Posted on November 22, 2007 2 Comments

The god of small things:

While working on the conundrum, Higgs came up with an elegant mechanism to solve the problem. It showed that at the very beginning of the universe, the smallest building blocks of nature were truly weightless, but became heavy a fraction of a second later, when the fireball of the big bang cooled. His theory was a breakthrough in itself, but something more profound dropped out of his calculations.

Higgs’s theory showed that mass was produced by a new type of field that clings to particles wherever they are, dragging on them and making the heavy. Some particles find the field more sticky than others. Particles of light are oblivious to it. Others have to wade through it like an elephant in tar. So, in theory, particles can weigh nothing, but as soon as they are in the field, they get heavy.

Scientists now know that Higgs’s extraordinary field, or something very similar to it, played a key role in the formation of the universe. Without it, the cosmos would not have exploded into the rich, infinite galaxies we see today. The spinning disc of cosmic dust that collapsed 4.5 billion years ago to form our solar system would never have been. No planets would have formed, nor a sun to warm them. Life would not have stood a chance.

In late summer 1964, two years before he would give his Princeton lecture, Higgs rushed out a succinct letter, packed with mathematical formulae that backed his discovery and sent it to a leading physics journal run from Cern, the European nuclear research organisation in Geneva. The paper was published almost immediately, but went largely unnoticed.

Related: CERN Prepares for LHC OperationsQuantum Mechanics Made Relatively SimpleTime may not Exist

National Science and Technology Medals

Posted on July 28, 2007 2 Comments

photo of White House Technology Medal Ceremony - July 2007

The 2005 and 2006 National Medals for Science and Technology were awarded at a White House Ceremony this week. The National Science and Technology Medals Foundation web site has photos of each award winner receiving their medals this year and a list of all winners. The National Medal of Science was established by Congress in 1959 as a Presidential award, has recognized 441 of America’s leading scientists and engineers. The evaluation criteria is based on the total impact an individual’s work has had on the present state of physical, chemical, biological, mathematical, engineering, behavioral or social sciences.

The National Medal of Technology was established by Congress in 1980 as a Presidential award, has recognized 146 individuals and 26 companies whose accomplishments have generated jobs and created a better standard of living. Their accomplishments best embody technological innovation and support the advancement of global U.S. competitiveness.

Related: 2004 Medal of Science Winners (including Norman E. Borlaug)2004 National Medal of Science and Technology Ceremony2007 Draper Prize to Berners-LeeShaw Laureates 2007Millennium Technology Prize to Dr. Shuji Nakamura

List of all winners from the White House press release: Read more

CERN Pressure Test Failure

Posted on April 8, 2007 4 Comments

photo of Femilab inner triplet quadrupole at CERN

On March 27th a high-pressure test at CERN of a Fermilab-built ‘inner-triplet’ series of three quadrupole magnets in the tunnel of the Large Hadron Collider failed. Fermilab Director on the test failure:

We test the complex features we design thoroughly. In this case we are dumbfounded that we missed some very simple balance of forces. Not only was it missed in the engineering design but also in the four engineering reviews carried out between 1998 and 2002 before launching the construction of the magnets. Furthermore even though every magnet was thoroughly tested individually, they were never tested with the exact configuration that they would have when installed at CERN–thus missing the opportunity to discover the problem sooner.

We need and want to make sure that we find the root causes of the problem and from the lessons learned build a stronger institution. Beyond that, there is no substitute for the commitment each of us makes to excellence, to critical thinking and to sweating every detail.

In a Fermilab Update on Inner Triplet Magnets at LHC they state: “The goal at CERN and Fermilab is now to redesign and repair the inner triplet magnets and, if necessary, the DFBX without affecting the LHC start-up schedule. Teams at CERN and Fermilab have identified potential repairs that could be carried out expeditiously without removing undamaged triplet magnets from the tunnel.”

Related: Fermilab Statement on LHC Magnet Test FailureAccelerators and Nobel LaureatesFind the Root Cause Instead of the Person to Blame
Read more

Physics Concepts in 60 Seconds

Posted on December 11, 2006 No Comments

Physics Concepts in 60 Seconds from Symmetry Magazine (from Fermilab and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center). The magazine is open access journal funded by the US Department of Energy. The complete antimatter in 60 seconds by Michael Doser, CERN:

Antimatter is made up of particles with equal but opposite characteristics of everyday particles of matter. Consider this analogy: dig a hole, and make a hill with the earth you’ve excavated. Hole and hill have equal but opposite characteristics— the volume of the earth in the hill, and that of the hole where the earth was removed. For particles, properties like electrical charge are opposite to their antiparticles—one positive, one negative. Also, antimatter will annihilate its matter counterpart in a burst of energy, just like the hill will fill the hole, leaving neither.

The universe seems to contain no significant amounts of antimatter, despite expectations that both should have been created equally during the big bang. So where did all the antimatter go? One possible explanation could be a subtle and unexpected difference in the properties of matter and antimatter, leading to a slight excess of matter which survived the initial cataclysm of matter-antimatter annihilation.

Experimenters at CERN, Fermilab, SLAC and KEK are producing antimatter in particle accelerators to search for and study this difference. Antimatter also has real-life medical applications, such as positron emission tomography—PET scans. But because producing antimatter even in minuscule quantities is very difficult, it will unfortunately never power any future Starship Enterprise.

Related: Open Access Engineering JournalsOpen webcast librariesMystery of High-Temperature SuperconductivityMatter to Anti-Matter 3 Trillion Times a Second

More Great Science Webcasts

Posted on September 30, 2006 1 Comment

Lectures from the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center including: Whispers of the Big Bang by Sarah Church, Archimedes: Accelerator Reveals Ancient Text by Uwe Bergman, Our Lopsided Universe: The Matter with Anti-Matter by Steve Sekula and The Runaway Universe by Roger Blandford. This collection is yet another great resource.

The number of great resources has prompted me to created a directory of great science and engineering webcast libraries: Curious Cat Science and Engineering Webcast Libraries. These sites have awesome science and engineering videos. Definitely worth viewing.

Related: Google Technology Webcastsopen access science postsGoogle Tech TalksUC-Berkeley Course VideosThe Inner Life of a Cell: Animation

Science and Engineering Webcasts

Posted on September 30, 2006 5 Comments

Science and Engineering blog > Science Links > Science and Engineering Webcasts and Podcasts

Scholarships and Fellowships Resourcesscience and engineering blogsscience bookseducation blog directoryrobotic leagues, events…science fairscafé scientifique directory

our posts on webcast

Our Favorite Science and Engineering Webcast Libraries

  • MIT World – a free and open site that provides on demand video of significant public events at MIT.
  • Fora.tv provides a wide variety of excellent talks by scientists, engineers and others – engineering channelscience channel
  • UC-Berkeley Course Videos – full course video collections including: Physics for Future Presidents (26 lectures); Electrical Engineering and Applied Science & Technology (31 lectures) and Bio Engineering (25 lectures). Also videos from conferences and College of Engineering Presentations. Video – great
  • TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talks – videos from the annual conference including: Malcolm Gladwell, Richard Dawkins and Larry Brilliant. Video
  • VideoLectures.Net – open access to lectures by distinguished scholars and scientists at conferences, summer schools and workshops.
  • InfoQ – webcasts of presentations on software development.
  • Engineering TV – by engineers for engineers! Focused on technical B2B engineering and design engineering topics.
  • BBC (UK)
  • Science and the City from the New York Academy of Science every Friday.
  • PBS (USA)
    • NOVA is the highest rated science series on television (in the USA) – includes resources for teachers.
    • Scientific American Frontiers with Alan Alda. Special online features and resources for teachers. 15 years of TV shows.
  • SciVee – By the Public Library of Science. Great promise. Video
  • Google Technology Talks – videos of presentation at Google including: The Next Fifty Years of Science by Kevin Kelly, Winning The DARPA Grand Challenge, Building Large Systems at Google and Human Computation. Video – great
  • This Week in Science – audio podcasts of weekly radio program with an irreverent flavor
  • doFlick – user-generated educational, technical and instructional videos on science and engineering. The videos are are largely tips on lab or engineering techniques, edited labs or short lessons.
  • Stanford Linear Accelerator Centervideo lectures including: Whispers of the Big Bang; Profiling the Invisible: Quantum Mechanics and the Unseen Universe; and Our Lopsided Universe: The Matter with Anti-Matter. Videos
  • Science Studio, Arizona State University – life science podcasts with professors.
  • Honeywell – Nobel Initiative: videos and podcasts by Nobel Laureates in Chemistry and Physics
  • ScienceLive video archivevideo lectures from the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • Engines of Our Ingenuity by John Lienhard – audio podcasts of weekly radio show
  • Science Hack – links to lots of science videos by category

Related posts: Google Tech TalksTech Talks #3