Thursday, August 30, 2007


NCIL Visit to BNL (8/29/07)
This was a funny surprise. K's friend Michelle emailed her the other day to say that she was taking a tour of BNL the next day, without much information beyond that. I managed to catch up with the bunch of them at the cafeteria and learned about the Nomadic Center for Institutionless Learning, which was
formed by a group of people interested in furthering their education beyond the traditional institutions of higher education. We are dedicated to establishing alternatives to bureaucracy, hierarchy and student loans. Education can and should be free!
The group (in this case a group of Brooklyn artists) decided one day that they wanted to know more about particle physics, got online, found that they had a huge nuclear and particle physics lab in their backyard, and voila had a tour set up by the lab, hosted by Elaine Lowenstein with tours of the various BNL facilities. My group leader even showed them around STAR and a bit of RHIC. For those readers in the NY area: BNL is clearly ready and willing to show people around -- take advantage of it!

NCIL Visit to BNL (8/29/07)NCIL Visit to BNL (8/29/07)

AdS/CFT's New Suitor

Google News seems to know me better than I know myself, or at least what I want to see on the web. It found me this Nature article, discussing a somewhat-new paper using the AdS/CFT correspondence to understand High Tc superconductors. We at RHIC thought we had AdS/CFT all to ourselves as potentially the first great application of String Theory to the Real World. But any reader of this blog and others have noticed that the gang (esp. Pavel Kovtun) reponsible for the RHIC connections have also been exploring more accessible condensed matter problems. Fascinating stuff, especially how similar physical principles apply to widely different size and time scales (they don't call it "scale invariance" for nothing...)

Lightning Strikes

Just noticed this on Gizmodo: Holy moly. I hadn't appreciated that planes were generally insensitive to lightning, especially since every flight I've taken has made great efforts to avoid thunderstorms --- naturally because of high winds, but I always assumed lightning was an issue.

But this reminds me of the most amazing thing I saw yesterday above the lab as the sun was setting. I emerged from the dorm building (where I stay 1-2 nights a week...don't ask) and glanced upwards to see two jets essentially "on top" of each other, but at different altitudes and heading in slightly different directions, each glowing in the slightly reddish light from the sunset in a clear sky. I assume there was no negligence on the part of ATC, but it was both beautiful and chilling at the same time.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Project X?

The interesting things you discover on Google News: like this Chicago Tribune article discussing Fermilab's plans for a new machine called Project X...
Fermilab is floating plans for a new $500 million particle accelerator in hopes of paving the way for a much larger project and shoring up the lab's fragile position in the world of high-energy physics.

A road map for the machine, dubbed "Project X" for now, was quietly disclosed last week in the lab's daily newsletter. The new device would become the biggest project at the Batavia facility after the scheduled shutdown in 2009 of the Tevatron, currently the world's most powerful accelerator studying the fundamental structure of the universe.

Fermilab's long-range ambition is to host a mammoth project called the International Linear Collider, but that idea will take decades to bring to fruition. Project X would incorporate many of the technologies needed for the ILC, yielding new experimental opportunities and potentially strengthening Fermilab's chances of landing the bigger device.
As a nuclear guy living through a time of major transition, it's great to see our particle friends getting resourceful and practical (as if we'd expect them to behave any other way!) But note to self: don't ever call my next new particle accelerator idea "Project X". While it may capture the imagination of science fiction fans, I immediately started imagining the paranoid phantasmagoria cooking up in the Chicago area and the dark recesses of the internets as we speak. Then again, it's also the name of a movie. A Matthew Broderick Movie. From 1987. Starring chimps. Chimps!

So it's also good they're posting a fun page of "Possible Names for Project X" on the FNAL website. As one might guess, these acronyms often fall between two main poles, 1) take the first letter from each word of a genuinely descriptive phrase, resulting in something totally unpronouncable (e.g. HISEPL? EPL&IB?), 2) something meaningful, clever -- and often local -- as a name, to which descriptive language can be shoehorned in (ENRICO -- not even an acronym, LINCOLN -- as in "Land of"). Then there's lots of flailing around -- and we can only imagine how much considering how many attempts they're willing to post (SNuFL!)