Category Archives: Science News

On the 77th anniversary of Hiroshima

Today–August 6, 2022–marks the 77th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan. In an instant, a single bomb killed or fatally wounded at least 90,000 people and marked the beginning of the nuclear era.

In 2019, I had the privilege of visiting the beautiful city of Hiroshima and the profoundly moving museum and memorial there. It is a powerful reminder of the responsibility that we all share to ensure these weapons are never used again.

The survivors of the attack, known in Japanese as Hibakusha (atomic bomb affected people), dedicated their lives to telling the world about the horrors they endured in order to rid the world of these terrible weapons. Nuclear weapons are going nowhere soon, but I am deeply grateful to the Hibakusha. World War II was the first and, thanks to their efforts, only nuclear war.

Particle physics experiments are millions of time more powerful than they were 40 years ago

I am currently reading Beamtimes and Lifetimes, Sharon Traweek’s excellent anthropological study of the culture at particle physics laboratories in the 1970s when I stumbled upon a remarkable fact. The event rate of particle colliders has increased by a factor of 10 million between the 70s and 2016.

According to this 1976 SLAC report [1], the Large Aperture Solenoid Spectrometer (LASS) could record 100 events every second. That certainly sounds like a lot, but by contrast, by 2016 the LHC was producing 1 billion proton collisions per second [2]. That is 10 million times the rate as ~40 years ago (and at much higher energy) [3]. That is remarkable!

[1] P.F. Kunz, The LASS hardware processor, SLAC-PUB-1723 (March 1976)
[2] S. Charley, LHC smashes old collision records, Symmetry Magazine (September 2016)
[3] The caveat here is that these rates probably shouldn’t be compared apples-to-apples like this, since the LHC doesn’t record 1 billion events per second, and there are other complicated factors.

Join now! The Materials Modeling Stack Exchange forum is now in public beta

I’m thrilled to announce that the Materials Modeling Stack Exchange forum is now in public beta. This means that anyone can browse without having to sign up for sign up for an account and the questions might start showing up in google search results. We’re still actively recruiting more physics-oriented contributors, so I encourage you to check it out.

There are already hundreds of questions and answers on the forum, here’s a couple great discussions you might want to join in on:

Write your congressperson to support science during COVID-19

APS President Phil Bucksbaum recently wrote a letter with recommendations for how congress can protect science during COVID-19 and ensure a quick recovery afterwards. “The letter’s recommendations include: providing grantees full or partial cost extensions, ensuring the supplemental funding necessary to restart labs and experiments is provided, and substantially increasing REU funding for Summer 2021.”

APS is also organizing a letter-writing campaign to call Congress’s attention to this issue. They’re provided a easy-to-use tool where you can plug in your voting address, sign your letter (and add some of your own thoughts) and they will send it off to your congressperson and senators. It takes less than five minutes and it makes a huge difference. On narrow issues like this, you letter might be the only one your elected official receives!

Sign and send your letter now!

Rest in peace Phil Anderson, a giant on whose shoulders we stand

On Sunday March 29, Philip W. Anderson passed away.  Anderson is doubtlessly one of the greatest condensed matter physicists who ever lived.

Anderson made foundational discoveries in localization, high-temperature superconductivity and antiferromagnetism. Indeed, his achievements stretch beyond condensed matter; his work on spontaneous symmetry breaking contributed to development of the Standard Model of particle physics. I’m sure many more competent people will eulogize him (update 2020-05-04 they have), but I wanted share one specific personal connection I have to his work.

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I put together a collection of links and resources for how to stay safe and sane during the pandemic as a page on my website. I thought these were important to share, but I didn’t want to post them individually. I plan to update that page, so if you have suggestions for things to add, please let me know.