News and Events

Nobel Prize Winner to Discuss Reasons for Columbia Shuttle Accident

February 17, 2005

WHAT: UF’s Department of Physics presents a lecture by Nobel Prize winner Douglas D. Osheroff, who served as one of 12 members on the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. Osheroff will speak on “Understanding the Columbia Shuttle Accident.”

WHEN: 1:45 – 2:45 p.m., Feb. 22.

WHERE: Room 1001 of the New Physics Building on UF’s campus.

BACKGROUND: On Feb. 1, 2003, the space shuttle Columbia broke apart during re-entry over Texas at an altitude of 200,000 feet and a velocity of approximately 12,000 mph. All aboard perished. Osheroff was a member of the board that investigated the origins of this accident, both physical and organizational. In his talk, he will describe how the board was able to determine with almost absolute certainty the physical cause of the accident. He also will discuss the cultural causes, such as why NASA continued to fly the shuttle system despite the persistent failure of a vital sub-system that it should have known posed a safety risk on every flight. Osheroff also will touch on the future of human spaceflight.

As the J.G. Jackson and C.J. Wood Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Stanford University, Osheroff shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in Physics with two colleagues from Cornell University for their discovery of superfluidity in helium-3. After earning his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1973, Osheroff served on the technical staff at Bell Laboratories from 1972-1987. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and won the Simon Memorial Prize, the Oliver Buckley Prize, and was named a MacArthur Fellow.

MEDIA INTERVIEWS: Osheroff will be available to take questions from the media on Feb. 22 from 10 – 10:30 a.m. in room 2205 of the New Physics Building.


Allyson Beutke in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ News and Publications Office at (352) 846-2032 or, or Yoonseok Lee in the physics department at (352) 392-6689 or

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