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Some pictures April 25, 2008

Posted by apetrov in Cool non-physics stuff, Near Physics, Physics, Science.
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Once again, I was unloading pictures from my cell phone… The whole Einstein theme is related to the visit of Eric Cornell (2001 Nobel Prize winner), who gave our annual Vaden Miles lecture. Some of our faculty had a dinner at one house in West Bloomfield. The owner of this house has the MOST amazing Einstein-related collection! Also, if you visited Princeton recently, you might have seen Einstein’s bust not that far from the IAS. He contributed to the installation of that bust…

How to become famous. And other links February 14, 2008

Posted by apetrov in Near Physics, Particle Physics, Physics, Science.
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I actually don’t know how to become famous, it’s just a catchy title… anyways, besides other things, I wanted to share an encounter that my collaborators and I had with the popular press after we wrote this paper. I got a phone call the next day after the paper appeared on arXive from this journalist, who wanted to talk about it. Since I’m on sabbatical, I only got an e-mail from him a day later asking for the interview and phone number of my postdoc, Cosimo Bambi, who eventually talked to him and quite successfully (he was named a head of our little collaboration — excellent publicity for him, I’m quite happy about that)! So, at the end, this article appeared in New Scientist… and then got reprinted here and here, and here and …. (interestingly, Russian versions are a bit better in the description).

Another thing I wanted share is this. Being in Michigan, one feels the problems of US automobile industry almost firsthand. One thing that I heard on the radio yesterday is that General Motors had one of the worst years in their history loosing 38 billion dollars last year. That’s $38,000,000,000! In one year. And still going! Now, International Linear Collider will cost about 15 billion dollars. With approximately only 1/2 paid by the country who’ll be hosting it. And spread over at least 10 years. And might not happen if funding is not secured. My message is that $15B is a big number for an average person, but not so big for a company, let alone a country (or several countries)…

2008 Detroit International Autoshow February 6, 2008

Posted by apetrov in Cool non-physics stuff, Near Physics.
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No (fundamental) physics in this post. But since I went to see new cars at the 2008 Detroit International Autoshow a couple of weeks ago, I figured some report is in order. Here are some pictures that I took during that show (this is a tiny portion of them).
There were many Chinese companies – last year I only saw one, while this year featured at least five! They make cars that look ok and would probably cost less than US-made vehicles. Some of them also look goofy (this is an electric vehicle):

yellow.jpg

The prize for the weirdest concept car goes to Mazda this year. It is a winner hands down. Do you see Xylon theme (I bet the designer likes the show “Battlestar Galactica”):

mazda1.jpg

Here is another view:
mazda2.jpg

The prize for the coolest new concept goes to  Saturn for their Flextreme plug-in – they even thought of a place for a Segway! I like Saturn vehicles more and more with each coming year.
flextreme.jpg

Some companies are quite close to having “the real thing” — here is a “personal” hydrogen station for a Honda’s fuel cell car. If you have about $500K  you can buy it now…
h2honda.jpg

But the prize for the coolest thing I saw at the show doesn’t go to a car. It goes to a TV.  Look at the picture below – some flat screen TV’s. So what? Well, the deal is that those flat screen TVs show their programs in 3D, without any glasses or anything — that’s why the lady below is holding up a hand – the image of that yellow thing sits in her palm!

I was told that there are only 11 of those TVs in existence worldwide — and onStar has 7 of them…

onstar.jpg

I’m already looking forward to the next year’s show!

2009 Presidential budget request and other stuff February 5, 2008

Posted by apetrov in Near Physics, Particle Physics, Physics, Science.
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I just came back from a trip to the East Coast – which explains me neglecting this blog for a while. I gave talks at the Johns Hopkins University and Univ. of Massachusetts – those places are rather close to my heart as I spent some time in both of those universities at various points in my life. It was fun to give a talk about black holes in one of those places…

Anyways, while I was out, the 2009 Presidential Budget request appeared. And it looks good for the physical sciences. Now, for DOE details can be found here. The DOE portion of the budget (in millions of dollars) for high energy physics looks as follows:
2007 actual__|__ 2008 est. __|__2009 est.

__733________|__ 688________|__ 805___
This is a healthy increase! Why am I not jumping in joy? Maybe because numbers also looked very nice in the last year’s budget, but at the end they turned into a complete disaster… and a year before… there is still quite a bit of road ahead…

Another curious thing that happened last week (besides NY Giants winning SuperBowl) was me getting into a car accident. Nothing serious, a tire, rolling on an I-95 freeway (!) hit my rental car on the front driver side. Now, what are the chances of that! All of that happened just north of the Giant’s stadium in NJ — and since I was hoping for the New England Patriots to go all the way this year — I start to suspect something…. 🙂

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Added 1: New York Times has an article about that here.

Added 2: U.S. Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL-13) sent a letter to the President urging him to include $300 million for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science in his upcoming fiscal year 2008 (FY08) emergency supplemental appropriations request. Full text of the letter could be found here. I don’t know if those letters have any physical effect or could be gauge-transformed to zero.

State of the Union address and physical sciences January 29, 2008

Posted by apetrov in Near Physics, Particle Physics, Science.
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I was listening to today’s State of the Union address by President George W Bush. Besides the usual curiosity about political implications of how the “lame-duck” Presidents frame their last State of the Union address, I was curious to see if traces of this year’s HEP/energy sciences budget disaster would find their way into the speech. Well, the President declared:

” To keep America competitive into the future, we must trust in the skill of our scientists and engineers and empower them to pursue the breakthroughs of tomorrow. Last year, Congress passed legislation supporting the American Competitiveness Initiative, but never followed through with the funding. This funding is essential to keeping our scientific edge. So I ask Congress to double federal support for critical basic research in the physical sciences and ensure America remains the most dynamic nation on earth.”

So far, so good. It remains to be seen how the Congress reacts on this. Hopefully, this year’s scenario will not repeat itself next year…

SLAC’s B-factory to be terminated in March of 2008 January 7, 2008

Posted by apetrov in Near Physics, Particle Physics, Physics, Science.
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As a PI of a DOE grant, I received an e-mail today from Dennis Kovar, Acting Associate Director of the Office of Science for High Energy Physics at the US Department of Energy. This e-mail spelled out the consequences of the disasterous budget for High Energy Physics in 2008. Among other things it stated that operations of SLAC’s B-factory will be terminated in 2008:

“…The sudden and unanticipated work stoppage on NOvA and ILC unavoidably results in collateral damage to the rest of the HEP program. Significant cost savings would require laying off everyone working on those projects immediately. That is not achievable nor desirable. Thus the HEP office had to look for other large non-salary costs that could be reduced to meet the overall budget bottom-line. In the end this came down to a choice between running the Fermilab complex (Tevatron Collider and NuMI) or the SLAC B-Factory in FY2008 (or running both at ~1/2 or less of their scheduled operating weeks). Based on the guidance we have received from the scientific community (e.g.; HEPAP, P5, NAS, etc.), the operation of the Tevatron in FY 2008 has higher scientific priority. Thus the Tevatron and NuMI will operate on their planned schedule, and B-Factory operations will be terminated prematurely. This should not be considered a dismissal of the excellent and important science that the B-Factory has produced, but merely a statement of programmatic priorities in the face of difficult fiscal realities…”

Sounds like a rejection letter (“We had an excellent pool of applicants and although your credentials are excellent, we cannot offer you this position”), doesn’t it? But, as Jafar used to say, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.”

You can also read or even listen to Persis Drell’s (SLAC’s Director) All hands presentation today, where this situation was discussed. She also puts a date of March 2008 for the termination of the operations of SLAC’s B-factory and announced that SLAC will lay off 125 of its personnel. Also, “The ILC program will be stopped for the rest of this year and faces a very uncertain future.” Yep, desperate times…

How politics is killing science December 20, 2007

Posted by apetrov in Near Physics, Particle Physics, Physics, Science.
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I usually stay away from discussing politics in this blog. However, it appears that current political decisions are very unhealthy for US science. Case in point: current Omnibus bill that the Congress is about to send to the President.

Amazing thing happened: only several months ago, both US Congress and the President were in total accord with increased funding for US physical sciences. National initiatives such as America COMPETES Act were prime examples of the fact that US science and technology research and education are important for healthy development of the Nation. Fastforward to today: the bill that will soon be signed into law assumes ~10% cut to the Office of Science of the US Department of Energy. Funding for ITER is zeroed out – now, this is after all of the international-agreement-signing-at-highest-levels. Funding for ILC is given at the level of $15M (nice, huh? well, not so: those $15M are already spent, so no funding for ILC either), no funding for NOvA (a neutrino experiment at FNAL). University programs are largerly intact (if you can call a 2% reduction of our WSU base grant “intact”) — and this is the only good sign. We learned all of it during our recent DOE site visit (when a DOE oficial visits a University to check on the progress of a research program) two days ago.

Interesting: imagine you are building a house which is financed by a bank. You have a contract with that bank to deliver money for your construction in several installments. Now imagine that the bank decides not to give you one of your installments. What do you? You never work with that bank again, right? Hint? ITER? ILC?

See APS reaction to this here.

CERN appoints new Director, LHC is on track December 15, 2007

Posted by apetrov in Near Physics, Particle Physics, Physics, Science.
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Yesterday CERN appointed new Director General. Rolf-Dieter Heuer will succeed Robert Aymar as CERN’s Director in January 2009. See CERN press-release here. Also, according to the current Director, the LHC is on-track for the promised  start of operations in the summer of 2008. Incidentally, my WSU experimental particle physics colleagues are at CERN this week, talking to CMS collaboration about future collaborative work. Our nuclear experimentalists are already part of the ALICE collaboration, so in the nearest future WSU would be one of the handful of US universities with participation in both high energy particle (CMS) and heavy ion (ALICE) physics activities at CERN. Very exciting!

Where in the world do you want to go in 2008? December 11, 2007

Posted by apetrov in Cool non-physics stuff, Near Physics.
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How about Detroit? Some might say “Hmm…” Well, if you are considering going to the 2009 Meeting of the Division of Particles and Fields of American Physical Society (DPF-2009) — which will be held at WSU in Detroit — you might want to read on. It appears that Detroit has been named one of the top 53 places in the world to visit in 2008, according to NY Times. It is number 40 on the list. Only six US cities made the list: Miami (5 and 6), San Francisco(39), Detroit (40), San Diego (44), Las Vegas (50), and New York (53). London is placed 49th…
How about that?

UK pulls out of ILC December 11, 2007

Posted by apetrov in Near Physics, Particle Physics, Physics, Science.
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Ouch! What a news from the UK! PhysicsWorld reported that due to a funding crisis in the UK science (aren’t we always in crisis when it is about funding science? It’s much easier to give out subprime loans and then moan about the crisis when peoople default on those), the country is pulling out of the International Linear Collider project. And not just pulling out because of the lack of funds — here is the exact text from the Delivery Plan, the document that is produced by the UK’s Facilities Council (which is “… [the organization that] operates world-class, large scale research facilities and provides strategic advice to the UK government on their development. It also manages international research projects in support of a broad cross-section of the UK research community. The Council also directs, coordinates and funds research, education and training.” — see the website):

“We will cease investment in the International Linear Collider. We do not see a practicable path towards the realisation of this facility as currently conceived on a reasonable timescale. “

How about that? And this is with all the ideas and plans that are already on the table (including projects that were chopped because of the ILC)… The International Linear Collider just became a chunck less international… This is really bad timing — as we learned recently, the real cost of ILC would also likely to go up

P.S. One can find the complete text of the Delivery Plan here.