Thursday, January 22, 2009

Geek Chic Boogie

Everyone at CERN seemed to be glued to the footage of the Obama inauguration on Tuesday. It was covered fully on French TV, and I personally streamed it live from my laptop in my office. It seems like everyone is putting their own spin on how the Obama administration will affect them, so of course I had to point you all to an article in the NY Times science section called "In ‘Geek Chic’ and Obama, New Hope for Lifting Women in Science". How cool is that?! The article makes some interesting points:
In a new survey of 19,000 doctoral students at the University of California, Dr. Mason and her colleagues found that while two-thirds of the respondents either had or planned to have children, 84 percent of the women and 74 percent of the men expressed worry about the family-unfriendliness of their intended profession, and many had changed their plans accordingly.
It makes me wonder why scientists do this to themselves. If most men and women worry about the family-unfriendliness of scientific careers, why don't we do something to change it? People assume that this is a women's issue, but I would argue that in the modern family, it's a men's issue too. It seems to me that by improving the situation, we would not only attract more women to scientific careers, but also help retain men and make everyone happier. So I was pleased to read this part as well:
Dr. Mason and other legal experts suggest that President Obama might be able to change things significantly for young women in science — and young men — by signing an executive order that would provide added family leave and parental benefits to the recipients of federal grants, a huge pool of people that includes many research scientists.
The rest of the article talks about the importance of making 'Geek Chic', and I'm all for it! In a recent Google blog post about involving young girls in a robotics competition, a girl named Tal said that she originally thought technology was "just for geeks", but given the chance to tinker around, she got hooked. So thanks to Tal for doing her part to make geek chic. Between Tal and a scientist blogger named Dr. Isis who continually posts pictures of fabulous shoes, I'm convinced that Geek Chic will be the new trend :)

So put on your dancing shoes and get your boogie on (Nick, this one's for you!):

A bientôt!

Friday, January 16, 2009

"The latest from the LHC"

I will just copy and paste from the CERN Bulletin ...

As promised by the Director-General, we will start a series of regular updates detailing the status of the LHC repairs, consolidation and commissioning.

As of last week all magnets in the damaged area of sector 3-4 have been removed and raised to the surface. In total 39 dipoles and 14 short straight sections are now on the surface. Four replacement magnets have been lowered and installed, and by the end of this week this figure should total seven. Cold testing replacement magnets in SM18 has resumed after the Christmas shutdown. The civil engineering work to repair the slight damage to the concrete has been completed. Outside the damaged area the Vacuum Group are cleaning some of the beam screens in situ.

Both sector 1-2 and sector 5-6 are also now at room temperature and accessible. As well as routine maintenance in these sectors, one magnet from sector 1-2 which was found to have high resistance (approximately 100 nano-ohms, two orders of magnitude higher than the specified resistance) has been removed and is on the surface ready to be opened and investigated.

Already, I am much happier about the information flow.

There is also a really cool set of photos documenting the transport of one of these magnets from the tunnel to the surface to be repaired. If you go to this CERN Document Server page and click on the first photo, you can see a nice slideshow. Sorry you only get a teaser pic here:

A bientôt!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Happy 2009!

I hope you all had a nice break for the holidays. I went back to the US (I spent a week at BNL, and then went home to Chicago) and enjoyed some much-needed down time, and even managed to disconnect completely for a few days in there. I didn't manage to see everyone I wanted to, so sorry to the people I missed!

I'm back at CERN, and it's cold and snowy here. Perfect hot chocolate weather. There's a nice thick layer of ice on the streets and sidewalks, so it's rather treacherous, but it looks pretty. Here's the view from my office window:

So, we have a new year, a new CERN Director-General Rolf Heuer, and hopefully the first LHC collisions this summer*! (*caveat: this is my tempered optimism, and summer continues until Sept 22nd...)

A bientôt!