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10/17/2000

Nobels, Russians and Miss America

I''ve just been browsing through a copy of Forbes ASAP, Big
Issue V, featuring articles trying to answer the question "What is
Truth?" In the spirit of finding the truth, let''s revisit last week''s
item on the fate of Pittsburgh''s Three Rivers Stadium''s home
plate and how it was airlifted from the stadium by a man with a
jetpack and placed in the new baseball stadium nearby. My
friend Al from Mars is not one to let a story go unchecked. He
now tells me of a brief newspaper account stating that the rocket
man did not fly to the new baseball stadium but landed on the top
of Three Rivers. Al''s speculation is that with the bright lights,
spectators did not realize the final destination was above them.
Which leaves two questions. Where is home plate and is the
rocket man still up on top of the stadium?

The top prize in a number of fields of endeavor is, of course, the
Nobel Prize. One of last week''s Nobel recipients was Jack
Kilby, who received half of the prize in physics for his invention
in 1958 of the integrated circuit, the forerunner of the ubiquitous
silicon chip, while he was at Texas Instruments. A couple
months ago, I played a most pleasant round of golf with a former
colleague at Bell Labs back in the 1950s. We recalled attending
the Bell Labs celebration of the 50th anniversary of the invention
of the transistor and asked ourselves the question, why didn''t
someone from Bell Labs invent the integrated circuit? In
hindsight, it seems such a simple concept to put more than one
transistor on a piece of silicon. Indeed, Kilby, in a talk at this
celebration said he had visited Bell Labs prior to his invention
and was in awe of the brilliant individuals he encountered there.
In my column of October 5, 1999, I mentioned my embarrassing
encounter with Kilby, whom I mistook for someone else.

The other half of the Nobel Prize in physics was split between
two individuals. One of these is Zhores Ivanovich Alferov, a
Russian physicist who received the prize for his work on
semiconductors and lasers. An article in the New York Times,
called to my attention by Brian Trumbore, reports that Alferov,
upon receipt of the news of his award, bitterly criticized the
Kremlin for its inadequate support for science. He just happens
to be a member of the Russian Duma, the lower house of their
Parliament. His prizewinning work was performed under the old
Communist regime in the USSR.

The Times article related that in 1970 scientists at Bell Labs were
privately celebrating a landmark achievement, a room
temperature laser. Then they learned that Alferov and his group
had beaten them to the punch one month earlier. In the old days
of the Cold War it was a joke in some quarters that the Russians
claimed to have invented everything; this was a case where it
was true! Actually, what was achieved was a semiconductor
laser capable of emitting light continuously at room temperature.
Until 1970, the continuous emission of light from such a laser
was possible only at temperatures much lower than room
temperature. What Alferov and the Bell Labs workers,
principally Izuo Hayashi and Morton Panish, did was to develop
a so-called "heterostructure" laser. In previous work, the
semiconductor lasers were constructed in a single material,
notably a compound of gallium and arsenic called gallium
arsenide. The heterostructure laser employed layers of more than
one material, specifically, gallium arsenide sandwiched between
layers of a compound, gallium aluminum arsenide. All this
maneuvering of the chemistry and device structure lowered the
current required to get the laser action going by about 30 times
compared to that for gallium arsenide itself. Today, this
threshold current is so low that we have such things as our laser
pointers powered by ordinary dry cells.

About ten years earlier, I almost got into the laser business
myself. It was my aforementioned golfing partner who
suggested that I might want to look into areas other than
germanium and silicon. He was then my department head and I
took his suggestion to heart. For a year or so, I dabbled in
growing various kinds of crystal for different applications. A
physicist, Leo Johnson, was also trying to come up with a
continuous room temperature laser. This was not a
semiconductor laser, which had not yet surfaced, but what was
called a solid state laser involving large crystals of such things as
ruby. Again, continuous laser action had been achieved at lower
temperatures but room temperature was the goal. As I recall, I
was pulling crystals of compounds of an element known as
neodymium. Leo tried making them act as a laser, but no cigar.
Leo was also collaborating with a fellow named Kurt Nassau and
he grew calcium tungstate crystals doped with what else but
neodymium. Sure enough, Leo and Kurt had their continuous
room temperature laser. Back to Pittsburgh, I have mentioned
that my professor, Ed Wallace, received a distinguished alumni
award from Pitt. Well, Kurt Nassau was another Wallace student
who came just after I left Pitt.

Aside from growing a bunch of good looking crystals, that year
proved to be totally unproductive for me insofar as deriving no
publishable results. However, toward the end of the year, I
began to dabble in the growth of gallium phosphide crystals and
my delightful experience with light emitting diodes resulted.
Brian Trumbore thought the Times article might prompt some
reminiscences of my own experience with Russian scientists.
Well, when the "boss" speaks, I listen.

It was during the period of work for which Alferov received the
Nobel Prize, that I was involved with light emitting diodes.
After I was made supervisor of a group to develop LED
materials, I got my first trip to Europe in 1968. One of the
highlights of this trip was a crystal growth conference in
Birmingham, England. I will never forget one of the extra events
scheduled for attendees of the conference. It was a visit to
Stratford on Avon and a play at the theater there. The play was
"Dr. Faustus". Those of you familiar with either the play or the
opera Faust will recall it deals in part with various vices. One
appearance illustrating a particular vice created quite a stir both
in the audience and in the British press. This involved a totally
unclothed young lady walking across the stage, her entire body
painted with gold, or a reasonable facsimile. My seatmates for
this performance were two fellows from the USSR. I particularly
liked Alex, who possessed a great sense of humor and was a
jovial sort. Whether it was the play or any wine for dinner I can''t
remember but I do recall we strolled through the streets of
Stratford that evening in a very convivial mood. Some time later
they paid a visit to Bell Labs on the day after a USSR space shot
had landed on the moon and I had a chance to congratulate them
with my meager Russian picked up in courses at Bell Labs. I had
taken the Russian courses to translate scientific articles but soon
the Russian journals were translated into English and my fluency
withered on the vine.

In those days of the Cold War, we assumed that, if a scientist
from the USSR was allowed to travel abroad, a loyal, reliable
Soviet citizen would accompany him. At least it seemed that
there was always more than one present at the meetings we
attended. With this in mind, it was a surprise to me that, at a
Gordon Research Conference in New Hampshire, a fellow from
the USSR was present without a companion. The Gordon
Conferences were, and I imagine still are, relatively informal
conferences, designed to encourage open and free discussion and
generally promote good fellowship among the limited number of
participants. I got to know the Russian attendee fairly well
during the week. When I learned that he was going to take some
sort of public transport from New Hampshire to New York City,
I offered him a ride. He then made a phone call, I assume to
clear it with the proper channels, and accepted the offer.

On the ride to New York, we talked about the differences in the
ways of life in our two countries. He was indeed a staunch
supporter of the Soviet way of life. We were driving into
Manhattan on a Friday afternoon in the summer and the traffic
out of the city was typically horrendous. If the number of cars
surprised my Soviet companion, he did not show it but I will
always wonder just what he thought. (Having been in Manhattan
just a few weeks ago on a Friday afternoon, I myself am still
amazed at the traffic.) Our destination in Manhattan was the
Soviet consulate and I was thrilled to actually find a parking spot
on the street just a half block away. I accompanied him into the
consulate, where a quite burly fellow gave me a quizzical look
while my friend "checked in". We then went outside to say
goodbye and my friend presented me with several of the pins that
the Russians like to give out. I was unprepared for an exchange
of gifts but finally settled on giving him my Bell System
mechanical pencil from the Bell Labs stockroom. Who knows?
This pencil could well be an antique worth a lot of money since
there is no more Bell System! For a number of years we
exchanged Christmas/New Years cards.

In 1973, I was on a tour that included Moscow. While there, we
visited Moscow University and were in the library. I asked the
librarian if she could either try to contact or give me the phone
numbers so that I could contact my Russian friends, who were on
the faculty at the time. She maintained it was impossible and
attempts to persuade our tour guide to try to find them also
proved futile. Our visit coincided with Leonid Brezhnev''s visit
to Nixon in the White House and banners in the streets of
Moscow proclaimed the visit and friendly relations were in the
air. Even so, we couldn''t crack the mini iron curtain.

Finally, I''ve mentioned my friend Dan in Hawaii, who has on
occasion been a critic and contributor to this column, notably
when it comes to things aerodynamic. If you watched the Miss
America non-pageant, Dan''s charming wife works with the
lovely young lady who is now Miss America. Knowing of the
connection, we were rooting for Angela to at least make the 10
finalists so she could get enough airtime to justify the renting of
a large screen TV or two to permit her many friends and students
in Hawaii to watch the proceedings. When she did make the cut,
I predicted that either she or Miss California would win. The
latter came in third. I didn''t do too badly, did I?

Allen F. Bortrum



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-10/17/2000-      
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Dr. Bortrum

10/17/2000

Nobels, Russians and Miss America

I''ve just been browsing through a copy of Forbes ASAP, Big
Issue V, featuring articles trying to answer the question "What is
Truth?" In the spirit of finding the truth, let''s revisit last week''s
item on the fate of Pittsburgh''s Three Rivers Stadium''s home
plate and how it was airlifted from the stadium by a man with a
jetpack and placed in the new baseball stadium nearby. My
friend Al from Mars is not one to let a story go unchecked. He
now tells me of a brief newspaper account stating that the rocket
man did not fly to the new baseball stadium but landed on the top
of Three Rivers. Al''s speculation is that with the bright lights,
spectators did not realize the final destination was above them.
Which leaves two questions. Where is home plate and is the
rocket man still up on top of the stadium?

The top prize in a number of fields of endeavor is, of course, the
Nobel Prize. One of last week''s Nobel recipients was Jack
Kilby, who received half of the prize in physics for his invention
in 1958 of the integrated circuit, the forerunner of the ubiquitous
silicon chip, while he was at Texas Instruments. A couple
months ago, I played a most pleasant round of golf with a former
colleague at Bell Labs back in the 1950s. We recalled attending
the Bell Labs celebration of the 50th anniversary of the invention
of the transistor and asked ourselves the question, why didn''t
someone from Bell Labs invent the integrated circuit? In
hindsight, it seems such a simple concept to put more than one
transistor on a piece of silicon. Indeed, Kilby, in a talk at this
celebration said he had visited Bell Labs prior to his invention
and was in awe of the brilliant individuals he encountered there.
In my column of October 5, 1999, I mentioned my embarrassing
encounter with Kilby, whom I mistook for someone else.

The other half of the Nobel Prize in physics was split between
two individuals. One of these is Zhores Ivanovich Alferov, a
Russian physicist who received the prize for his work on
semiconductors and lasers. An article in the New York Times,
called to my attention by Brian Trumbore, reports that Alferov,
upon receipt of the news of his award, bitterly criticized the
Kremlin for its inadequate support for science. He just happens
to be a member of the Russian Duma, the lower house of their
Parliament. His prizewinning work was performed under the old
Communist regime in the USSR.

The Times article related that in 1970 scientists at Bell Labs were
privately celebrating a landmark achievement, a room
temperature laser. Then they learned that Alferov and his group
had beaten them to the punch one month earlier. In the old days
of the Cold War it was a joke in some quarters that the Russians
claimed to have invented everything; this was a case where it
was true! Actually, what was achieved was a semiconductor
laser capable of emitting light continuously at room temperature.
Until 1970, the continuous emission of light from such a laser
was possible only at temperatures much lower than room
temperature. What Alferov and the Bell Labs workers,
principally Izuo Hayashi and Morton Panish, did was to develop
a so-called "heterostructure" laser. In previous work, the
semiconductor lasers were constructed in a single material,
notably a compound of gallium and arsenic called gallium
arsenide. The heterostructure laser employed layers of more than
one material, specifically, gallium arsenide sandwiched between
layers of a compound, gallium aluminum arsenide. All this
maneuvering of the chemistry and device structure lowered the
current required to get the laser action going by about 30 times
compared to that for gallium arsenide itself. Today, this
threshold current is so low that we have such things as our laser
pointers powered by ordinary dry cells.

About ten years earlier, I almost got into the laser business
myself. It was my aforementioned golfing partner who
suggested that I might want to look into areas other than
germanium and silicon. He was then my department head and I
took his suggestion to heart. For a year or so, I dabbled in
growing various kinds of crystal for different applications. A
physicist, Leo Johnson, was also trying to come up with a
continuous room temperature laser. This was not a
semiconductor laser, which had not yet surfaced, but what was
called a solid state laser involving large crystals of such things as
ruby. Again, continuous laser action had been achieved at lower
temperatures but room temperature was the goal. As I recall, I
was pulling crystals of compounds of an element known as
neodymium. Leo tried making them act as a laser, but no cigar.
Leo was also collaborating with a fellow named Kurt Nassau and
he grew calcium tungstate crystals doped with what else but
neodymium. Sure enough, Leo and Kurt had their continuous
room temperature laser. Back to Pittsburgh, I have mentioned
that my professor, Ed Wallace, received a distinguished alumni
award from Pitt. Well, Kurt Nassau was another Wallace student
who came just after I left Pitt.

Aside from growing a bunch of good looking crystals, that year
proved to be totally unproductive for me insofar as deriving no
publishable results. However, toward the end of the year, I
began to dabble in the growth of gallium phosphide crystals and
my delightful experience with light emitting diodes resulted.
Brian Trumbore thought the Times article might prompt some
reminiscences of my own experience with Russian scientists.
Well, when the "boss" speaks, I listen.

It was during the period of work for which Alferov received the
Nobel Prize, that I was involved with light emitting diodes.
After I was made supervisor of a group to develop LED
materials, I got my first trip to Europe in 1968. One of the
highlights of this trip was a crystal growth conference in
Birmingham, England. I will never forget one of the extra events
scheduled for attendees of the conference. It was a visit to
Stratford on Avon and a play at the theater there. The play was
"Dr. Faustus". Those of you familiar with either the play or the
opera Faust will recall it deals in part with various vices. One
appearance illustrating a particular vice created quite a stir both
in the audience and in the British press. This involved a totally
unclothed young lady walking across the stage, her entire body
painted with gold, or a reasonable facsimile. My seatmates for
this performance were two fellows from the USSR. I particularly
liked Alex, who possessed a great sense of humor and was a
jovial sort. Whether it was the play or any wine for dinner I can''t
remember but I do recall we strolled through the streets of
Stratford that evening in a very convivial mood. Some time later
they paid a visit to Bell Labs on the day after a USSR space shot
had landed on the moon and I had a chance to congratulate them
with my meager Russian picked up in courses at Bell Labs. I had
taken the Russian courses to translate scientific articles but soon
the Russian journals were translated into English and my fluency
withered on the vine.

In those days of the Cold War, we assumed that, if a scientist
from the USSR was allowed to travel abroad, a loyal, reliable
Soviet citizen would accompany him. At least it seemed that
there was always more than one present at the meetings we
attended. With this in mind, it was a surprise to me that, at a
Gordon Research Conference in New Hampshire, a fellow from
the USSR was present without a companion. The Gordon
Conferences were, and I imagine still are, relatively informal
conferences, designed to encourage open and free discussion and
generally promote good fellowship among the limited number of
participants. I got to know the Russian attendee fairly well
during the week. When I learned that he was going to take some
sort of public transport from New Hampshire to New York City,
I offered him a ride. He then made a phone call, I assume to
clear it with the proper channels, and accepted the offer.

On the ride to New York, we talked about the differences in the
ways of life in our two countries. He was indeed a staunch
supporter of the Soviet way of life. We were driving into
Manhattan on a Friday afternoon in the summer and the traffic
out of the city was typically horrendous. If the number of cars
surprised my Soviet companion, he did not show it but I will
always wonder just what he thought. (Having been in Manhattan
just a few weeks ago on a Friday afternoon, I myself am still
amazed at the traffic.) Our destination in Manhattan was the
Soviet consulate and I was thrilled to actually find a parking spot
on the street just a half block away. I accompanied him into the
consulate, where a quite burly fellow gave me a quizzical look
while my friend "checked in". We then went outside to say
goodbye and my friend presented me with several of the pins that
the Russians like to give out. I was unprepared for an exchange
of gifts but finally settled on giving him my Bell System
mechanical pencil from the Bell Labs stockroom. Who knows?
This pencil could well be an antique worth a lot of money since
there is no more Bell System! For a number of years we
exchanged Christmas/New Years cards.

In 1973, I was on a tour that included Moscow. While there, we
visited Moscow University and were in the library. I asked the
librarian if she could either try to contact or give me the phone
numbers so that I could contact my Russian friends, who were on
the faculty at the time. She maintained it was impossible and
attempts to persuade our tour guide to try to find them also
proved futile. Our visit coincided with Leonid Brezhnev''s visit
to Nixon in the White House and banners in the streets of
Moscow proclaimed the visit and friendly relations were in the
air. Even so, we couldn''t crack the mini iron curtain.

Finally, I''ve mentioned my friend Dan in Hawaii, who has on
occasion been a critic and contributor to this column, notably
when it comes to things aerodynamic. If you watched the Miss
America non-pageant, Dan''s charming wife works with the
lovely young lady who is now Miss America. Knowing of the
connection, we were rooting for Angela to at least make the 10
finalists so she could get enough airtime to justify the renting of
a large screen TV or two to permit her many friends and students
in Hawaii to watch the proceedings. When she did make the cut,
I predicted that either she or Miss California would win. The
latter came in third. I didn''t do too badly, did I?

Allen F. Bortrum