Monday, 30 March 2009

Woman takes over as head of ATLAS

Next month Fabiola Gianotti takes over as head of ATLAS at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland, the first woman to hold such a position. The ATLAS collaboration consists of almost 3,000 physicists from 169 institutions, 37 countries and five continents. ATLAS is the biggest detector ever built at a particle collider.  
Last year the CERN published this interview with her:

Thursday, 26 March 2009

A Fourth Culture: Why Science Needs Art

In this
intriguing article, Jonah Lehrer (pictured - a neuroscientist author, and blogger at The Frontal Cortex) calls for a Fourth Culture, whereby engaging with art becomes part of the scientific method:

"It’s also crucial to take our scientific metaphors beyond the realm of the metaphorical, so we can better understand the consequences of our theories. Art galleries should be filled with disorienting evocations of string theory and the EPR paradox. Every theoretical physics department should support an artist-in-residence. [...]

The premise of this movement — perhaps a fourth culture — is that neither culture can exist by itself."


Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Ada Lovelace Day

Ada Lovelace, a 19th century British writer who is considered the world's first computer programmer, will be honored by bloggers all over the world on 24 March - Ada Lovelace Day. More than 1500 bloggers participating in the first annual Ada Lovelace Day have pledged to write about a woman or women they admire working in technology on March 24th.

Particle Decelerator has chosen to highlight the work of Marta Peirano. Not only is she one of Spain's most respected journalists and bloggers on technology and culture, but Marta is also a historian of technology, having recently
published a book on automatons. 
She is currently working on a biography of Ada Lovelace.


Monday, 23 March 2009

Semi-living entities

A small window on how journalism sees the coalface of the art-science debate, featuring an analysis of the the work of Tissue Culture & Art Project by the curator of the Design and the Elastic Mind exhibition at MoMA.


Sunday, 22 March 2009

Fermilab "closes in on the Higgs boson"

Hands up who agrees that
Fermilab have the best press office in science right now?

After a three week blitz of results ranging from the discovery of
a single top quark, progress regarding the probable mass of the Higgs boson, and the discovery of a mystery particle, Fermilab today released a tantalising hint that the next set of results out of the Tevatron particle accelerator might just reveal a sighting of the elusive Higgs boson. 

Are they just taunting the LHC, or have they really got something?  In all liklihood much will be revealed this Summer at the International Symposium on Lepton Photon Interactions at High Energies (Lepton Photon 09) in Hamburg, Germany, from 17-22 August 2009.  Stay tuned.


Inherent Vice - new Thomas Pynchon novel

We here at Particle Decelerator were most excited to hear about an unexpected new book my one of our favourite authors. A new Thomas Pynchon Novel, Inherent Vice, is being released in August 2009. Apparently a detective novel set in the 60s, the new book is 416 pages long and is described in the Penguin catalogue as "part noir, part psychedelic romp, all Thomas Pynchon".
The image here is the cover art by Hawaiian artist, Darshan Zenith

Fun & Games at the LHC

As the Tevatron close in on the Higgs boson, the LHC are making games.

SuperBob, MicroBoy and other characters show us CERN's antimatter factory, what happens in the theory department and how much of the real work gets done in the cafeteria, in this new game for children celebrating 20 years of the Web.

Dodge monsters, answer questions about accelerating particles & fly through space collecting the electrons, protons and neutrons.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Telharmonium Memories

Before the radio, there was the Telharmonium, designed to broadcast music across the telephone wires. Here's a great link to one of our favourite archaic oddities, from our friends at Odd Instrument.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Particle Oddball Surprises Physicists

Scientists at Fermilab announced that they have found evidence of an unexpected particle whose curious characteristics may reveal new ways that quarks can combine to form matter. The physicists have called the particle Y(4140), and  it appears to flout nature’s known rules for fitting quarks and antiquarks together.

"It must be trying to tell us something,” said CDF cospokesperson Jacobo Konigsberg. 
“So far, we’re not sure what that is, but rest assured we’ll keep on listening.”

Source: &

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Rocket Scientists Shoot Down Mosquitoes With Lasers

A quarter-century ago, American rocket scientists proposed the "Star Wars" defense system to knock Soviet missiles from the skies with laser beams. Some of the same scientists are now aiming their lasers at another airborne threat: the mosquito.

In a lab in this Seattle suburb, researchers in long white coats recently stood watching a small glass box of bugs. Every few seconds, a contraption 100 feet away shot a beam that hit the buzzing mosquitoes, one by one, with a spot of red light.
The insects survived this particular test, which used a non-lethal laser. But if these researchers have their way, the Cold War missile-defense strategy will be reborn as a WMD: Weapon of Mosquito Destruction.

Hearts Of Galaxies Close In For Cosmic Train Wreck

A new image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope offers a rare view of an imminent collision between the cores of two merging galaxies, each powered by a black hole with millions of times the mass of the sun. The galactic cores are in a single, tangled galaxy [...] located in the constellation Ophiuchus.


Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Lucrative religious prize won by quantum physicist

This is my favourite story of the day. The fact that a quantum physicist can win the most coveted prize in religion says a lot about the deliriously unstable state of contemporary thought. And the fact that including dr. d'espagnat, five of the past ten templeton winners have been physicists is also deeply suggestive of ... something.

"The world's top prize for religious thought has been won by a physicist - Bernard d’Espagnat - known for his work in quantum theory and perceptions of reality. The US$1.4 million Templeton Prize recognises d’Espagnat's theory that a new 'veiled reality' lurks behind matter and other observable phenomena."


Friday, 13 March 2009

Networks prone to 'explosive' changes

Scientists have discovered that random networks – the mathematical description for networks we experience everyday in forms such as the internet and global flight connections – can undergo hitherto unobserved flips in behaviour.


Thursday, 12 March 2009

'God' particle not such a heavyweight afterall?

The Tevatron strikes again ....

The possibility of a high-mass Higgs boson may have just evaporated with new data - more precise measurement of the W boson - released today by the FermiLab. The result could mean a tougher,search for a welterweight Higgs. "If someone is trying to sell you a 175 GeV Higgs, I wouldn't buy it", physicist Heidi Schellman of Northwestern University, noted.


Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Rare Single Top Quark Discovered

Fermilab's Tevatron is proving that despite the creaking joints, it can still accelerate with the best of 'em.  Science Daily report that "the discovery of the single top confirms important parameters of particle physics, including the total number of quarks, and has significance for the ongoing search for the Higgs particle ..." 

Previously, top quarks had only been observed when produced by the strong nuclear force. That interaction leads to the production of pairs of top quarks. The production of single top quarks, which involves the weak nuclear force and is harder to identify experimentally, has now been observed, almost 14 years to the day of the top quark discovery in 1995.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Suicide Linux

"Any time you type any remotely incorrect command, the interpreter creatively resolves it into "rm -rf /" and wipes your hard drive. Like walking a tightrope, you have to see how long you can continue to use the operating system before losing all your data"


Why Dreams Are So Difficult To Remember

By listening in on the chatter between neurons in various parts of the brain, researchers from Caltech have taken steps towards understanding just how memories are formed, transferred, and ultimately stored in the brain--and how that process varies throughout the various stages of sleep.


Saturday, 7 March 2009

Lines of Flight 2009

Lines of Flight is a festival of experimental music and film happening as part of this year's Dunedin Fringe Festival in New Zealand. Featuring the Dead C., Sandoz Lab Technicians, Crude, Eye, Rachel Shearer, Guy Treadgold, Sean O'Reilly, Dean Roberts) & more.


Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Frying the wires, freeing the waves

In Indonesia, using wajanbolic receivers, browsing the Internet and sending e-mail is as easy as frying an egg.

The wajanbolic antenna is the key to the system: it is composed of an actual wajan, or frying pan, wrapped in aluminium foil and connected to a short tube. Once placed on a rooftop, tree or other elevated point, the linked WiFi USB stick can be connected to one or more personal computers. Users do not have to pay individual Internet connection fees, but can share the costs with other users, keeping the costs per household to only several thousand rupiah per month.

Foreshore and Seabed Act to be reviewed

The controversial Foreshore and Seabed Act looks set for a shake-up with the launch of a ministerial review today. The Maori Party leadership was in celebratory mood at the news, with co-leader Dr Pita Sharples saying 23,000 of its members would be "dancing on the tables".