Wednesday, March 18, 2009

John Oliver on Science

On the lighter side, I John Oliver. So I thoroughly enjoyed his "science commentary" on the Daily Show Monday night. Hope you all get a kick out of it too (John Oliver comes on around the 2-minute mark):

Going to listen to some tunes on my magic song brick now :)

A bientôt!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Where the web was born

Happy 20th birthday to the WWW! 20 years ago today the web was "born" here at CERN with the submission of a proposal by Tim Berners-Lee called "Information Management: A Proposal". CERN is also having an event (webcast) to celebrate.

(photo from mackz)

Here is a link to the CERN Press Release, and there's a nice article in SLAC Today with screenshots of the first SLAC webpages.

I know that I can't imagine life/work without those three w's, especially since while I'm at CERN it's my lifeline to family, friends, and news from home.

A bientôt!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Shhh, it's a secret

I came across a link to an old Cosmic Variance blog post from Julianne Dalcanton called "The Cult of Genius", and I was compelled to pass it on. Mostly because it so eloquently reveals physicists' biggest secret:
During high school or college, many aspiring physicists latch onto Feynman or Einstein or Hawking as representing all they hope to become. The problem is, the vast majority of us are just not that smart. Oh sure, we’re plenty clever, and are whizzes at figuring out the tip when the check comes due, but we’re not Feynman-Einstein-Hawking smart. We go through a phase where we hope that we are, and then reality sets in, and we either (1) deal, (2) spend the rest of our career trying to hide the fact that we’re not, or (3) drop out.
Some of us aren't even so great with the mental math ;) I think that this realization hits most physicists sometime mid-grad school, after finishing classes and shortly after one starts doing research full-time, and it's a bit of an identity crisis. Julianne continues:
Well, screw that. Yes, you have to be clever, but if you have good taste in problems, an ability to forge intellectual connections, an eye for untapped opportunities, drive, and yes, a willingness to work hard, you can have major impacts on the field. While my guess is that this is broadly understood to be true by those of us clever-but-not-F-E-H-smart folks who’ve survived the weeding of graduate school, postdoctoral positions, and assistant professorhood, we do a lousy job of communicating this fact to our students. I’ve always suspected that we lose talent from the field because people opt for Door #3 (drop out) when they face up to the fact that physics is frequently hard, even for very clever people.

So now you know the "secret". Are you convinced? The "Cult of Genius" is a difficult concept to overcome, both within physics and in how physicists relate to the rest of society. Especially when we are bombarded by images like this:

(a painting by Ken Currie of Peter Higgs, namesake of the elusive Higgs boson, aka the "God particle" that experiments at Fermilab and CERN are searching for)

A bientôt!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Chamonix Summary -- More about the September Incident

Today I'll continue with some cool photos from the Chamonix summary (as I discussed last week).

The first speaker had another photo from the September 19th incident, describing that of the 595 MJ (595,000,000 Joules) of energy stored in the magnets, half was dissipated in the arc that caused the damage:

(photo from slide 7 of the first summary talk). A typical surge protector in your house might be able to absorb and dissipate on the order of 1000 Joules of energy.

And, along with more info about the damage, we get some more photos of repairs... for example, a "jumper" repair on part of the damaged sector:

And remember the how the soot in the beam pipe needed to be cleaned? Here's a before (left) and after (right):

and a photo of the "Q-tip" (ok, they call it a foam plug) they use to clean the beam pipe...

first dipped in alcohol, then dry.

If this is the kind of thing that floats your boat, you might want to check out the whole video of the Chamonix summary. Beware of the accelerator jargon ... here's some help (and for my own future reference; corrections welcome in the comments):

BIS = beam interlock system
DFB = electrical distribution box
MCI = maximum credible incident
MLI = multilayer insulation
MO = multipole
MPS = machine protection system
MQ = skew quadrupole
QPS = quench protection system
QRL = cryogenic pipeline
SEU = single event upset
SSS = short straight section

A bientôt!