The PHENIX Experiment at RHIC

The major portion of my research career has been spent on the PHENIX experiment at RHIC. It was my honor to serve as PHENIX Spokesperson (scientific leader) from 1997 to 2006, through the final  three years of construction (stressful to all of us, due to “too much experiment left at the end of the money”) to the first RHIC collisions and the subsequent discoveries of the “perfect liquid” behavior of the quark-gluon plasma. 

Note added July, 2020: The public-facing PHENIX link in the above paragraph is not available due to security concerns related to a web attack. Here is an alternative page that was in development prior to the attack. 

PHENIX has been extraordinarily successful because of the extraordinary effort of the more than 600 scientists and engineers who have been part of the PHENIX Collaboration over the last three decades. As of July 1, 2020, PHENIX has published nearly 200 scientific articles, with an average of 146 citations per paper!

It would be silly for me to try to describe the panoply of results in all of those articles from both the PHENIX heavy ion and spin programs, but I will mention three. There is of course the PHENIX “White Paper“, which along with similar papers from the other three RHIC collaborations formed the basis for the perfect liquid announcement noted above. The discovery of jet quenching was the first PHENIX major discovery paper. And I am particularly fond of the discovery of heavy quark flow and energy loss paper, which provided the first experimental estimate of the shear viscosity to entropy density ratio η/s, finding it to be within a factor of 2 of the famous conjectured bound of 1/4π from Kovtun, Son and Starinets. And how nice it was that Joe Polchinski cited this particular paper in his pushback against string theory critics (No, I had nothing to do with this).