The mad ramblings of a scientist
May 2006

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

GLAST and extra dimensions

I am not a theorist, and so I have no opinion on the significance of the latest counter-proposal to general relativity, except I know it originates from the ideas of some prominent theorists. But the theory has certaintly gotten a lot of press recently. Now a new story from the New Scientist, pointed out by Digg contributors, connects predictions from this theory with the Gamma Large Area Space Telescope (or GLAST for short). For me this is a little amusing since I know some of the physicists working on GLAST very well. It is also some great publicity for that project, and hope the people there have a lot of fun adding this topic to their scientific agenda.

Posted at: 9:41 PM
Categories: Physics in the news

Monday, May 29, 2006

Shiny building a company not make

I happen to bump into a company called the Institute for Scientific Research, based in West Virginia, while doing some research on space travel. Their web site is very impressive because it highlights their new research building, a huge glass and steel building. And it sounded like this company did some very neat scientific research. So I got excited about perhaps applying, even though they are involved in some projects of dubious technical merit.

But something didn't sit right. This is where Google comes to the rescue!

Here is an excerpt from a New York Times article I found:

The most ambitious effort by the congressman, Alan B. Mollohan, is a glistening glass-and-steel structure with a swimming pool, sauna and spa rising in a former cow pasture in Fairmont, W.Va., thanks to $103 million of taxpayer money he garnered through special spending allocations known as earmarks.The headquarters building is likely to sit largely empty upon completion this summer, because the Mollohan-created organization that it was built for, the Institute for Scientific Research, is in disarray, its chief executive having resigned under a cloud of criticism over his $500,000 annual compensation, also paid by earmarked federal money.

Well, crap.

Posted at: 10:57 AM
Categories: Diary

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Tevatron restarts

The latest maintenance and development shutdown of the giant Tevatron accelerator at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory is scheduled to end in just a few days. Data collection will then continue for the two major experiments hosted by the facility: CDF and D0.

The Tevatron has a mixed history. Currently the most powerful particle accelerator in the world, it was built to make new discoveries in particle physics. Although the physics output of the accelerator has been voluminous, neither CDF nor D0 has discovered anything momentous.

In the hopes of changing this, the accelerator and the two experiments received major upgrades in 2001. The initial performance of the Tevatron after the upgrade, however, was disappointing. This provoked a major crisis at the laboratory. Fortunately, after overcoming several technical problems, the accelerator once again began to break luminosity records in 2004. Although performance has improved, most physicists, however, do not expect CDF and D0 to record enough data for a real discovery before the newer, higher-energy Large Hadron Accelerator comes on line next year.

Posted at: 6:35 PM
Categories: Physics in the news

Friday, May 26, 2006

Safety should be first

I have worked in DOE sponsored national laboraties for many years, so when I read an article today from the Associated Press concerning nuclear waste cleanup at a national laboratory in Idaho, I thought, "Idaho?"

As it happens there is a DOE facility called the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) that has made key and historic contributions to nuclear physics research in this country. In their list of capabilities they discuss, for example, how they have designed and built 52 different nuclear reactors, or almost one reactor for each of their 57 years of existence. These days the laboratory management has also diversified into national security work, a wise decision given the current political climate and almost manic funding of such programs.

The INL was founded during the cold war. At that time, DOE sites (especially the nuclear weapons facilities) were fantastically lax with environment standards. The result is a huge mess that we are still cleaning up today. Alas, it seems the INL was no exception.

Posted at: 10:06 AM (Edited: May 26, 2006, 10:17 AM)
Categories: Physics in the news

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Fusion research moves forward

An agreement to build and run the huge ITER fusion project was initialed yesterday in Europe by its international partners, including the United States, signaling the end of negotiations. The ITER reactor is currently scheduled for completion sometime in 2015 at a French facility and is designed to demonstrate the feasibility of commercial fusion power.

Posted at: 9:23 AM (Edited: September 16, 2011, 11:26 PM)
Categories: Physics in the news