Up, Up and Away

Posted by Paula Paine on August 20, 2013 in "Academic Programs", Alumni, "School of Arts and Sciences", "The College", "Your OU" The work of Dr. W. Robert Binns ‘62, as well as that of the scientific teams with which he works, was recently featured in Discover Magazine. A research professor in the Physics Department at Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri, Bob was the principal investigator on the Super-TIGER experiment, which was designed to measure the elemental composition of cosmic rays heavier than iron using unmanned balloons flown over Antarctica.

The most recent long-duration flight made history in February when the high-altitude balloon parachuted back to Earth after circling the South Pole for a record-setting 55-days. The balloon uses stratospheric, anti-cyclonic wind patterns near the Pole to stay airborne.

Before it went down, the instrument radioed in most of the data it had gathered. The rest will be recovered later this year when the team travels back to Antarctica to retrieve the data recorder. In the meantime, Binns’ team is combing through the information, trying to piece together an age-old cosmic puzzle. The particles detected by the instrumentation on the Super-TIGER are the nuclei of atoms, known as cosmic rays. Approximately 50 million particles went through the Super-TIGER’s instrument, according to Binns. Measurements of the abundances of the various nuclei will allow scientists to identify the sources of the cosmic rays within our galaxy.

The work of Binns and his team has been recognized by NASA on two occasions, and Binns is widely published on the topic of cosmic rays. For more information on him and his projects, visit the Super-TIGER website, the project’s Facebook page, or the Washington University site under Cosmic Rays.

Binns was one of many family members who attended OU, including his brother, Joe ‘68; parents, Willard and Dorothy ‘30; wife, Betty (Hammond) ‘63; brother-in-law, Donald Hammond ‘65; sister-in-law, Carol (Hammond) Green ‘72; and numerous others. He and Betty returned to OU last year to attend their 50th reunion. “It was wonderful to reconnect with many old friends,” said Binns. “I was very impressed with the variety of directions in life that each of us had taken. I think that, taken as a whole, our class has had a definite influence for good in our society.”