No, that's not why dad left Brookhaven

By the time my train arrived at Oakland's Jack London station well past midnight, late due to delayed bus connections in Bakersfield, the main outlines of the story of the reversed experiment had become clear. But a big question loomed: Should this new information change our understanding of Stan's reasons for leaving the nest at Brookhaven and Columbia, as he did sometime in 1953 or '54, to work for industrial labs at IBM and Westinghouse?

The next day I spoke to Walter and Joanne to compare notes on the chronology. I was born on Long Island December 12, 1952. Stan submitted his paper with Rustad on December 31. Stan and Helga moved to Vestal near Binghamton when Stan went to work for IBM after that, some time before Joanne was born there in October 1954. Walter reminded me that they then returned to Long Island for a time following that, living in Massapequa before making the move to Pittsburgh in 1957.

I recalled something about a big storm impacting the move to Vestal. Walter knew right away I was referring to Hurricane Hazel, a Category 4 storm that swept through the lower tier of New York State on October 15, 1954, four days after Joanne's birth on October 11. There were sustained winds of 72 mph in Binghamton.

Okay, but that doesn't get us closer to knowing when they moved to Binghamton, or to a bigger question, why. Was it closer to my birth date or Joanne's? Certainly they wouldn't have moved immediately prior to Joanne's birth, so they must have been settled in Vestal no later than, say, June of 1954, but it could have been any time after January 1953. Still some work to do here.

Nevertheless, I fairly quickly came to see that the timing of the move from Brookhaven could not have been related to possible problems with the experiment. Following Franklin's chronology, which I had confirmed by now by downloading all the relevant scientific papers, the Rustad-Ruby experiment is considered golden at least until 1956. The first suggestion that it might be problematic doesn't come until after the hubbub over parity violation in January 1957. Wu's critical re-examination is in April 1958.

Unless time and effect can run backwards, as relativistic physics allows, then there is no way that something that happens in 1957 and '58 can cause an event four years earlier. No, Stan decided to move on from his post-graduate position at Brookhaven and embark on his career at industrial laboratories for reasons other than a discredited experiment.

Very likely, the reason that we have always understood for the move still applies. With a wife and two sons, and another child on the way, he needed a real salary and future prospects more than he needed the prestige of working on fundamental physics in a world class lab. He was freshly minted grad ready to go out and make his own way in the world of applied physics.

That said, his relationship with Madame Wu bears more study. It is said she was a task-master. Possibly she was immune to dad's charm, and went hard on him. Walter's first email reaction to the revelations was to write, "Screw Wu," but I'm not ready to go there yet. For one thing, we don't yet have access to her critical reexamination, which is held privately at Columbia. Franklin's paper gives us the technical gist of it, but it would be helpful to see the full document to see what else can be gleaned from it.

That to-do goes on my list for pursuing the investigation.