I have heard it stated by renowned scientists, for example Stephen Hawking, that the macroscopic world is completely deterministic from a theoretical if not practical perspective, while the quantum realm is probabilistic. My question concerns the interaction of atomic radiation with the macroscopic world. The emission of a particle from a particular nucleus at a particular time is, as I understand it, purely probabilistic. If that particle hits a DNA molecule and causes a mutation resulting in cancer how can that cancer be said to be theoretically deterministic?
Professor Alan Nathan received his bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Maryland in 1968, and his Ph.D. in physics from Princeton University in 1975. He joined the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois as an assistant professor in 1977.
Professor Nathan has most recently been working on an exciting new experiment on real Compton scattering (RCS) at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (JLab). The ultimate physics goal of the RCS experiment, of which Professor Nathan is co-spokesperson, is to learn about the underlying structure of the proton by observing how the fundamental constituents (quarks and gluons) interact with each other.
To measure the probability of Compton scattering, a beam of high-energy protons, a proton-containing target, and a pair of detectors to detect the recoil proton and the scattered photon are needed. Professor Nathan's role in the RCS experiment is overall management of the design and construction of a full-scale photon spectrometer at JLab. He also heads one of the working groups, which is charged with putting together and testing the extensive set of data acquisition electronics needed to integrate the detectors to an online computer.
In addition to his research accomplishments, Professor Nathan is an enthusiastic and highly regarded teacher. He is a regular member of the University's list of "Teachers Ranked as Excellent by their Students."
My current research focuses on the study of the nucleon using medium energy probes. In the HERMES experiment at DESY, I am involved in studies of the parton and spin structure of the nucleon. I focused effort on the flavor decomposition of the spin structure functions directing a graduate student in the analysis of the semi-inclusive DIS data. I am involved in G0, a parity-violating electron scattering experiment to decompose the flavor structure of the nucleon form factor. Finally, I have initiated a program of high energy Compton scattering from the nucleon in order to study the onset of the perturbative regime and to measure new form factors for the proton.
I am interested in the physics of baseball, with a special emphasis on the dynamics of the collision between the ball and bat. I am also interested in the motion of the baseball through the air, both for pitched and batted balls.
Alan Nathan being interviewed for a National Geographic television special on baseball
(aired July 6, 2007); UI's Eichelberger Field is in the background.
Professor Nathan presently serves on the editorial board of the journal Sports Engineering and serves on panels advising major league baseball, the Amateur Softball Association, and the NCAA. His 2003 American Journal of Physics paper (A.M. Nathan, “Characterizing the performance of baseball bats,” Am. J. Phys. 71, 134–143 ) serves as the basis for present efforts to regulate the performance of non-wood bats.
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