Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Gonna Sit Right Down and Write [Appropriators] A Letter

As I should have mentioned previously, this year's RHIC run depends crucially on legislative action to get us over the funding "hole" incurred by the inaction of the new Congress to pass a budget. There are several letters going around Congress, where the representatives and senators are being asked to support increases of funding to the DOE Office of Science and the National Science foundation. The current status of the letters is here, as posted on the AIP FYI web site. I and many of my colleagues participated in this process by writing letters to our local Congressmen asking them to sign this.

Apparently, the House will be considering legislation to finish up the 2007 budget process (good thing too, considering we're already 4 months into FY07!). Here's hoping they get the job done this time.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

A Day Off

There is an iron law of professional physics: for every talk you give, there is some sort of proceedings (be it conference, workshop, meeting) to write. Thus, I've been having lots of trouble blogging, since all of my writing mojo has been used up by the end of each and every working day. And yet, it's a new year, the LHC is looming, my serial deadlines have almost run their course, and there are interesting new things popping up daily.

The last few days have been a brief respite from work, work-related travel, and family-related holiday travel (Woodstock, Vermont, Chicago, etc.) K and I decided to take our lives back for a day and remind ourselves about all the outrageously interesting things one can do in NYC, given one has time to take a deep breath and look around.

So just in one day we: 1) zipped through the Chelsea galleries (this despite Jed Perl's withering assessment of the current scene in the New Republic, subscription required though...), seeing neat stuff by Kim Keever at Kinz, Tillou + Feigen, Adi Nes' photographs portraying biblical scenes at Jack Shainman, and Marc Newson at Gagosian, 2) headed down to the Angel Orensanz Center on Norfolk to see Bill Morrison and Michael Gordon's "Decasia" live with at least 6 screens (does the decaying altar count as a "screen"?) and 55 musicians tucked into the balconies playing seemingly-asynchronous punctuated polyrhythms, all in the service of a beautiful montage of decaying vintage film stock (David Bowie was there too, seated about 10 feet from us. Dude.) and 3) grabbed dinner at Momofuku Ssam Bar on 2nd and 13th (the burrito -- ssam -- was fine but nothing special, but the urchin was tasty and the grilled mackerel stellar, as were the rice-coated ice cream balls). Not a bad day at all.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Budget Battles, Redux

As good an update as any. As some of you may have read, RHIC is once again in the news. Not for new discoveries or technical progress, but because, once again, our funding is at peril, just as it was at the end of 2005. And the reason is the same, since the new congress has neglected to pass a 2007 budget at all, instead letting the government coast on a "continuing resolution" that nominally keeps all programs funded at last year's levels. Of course, with the normal rate of inflation, this translates into a 3-4% cut. On top of that, the '06 budget was notoriously stingy to RHIC science, requiring an infusion of $13M from private investors who realized that the return to investment was enormous (i.e. by investing less than 10% of the operating budget, they would be responsible for making good on a full year's operation). Anyway, no-one expects a similar Hollywood Ending this year, so an entire RHIC year remains on the block.


Unless the Congress can pass legislation modifying the continuing resolution to allow reallocation of money within the Department of Energy. The money exists (leftover from completed projects) and it's just a matter of Congressional effort now.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Vanguard

Maybe Lisa Randall was just paying me back a few karma points for linking my masses of readers to her online interview. Or not. In any case, here she is touting the virtues of science at RHIC in a Seed magazine piece on "The Vanguard of Science":
Also of interest is the recent application of string theory to the physics being done at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), where string theory permits some calculations that would otherwise be intractable. The idea at RHIC is to better understand the strong force that binds together the elements of a nucleon, and 2007 may see the theoretical advances of string theory inform the experimental results from RHIC.