LHC Begins Big Science

 It’s a big day for Big Science: The Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland, the largest and most complex science experiment ever built, began colliding particles at an energy of 7 Tera electron-volts (TeV) just after 1 p.m. local time today, setting a new record — existing machines run up to about 1 TeV. Because mass is related to energy through Einstein’s E=mc square equation, higher energies mean that the machine can find heavier and more fundamental particles and explain some of the mysteries of modern physics. The LHC will eventually reach energies of 14 TeV.

Bill Gates Recommends “Tomorrow’s Table”

Bill Gates writes on his blog that he has been reading “Tomorrow’s Table” by UC Davis plant pathology professor Pam Ronald and her husband, organic farmer Raoul Adamchak. In the book and the blog of the same name, Ronald and Adamchak argue that genetic engineering and organic farming can go hand in hand to create a new agriculture that can feed the world while protecting the environment.

“This is an important book for anyone who wants to learn about the science of seeds and the challenges faced by farmers,” Gates writes.  “I certainly recommend this book to people who are curious about the future of agriculture and the controversies around it.”

UC Davis supporting City of Davis bid for Google Fiber

UC Davis is supporting the City of Davis’s application to become a Google “Fiber for Communities” test site.

What does that mean? Google is presently soliciting applications from communities across the nation to take part in Google’s “Fiber for Communities” initiative.

In those communities that are selected, Google will install its experimental ultra high speed internet with connection speeds of 1 Gigabit per second. To give you a sense of how fast that is it’s 100 times faster than current “high speed” options in Davis.

UC Davis Daylight Harvesting Technology Licensed

The University of California, Davis, has signed a co-exclusive license agreement with Convergence Wireless, Inc. of San Juan Capistrano, Calif. to commercialize inventions that reduce the cost and increase the reliability of daylight harvesting systems. The license agreement covers a package patents and patent applications describing strategies and technologies developed by the California Lighting Technology Center (CLTC) at UC Davis. This agreement is the third agreement out of four possible slots in the co-exclusive licensing arrangement. Previously the co-exclusive agreements were signed with Watt Stopper/Legrand of Santa Clara, Calif., and Axis Technologies Inc. of Lincoln, Neb.
Daylight harvesting systems automatically adjust indoor lighting to match changes in ambient daylight. The work leading to the inventions was supported by the Public Interest Energy Research program of the California Energy Commission.

Friday Physics II: Deep Science

Symmetry magazine has an article about the big science plans for the former Homestake gold mine in South Dakota. The 8,000 foot-deep mine could be Scientists seek…home to the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL), if funding is approved. It is already home to the Sanford Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory, established by the state of South Dakota with the help of a $70 million donation from banker and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford, and housed a classic neutrino-detection experiment that won Ray Davis the 2002 Nobel Prize for Physics.

Rick Grosberg wins a big prize and gets into Science on the same day

It’s a good day for evolution and ecology professor Rick Grosberg. This morning Chancellor Linda Katehi interrupted his class to announce that he has won the 2010 UC Davis Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarly Achievement. The prize includes a cash gift of $40,000, from a philanthropic endowment managed by the UC Davis Foundation. Read the full story here.

Grosberg & VermeijThe prize is given every year to a great teacher — but also to a researcher with an international reputation. And some of that scholarly excellence was also demonstrated today, as Science magazine publishes a news story on work by Grosberg and geologist Geerat Vermeij that was presented at the meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology in January this year.

Friday Physics: Relativity passes a big test

A new study based on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey’s observations of distant galaxies confirms that Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity holds up on the scale of galaxies and clusters of galaxies. But some alternative theories of gravity are not yet excluded, writes UC Davis physicist Tony Tyson in a ‘News and Views’ article for this week’s Nature.

General Relativity describes gravity as a curvature of space-time. However, as astronomers have got better data about the distant universe, it has become evident that theories based only on General Relativity and the Standard Model of particle physics cannot tell the whole story. That lead to theories that include “dark matter” which exerts gravity but is invisible, and “dark energy,” a mysterious force that is pushing the galaxies apart.

Hella News Roundup

Hella jpegPhysics student Austin Sendek’s campaign to get “hella” designated as an official SI prefix (for 10 to the power 27) might be the media hit of the year so far. On Monday, the Sacramento Bee ran a story, followed by a nice piece from CBS-13’s Steve Large. Yesterday other local TV stations Fox 40 and News 10 followed up with their versions of the story, affiliates nationwide have picked up those local pieces and the story has been covered by news sites in the UK as well. The Guardian provides a handy Q&A for Brits to decode American English (“What’s a sophomore again?”).

Astronomy and wine glasses

A group of astronomers and physicists including UC Davis’ Chris Fassnacht have used a gravitational lens to measure the Hubble Constant for the first time. Edwin Hubble came up with the constant in 1929, after observing that distant galaxies were moving away from the Earth. It gives the relationship between the velocity at which a distant object is moving away from us, and its distance from the Earth.

Wineglass demoIt turns out that the Hubble constant also determines the size, age and curvature of the universe. Up to know, it has been measured in two different ways: from observations of distant supernovae, and from measurements of the cosmic microwave background — the remnant radiation from the Big Bang.