Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Parade of Oliphants

Pat Oliphant is one of the best-known cartoonists working in the U.S., and is often the subject of controversy with his cutting satires. Born in Adelaide, Australia he has lived in the States since the 1960s. His cartoons have been awarded with the prestigious Pulitzer Prize.

Interestingly, his uncle, Mark Oliphant, who died in 2000 at the age of 98, aimed at a different target--the world of nuclei. Oliphant was one of the few researchers who worked with two of the greatest 20th century experimental physicists-- Rutherford at Cambridge and Lawrence at Berkeley. Oliphant played an important role in the Manhattan Project, and built in Birmingham, England one of the earliest cyclotrons (circular particle accelerators), in some ways a precursor to the Large Hadron Collider. Oliphant later became governor of South Australia.

Each Oliphant has been richly rewarded with accolades for his creative accomplishments. After all, Oliphants don't work for peanuts.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A New Era for Science

Several days ago, the LHC passed its first beam test with flying colors. It was truly a momentous day for science.

Researchers wait eagerly for the results of proton-proton (and later ion-ion) collisions, hoping to test the Standard Model (uniting electromagnetism with the weak interaction) and to explore the possible existence of supersymmetric companion particles and extra dimensions. Perhaps the secrets of the dark matter that makes up the bulk of the universe's mass will soon be unveiled. Exciting revelations surely lie ahead.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Harmonies of the Spheres

In the very caverns where high energy protons will soon collide at particle energies matching the embryonic moments of the universe, the harmonies of the spheres have already come to life. It's not yet the long-awaited proof of string theory, but rather another class of chords that has resonated hundreds of feet underground. CERN science writer Kate McAlpine has posted her clever Large Hadron Rap, filmed on site at the LHC, on You Tube. Check it out:

Large Hadron Rap