limited to five
minutes, so I suspect we are going to have several rounds of
But let me also just take a moment to introduce another
star from NIST. And it is very appropriate to call her a star,
because she is a master physicist, Katharine Gebbie. If you
will, would you rise, please, Katharine? And she was a real
groundbreaker. She was also at JILA when I was there, but a
real groundbreaker in the world of astrophysics. Very few women
were in it at the time you started, as I recall. So thank you
for what you have done.
First of all, Dr. Phillips, before we met, and I think this
will be an interesting illustration of how things have changed
in science in the past decade and what some of your discoveries
mean. You mentioned that you can now measure the gravitational
red shift between Boulder and Washington, DC. And measuring the
red shift, for the politically intoned here, does not mean
measuring the shift toward the left or toward the communism.
Would you just give a brief explanation of----
Dr. Phillips. Back in 1916, Einstein came up with a new
theory of gravity. And one of the things that came out of that
theory was the idea that clocks would run a little bit slower
when they were deeper in a gravitational potential, which is to
say that a clock in Washington runs a little bit slower than a
clock in Boulder, since Boulder is about a mile higher than
Washington. And when I first came to NIST 27-and-some years
ago, the quality of clocks was such that that difference was
not something that people worried about. We had the very best
clocks in the world, but that difference of one mile was just
barely resolvable. It was about a part in 1013. Now
clocks have improved so much that the kind of clocks that are
coming out of the research that Jan Hall introduced are so good
that they can tell the difference between a clock--two clocks
separated by one foot. So what was barely visible at one mile
is now visible at one foot. And to me, it is just astounding
that this kind of development has occurred. The implications of
what you can do with that, both from a scientific point of view
and from a practical point of view, are just stunning. We
should be able to tell, with clocks this good, where Einstein
is wrong. And everybody believes that it has got to be wrong,
but nobody has ever found anything wrong with Einstein's
theories so far, but we believe they must be wrong, because we
know that the whole--the way in which physical theory fits
together is going to have to break down what Einstein told us.
We just don't know where and how. And these new clocks, I
think, are going to show us the route forward that may be the
next great breakthrough in our understanding of the physical
Chairman Ehlers. And let me just emphasize to the audience,
those who are not scientists, when we use the word ``clock''
here, it is somewhat different than the one hanging on the
wall. I recall when I was a graduate student, we had one of the
first atomic clocks ever built, in fact, the second one built.
And the press conference reporters coming in, the most common
question was ``Where is the face of the clock?'' So we brought
a $6 electric clock, plugged it in, and sat it on top, and all
of the reporters were happy.
The next question, Dr. Hall, I want to get back to your
600-pound gorilla. I am interested in where you see the
gorillas of the world today.
Dr. Hall. I worry about the feedback that we offer to
children. If one has had the joy of children in the family, or
perhaps learned how to live comfortably with a dog by going to
obedience school with a dog, you come to understand that
encouragement works and feedback works, and force, roughly
speaking, doesn't work. So in the case of the students, how are
you going to get good, young, smart American guys to go into
electronics and computer engineering, because as soon as that
reaches some level of perfection, then that job goes to another
country? And that is--really bothers me in our computing
science department in the University of Colorado. We were going
up, up, up and now down, down, down, because the smart kids
say, ``Oh, man, that is not going to be a good story.'' World
leadership scientists have been preparing apparatus for flight
experiments, testing these fundamental issues that Bill said
some of whether the Einstein gravity is the right picture. Out
at some mission-driven agency, a nameless one with letters like
N-A-S-A, has changed its course and now here are people with 12
years down stream, graduate students in the pipe, and all of a
sudden, they are high and dry because of the national change. I
really wish stuff like that would get discussed. That feedback
comes to high achievers as well. How does it seem to you to
have a long-term investment be rewarded in a very aggressive
kind of way? I know something about the history of why it is,
but I would have thought a Nobel Prize was something that ought
to be taxed like it was an investment for a long time. I have
been at it 44 years, and I had nine years of college before
that, and if that isn't long-term, I don't know. Only the tax
law says it is ordinary income. Now I don't give a crap about
it for myself, but it is a wrong message for kids.
So that is one of my gorillas.
Chairman Ehlers. Thank you. I appreciate your comments.
I am pleased to recognize Mr. Wu.
Mr. Wu. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Use of Previous Research
Let me begin sort of a little bit far a field and work in
toward what I want to ask.
Last night, we had 11 amendments aimed at various
provisions in an agricultural bill. And on the face of it,
maybe a hydroponics center in Ohio may or may not be a good
investment. I don't really know. I just know that we faced 11
of these amendments last night. We just barely, because of
airline schedules, avoided 14 similar amendments striking out
various provisions from an appropriations--interior
appropriations bill the night before. And I remember as a child
hearing about Golden Fleece Awards given out here in
Washington, DC. And maybe some folks really deserved the Golden
Fleece Award, and maybe some folks didn't. I know that some
things don't sound immediately productive when you just read
the caption or the title, but the saying that I have heard in
science, and it is probably true in statesmanship, also, is
that we all stand on the shoulders of giants. And it seems to
me that before us today, you three gentlemen, your work may be
somewhat related to each other that, to some extent, your work
has built upon each other and perhaps not. But you can probably
easily cite examples within NIST or within the scientific
community of examples where it may not have been immediately
apparent where the work was going or what the applications
would be, but later on, it led to tremendous things, whether it
is in basic science, applied, or industrial applications. You
may not know who may be standing on your shoulders in the
future, and you may not know whose shoulders you may be
standing on, but the necessity of standing on someone's
shoulders, I think, is clearly there, and I would like you to--
if you are--if somehow your three research projects were
dependent upon each other, to some extent, I would like you to
address that. And perhaps address some other aspects of
research to at least take a little bit of the steam out of the
political process of taking easy shots and awarding having
fewer phenomena, such as Golden Fleece Awards.
Dr. Phillips. Well, I would be happy to address that,
because I think you hit the nail right on the head. It is
exactly as you say and certainly has been the case in the
research of the people sitting at this table. I developed some
techniques that were able to get a gas of atoms really cold.
Eric, building on that, developed some more techniques to get
it even colder and then got this marvelous thing called a Bose-
Einstein condensate. As soon as we heard about Eric's success
in getting a Bose-Einstein condensate, we said, ``Wow. We want
some of that.'' And we built a whole program in our laboratory
based on Bose-Einstein condensates. And we are still working on
that. In the case of our relationship, things that I did ended
up being used in his lab, and things that he did ended up being
used in my lab and changed our whole directions of our
And as far as unanticipated things, when I first got
started, we were thinking about atomic clocks. It was a
mission-driven thing. We had a mission. This mission is
precision measurement, among other things, and clocks are one
of those things. And that is why we did it. We had no idea that
it was going to lead to things like Bose-Einstein condensates,
quantum computers. So these things are areas of research that
have commercial, military, and national security implications.
We had no idea. But they are real things that are happening
Dr. Cornell. I should add that both Bill and I, in order to
get atoms very cold, needed to use extraordinarily stable
lasers. And to do that--in that case, I just go down the hall
and talk to my colleague Jan here who says, ``Let me show you a
really great circuit. It doesn't cost very much. It works like
a charm. You can't buy this anywhere.'' And that makes it
possible to make tremendously rapid progress.
And there is another NIST scientist, who is not here now,
but I think you alluded to her, the McArthur Genius. Actually,
she was a guest of the First Lady at the State of the Union
Address, Deborah Jin, who is using many of the techniques that
we have developed. I think all three of us can say, if others
have seen farther than we have, it is because giants are
standing on our shoulders. And she is doing--I think it is
doubtless you will see her here some day as well.
Dr. Hall. It is not quite incestuous, but there is some
utility in the things which NIST can add. And when I first
joined, one of the things which was completely new was the
laser had just arrived. And then people started dreaming that
we could measure the speed of light. And that led to the
realization that the laser wasn't very stable. And then that
led to a program to try to make it better. So my life,
basically, has been spent as a toolmaker, making these little
boxes. And when you get the next idea, then you can use these
in conjunction. And now there is a pretty vigorous industry
selling these little things. And in the beginning, I had to
figure it all out.
So the good part is that everything which is freshly made
and new ideas go to Eric's or some other labs, and all I have
left is the completely old stuff, the prototype, hand soldered
by myself. Tools are really how you think. I guess, if you
wanted to do something useful in research, it is better to have
state-of-the-art tools, because you will be exploring a part of
the world which hasn't really been looked over yet. And so the
guy that has some imagination or interest in how to do that
sort of boring engineering stuff is at a real great advantage.
So that is how I got into it.
Mr. Wu. Well, thank you very much.
And thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I thought this was
just an unusually good opportunity to demonstrate the inter-
linkage of research, because so often the folks who are
standing on each other's shoulders may be separated by
thousands of miles or decades of time. And in this particular
case, this is an unusually tight demonstration of that.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Ehlers. The gentleman's time has expired.
Your comment about tools, Jan, reminds me of when I was a
student, which obviously was quite a few years ago. And I met a
very old gentleman who described how success, when he was a
student, was determined by who could do the best job of drawing
a fine glass fiber. And it is ironic how mundane and
experimental physics gets intertwined with the sublime.
Next, I am pleased to recognize the gentleman from
Washington, Dr. Baird.
Mr. Baird. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Gravitational Red Shift (cont.)
It is a real pleasure to see you gentlemen. I was
privileged to co-author the legislation that we passed a while
back recognizing your achievements, and it is a real pleasure
to serve on this Committee. We have a lot of opportunities in
this Congress to do many things, but this is sort of the brain
candy of the job for some of us.
Two questions, Dr. Hall.
The clocks, just so I am clear, measure differently as they
get closer to the center of the gravitational field. Which one
is faster? The one that is distant or the one that is close?
Dr. Hall. A clock which is high up is not down in the
energy valley, so it has a higher frequency.
Mr. Baird. Interesting. And speed doesn't have a factor
Dr. Hall. Speed does have a factor.
Mr. Baird. Because of the rotation of the Earth.
Dr. Hall. And in the case where I think the highest--well,
a mixture of really high-tech and really high-sophisticated
theory is the GPS system. As that satellite is coming along and
has the radio that is transmitting to me, there is a huge first
order Doppler shift. And then as it goes away, again we have to
deal with that.
Mr. Baird. And that is calculated in by the machines?
Dr. Hall. Yes. And so my little handheld thing figures that
out, and the clocks that were in the satellite when they were
first made had a switch so that it could be set on where the
physics community said the shift should be. Engineers didn't
believe that for a microsecond. It came out of general
relativity. And then they had a switch position for zero
correction and one for the minus side. And of course, general
relativity is the place where the switch has been set for these
NIST Program Decline
Mr. Baird. I asked that question, Dr. Ehlers and I, when we
were on the Floor working on--or debating this bill. It was a
nice debate, because there was no disagreement. In so many of
our debates, one side is hammering the other, and it was nice
to be able to talk about the kinds of things you just
mentioned. The GPS, with so many people taking advantage of it,
and it is just a magic box for so many of us, but somewhere
that magic box was made by, down the line, the very kind of
research that my good friend Mr. Wu was talking about, the
fundamental, core, basic research that then leads to
applications that literally save lives and give immense
Dr. Hall, you said something a little troubling, and I
wasn't sure I understood it. You said that there were some
factors, which I didn't get clear, so I would like you and your
colleagues to explain this. You said that--if I heard
correctly, your program at Boulder had been just steadily going
up and up and up and then somehow it is facing a decline. What
are the factors contributing to that, if I heard it correctly?
Or correct me if I didn't.
Dr. Hall. I think the engineering in electronics, if it is
in some field like millimeter waves, we keep that pretty much
at home, because that is about high-resolution radars. If it is
engineering about computer chips or the software that goes with
it, there is an increasing tendency for that to be done in
another country. And if you have trouble with your computer and
call the help line, you will listen to some person that has
excellent English but is from a different background. And it is
totally marvelous that that can happen, but it happens with
such a huge presence that kids who are sensitive to how things
are changing, they see that the future is not going to be so
easy for that. They would rather turn into biophysics or some
place where you see it growing.
Mr. Baird. I see. Part of the reason I asked that question,
we have got a number of high-tech firms that--custom chip fabs
and others in my own district, and one of the things that they
raise, and so, too, have some of the bioresearches, that as a
technology moves overseas and develops and you see some of the
new developments in chip fabrication are moving overseas, the
ability to get the hands-on experience with that here goes
down. And so the analogy I would use is it is kind of like a
bicycle pace line. When you are on a bicycle pace line, man,
you can go fast. But once you lose that pace line, you never
catch up. And what these researchers are telling me is as the
chip fabrication and the next generation goes overseas, we are
going to left at the starting blocks here, and to some extent,
you never catch up because you don't get the real-world, hands-
on experience. Is that an issue for us?
Dr. Hall. Oh, it certainly is. I couldn't agree more. The
young people need to have access to the high-tech stuff, and
some well-intentioned rules were put out to keep students from
some potentially aggressive countries from joining into that
research, and that is, in my humble opinion, extremely
misguided for the reason that you are saying. We have got to
have that high-tech stuff around, even in the universities.
Mr. Baird. So they can tinker with it, get a feel for it.
Dr. Hall. You have got to know. You learn by doing, that is
what Carnegie said.
Mr. Baird. You have to lean into the organism as--I can't
remember her name, actually, now. It just escapes me. The woman
who worked with corn. McClintock, yeah.
Would your colleagues have any other comments on this?
Dr. Phillips. Just to expand on the point that Jan was
making before about working on a project for a long time and
having the funding pulled, this is something that is really
discouraging for young people. Now this isn't something that
was under our control, but there were a number of projects
being pursued at NIST that suffered from the kind of
reorganization that occurred at NASA and some projects that the
people had hoped to see fly may never fly. And that is
discouraging for all of us, but I think it is particularly
discouraging for young people. And I think that was--and I
would certainly affirm what Jan said about the kind of effect
that has on young people.
Mr. Baird. They just don't want to risk the career
investment knowing that at the end of 12 years, it might not
get airborne and you might never get the results.
Dr. Phillips. Yes.
Mr. Baird. Dr. Cornell, anything to----
Dr. Cornell. I just want to pick up on the learn-by-doing
theme. That is just tremendously important. I think you see
successful scientists, successful engineers, one thing that is
consistent in their past is that, at one time or another, they
had the opportunity to get their hands on the organism, whether
it was a frog or a computer chip. And until you do, you can't
really know. You don't really get that feeling. And so in terms
of directions to go in education, I think anything we can do to
get people as young as possible doing real stuff. There is no
reason why college undergraduates, or even high school
students, can't participate in the research enterprise, and
that tends to be where the future stars come from is people who
have had that kind of experience.
Mr. Baird. Elsewhere in this Committee, we have had some
very productive hearings on collaborative efforts between
leading researchers and high school and college kids, so there
are some wonderful things happening there.
And I thank you for your time.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for----
Chairman Ehlers. The gentleman's time has expired, and I am
pleased to recognize the gentleman from Colorado, Mr. Udall.
Mr. Udall. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Good morning to the panel.
Mr. Chairman, when I was elected in 1998, I thought that my
victory was the result of the climber and smart growth and
environmental vote, and I later came to realize it was the
science and high-tech vote that put me over the top and it was
important to maintain building those relationships, and I am
really proud that two of my constituents are here today, two
Nobel Prize winners.
I had hoped to be here earlier to have a chance to
introduce the two gentlemen. I would ask unanimous consent that
I could put my remarks in the record.
Chairman Ehlers. Without objection, so ordered.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Udall follows:]
Prepared Statement of Representative Mark Udall
First, I would like to welcome all of our witnesses here today.
The awards and accolades the three of you have received are a
testament to the quality of your research and the world-class
scientists employed at NIST.
I am proud to represent a district that has had four Nobel Prize
winners in its past, two of whom are here today.
Dr. Eric Cornell received his Ph.D. from MIT. He is currently a
senior scientist at NIST and a Professor Adjunct at the University of
In 2001, Dr. Cornell and another constituent of mine, Dr. Carl
Wieman, received the Nobel Prize in Physics for the achievement of
Bose-Einstein condensation in dilute gases of alkali atoms.
The Bose-Einstein condensation is a new state of matter, formed
only when atoms are cooled to nearly absolute zero.
I will let Dr. Cornell describe the details of his work, but I
would like to highlight the effects of his research.
The Bose-Einstein Condensate has had enormous impact in quantum
computing and nanotechnology. It has allowed for the development of
precision accelerometers, gravitometers, and gyroscopes used for remote
sensing and navigation.
As the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences noted upon awarding the
prize, the 2001 Nobel Laureates have caused atoms to ``sing in
The creation of Bose-Einstein condensate is a ground-breaking
accomplishment that has significantly affected the scientific
community, its work, and its direction for years to come.
Dr. Cornell, thank you for being here today.
Dr. Jan Hall is NIST and the 2nd district's most recent Nobel Prize
Dr. Hall is a JILA fellow at the University of Colorado and a
senior scientist with NIST Quantum Physics Division. He has received a
series of awards in his distinguished career, including the Department
of Commerce Gold Medal on three separate occasions.
Dr. Hall won the Nobel Prize in 2005 for the development of a
laser-based precision spectroscopy.
Through his research, he worked to develop an instrument that can
measure frequencies with an accuracy of fifteen digits.
His work has wide ranging applications that can improve
communication and animation technology, and potentially benefit
navigation for spacecraft.
I would like to welcome Dr. Hall.
It is an honor to have all three of you here today. As we work to
strengthen STEM education in this country and continue to invest in
R&D, your experiences and insight is particularly helpful to this
Thank you again for joining us.
Mr. Udall. And Dr. Phillips, it is also a great honor to
have you here today.
If I might, I would like to open up the question of how we
are doing in the K-12 area and give each of you an opportunity
to speak to your experiences there, what you see. Are the
reports accurate that we are falling behind? And probably most
importantly, what would you recommend that we should do to
maintain our, if not a preeminence, certainly our strength in
this very, very important area? Maybe we will just start with
Dr. Hall and move across.
Dr. Hall. Okay. So this is gorilla number seven.
Let me say how it seems to me.
I think we count the jobs and that shows up in the news,
but we don't count the income that comes with the jobs. I think
that every one of us knows that the new jobs are created with a
lower salary. That means that family income has gone down. It
finally means that mom has to work. And then that means people
are tired. They can't guide their kids quite as well. Then the
kids come to school, and they don't perform quite as well. Then
we decide that somehow it is the school's failure or it is a
system failure. And this disaster is really a bad thing for
competitiveness, because the first cost of this was what was
considered by business leaders that put some work that paid
high in the United States making cars or, I don't know,
whatever, and then it went to another country. In that loop,
the United States was saving money. But in a system picture, we
have destroyed ourselves by this, because the families are
under such stress. Their kids can't achieve. They can't even
expect to be at the same level as their dad was. And this
really makes me upset. And the only way to climb out of that
that I have any understanding about is education. And if we
lose them in this critical time when they are looking at all
other kinds of ideas, maybe they could be a rock star and make
some traction with the seventh grade kids by asking them
whether they would rather be a Nobel Prize winner or a rock
star, and they say, ``It is impossible to be a Nobel Prize
winner,'' but actually the number of Nobel Prize winners in the
United States and rock stars is only two times smaller. So I
don't know what to say, but it is about guiding the next
generation. Some other civilizations really do that in a good
way, and we are not.
Mr. Udall. That is very insightful.
Mr. Baird. We consider these gentlemen rock stars on this
Mr. Udall. Let the record show.
Dr. Cornell. I have to tell you that I don't know very much
about K-12 education. I know that the conventional wisdom is
that somehow American K-12 education is failing or has failed.
And usually the evidence that is brought to this has to do
with, ``Well, compare our test scores on math against scores
elsewhere in Asia or Europe or performance on international
math Olympiads,'' and what have you. And I guess I take a
somewhat contrarian point of view about that. I think if you
look at this country, we have an amazingly high success rate of
economic dynamism, of entrepreneurialism, of creativity both in
high tech and in business, and my personal suspicion is that,
at some point, the American education system should get to take
some credit for that. I think maybe, just maybe, we are maybe
turning out students who don't do as well on tests, but I don't
really care about that. I know that when I go to hire a young
graduate student to work in my lab, I don't put a lot of weight
on how well he or she did on the standardized tests. I look to
see a little bit more about their emotional maturity, about
their real-world experience. And oftentimes, those are people I
have hired who I have had the best luck with, who, frankly,
have made me famous by being so good working in my labs. They
are people who wouldn't necessarily have appeared to be the
stars of an education system.
So I know that we all think that our education system is a
disaster, but I think that there is something going on there
that is right, and I hope that we don't break that in trying to
fix the rest of it.
Mr. Udall. Mr. Chairman, is there enough time for Dr.
Phillips to respond?
Chairman Ehlers. Yes, we will allow you a few extra
Mr. Udall. Thank you.
Dr. Phillips. Well, everyone agrees that our graduate
education system in the United States is the best in the world.
And our undergraduate education isn't so bad. And everybody
dumps on the K-12. And yeah, so what do I know? I do spend a
lot of time in schools. I make presentations in kindergartens
and in middle schools and in high schools. And one of the
things that I see is that as you progress from the grade school
up through the high school that you see, in grade school, the
kids are absolutely marvelously curious about everything. And
as you progress to the later grades, that curiosity is squeezed
out of an awful lot of them. And the ones that it is not
squeezed out of, we end up seeing coming out the other end as
scientists. And we end up getting them, as Eric said, in our
labs, and they make us famous. I would really love it if we
could somehow encourage the retention of that curiosity. And I
really don't know how it is to be done, but it is something
that I have noticed.
And I also want to echo what Eric said about that there are
a lot of good things being done in our schools. I was, just the
other day, at a teachers' workshop that I was participating in.
And one of the teachers from a rural area of Tennessee told me
that in her school, they had not taught physics for the last
six years because they have had requirements put on them that
all of their physics teachers had to be qualified. And they
didn't have any qualified physics teachers, so their solution--
the only solution they had was they had to stop teaching
And so sometimes there are unintended consequences of
attempts to try to improve our educational programs. And she
was trying to reinstitute a physics program. So gee, you know,
I don't know what to do, but I sure hope we do something.
Chairman Ehlers. The gentleman's time has expired.
All right. We will get to a second round of questions, and
I have to do a little business here, because this committee has
jurisdiction over NIST. So I would like to ask your comments
NIST's Merits and Facilities
First, in a generic sense, obviously NIST is doing
something right to produce three Nobel Prize winners in less
than 10 years. I am interested in your ideas about what NIST
has going that contributes to that and that other science
agencies or research entities could learn from that example.
But I am also interested in something else, the condition
of NIST buildings and facilities. We have heard a good deal
about some of the problems there, and I am curious whether that
has impacted your work or not or the work within your division
of NIST or any other aspect of NIST facilities. Particularly, I
know at Boulder there have been some problems, not at JILA but
at the NIST site.
So I would appreciate your comments on those two things.
What is good about NIST and the atmosphere that it produces
people like you? And secondly, what problems are they having
now of a physical nature? And it doesn't have to be a building.
It could also, as Jan pointed out, you know, the simple things
of life, such as the tools you need. That is absolutely
Let us go the other way around this time. Jan, Dr. Hall,
would you start first?
Dr. Hall. NIST is a place where adverse opinions can be
tolerated and encouraged and the system is managed
operationally by consensus. There is someone who is in charge,
but I think the program is, in fact, built up out of
suggestions that people make. There is a wonderful contest to
get a little extra money for your budget once a year from the
director or from some intermediate levels of management. And in
no small measure, the fact that there are three of us here from
one division of one laboratory of NIST is due to just one
person that you have already recognized, Dr. Gebbie. She takes
huge heat on our behalf on requests.
As far as the facilities are concerned, I was so
discouraged at one point that I had looked seriously about
going to another place where they are going to offer a new lab
space that didn't have so much vibration. And the response to--
and you never learn how to do these negotiations of life
things. So I was ready to just leave, because it is, obviously,
impossible. But when that finally got discussed around JILA,
then, ``Oh, maybe we could get money to make a new building.''
So I was glad to be in the basement where nobody wanted to be
and we put their additions up where there are windows. So I
don't know of facilities as being a principle limitation in the
part that I do, but in fact, the environment is a limitation on
all of the experiments when you push hard enough. The
temperature control, for example, where I am is not good
enough. I don't have any intelligent remark about----
Chairman Ehlers. I think both of those were intelligent.
Dr. Cornell. I know a little bit about science. I know very
little bit about science management. So I don't know that I
can--I don't know what the secret of the success is. One thing
I have noticed over the years is that a dangerous thing that
can happen to an organization is to be a victim of its own
success. Sometimes you do very well, and then you are
enormously rewarded. And then as a consequence, you grow very
rapidly. And it is very hard to grow very rapidly. It is very
hard for our organization to hire a vast number of people very
rapidly and to get the very best people under those
circumstances. And I think NIST has benefited from growing over
the years but not growing, sort of in doubling in six months. I
think doubling in six months is probably not a good recipe for
an organization 10 years down the line. So that may have been a
pitfall that NIST avoided. I am sure Katharine is throwing
daggers in my back if it suggests that NIST doesn't need more
resources. Of course we do, but maybe our budget shouldn't
Other than that, I don't really know. I don't know
Katharine's secret. I don't know how this works. But I know a
good thing when I see it, and I am certainly very happy to be
where I am.
Chairman Ehlers. I would suggest since you are a government
agency, you don't have to worry about doubling overnight.
Dr. Phillips. Well, I think NIST is absolutely fantastic.
And as I said in my testimony, people ask me, you know, ``Why
are you still at NIST? You could earn a whole lot more money
someplace else.'' And I am sure that my colleagues have gotten
the same questions. And the answer is it is just such a great
place to be to do research. Katharine is fond of saying that
she thinks it is her job to hire the best people and to give
them the resources they need to do the best work. Now that is a
wonderful attitude for an administrator, and it is not the kind
of attitude of every administrator that every research
institution has. I brag about our administration, our director
and my laboratory director to other people from other
institutes, and they are jealous about the way that we are run,
because we are run the way they wish they were run. So it is
We have a new building. You asked about facilities. We have
the Advanced Measurement Laboratory complex at NIST. And we
moved from a much older laboratory into that new laboratory,
which has a better vibration control, better temperature
control, better humidity control, better air quality in terms
of dust than the old laboratories did. And boy, we lost a lot
of time moving all of our stuff and getting everything going
again, but boy, is it working great now. And so it has made a
big difference in just our day-to-day ability to do our job. We
just don't have to tweak things up as often as we do, and we
can spend more time doing the next greatest thing.
Another thing that is fantastic about NIST is that we bring
in a lot of young people, especially as post-docs. In fact, two
of the post-docs that I am privileged to work with every day
are here in the hearing. Ben Brown and Phil Johnson are here.
And these guys have come as part of our post-doc program, the
NRC post-doc program. Ben Brown is part of that. And Phil came
on an intelligence community post-doc. And we get these
wonderful young people who are just full of energy and bring
all of these new ideas. And they get to work with some of the
best equipment around for a couple of years and go out and have
wonderful careers but bring to us all of this energy and new
ideas. And it is just exciting to be where we are.
Chairman Ehlers. Well, thank you. I am glad to hear those
comments. And I was a part-time administrator in a research
group for a number of years, and I regarded my job as primarily
to--the scientists from the so-called administrators. The best
way to administer science in my book is to find smart people,
give them good resources and ample funds, and not have them
worry about any other administrative deals.
And I am pleased to hear that NIST is going in that
direction. It has not always been that way.
I would like to ask if the gentleman from Oregon, Mr. Wu,
has any other questions.
Mr. Wu. Yes, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.
Chairman Ehlers. Go ahead.
American Research Position
Mr. Wu. Two different sets of questions.
The first, very briefly, I'm positively surprised, I get
the impression from the testimony of all three witnesses that
you all are feeling relatively good about the American position
in basic research at the present moment. Is that an accurate
Dr. Phillips. Well, not entirely, from my point of view, at
least. So let me say where I see problems.
One is in industrial research. And Jan Hall already alluded
to this. When I was a young scientist, you had Bell Telephone
Laboratories. Bell Labs was iconic. They were the best research
laboratory in the world. But it wasn't just them. There was IBM
Labs. There was GE, General Motors, Xerox, Ford. You know.
There was a whole panoply of high-powered industrial research
laboratories. That tradition of industrial research that is
focused on or that has a large component of basic research has
almost disappeared from the American landscape. And that is a
crying shame. Bell Labs still exists, but it is a pale shadow
of its former self. And the other labs have either completely
gone out of business or are also just shadows of their former
selves. There is a huge basic research effort that has been
lost, so Jan was mentioning ways in which one might encourage
that to come back. You know, I am not an economist. I don't
know whether those kinds of ways are going to really work. The
problem is the American industry, American business, in
general, focuses on the quarterly bottom line. And research
pays off after 10 or 20 years. And so you have this disconnect
between the long view. Okay, on your wall, this wonderful
passage from Proverbs, ``Where there is no vision, the people
perish.'' And what I am afraid of is that in American industry,
with respect to research, there is no vision. Everything is
focused on the short-term. Now at NIST, I am happy to say that
we have a very strong long-term vision, and that is why I am
happy about what is going on at NIST. I am not happy about what
is going on in industry, and I think that the only way to
compensate for that is for government to supply more resources
to the agencies that do have the long-term vision. I mean, it
is not just NIST, but lots of other agencies, universities, the
NSF obviously takes a long-term vision. I am also a little bit
worried about the way in which this plays out in the military
agencies, because you have the peace dividend. Everybody
expects military budgets to go down, and when you still have to
fight a war, you still have to supply--you still have to worry
about national security. What suffers? The research budgets.
But the research budgets are your seed corn. And it is not just
the military effort that is going to suffer, if you don't do
long-term basic research. That long-term basic research that
has been done in the military traditionally has had a huge
impact on the civilian economy. ONR, historically, was an
agency out of which you could expect just marvelous basic
research results. This was great for the military. It produced
things like atomic clocks and the GPS and all of that, but it
was great for the civilian economy as well. And to a certain
extent, we are seeing that backing off because of the way the
Higher Education and Jobs in Industrial Research
Mr. Wu. Well, without adjusting the DOD part of this, it
seems to me that some of the great private research
organizations were dependent on a market position and a market
dominance and cycle times that don't exist anymore. Cycle times
are much faster, and the Bell Labs were dependent upon a
monopoly. And that has gone away. And it is an interesting set
of questions about how we are going to replace that.
Well, I want to bring this back around to some industrial--
I don't want to--just some concerns about our industrial base.
I mean, the scientists hark. The Chairman said that earlier.
Three credits at an engineering course, same amount of work as
a five-credit course somewhere else. And it is hard to do in
the first place, but people get drawn into it, at least, with
the prospect of jobs. And only a certain percentage of those
who graduate with a bachelor of science degrees will go on to
get graduate degrees and do the kinds of cutting-edge research
that you all have been privileged to do. As you know, with the
loss of a certain amount of industrial base, if people are not
seeing the jobs, if young people are not seeing the jobs to
draw them through, is there a concern on your part that we are
not getting the base of the pyramid, if you will, drawn into
these very difficult scientific fields so that, you know, a
smaller percentage will go on to graduate school and then at
the very pinnacle, some people will someday be like you here
with a Nobel Prize in their hands.
Dr. Hall. I would like to speak in favor of a safety net
for people that have invested in themselves, but that was what
we had. There was a diversity of different kinds of places that
a person could go. And some changes in the family circumstance
may mean that a really promising guy leaves out of the just--
graduate school opportunity and goes to work or something. And
if he is working in a company that uses his knowledge, that is
fantastic. But somehow, we are just at the edge of letting that
opportunity go. I think your pyramid illustration is exactly
the right way to think about that. We should have a base of
people that know about the basics of science in the most
fundamental way, and that should be the whole voting public.
And then the next level are people that know something in the
collegiate level. One could have a country that would have
stability against perturbations. Now we are extremely fine-
tuned economically for a particular place, and the robustness
of this system is, in my opinion, absolutely up for grabs. If
something anomalous happened now, we might not have enough
engineers of some kind, hydraulics engineers or some other
skill, because there is nobody that wants to go there, because
there is no parking place for them in the meantime.
Chairman Ehlers. The gentleman's time has expired.
Does the gentleman from Colorado have any further
Mr. Udall. I do, Mr. Chairman.
And before I direct this question to the panel, I want to
thank the Chairman for his commitment to NIST. The two
residents of Boulder here, I think, knowing that Chairman
Ehlers served a couple of stints at JILA, and he has taken the
time to come out and see the NIST facility. And we had a couple
of rough spots, but I know we are in the sense of upgrading the
facility, Dr. Hall, Dr. Cornell, but I know we are turning the
corner, I hope.
American Innovation and Education
The comments you made, Dr. Cornell, about our culture and
perhaps our education system promoting more innovation than we
realize are the ones I would like to follow up on.
There have been a couple of pieces recently written about
the Chinese and the Indians that, of course--who are part of
the focus here. And you hear the numbers of engineers and some
that they are graduating, but these stories focus on the fact
that the Indians and the Chinese are looking to create a more
innovative attitude among their citizens, that they have their
own blind spots, if you will. They have their own cultural
challenges. Dr. Cornell, would you be willing to just talk a
little bit about your sense of can you teach innovation. What
do we do with promoting more methods and approaches? I know Dr.
Wyman isn't here with us, but he is with us in spirit, of
course. I know he has dedicated a small--a large part of his
time in this pursuit as well, and if there is time, I would
like to hear from Dr. Hall and Dr. Phillips on this question.
Dr. Cornell. Well, it is obviously a tremendously important
question, and I certainly feel pretty much over my depth here
in that I do quite a bit of teaching, but it is mostly to
people I consider young, but they are in their 20s. The
people--the younger people I teach, there is one who is 10 and
one who is seven, but it is kind of more one-on-one in the
house. And I do think one learns by doing, and, therefore, I
think, to the extent that the K-12 experience can enhance the
notion--the components of actually trying to do things. It is
very, very important. I am not saying ignore the basic skills,
but I sometimes think in a mad rush to sort of prevent us
from--you know, make sure we continue to--you know, enhancing
all of the basic skills, I think you can sort of cut out
whatever it was, the magic that somehow was there and although
not particularly well recognized in the American education
system, something had to have been right. And I worry that in
sort of responding to the threat of the verging Chinese effort
or the verging Indian effort or something like that, that if we
just try and sort of blindly follow their approach, we may be
moving away from what has worked for us well in the past. But
with that said, I don't know what it is exactly. And I have to
say that I am watching my children, my two girls, go through
the Boulder Valley School District system, and I have been
fairly impressed. I think they strike a pretty good balance
between reading, writing, arithmetic and somehow instilling a
notion that yeah, there is actual real things that you can do
and learn about in the real world.
Mr. Udall. Dr. Hall, would you care to comment?
Dr. Hall. Again, I come back to the family as the base for
this. And it seems to me that with the evolution of style at
home that I would prefer a big plasma screen to talking with my
kids at night, this is not a good sign for the future. And the
part which worked incredibly well was that we weren't very
wealthy in the early time. We were in working-class place. And
kids would come by on Saturday with broken tricycles, and I
would fix everybody's tricycles. And then we would get into a
discussion about how come the wheel keeps spinning so long on
some of them and not so much on the others and a lot of what is
ultimately science stuff is communicated. You have got to know
how stuff works. And some people think that the cars, you know,
you just get in and go and the engine light is on, ``Well,
okay. That is the next guy's problem.'' So anyway, I think just
adults that care about kids is how it happens. And it is the
best. Everyone who is going to have to take a part in it,
because a lot of us have brought kids in.
Mr. Udall. Thank you.
Dr. Phillips. Well, let me venture a guess as to what is
one reason why the United States has been so successful in
areas of innovation where some other countries haven't. I think
it is our ``can-do'' spirit. I was just listening to somebody
from Europe the other day, and he said, ``The big difference in
the United States is when you have a problem, in the United
States, people say let us figure out how to do it. And other
places, people will tell you all of the reasons why you can't
do it.'' I think this is part of our national character. And
that kind of thing can change. Other countries can get it. We
could lose it. What we need to do is make sure that we feed it.
It is one of our greatest resources, that idea that we are
going to make it work. And I think that that is one of the
things that has really made the United States stand out from
Mr. Udall. Thank you, Dr. Phillips.
Mr. Chairman, if you might just indulge me, I think the
secret of the success of these three gentlemen and the future
success of the country is on display here, because on a number
of occasions, each one of you said you didn't know but you
exhibited a curiosity about finding out. And that is the
characteristic or the characteristics that I think we want to
continue to encourage and that you all have done such a
phenomenal job of encouraging. So again, it is a real honor to
have you here and particularly to have two of my constituents
here. You really are the pride of America, not just the pride
of Boulder, Colorado. And Congressman Baird put it right, too.
You are rock stars, and we just--we need to do a better job
promoting what you all have done.
So thank you for being here.
Chairman Ehlers. The gentleman's time has expired. And
might I say they are probably successful because two out of the
three live in Boulder, Colorado. They get inspired by all of
the beautiful mountains.
We will have a short third round of questions. And just a
quick one from each of you and just--because I am going to make
a few comments about the educational system.
What inspired each of you to go into science? And we will
start with you, Bill, Dr. Phillips.
Dr. Phillips. Well, in a sense, it is a little hard to
remember, because I have been interested in science for as long
as I can remember. But it certainly echoes what Jan has been
saying about family. My parents, who had nothing to do with
science, they were social workers, they fed that fascination.
They got me a microscope. They got me a chemistry set, an
erector set. They let me set up experiments in the basement,
even though they hadn't any idea what I was doing. And so from
the earliest times, I was interested, and I had that encouraged
in the family, and boy, that is so important.
Chairman Ehlers. Dr. Cornell. Microphone.
Dr. Cornell. Oftentimes when it is bedtime, children will
have stories read to them before they go to sleep. When I was a
kid, my father, who was an engineer, didn't feel like he needed
to read me a story, because I already knew how to read, but he
would come in and sit on my bed and say, ``Okay. It is bedtime.
While you go to sleep, I want you to think about this
problem.'' And then it would be something like, ``Well, you
have got a truck full of bees and they can't get over the
bridge. If you bang on the truck and the bees all fly, will the
truck be lighter and can it fly? Can it go over the bridge
without crashing?'' or some kind of classic physics brain
teaser like this. So I used to go to sleep thinking about these
Chairman Ehlers. So those Zs above your head were really
Dr. Hall. I think my father and mother did a very helpful
job for me. I was surprised to find in my father's stuff one
time that he had a jar with this much mercury in it, and that
was pretty fun to play with. Another one was sulfuric acid,
which was so strong and thick that it would just hardly slosh
around. So it finally became clear from the state of my clothes
that I was into dad's stuff, all of these holes in it. And
there was no negative feedback about that. ``Oh, well, I am
glad that you found out.'' And so it is, again, this
intergenerational contact and having good stuff around. I never
had a microscope, though, so I am jealous about that, Bill.
Chairman Ehlers. I must confess to jealousy, too. I was
interested in science, and I will give my short version.
I was interested as a child, but never in my wildest did I
think I could become a scientist. I had never met a scientist.
I didn't know a scientist. And it is really amusing. Today,
when I speak to scientists, groups of scientists, and
engineers, I encourage them to go to elementary schools and
just ask if you can speak to the kids about science and
engineering. My experience was, having never met a scientist,
as a junior in high school, I went into one of the old-
fashioned diners with a counter and the stools. I sat down to
eat my hamburger, and a gentleman came and sat down next to me,
and we started talking. And he was a mechanical engineer from
Ford Motor Company. And I enjoyed working on my car. I did all
of my own maintenance. And he talked about what he did at Ford
designing cars. And so a year and a half later, when I went off
to college, I went through registration, and they said, ``What
major are you declaring?'' I had no idea what they meant, but I
said, ``What is that?'' And they said, ``Well, you have to
declare a major. And what do you think you are going to
study?'' I said, ``Mechanical engineering,'' on the basis of a
15-minute conversation with a total stranger. So that is--my
story is a little different from yours, but everyone has their
K-12 Education, Informed Voters, and the Federal Government
What I did want to just comment on is this whole issue of
K-12 education. After I wrote this book, and by the way, I
appreciate your comments, because in this book, I identified
the responsibility of the Federal Government to take over basic
research, because I predicted that Bell Labs, IBM Labs, all of
the others, would go out, for a couple of reasons. First of
all, they--some of them were monopolies. Some, such as IBM,
were monopolies, in fact. But you could see that was going to
end. But a bigger reason was the increase in globalization. And
they knew that other businesses in other countries would not
support these labs, therefore, our companies would be at a
disadvantage and would have to give it up just to remain
competitive. And the other factor was the increasing obsession
of Americans was to have good results every quarter, and you
cannot conduct scientific research on a quarterly basis. It has
to be on a decade-long basis rather than quarterly. And I
feared that all of these industrial labs would die simply
because they could not justify themselves. So on the base of
that, I predicted the Federal Government would have to increase
their efforts in basic research, otherwise it would go away.
And in terms of education, I think it is absolutely
essential that we all join in working on the K-12 system, not
that it is horrible, not that it is broken, but we have to
somehow help the students understand more about science, learn
more about science, consider it as a career. I have worked
extensively with elementary schools, and I never criticize the
teachers, because I have found them to be wonderful, wonderful
people. But most of them are afraid to teach science and math,
because they themselves haven't learned it. And no one likes to
display their ignorance publicly to students. And I think the
best thing the Federal Government can do is offer training
programs, summer seminars, paid summer seminars for teachers to
help them gain the knowledge and the confidence they need in
the classroom, and above all, the ability to excite students.
I have--and I am not trying to say that every student
should become a scientist. That is the wrong way to go. But we
have to face it that in 10 or 15 years, the jobs of the future
will require an understanding of the basic principles of math
and science. We are going to lose a lot of industrial jobs, and
those that remain, will have a high level of standards. For
example, my district, which has heavy manufacturing, when I
tour a factory, it is no longer hundreds of men standing in a
row operating a lathe and turning a screw. It is one $750,000
milling machine, computer-operated with one operator who earns
$80,000 a year because he understands math and science and
knows how to program it to make the products. The world is
changing, and the jobs of the future are going to require
everyone to know more about math and science.
I also appreciated Dr. Hall's comment about voters. We have
to educate kids in math and science, because the voters and
consumers of the future are going to need it, whether to read
labels of contents on vitamin bottles, or any other medication,
or voting on environmental issues that are put on the ballot,
as happens sometimes in Colorado, and certainly in California
every year. I think it is essential that we prepare a
generation of scientists--pardon me, of citizens who know
enough about science to make reasonable judgments. But also, I
believe our economic and national security rests on generating
students who understand these issues and can apply them in the
real world today. I would love to see more scientists and
engineers in the Congress, not just because I am a scientist,
but just because we bring a unique set of talents, which I
think are very useful in the long-term.
So I hope that, working together, we can all accomplish
that. And I appreciate what Carol Wyman is doing in devoting
himself to improving education. He is doing it at the
undergraduate level, but many others at the elementary and
secondary. We have to all work together on that.
I have one last comment. I advocated very strongly in here
that the Federal Government could encourage industrial research
through a strong research and development tax cut policy. We,
in fact, as part of what we are doing right now, we are
dramatically increasing that. And the only caveat I have of
that is it is tending to turn into a development tax credit,
not a research tax credit. There is still not the basic
research there, and I think we are--we will have to continue to
depend on the government to do that. And what you said about
the American can-do attitude is absolutely right on. Creativity
is in our genes, and I trace it back to the agriculture that
people had to do when they first got here. They had to develop
new methods of agriculture. And there is just that creative
spirit that has somehow--on our early immigrants that has
carried through. For thousands of years, people have plowed
fields with a stick and an ox, but John Deere came to America
and said, ``I can build a steel plow that will work a lot
better.'' And you just follow that progression all of the way
through and we have a rich tradition of creativity and a can-do
attitude, so that paid off.
You can tell from my diatribe that I am the son of a
pastor, and that ends my sermon, but I am pleased to recognize
the gentleman from Oregon for his last question.
American Ingenuity and Investment
Mr. Wu. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. And I thank the
three witnesses and the Chairman for sharing your stories. We
frequently build policy around statistics, hopefully build good
policy around good statistics and good information, but
ultimately, I think the policies have to be sold with a story.
And people from all over, Wendell Holmes to Ronald Reagan,
Dr. Hall, I just wanted to let you know that I have
considered the issue you raised about long-term investment for
quite some time preceding the time that I came here to
Congress. And one of the efforts that I have been pushing, thus
far with little traction but hope springs eternal, is to change
some of our capitol gains tax rates and the hold period. And
the numbers are negotiable, but what we are currently proposing
is new investments, a five-year hold, five percent taxation,
and you know, this comes from my background as a technology
lawyer in helping small companies start. I think we might need
a different model to given incentives to larger organizations
to make those long-term investments. But this really does focus
on taking real risk and holding for a long period of time,
because a 12-month hold period, now that is not really--that is
not a long-term capitol gains. But whether that is the right--
one of the right policy prescriptions or not, you know, time
will tell. You all have clearly pointed out a need for some
role of public research, whether it is funded by the private
sector with a lot of public spin-offs or whether the public
research is funded by a public entity, the kinds of research
that were done by Bell Labs and Xerox and some other entities,
that is a clearly identified lacuna in our system right now and
a challenge for us.
I have a can-do attitude. I think that we can successfully
address this. We live in challenging times. There is a war
going on. There is a very large deficit. But these are hardly
the darkest of times. Oh, about 140 years ago, you could hear
gunfire from these buildings, or the building across the
street, the U.S. Capitol. They were wounded from the Civil War
in spaces in the U.S. Capitol, and yet during those years, the
bipartisan press to the future, President Lincoln and the
Congress completed the Capitol dome with a sense that this was
going to be a great Nation and needed a capitol to match it,
but, even more importantly, passed legislation to complete the
Transcontinental Railroad, passed the Land Grant College Act,
and passed the Homestead Act in settling the west. And prior
generations have met these challenges, and I am grateful to
hear some of your confidence about that, also, and look forward
to a continuing dialogue.
And thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I yield back to you, Mr. Udall.
Chairman Ehlers. Do you have any further questions?
Mr. Udall. I just have a comment and a very brief question.
I can't hope to surpass the eloquence of the two gentlemen
at the head of the dais here, but I did want to ask, Dr.
Cornell, what is the answer to that question your father asked
you. Is the truck lighter if all of the bees are airborne?
Dr. Cornell. If you have a panel truck that is all sealed
up and you have got, you know, 1,000 pounds of bees in the
back, and you can't get over--and you have got the 1,000 pounds
of bees in your 2,000-pound truck and that adds up to 3,000,
which is more than the 2,500-pound weight limit on the bridge,
no, it doesn't actually help to get the bees swarming around in
the back of the truck, because they are--the air that they
press down with their wings presses down on the bottom of the
truck, and so you can't win. You can't even break even. That is
in the laws of physics, and it applies to bees as much as
Mr. Udall. Thank you.
Chairman Ehlers. So to bee or not to bee, that is the
Just one last comment. I was talking about the necessity
for well-informed citizens. It just occurred to me, the best
example of that would be if the citizens of this nation
understood the laws of thermodynamics, we would not currently
have an energy problem. And that is the clearest example I can
We are delighted with the panel. Thank you very much for
being here. It has been highly educational, and it has been
very, very helpful to us in considering the future of NIST and
the future of fundamental research in this nation.
I encourage you to continue your interest in science
policy. I encourage you to tell your colleagues throughout the
Nation also to remain interested in that, because it is
fundamental to have that framework so that we can make sure
that you and other scientists get the support that they need to
continue the research that has to be done. And that will only
help our nation be stronger and more successful.
So I thank you very much for being here and for your
If there is no objection, the record will remain open for
additional statements from the Members and for answers to any
follow-up questions the Committee may ask of the witnesses.
Without objection, so ordered.
And the hearing is now adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 11:30 a.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned.]