Frederick K. Lamb
U. of I. Photo
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Frederick K. Lamb, a professor of physics and of astronomy and holder of the Fortner Chair in theoretical astrophysics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been selected as a 2005 recipient of the Leo Szilard Lectureship Award from the American Physical Society. Lamb, who co-chaired the APS Study Group on Boost-Phase Intercept Systems for National Missile Defense, shares the award with the 11 other members of the group.
The award, which recognizes Lamb and the study group for "work in producing a report that adds physics insight to the public debate," will be presented at the APS April meeting in Tampa, Fla. Founded in 1899, the APS has more than 40,000 members worldwide.
The award is named for physicist, biophysicist and "scientist of conscience" Leo Szilard (1898-1964). Szilard's ideas included the linear accelerator, electron microscope, and nuclear chain reaction. Equally important was his insistence that scientists accept moral responsibility for the consequences of their work.
The award honors outstanding accomplishments by physicists in promoting the use of physics for the benefit of society in areas such as the environment, arms control and science policy.
Lamb is the director of the Center for Theoretical Astrophysics at the U. of I. and a professor in the university's Program in Arms Control, Disarmament and International Security.
The APS study examined the feasibility of developing and deploying a boost-phase defense against long-range missiles.
The goal of the boost-phase program is to disable missiles by hitting them with interceptor rockets or a laser beam in their first few minutes of flight, while the booster rockets are burning and before they have released their warheads.
This approach is viewed by proponents of the Bush administration's Ballistic Missile Defense System as one element of its proposed layered-defense system, in which enemy warheads might be destroyed in any or all phases of flight.
The APS study group evaluated boost-phase intercept systems that would defend the United States using land-, sea-, air- or space-based interceptor rockets, or the Airborne Laser being developed.
The scientists and engineers concluded that "while the boost-phase technologies we studied are potentially capable of defending the United States against liquid-propellant ICBMs at certain ranges of interest, at least in the absence of counter-measures, when all factors are considered none of the boost-phase defense concepts studied would be viable for the foreseeable future to defend the nation against even first-generation solid-propellant ICBMs."
Lamb is an internationally recognized pioneer in high-energy and relativistic astrophysics. His work has contributed to a better understanding of X-ray stars, neutron stars, pulsars, black holes and strong-field gravity.
Lamb played a major role in the development and operation of the highly successful Rossi X-Ray Timing Explorer satellite, which discovered nuclear-powered X-ray pulsars and kilohertz quasi-periodic oscillations produced by motion of matter governed by
strong-field general relativity. His recent work has shown how the quasi-periodic oscillations can be used to determine the properties of ultradense matter and strong gravitational fields.
Lamb will discuss the history, technology and feasibility of boost-phase defense in a talk Saturday at 10:15 a.m. in Room 141 of Loomis Lab, 1110 W. Green St., Urbana. The talk, part of the Saturday Physics Honors Program, is free and open to the public.