Saturday, December 20, 2008

Scientists to Invade Washington in January

This week, our president-elect announced his pick for science advisor (John Holdren). There's a nice article in Physics Today about Dr. Holdren. And, the president-elect's weekly address is all about science:

This is my favorite part:

"Whether it’s the science to slow global warming; the technology to protect our troops and confront bioterror and weapons of mass destruction; the research to find life-saving cures; or the innovations to remake our industries and create twenty-first century jobs—today, more than ever before, science holds the key to our survival as a planet and our security and prosperity as a nation. It is time we once again put science at the top of our agenda and worked to restore America’s place as the world leader in science and technology.

Right now, in labs, classrooms and companies across America, our leading minds are hard at work chasing the next big idea, on the cusp of breakthroughs that could revolutionize our lives. But history tells us that they cannot do it alone. From landing on the moon, to sequencing the human genome, to inventing the Internet, America has been the first to cross that new frontier because we had leaders who paved the way: leaders like President Kennedy, who inspired us to push the boundaries of the known world and achieve the impossible; leaders who not only invested in our scientists, but who respected the integrity of the scientific process.

Because the truth is that promoting science isn’t just about providing resources—it’s about protecting free and open inquiry. It’s about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology. It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it’s inconvenient—especially when it’s inconvenient. Because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth and a greater understanding of the world around us. That will be my goal as President of the United States—and I could not have a better team to guide me in this work."

It makes me want to jump up and down saying "Yes, our president-elect gets it!".

He also appointed Harold Varmus and Eric Lander to his advisory council, and Jane Lubchenco to be the head of NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). So along with Steve Chu, there are going to be a lot of smart sciencey-types in D.C. come January 20th. I'm (cautiously) thrilled!

A bientôt!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Obama's Energy Secretary

A few news-worthy items have cropped up in the past couple days. The first is the official CERN press release confirming that the LHC will start up again in 2009 (phew!). I know a lot of people were relieved to hear that, because the rumors had been swirling. However, for some graduate students, it might be too late... I have heard of a few who can't wait. They are switching over to one of the experiments at Fermilab's Tevatron because their grad school clock is running out, and they need some actual data for their Ph.D. theses. It's rough though ... moving from X grad school to CERN and then to Fermilab (outside of Chicago) in the span of a few years takes its toll.

The second is the news reports naming President-Elect Obama's new Energy Secretary, current Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory director and Nobel laureate, Steven Chu. I think Energy Secretary is an amazingly difficult position right now, because not only do you have to deal with the major issue of oil and moving toward alternative fuels, you can't lose track of the Office of Science (the DOE Office of Science is the largest source of funding for basic scientific research in the U.S.). To me, this choice indicates a strong commitment to basic scientific research over the next four years... I hope!

It's also pretty exciting from a personal perspective, because merely 6 years ago I was sitting in Steve Chu's grad quantum mechanics class my first quarter at Stanford! (Actually, in December 2002 I was probably sweating it out over our last problem set and final exam...) So congratulations and good luck to him! He has a really tough job to do.

A bientôt!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Hard at work on repairs...

A cool photo of someone hard at work on the first replacement magnet for sector 3-4 (the damaged sector).

A bientôt!

Photos of LHC Damage

Finally, some photos of the damage to the LHC from the September 19th incident have been released. These are from a talk given by the CERN Director-General on Friday (agenda):

The first photo looks like a magnet that moved off of its mount (the red boxes) that secured it to the concrete floor. The second photo is of a region between two magnets that was crushed when the magnets moved after the helium was released. It's amazing to actually see a visual ... I have a lot of respect for the accelerator physicists and engineers who are working to not only fix the damaged components, but also to prevent this type of incident from occurring again.

I'd like to echo the sentiments of US/LHC Blogger Seth Zenz (who posted the link to Director Aymar's talk) ... thanks for the information and photos! Looking forward to the LHC being back online next year.

A bientôt!