Not just science, SLAC shows off its artistic side with campus sculpture

by Mike Ross on June 3, 2012

Amid SLAC’s buildings and byways in Menlo Park are a number of outdoor sculptures and technical artifacts that should inspire some amount of awe and wonder among employees and visitors alike. Presented here are eight works, ranging from science-inspired commissions to retired equipment.

Waveguide SculptureWaveguide Sculpture

Location: outside Panofsky Auditorium (Building 43)
Designers: SLAC’s Arnold Eldredge and Stanford Art Professor Lorenz Eitner
Year: Created in 1966
Info: Eitner and Eldredge designed this sculpture, comprising four long lengths of S-Band microwave waveguide, for the 1966 Stanford Museum exhibit, “Design for Nuclear Research: An Exhibition of Components from the Stanford Linear Accelerator.”
Bonus point: About 7.5 miles of this type of waveguide are used to insert power for accelerating electrons down the 2-mile-long SLAC linear accelerator.

Star Hub 113

Star Hub 113Location: east of Kavli Auditorium (Building 51)
Sculptor: Michael DeLeon
Year: Installed 2007
Info: This 4.5-foot-tall, 400-pound, 12-pointed star was cast organically from clay and steel by the Bay Area artist.
Bonus point: DeLeon says he created the star-shaped sculptures in his “Genesis” series to suggest the first explosive moments of the universe.


Kryeti-AekyadLocation: Panofsky Grove (south of Building 51)
Sculptor: Douglas Abdell
Year: Installed 2004
Info: Made in 1980 of welded bronze, this piece was donated to Stanford University by the owners of the Gap clothing store chain, Doris and Donald Fisher. It came to SLAC via the Stanford Panel on Outdoor Art.
Bonus point: Other pieces in Abdell’s “Aekyad” sculpture series are located at Wichita State University, Kansas State University and New York City.

Bubble Chamber GlassBubble Chamber Glass

Location: between Buildings 48 and 51
Designer: Catherine Carr, SLAC mechanical designer
Year: Unveiled in 2003
Info: The 40-inch, 1,078-pound, circular glass centerpiece for this work of art was once the window of a liquid hydrogen bubble chamber used at SLAC to track particles created in experiments from the 1960s through the 1980s.
Bonus point: A careful look reveals small x’s etched into the glass surface. Called fiducials, these marks were used for 3-D stereoscopic reconstruction of particle tracks.

The Rock

The RockLocation: east entrance to Building 41
Sculptor/designer(s): Mother Nature?
Year: Installed in 1992
Info: This 800-pound sphere was discovered in 1980 during an excavation at the West End of the Klystron Gallery. A hole was drilled into it to find out if it was a geode. Nope; solid sandstone. Years later, pranksters placed The Rock in its current location.
Bonus point: The Rock has its own faux-Latin motto, ITIS AROCAN DITIS ABI GONE (“IT IS A ROC AND IT IS A BIG ONE”); was featured on SLAC’s 30th Anniversary T-shirts; and once, for a couple of weeks in June 2005, bore a “happy face.”

500 kW CW Klystron500kW CW Klystron

Location: north of Building 44
Designer(s): Jointly developed and constructed by CERN and SLAC
Year: Installed in 2001
Info: Developed in the mid-1970s, this klystron was built to increase the power of SPEAR’s 125-kW klystrons to 500 kW. The design was shared with Philips/Valvo of Germany and became the basis for all high-power, continuous-wave klystron tubes in the world.Bonus point: A boom crane was needed to lift the klystron and its stand up and over Building 44, from the street side to its present location on the SLAC Green.

Jens Zorn Sculpture

Jens Zorn SculptureLocation: patio east of Building 40
Sculptor: Jens Zorn, emeritus physics professor at the University of Michigan
Year: 2012
Info: Commissioned by an anonymous donor to the PULSE Institute for Ultrafast Energy Science, SLAC’s newest outdoor sculpture – not yet named – represents an intense laser pulse ripping open the confining wall of an atom, forcing  electrons to escape in a rapid but controlled sequence.
Bonus point:Other Zorn sculptures depict such physics concepts as Feynman diagrams, positronium and harmonic upconversion.

The Wiggler Magnet

The Wiggler MagnetLocation: southeast corner of intersection of Loop and PEP Ring roads (by Gate 17)
Magnet Designers: Jim Spencer and Bill Brunk
Year: Installed in 2002
Info: This is one half of the historic 1.25-meter-long, 7-pole, 18,000-Gauss wiggler magnet that, in the early hours of February 28, 1979, created at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource the world’s most powerful X-ray beam at that time. It was also the first wiggler used routinely for X-ray experiments.
Bonus point:The other half of this wiggler is on display on the SSRL floor opposite Beamline 9. The successful use of this wiggler (and the first permanent-magnet undulator installed in SPEAR in 1980) led to the construction of third-generation synchrotron radiation storage rings around the world.

 Photos by Brad Plummer of SLAC

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