Thursday, July 31, 2008

Total Solar Eclipse of 2008 on August 1st...from China

Potental for a spectacular event that may be witnessed everywhere on Earth...if you have a computer and access to the Internet provided by NASA.

Total Solar Eclipse of 2008--NASA

Also...

SkyandTelescope.com

Space.com

SpaceWeather.com

Deceased--H. Tracy Hall

H. Tracy Hall
October 20th, 1919 to July 25th, 2008

"H. Tracy Hall, 88; GE chemist invented process for creating diamonds"

by

Thomas H. Maugh II

July 31st, 2008

Los Angeles Times

H. Tracy Hall, the physical chemist who invented the first reproducible process for making diamonds in the laboratory, kicking off a multibillion-dollar industry, died Friday at his home in Provo, Utah. He was 88 and had Alzheimer's disease and diabetes.

The feat, considered on a par with converting lead into gold, had been a goal of chemists, alchemists, physicists and scam artists for more than two centuries when Hall -- ostensibly part of a team at General Electric but working primarily on his own -- pulled it off.

Those first diamonds were small to the point of near invisibility and nowhere near the quality that might be required for jewelry. But they were perfect for a variety of industrial applications that involved cutting, grinding and polishing a range of once-intractable materials.

The material is also finding growing use in the electronics industry and, as new techniques have allowed the production of stones as large as 12 carats, in the jewelry business as well.

Hall should have received a Nobel Prize for his work, said earth scientist Robert M. Hazen of George Mason University, author of a book about the creation of the man-made diamond industry.

The search for artificial diamonds was triggered by the 1797 discovery that a diamond is a form of pure carbon, converted into crystalline form by high temperatures and pressures.

Over the centuries, researchers tried various clever ways of producing the desired conditions, occasionally claiming the production of one or more stones. But their work was never reproducible, and most observers argued that the stones had been secretly added to the experiments by sympathetic colleagues or by the researchers themselves.

When Hall joined GE's Project Superpressure at Schenectady, N.Y., in 1953, the company was in the process of purchasing a massive, $125,000 press that could generate a pressure of 1.6 million pounds per square inch in a small, confined space.

Hall had built a pressure chamber that he called the "half-belt" that had been used to create high pressures in a 35-year-old Watson-Stillman press that leaked so much water from its hydraulics that he had to wear rubber boots while working with it.

When he envisioned a better pressure chamber, the company refused to come up with the $1,000 it would require and refused him official time in the GE machine shop to build it. He persuaded a friend in the shop to do the work during off hours, and a former supervisor persuaded the company to purchase the expensive carboloy (tungsten carbide dispersed in cobalt) that he needed to produce it.

After several false starts, Hall ran a final test in the new device on Dec. 16, 1954, when other researchers in the lab had already left for Christmas vacation.

When he unsealed the apparatus after the experiment, he later said, "My hands began to tremble; my heart beat rapidly; my knees weakened and no longer gave support. My eyes had caught the flashing light from dozens of tiny . . . crystals."

Hall repeated the experiment several times, achieving the same results. On New Year's Eve, GE chemist Hugh H. Woodbury used Hall's equipment to perform the experiment, becoming the second person to make artificial diamonds. A week later, Hall reported his results to GE officials, who suspected that he was exaggerating his findings.

But when the experiment was repeated in front of them -- with Hall safely out of the building -- the results were the same. On Feb. 14, 1955, the company breathlessly announced that it had created the first synthetic diamonds, and the results were trumpeted in newspapers across the country.

The news release, however, implied that the diamonds had been made in the company's expensive new press.

Hall's reward? A $10 savings bond. "Big deal," he said later.

Disheartened by the lack of credit, he began looking for another job, landing at Brigham Young University in Provo, where he planned to do high-pressure research. But the federal government had slapped a secret label on the apparatus, which effectively prevented Hall from using it.

His solution was to invent another apparatus, called the tetrahedral press, that was even better and that circumvented all the patents held by GE. He published his research in a widely read journal, but shortly thereafter, the government slapped a secret label on that device as well. A few months later, however, the military lifted the veil of secrecy, and he was finally able to use the fruits of his labor.

Hall and two colleagues later started a new company called MegaDiamond in Provo, and the area still remains a nexus of synthetic diamond production.

Howard Tracy Hall was born Oct. 20, 1919, in Ogden, Utah. His childhood hero was Thomas Edison and, by the fourth grade, Hall's goal in life was to work for General Electric, which was closely associated with the inventor.

He enrolled at the University of Utah, receiving his master's degree in 1943 before spending the rest of the war years as a Navy ensign. After the war, he returned to Utah for his doctorate and ultimately persuaded GE to hire him.

He was active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and he and his wife, the former Ida Rose Langford, served a mission in Zimbabwe and South Africa in 1982-83. After his formal retirement from BYU, he became a tree farmer in Payson, Utah.

Ida Rose Hall died in 2005. Hall is survived by six daughters, a son, four brothers, 35 grandchildren and 53 great-grandchildren.


High Pressure/High Temperature Data Center

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Good science among paleontologists

This is a healthy approach to a recently discovered find regarding 65+ million year old dinosaur tissue.

"Scientists question dinosaur soft tissue find"

by

Maggie Fox

July 29th, 2008

Reuters

Soft tissue taken from preserved dinosaur bones may not be dinosaur protein at all, but bacteria, paleontologists said on Tuesday.

Dinosaur experts made headlines around the world when they found what appeared to be soft tissue in a broken Tyrannosaurus rex thighbone.

Last April, a team at Harvard University in Massachusetts said they had analyzed a small amount of protein from the sample and shown it had characteristics of living bird and, more distantly, alligators.

But paleontologist Thomas Kaye of the University of Washington in Seattle challenges this idea and says he has seen similar structures and shown them to be bacteria. Specifically, he said, the structures look like bacterial biofilm, a slimy substance that the microbes often form.

"We are not experts in the field," Kaye admitted in a telephone interview. "We are not disagreeing with the fact that their instruments detected protein. We are offering an alternative explanation."

Mary Schweitzer of North Carolina State University had analyzed the material taken from the 68-million-year-old thighbone and found not only what looked like collagen, but structures akin to tiny blood vessels.

Kaye, who looks at ancient material using an electron microscope, said he was trying to duplicate their findings. He said he went to the same formation where Schweitzer's sample came from, dug up a 65-million-year-old dinosaur bone, cracked it open, and looked at it.

Writing in the Public Library of Science journal PloS One, he said he dissolved tissue in acid just as Schweitzer had done.

"What had been identified as remnants of blood cells were actually structures called framboids -- microscopic mineral spheres that contain iron," Kaye's team reported.

They tested a variety of other bones, including a turtle's, and found similar structures.

"We determined that these structures were too common to be exceptionally preserved tissue. We realized it couldn't be a one-time exceptional preservation," Kaye said.

He believes what was really inside the T. rex bone was biofilm created by bacteria that grew inside now-disappeared blood vessels and cells.

Schweitzer's team said they had found unusually well preserved tissue and said it was unlikely to have survived in many samples.



Dinosaur soft tissue find—a stunning rebuttal of "millions of years"


Dinosaur Soft Tissue Sequenced; Similar to Chicken Proteins

NC State Paleontologist Discovers Soft Tissue in Dinosaur Bones

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Gavin Menzies--back at it again

Gavin Menzies

Leonardo da Vinci

Gavin Menzies is at it again...this time claiming that "Leonardo da Vinci's drawings of machines are uncannily similar to Chinese originals and were undoubtedly derived from them...." in his new book 1434: The Year A Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed To Italy and Ignited The Renaissance. His last historical failure was the subject of a PBS two part series "Zheng He's Expedition" where he claimed the possibility of a Chinese fleet circumnavigating the Earth and particularly visiting North America's northeast coast line.

The story goes like this. Time: 15th Century China. Expeditions were commissioned by the Ming Emperor Zhu Di and commanded admiral Zheng He. A large flotilla was set into movement discovering denizens from the coats of China to the tip of Africa. Trade flourished and these expeditions are well documented. The proposed hypothesis by Gavin Menzies takes off when the fleet leaves the Cape of Good Hope, sails up the western coast of Africa, and takes advantage of trade winds and ocean currents to arrive in the Caribbean, up the eastern American coast, up to Greenland, and throughout the rest of the world. So the story goes and Gavin Menzies offers evidence. Maybe. Not one shred of evidence can be verified to support such a claim.

Now one can enter "Gavin Menzies" into one's favorite search engine and find a lot of material debunking his assertions.

And now he is currently drawing attention to the authenticity of Leonardo da Vinci's drawings.

"Columbus debunker sets sights on Leonardo da Vinci"

by

Tim Castle

July 29th, 2008

Reuters

Leonardo da Vinci's drawings of machines are uncannily similar to Chinese originals and were undoubtedly derived from them, a British amateur historian says in a newly-published book.

Gavin Menzies sparked headlines across the globe in 2002 with the claim that Chinese sailors reached America 70 years before Christopher Columbus.

Now he says a Chinese fleet brought encyclopedias of technology undiscovered by the West to Italy in 1434, laying the foundation for the engineering marvels such as flying machines later drawn by Italian polymath Leonardo.

"Everything known to the Chinese by the year 1430 was brought to Venice," said Menzies, a retired Royal Navy submarine commander, in an interview at his north London home.

From Venice, a Chinese ambassador went to Florence and presented the material to Pope Eugenius IV, Menzies says.

"I argue in the book that this was the spark that really ignited the renaissance and that Leonardo and (Italian astronomer) Galileo built on what was brought to them by the Chinese.

"Leonardo basically redrew everything in three dimensions, which made a vast improvement."

If accepted, the claim would force an "agonizing reappraisal of the Eurocentric view of history", Menzies says in his book "1434: The Year A Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed To Italy and Ignited The Renaissance".

NONSENSE

The urbane 70-year-old sold more than a million copies of his first book, "1421", which argued Chinese sailors mapped the world in the early 1400s shortly before abandoning global seafaring.

His theories are dismissed as nonsense by many academics -- Menzies says Chinese fleets reached Australia and New Zealand as well as America before European explorers -- but have gained an international following among readers.

"This whole fantasy about Europe discovering the world is just nonsense," said Menzies.

In his latest book -- published in the United States in June and this month in Britain -- Menzies says four ships from the same Chinese expeditions reached Venice, bringing with them world maps, astronomical charts and encyclopedias far in advance of anything available in Europe at the time.

Menzies says Leonardo's designs for machines can be traced back to this transfer of Chinese knowledge.

Leonardo, born in 1452, is perhaps best known for his enigmatic "Mona Lisa" portrait of a woman in Paris's Louvre Museum, but he also left journals filled with intricate engineering and anatomical illustrations.

Menzies says designs for gears, waterwheels and other devices contained in Chinese encyclopedias reached Leonardo after being copied and modified by his Italian antecedents Taccola and Francesco di Giorgio.

To support his argument, Menzies publishes drawings of siege weapons, mills and pumps from a 1313 Chinese agricultural treatise, the Nung Shu, and from other pre-1430 Chinese books, next to apparently similar illustrations by Leonardo, Di Giorgio and Taccola.

"By comparing Leonardo's drawings with the Nung Shu we have verified that each element of a machine superbly illustrated by Leonardo had previously been illustrated by the Chinese in a much simpler manual," Menzies writes.

"It's very suggestive, very interesting, but the hard work remains to be done," said Martin Kemp, Professor of the History of Art at Oxford University and author of books on Leonardo.

"He (Menzies) says something is a copy just because they look similar. He says two things are almost identical when they are not," Kemp said.

"It's not strong on historical method," he added. But Kemp said he would look out for any signs that Leonardo had access to Chinese material, directly or indirectly, when studying his manuscripts in future.

COMPLICATED

"I will keep my eye open, without thinking it is going to turn Leonardo studies or any studies of 15th century technology upside down."

Kemp said the source of the claimed Chinese influence was a separate issue.

"There is a whole series of questions a historian would ask about mediaeval technology, about Islamic technology, about transmission across trade routes, the Silk Route in particular.

"It's a terrifically complicated area and having a Chinese person in Florence in 1434 ends up giving that person a hell of a lot of work to do."

Menzies bases his claim that a Chinese ambassador went to Florence on a copy of a letter dated 1474 by Italian mathematician Toscanelli found among Columbus's papers.

Menzies publishes a translation from the letter reading: "In the days of Pope Eugenius there came a Chinese ambassador to him," although this is not explicit in the original Latin text.

"It's drivel", said Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, a British expert on maritime exploration who is a professor of history at Tufts University in the United States and at Queen Mary College, University of London.

"No reputable scholar would think that there is any reason to suppose that the person referred to by Toscanelli was Chinese," he told Reuters.

Geoff Wade, a senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore's Asia Research Institute, said Menzies' book and theories should be reclassified as historical fiction.

"Certainly Chinese ideas came to Europe and European ideas went to Iran and onwards," Wade said in a telephone interview.

"But the premise of the book that there was a Chinese fleet in 1434 which went to Italy is completely without any substance.

"There is absolutely no Chinese evidence for it."

Menzies brushes off the criticism, pointing to shelves of files in the rooms of his basement study filled with material he says supports his theories, much contributed by readers of his books and associated Web sites.

"I say the claim that critics make that there is no evidence is absolute rubbish. There is stacks and stacks of evidence.

"It's not me that's the fantasist, it's the historians who persist in this complete rubbish which is currently taught as history."


1421: The Year China Discovered America

ISBN-10: 0060537639
ISBN-13: 978-0060537630


1434: The Year A Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed To Italy and Ignited The Renaissance

ISBN-10: 0061492175
ISBN-13: 978-0061492174

UFOs and foreign invasions [Earthly kind]

Now would this be some sort of subterfuge to perpetuate the study of the potential for UFOs in the sense of alien visitation?

"Unidentified Flying Threats"

by

Nick Pope

July 29th, 2008

The New York Times

ON the afternoon of Nov. 7, 2006, pilots and airport employees at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago saw a disc-like object hovering over the tarmac for several minutes. Because nothing was tracked on radar, the Federal Aviation Administration did not investigate. Yet radar is not a reliable detector of all aircraft. Stealth planes are designed to be invisible to radar, and many radar systems filter out signals not matching the normal characteristics of aircraft. Did it really make sense to entirely ignore the observations of several witnesses?

A healthy skepticism about extraterrestrial space travelers leads people to disregard U.F.O. sightings without a moment’s thought. But in the United States, this translates into overdependence on radar data and indifference to all kinds of unidentified aircraft — a weakness that could be exploited by terrorists or anyone seeking to engage in espionage against the United States.

The American government has not investigated U.F.O. sightings since 1969, when the Air Force ended Project Blue Book, an effort to scientifically analyze all sightings to see if any posed a threat to national security. Britain and France, in contrast, continue to investigate U.F.O. sightings, because of concerns that some sightings might be attributable to foreign military aircraft breaching their airspace, or to foreign space-based systems of interest to the intelligence community.

Most of the incidents investigated in Britain have been easily explained as misidentifications of stars and planets, aircraft lights, satellites and meteors, but some cases have raised national security or air safety issues.

On Dec. 26, 1980, for instance, several witnesses at two American Air Force bases in England reported seeing a U.F.O. land. An examination of the site turned up indentations in the ground and a level of radiation in the area that was significantly higher than ordinary. More witnesses at the same base reported the U.F.O. again on subsequent nights. The deputy base commander reported that the aircraft aimed light beams into the most highly sensitive area of the base — a clear security breach.

On March 30 and 31, 1993, there was a wave of U.F.O. sightings over Britain. One witness described a triangular-shaped craft that flew slowly over an air force base before accelerating away to the horizon in an instant, many times faster than a jet. The British military reported, "There would seem to be some evidence on this occasion that an unidentified object (or objects) of unknown origin was operating over the U.K."

On April 23, 2007, a commercial airline pilot and some of his passengers reported a huge cigar-shaped U.F.O. — the pilot estimated it to be a mile wide — near the Channel Islands. At the time, air traffic controllers reported to the pilot that radar picked up something, but that it was "unknown traffic."

In addition, there have been several incidents of near misses between U.F.O.s and known aircraft — enough to prompt the Ministry of Defense and the British Civil Aviation Authority to advise pilots, if they encounter anything, "not to maneuver, other than to place the object astern, if possible."

The United States is no less vulnerable than Britain and France to threats to security and air safety. The United States Air Force or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration should reopen investigations of U.F.O. phenomena. It would not imply that the country has suddenly started believing in little green men. It would simply recognize the possibility that radar alone cannot always tell us what’s out there.

Nick Pope, the author of "Open Skies, Closed Minds," was in charge of U.F.O. investigations for the British Ministry of Defense from 1991 to 1994.



Birth of a very popular mythology

British UFO data released

Myths/science; science/myths--needed...compatible?

Pseudoscience...be careful

SETI--ultimate loneliness?

"Cuil" again

Chris Wilson of Slate wrote:

In a 1966 review of the new Random House Dictionary, Kurt Vonnegut wrote that the key to understanding a new dictionary was to "look up ain't and like." These two definitions are the quickest way, Vonnegut promises us, to determine whether a dictionary is "descriptive" or "prescriptive"—if it explains how language is used or if it decrees how it ought to be.

Nowadays, not so many people use dictionaries—why bother when you can look up the definition online? Vonnegut's idea is no less relevant today, though. Monday's launch of Cuil, the latest search engine gunning for Google, brings us to this question: What queries can you give a search engine to quickly expose its strengths and weaknesses?

All ready, comments are coming and the one from Anita Hamilton of Time doesn't think that the "Cuil" search engine released on Monday the 28th of July will be much of a threat to Google. I think this is a hasty judgement and that time will correct specific issues of complaint. I have done some testing and discovered a greater depth of results. At least it isn't like Google's "Scholar" search engine that has disappointed many users where a plethora of citations are listed and articles that are by subscription or purchase only.

"Why Cuil Is No Threat to Google"

by

Anita Hamilton

July 28th, 2008

Time

Rest easy, Google ... The much-hyped new search engine Cuil (pronounced "cool"), purports to index more Web pages than any of its rivals. But based on its Monday debut, the new site poses little immediate threat to industry leader Google, or even its nearest competitors, Yahoo and Microsoft, in either relevance or breadth of results it delivers.

"Anybody who thought [Cuil] was this Google killer can really see now that no, that's not going to happen today — and the likelihood is that's not going to happen a year from now," says Danny Sullivan, internet search guru and editor-in-chief of SearchEngineLand.

Despite its lackluster performance, Cuil (which means wisdom or knowledge in Gaelic) got so many visitors on Monday, that its servers crashed around 3 p.m. E.T. "Due to excessive load, our servers didn't return results. Please try your search again," the site read intermittently throughout the afternoon. But even when it was working, the results were fair, at best. Enter a keyword such as "mint" and the first result that comes up isn't the herb or flavor but the U.S. Mint. Type in "Obama," and one of the sub-categories Cuil suggests is "Hispanic-American Politicians". And Cuil lacks the special tabs for news, video, local and image results used by the leading sites.

The hype over Cuil, in fact, may be testament to the power of a great back story. Cuil is the brainchild of ex-Google staffer Anna Patterson — who developed the TeraGoogle indexing system that Google still uses today — and her husband Tom Costello, who developed search engines at Stanford and IBM. Cuil indexes some 120 billion Web pages. (Google, on the other hand, claims to scan more than a trillion pages, but only indexes those that are useful, according to the company.) The Cuil team generated so much buzz for its venture that it managed to raise some $33 million in financing. But the acid test of any search site is the results it generates, and for now, anyway, Cuil falls way short of the industry's leaders, and even for that matter, of many startups.

Cuil's distinctive design, in which results appear in three columns across the page, also allows for longer previews of each site's content. But other search sites make better use of page real estate. SearchMe, which launched earlier this year, offers full-page snapshots in its results, through which you can flip like the album covers on iTunes. And the number 4-ranked search engine, Ask, also uses a wider layout to display both images and sub-categories for refining one's search.

Cuil has a distinctive, if old-fashioned, approach to indexing websites. Instead of ranking them based on popularity, as Google does, it focuses on the content of each page. That may make sense in theory — after all, the most popular restaurants, for example, rarely serve the best food — but it is precisely the model that Google broke away from in order to give users more relevant results. That could explain why a Cuil search on "insomnia" directs the user to the American Insomnia Association rather than to the Wikipedia entry on the subject pulled up first by most other search engines.

The one area where Cuil excels, however, is user privacy. Whereas Google stores user-specific searches for up to 18 months, Cuil never stores personally identifiable information or search histories. Privacy has become a growing concern among users of search sites ever since America Online inadvertently released the searches of 658,000 of its users in 2006. But that's unlikely to be enough to persuade most users to switch from their search engine of choice. "Anybody who thinks the next Google killer is going to come along is banking on something that's unlikely," says SearchEngineLand's Sullivan. But if the Cuil story is any indication, that won't stop people spending fortunes on beating the odds.


"Cuil" challenges Google as a search engine

Student loans--going, going, gone!

This is quite sad news and indicative of an attitude regarding education and the terrible economic status of this country. The Boston Globe reported that "The Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority today said it will not be able to provide any student loans this fall, which could leave tens of thousands of families in the lurch just weeks before college classes begin." This posture will certainly have a trickle down effect everywhere. All ready some banks are ceasing educational loans. Where are the philanthropists?

"Student lender won't have loan money this season"

by

Beth Healy

July 28th, 2008

Boston Globe

The Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority today said it will not be able to provide any student loans this fall, which could leave tens of thousands of families in the lurch just weeks before college classes begin.

The nonprofit lending authority said it was unable to secure funding to provide private student loans. It is contacting more than 40,000 students and families to whom it has made loans in the past, to urge them to seek other options.

"As a result of our problems and the continued dislocation of the capital markets, we have been unable to raise funds for the coming academic year,'' said Thomas M. Graf, executive director of the group.

In April, the authority -- which is widely used by Bay State students -- announced that it would no longer extend federally backed loans, due to the credit crunch that has roiled the student loan market. But on June 25, the authority had said it expected to be able to offer private loans at fixed rates by the end of July. The group has now abandoned that hope, Graf said. MEFA made $510 million in student loans in the last school year.

For families and students with tuition bills due in August, Graf said, "Time is relatively short. Parents and families really need to satisfy their bills."

He said MEFA will have a hotline set up to offer advice and is encouraging families to seek federally backed loans first, then to shop for private loans, based in part on the recommendations made to them by colleges and universities.

The student loan market began running into trouble at the end of last year, following the subprime mortgage crisis. A kind of long-term debt many lenders had relied on to make loans, called auction-rate bonds, stopped trading on Wall Street entirely in February 2008, as investor demand dried up. It has been difficult for some authorities, like the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority, to refinance their old auction-rate bonds.

Graf said the reversal of events on private loans occurred when the agency's bond insurer faced a possible downgrade in its credit rating, which, in turn, would have pushed up the cost of floating new debt. Problems with bond insurers have compounded the turmoil in the debt markets this year.

The group still hopes to acquire funding later this year and for spring 2009, Graf said. He noted that MEFA, which employs about 50 people, continues to run other educational programs, including the college savings plan it manages jointly with Fidelity Investments. Massachusetts families have nearly $3 billion in college savings in that program, Graf said. In addition, the lender has about $1.5 billion in past loans on its books which it continues to service.

About 50 nonprofits, banks, and government entities have stopped making some or all kinds of student loans this year.

Monday, July 28, 2008

50 years with NASA

50 years is a rather short time when one considers what has been accomplished and learned from space exploration.

"NASA: 50 Years of Towering Achievement"

by

Tony Long

July 27th, 2008

Wired

One of the indelible memories for anyone living through the 1960s was watching CBS newsman Walter Cronkite anchor another televised liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Throughout the decade, from Alan Shepard through Neil Armstrong, Cronkite made it clear to his audience that they were taking part in something momentous, something that not only represented the flowering of a great technological achievement but stirred the human soul as well.

This week, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration observes the 50th anniversary of its creation. And make no mistake: There's a lot to celebrate. NASA's achievements write a glorious chapter in human history, one that's nearly impossible to overstate. Is it fair to call NASA the greatest scientific and exploratory agency ever created? It is.

Americans used to appreciate this. Rare was the school in the early '60s that didn't stop the day's activities so student and teacher alike could gather in front of a grainy, often wavy, black-and-white picture of an Atlas booster rising heavenward from the smoke and fire, while Uncle Walter, live from the Cape, told us what it all meant.

It meant a lot. The U.S. space program was a cultural touchstone as much as a scientific or political one. Astronauts were heroes, as revered as any ballplayer or movie star of the time. You'd have to be living in a cave not to know what NASA was, and byproducts of the space program touched almost every corner of American life.

It cost the United States about $40 billion to get to the moon. Even at twice the cost, that's chump change. The human race has been repaid many times over for that investment, as it has for many other NASA projects. So much of what we take for granted today is either directly or indirectly a byproduct of what used to be called space-age technology. Medicine, the military, communications, miniaturization, computerization -- all have benefited because of NASA's work.

The space program also helped to fire an interest in the sciences generally, with all the obvious benefits that accrue to that. And if you believe that reaching for the stars represents a triumph of the human spirit, then those who dedicate their lives to it -- from NASA's astronauts to the Soviet/Russian cosmonauts to all the other spacefarers who have taken up the challenge -- only carry us forward.

And to think it all started, more or less, with the terrifying appearance of a shiny ball measuring a mere 22 inches across.

Sputnik Started It All

It was Oct. 4, 1957 when the Soviet news agency Tass announced to a stunned world that the Soviet Union had successfully placed Elementary Satellite 1, aka "Sputnik," into an elliptical orbit 900 kilometers above the Cold War-wracked planet. The aluminum sphere was the first man-made object to orbit the Earth, and its celestial presence electrified the world and kicked the Space Age into high gear, leading in short order to the formation of NASA.

American scientists were already in a close race with the Russians to launch the first orbiting satellite. But the Americans' Vanguard program, run by the Naval Research Laboratory, was beset by cost overruns and delays. Getting beat by the Russians was a tremendous blow.

The pressure intensified with the successful Russian launch, less than a month later, of the much heavier Sputnik 2 (with the dog Laika aboard). The sting of that was only somewhat mitigated by the Army's successful launch and orbiting of Explorer 1 on Jan. 31, 1958.

It was clear that the United States was losing ground and that its space effort needed a major reorganization. The first step was to reinvigorate the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, or NACA, a rather geeky and elitist civilian panel that had been around since 1915. As NACA's charter grew, the decision was made to expand it into a full-fledged government agency.

On July 29, 1958, President Eisenhower signed legislation creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA was born.

Space Pioneers

NASA officially became a functioning entity on Oct. 1, 1958, with T. Keith Glennan as its first administrator. There were 8,000 employees, inherited from NACA; three research laboratories -- Langley Aeronautical Laboratory, Ames Aeronautical Laboratory and Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory -- and an annual budget of $100 million.

The agency's mission statement will have faint echoes for Star Trek fans: "To improve life here, to extend life there, to find life beyond."

The U.S. and Soviet space programs dueled throughout the decade, launching various satellites (military, communications, environmental) and sending their men (and eventually, women) on increasingly ambitious missions. The Russians were first to hit the moon with a man-made object (1959), first to orbit the moon and photograph its far side (1959), first to send a man into space (Yuri Gagarin, in 1961), first to send a woman into space (Valentina Tereshkova, in 1963), first to have a cosmonaut go EVA, or leave an orbiting spacecraft (Alexei Leonov, in 1965), first to land a probe on the moon and transmit data back to Earth (1966), the first to place a manned space station into orbit (1971).

NASA, though, was no laggard, posting a series of successes throughout the 1960s and eventually overtaking the Russians. The ultimate goal was straightforward, if not simple: Beat the Russians and be first to put a man on the moon.

A manned space program required astronauts, so NASA immediately began screening military and civilian test pilots for suitable candidates. Seven were chosen, and because the project was named Mercury, they became known as the "Mercury Seven": Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper Jr., John Glenn Jr., Gus Grissom, Walter Schirra Jr., Alan Shepard Jr. and Deke Slayton.

A project of that scope also required massive public support, and NASA cannily touted the Mercury Seven as the mascots of the fledgling space program, turning them into national heroes and rallying the populace behind the agency's lofty goals.

Twenty-three days after Gagarin's historic, 108-minute flight, Alan Shepard became the first American into space. It was a quick up-and-back, suborbital affair aboard Freedom 7. Eleven months later, on Feb. 20, 1962, John Glenn completed three orbits aboard Friendship 7 and the space race was officially tied again.

Project Mercury ran its course. It was replaced by Project Gemini in 1965, an intermediate program designed to pave the way for Project Apollo and the final assault on the moon.

To the Moon

Apollo 8 was the first manned spacecraft to enter lunar orbit, circling the moon 10 times before heading home. Apollo 10 amounted to a full dress rehearsal for the actual landing, orbiting the moon 31 times and coming within 50,000 tantalizing feet of the lunar surface.

NASA's supreme moment arrived on July 20, 1969. With the entire world watching -- no exaggeration -- Apollo 11's lunar lander, Eagle, touched down on the powdery surface of the Sea of Tranquility at 4:18 p.m. EDT. The first words spoken from the lunar surface was a simple acknowledgement to mission control: "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."

Six-and-a-half hours later, astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first human being to set foot on the moon. Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin spent two-and-half hours on the lunar surface, planting the American flag, placing a plaque ("Here Men From the Planet Earth First Set Foot Upon the Moon. July 1969 A.D. We Came in Peace for All Mankind."), collecting soil samples and setting up scientific instruments.

Astronauts returned to the moon on subsequent Apollo flights to collect additional mineral samples, play a little golf and conduct a slew of scientific experiments.

NASA narrowly averted disaster in April 1970 with Apollo 13, when an oxygen tank ruptured onboard. The mission became a harrowing rescue drama that in some ways was NASA's finest hour. The three-man crew -- James Lovell, John Swigert and Fred Haise Jr. -- abandoned their crippled, oxygen-starved command module and crammed themselves into the lunar lander for an attempted return to Earth. Working with flight controllers on the ground, they swung around the moon, using the lunar gravity to propel them toward Earth. Three days after the explosion, they splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean.

Although there were five more Apollo missions to come, NASA was already turning its attention to the exploration of deep space, the deployment of an orbiting space station and the development of a reusable craft that it called the space shuttle.

And the race was not without its tragic setbacks.

In January 1967, Gus Grissom, one of the original seven Mercury astronauts, was killed along with two crewmates, Ed White and Roger Chaffee, when their Apollo 1 training capsule caught fire during a test at Cape Canaveral. They were the first fatalities for NASA and the U.S. space program.

Even as they paused to mourn and bury their dead, NASA's engineers and astronauts forged ahead.

Beyond Apollo

On March 2, 1972, NASA launched Pioneer 10, which became the first satellite to pass through the asteroid belt and return close-up images of Jupiter. From there, it sailed on out of the solar system and into deep space, where it continued sending signals until contact was finally lost on Jan. 22, 2003.

NASA launched two more deep-space probes in 1977, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. Together, the two spacecraft have visited more planets, asteroids, rings and moons, and traveled farther than any other spacecraft. Voyager 1 is now further from Earth than any man-made object.

Closer to Earth, NASA began to "extend life there" by launching its first space station, Skylab, in 1973. Americans were now able to spend extended periods in space, which, among other things, led to more sophisticated studies on the effects of prolonged weightlessness on the human body.

As the cold war thawed, U.S. and Soviet space programs began moving toward a spirit of cooperation, which culminated in the Apollo-Soyuz test project in 1975. The crews performed a few joint scientific experiments, but the real value of this mission was to help the easing of tensions back on Earth, advancing NASA's mission to "improve life here." It also paved the way for future joint U.S.-Russian efforts, like the Shuttle-Mir program.

The centerpiece of NASA's post-Apollo years has been the space shuttle. Designed to carry large payloads in low Earth orbit, the shuttle is the first truly reusable orbital spacecraft. Six shuttles have been built. Five of them -- Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour -- were fully operational. The prototype, Enterprise, was not built to fly in space.

Its versatility and durability has made the shuttle NASA's workhorse since STS-1, Columbia's maiden flight in 1981. Shuttles have been used to deploy and recover satellites, to deliver payloads and crews to various space stations, to conduct experiments in the weightlessness of space, and to dispatch crews to repair other space vehicles. In 1990, it was Discovery that deployed another resounding NASA success, the Hubble Space Telescope.

To date there have been 121 shuttle missions. Of those, 119 have ended successfully. The two that didn't remain burned into the national consciousness. The Challenger and Columbia disasters, which cost the lives of 14 astronauts, have dogged the shuttle program since 1986, delaying missions while NASA undertook painstaking investigations.

Recent shuttle missions have centered on keeping the Hubble telescope functioning and ferrying additional components to the International Space Station, a multinational endeavor that has helped NASA strengthen its ties with other national space programs.

Now the shuttle is nearing the end of its operational life. NASA plans to retire the orbiter following STS-133, scheduled for 2010. A new orbiter, Orion, is expected to deploy in the middle of the next decade.

Meanwhile, NASA is currently lavishing a lot of attention on our nearest planetary neighbor, Mars. Although NASA rovers have pretty well discounted the possibility of the existence of little green men, the red planet's geological history is being intensely studied. NASA's recent declaration that water ice is present on Mars holds out the hope that some form of life did, or does, exist.

The Next 50 Years

Challenges lie ahead as NASA moves into its second half-century. Funding remains a chronic problem, especially in the age of the shrinking government purse. NASA, like other agencies, has to fight for its place at the budget trough.

Public perception has also changed over the years. A new generation, one that has grown up taking space flight for granted, doesn't understand why the seemingly routine should be so costly. What they fail to realize, perhaps, is that none of this is routine, and never will be.

Maybe this glib miscalculation is also what spurs on that new breed of space explorer, the private entrepreneur. The idea that a few wealthy space enthusiasts could somehow supplant NASA and come anywhere near matching its achievements -- ever -- is laughable, or would be if it weren't given so much credence in certain corners of the popular consciousness.

Not to belittle the accomplishment, of course, but getting a pilot to the edge of space in an experimental aircraft is so ... 1956.

Laughable or not, however, NASA is watching this new generation of space entrepreneurs. That much is clear.

And as the first decade of the 21st century comes to a close, NASA can look back on a half century of real achievement. There have been failures and disappointments, but considering the size of the omelet it was inevitable that a few eggs would get broken along the way. Nobody understood that better than the 17 astronauts who lost their lives in service.

By any measuring stick, the American space program, kick-started by a tiny Russian satellite in 1957, stands as both a towering scientific success and a triumph of the human spirit. We are privileged to be along for the ride.

And...

"Gallery: NASA's Most Embarrassing Goofs"

by

Brandon Keim

Wired

From equipment installed backwards to problems with the metric system, NASA's failures can be as fascinating as its successes. Of course, more cynical critics might suggest that NASA's failures overshadow its successes -- but let's see you send a ship to the moon.

That aside, NASA's in a difficult position: Charged with meeting America's spacefaring dreams on a shrinking budget, and perpetually judged against the magic of the moon landing, the agency is an easy target. And a few mistakes are inevitable: After all, Murphy's law was coined by an actual rocket scientist.

With that in mind, let's take a look at some of NASA's most conspicuous, embarrassing (and non-fatal) gaffes.

Goofs

Solomon E. Levy's passing and influence


Solomon E. Levy, 86, College of Arts and Sciences professor emeritus of philosophy, died Sept. 21. After earning a degree in physics at the University of Southern California, he worked for Philco in California as a radar technician. He enlisted in the service during World War II and served in the Office of Strategic Services. Following the war, he earned a Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Southern California then studied in India on a Fulbright scholarship. Levy spent his academic career teaching philosophy at UMKC.--UMKC Perspectives', Spring 2008.

I am finally getting around to making public note of a personal encounter with Dr. Solomon Levy [chairman of the philosophy department at the University of Missouri Kansas City] during my undergraduate years in the mid 1960s. One becomes older, wisdom settles in [hopefully] and youthful bravado and invincibility fade to some fuzzy memory. All of us are subject to deterioration and demise...so I am discovering. Fresh out of the confines of high school, I was exposed to new and relevant ideas and among them were enlightenment from the likes of Dr. John Gazda [English and literature professor], Dr. Hans Uffelman [Existential philosophy], and Dr. Sol Levy [the "critical realist" of the philosophy of science]. I suppose I can blame Dr. Levy for my strong movement towards an empirical epistemology though I didn't always agree with staunch philosophical doctrines. I think that is the way that individuals can develop their own weltanschauung--somewhat eclectic. Nevertheless, his influence was significant and it is sobering to witness the passing of true mentors.

"Cuil" challenges Google as a search engine


Competition is good for product development and service to customers [users in this case]. Google is being challenged by a new method for searching the Internet.

"Ex-Google engineers debut 'Cuil' way to search"

by

Michael Liedtke

July 28th, 2008

Associated Press

Anna Patterson's last Internet search engine was so impressive that industry leader Google Inc. bought the technology in 2004 to upgrade its own system. She believes her latest invention is even more valuable - only this time it's not for sale.

Patterson instead intends to upstage Google, which she quit in 2006 to develop a more comprehensive and efficient way to scour the Internet.

The end result is Cuil, pronounced "cool." Backed by $33 million in venture capital, the search engine plans to begin processing requests for the first time Monday.

Cuil had kept a low profile while Patterson, her husband, Tom Costello, and two other former Google engineers - Russell Power and Louis Monier - searched for better ways to search.

Now, it's boasting time.

For starters, Cuil's search index spans 120 billion Web pages.

Patterson believes that's at least three times the size of Google's index, although there is no way to know for certain. Google stopped publicly quantifying its index's breadth nearly three years ago when the catalog spanned 8.2 billion Web pages.

Cuil won't divulge the formula it has developed to cover a wider swath of the Web with far fewer computers than Google. And Google isn't ceding the point: Spokeswoman Katie Watson said her company still believes its index is the largest.

After getting inquiries about Cuil, Google asserted on its blog Friday that it regularly scans through 1 trillion unique Web links. But Google said it doesn't index them all because they either point to similar content or would diminish the quality of its search results in some other way. The posting didn't quantify the size of Google's index.

A search index's scope is important because information, pictures and content can't be found unless they're stored in a database. But Cuil believes it will outshine Google in several other ways, including its method for identifying and displaying pertinent results.

Rather than trying to mimic Google's method of ranking the quantity and quality of links to Web sites, Patterson says Cuil's technology drills into the actual content of a page. And Cuil's results will be presented in a more magazine-like format instead of just a vertical stack of Web links. Cuil's results are displayed with more photos spread horizontally across the page and include sidebars that can be clicked on to learn more about topics related to the original search request.

Finally, Cuil is hoping to attract traffic by promising not to retain information about its users' search histories or surfing patterns - something that Google does, much to the consternation of privacy watchdogs.

Cuil is just the latest in a long line of Google challengers.

The list includes swaggering startups like Teoma (whose technology became the backbone of Ask.com), Vivisimo, Snap, Mahalo and, most recently, Powerset, which was acquired by Microsoft Corp. this month.

Even after investing hundreds of millions of dollars on search, both Microsoft and Yahoo Inc. have been losing ground to Google. Through May, Google held a 62 percent share of the U.S. search market followed by Yahoo at 21 percent and Microsoft at 8.5 percent, according to comScore Inc.

Google has become so synonymous with Internet search that it may no longer matter how good Cuil or any other challenger is, said Gartner Inc. analyst Allen Weiner.

"Search has become as much about branding as anything else," Weiner said. "I doubt (Cuil) will be keeping anyone at Google awake at night."

Google welcomed Cuil to the fray with its usual mantra about its rivals. "Having great competitors is a huge benefit to us and everyone in the search space," Watson said. "It makes us all work harder, and at the end of the day our users benefit from that."

But this will be the first time that Google has battled a general-purpose search engine created by its own alumni. It probably won't be the last time, given that Google now has nearly 20,000 employees.

Patterson joined Google in 2004 after she built and sold Recall, a search index that probed old Web sites for the Internet Archive. She and Power worked on the same team at Google.

Although he also worked for Google for a short time, Monier is best known as the former chief technology officer of AltaVista, which was considered the best search engine before Google came along in 1998. Monier also helped build the search engine on eBay's online auction site.

The trio of former Googlers are teaming up with Patterson's husband, Costello, who built a once-promising search engine called Xift in the late 1990s. He later joined IBM Corp., where he worked on an "analytic engine" called WebFountain.

Costello's Irish heritage inspired Cuil's odd name. It was derived from a character named Finn McCuill in Celtic folklore.

Patterson enjoyed her time at Google, but became disenchanted with the company's approach to search. "Google has looked pretty much the same for 10 years now," she said, "and I can guarantee it will look the same a year from now."


Cuil

Also, I wish to draw your attention to a very good and strictly scientific search engine.

Scirus

Marketing physics

They are everywhere...coffee mugs, posters, pens, T-shirts, panties.

"Got enough physics?"

by

Zoe Macintosh

July 28, 2008

Symmetry

The eyes may be the windows to the soul, but it helps to have other reference points. Celtic dragon knots, Che Guevara headshots, Dilbert cartoons and Shr√∂dinger’s equation all fit the bill in the realm of expressive T-shirts.

If you're one of those people who can never have enough physics in your life, you may enjoy digging around the physics-related shirts, mugs, clocks, and other merchandise available on the Internet.

In the online age, where everybody can participate, ventures like cafepress.com allow users to design their own products and have them made on demand, either for themselves or to sell in their own stores. At the site, a simple search for "physics" returns more than 7000 matches, and even though many of the items available are not really physics-fan desirables, there is a wealth of paraphernalia to explore.

A few ideas turn up often enough to vouch for their secure place in popular consciousness: references to Schrödinger's cat, quotes by Einstein, and quantum mechanics' allotment of a general sort of freakiness.

Other items offer assurances that science is hip: "PHYSICS BABE" shows a slinky cartoon woman in a space suit wielding a ray gun, while another shirt proclaims "Science makes me cool." There are cheat-sheet designs that all but replicate a student's notes onto a shirt; there is self-deprecating humor. "Research…screwing up for fun and profit," one T-shirt cracks. Or maybe it really is the case that "78% of all statistics are made up on the spot" and "Progress is directly proportional to equipment ruined."

Many of these designs are in-jokes, intelligible and interesting primarily to those already in the know. Anyone want a Maxwell’s equations wall clock? How about this message: "Let's put the fun back in wavefunction!"

I prefer designs that communicate through graphics: pictures of archaic physics equipment, the iconic head of Nikolai Tesla with his name all in caps, or "Chillin' with my [ohm]ies." A simple image of a lab-coated man pouring liquid into a vial, labeled "SCIENCE!", appeals to me more than the slogan, "Quantum physics says you'll never find me if I stand still."

One particularly obscure shirt features a kinematic equation purporting to show "the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow." I didn't get it, but my fellow intern Calla Cofield chuckled, explaining that it was a reference to Monty Python. "Yeah," she said, "you have to be a double nerd to get that."


And I am a sucker too...

NASA and the Internet Archive


This is a good marriage of NASA photographs and a growing repository of knowledge. The Internet Archive is a HUGE collection of books, music, still images, audio, and motion pictures that have expired copyrights and fallen into public domain. It is a noble effort and fraught with problems. I have used this venue a lot and experienced technical issues and items that just disappear with no explanation. Many vintage foreign feature films are offered for a short time and then are withdrawn such as Akira Kurosawa's The Men Who Tread On the Tiger's Tail, Stray Dog, Rashomon, Ikiru, and Sanjuro. Categorizing items is a mess and difficult to find such as Polish experimental short films. It is encouraging to discover many old texts on the sciences and illustrated scientific catalogs. Given time, these and many other issues will be resolved.

"NASA And Internet Archive Launch Centralized Resource For Images"

July 28th, 2008

Space Travel

NASA and Internet Archive, a non-profit digital library based in San Francisco, made available the most comprehensive compilation ever of NASA's vast collection of photographs, historic film and video Thursday.

The Internet site combines for the first time 21 major NASA imagery collections into a single, searchable online resource. A link to the Web site will appear on the NASA home page.

The Web site launch is the first step in a five-year partnership that will add millions of images and thousands of hours of video and audio content, with enhanced search and viewing capabilities, and new user features on a continuing basis.

"This partnership with Internet Archive enables NASA to provide the American public with access to its vast collection of imagery from one searchable source, unlocking a new treasure trove of discoveries for students, historians, enthusiasts and researchers," said NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale.

"This new resource also will enable the agency to digitize and preserve historical content now not available on the Internet for future generations."

Through a competitive process, NASA selected Internet Archive to manage the NASA Images Web site under a non-exclusive Space Act agreement, signed in July 2007. The five-year project is at no cost to the taxpayer and the images are free to the public.

"NASA's media is an incredibly important and valuable national asset. It is a tremendous honor for the Internet Archive to be NASA's partner in this project," says Brewster Kahle, founder of Internet Archive.

"We are excited to mark this first step in a long-term collaboration to create a rich and growing public resource."

The content of the Web site covers all the diverse activities of America's space program, including imagery from the Apollo moon missions, Hubble Space Telescope views of the universe and experimental aircraft past and present. Keyword searching is available with easy-to-use resources for teachers and students.

Internet Archive is developing the NASA Images project using software donated by Luna Imaging Inc. of Los Angeles and with the generous support of the Kahle-Austin Foundation of San Francisco.

Internet Archive

SLAC vs government intentions



The question is WHY. Why is the U.S. Department of Energy fussing over this?

"Stanford physics lab embroiled in naming spat"

by

David Perlman

July 28th, 2008

San Francisco Chronicle

Stanford's famed high-energy physics laboratory is in a tussle with the U.S. Department of Energy over naming rights to the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, better known as SLAC.

The Energy Department, which pays SLAC's annual $300 million bill, wants to rename the lab to reflect changes in the direction of research since the facility opened 46 years ago.

On top of that, Energy Department officials have filed an application to trademark whatever new name the lab is finally given so no one else can use it.

University officials oppose any copyright plan with the Stanford name in it, and many SLAC scientists oppose any name change at all. Protest petitions at the lab have been circulating for weeks.

One eminent physicist, who asked to remain anonymous because he didn't want his name entangled in a political brouhaha, called the renaming issue "bizarre, petty and even stupid."

Stanford officials who insist the government can't copyright the venerable university's name have countered with an offer that would give federal officials a royalty-free "perpetual" license to use the Stanford and SLAC names.

"SLAC's record is pretty distinguished, and with the university's offer of a license to use the Stanford name, what more do they need?" said Burton Richter, SLAC's former director and one of the Nobelists who won his prize there. "I'm really bewildered."

Devon Streit, associate director of the Energy Department's science office, said SLAC is a national laboratory and the federal agency has renamed many of its 16 other national labs to reflect their new research directions. It also has trademarked their names to protect them from commercial exploitation, and the same will be true of any new name that's chosen for SLAC, Streit said.

A new name for SLAC, she said, should reflect the new missions and research efforts that scientists there are now undertaking.

Over the past five decades, the atom-smashing work of SLAC's 2-mile-long linear accelerator has revealed countless secrets of the subnuclear particles that make up all matter, and three Nobel prizes have gone to scientists working there. Particle physics has long been SLAC's prime focus.

Now the lab has at least two new major research missions, including a focus on photon science that deals with the fundamental particles of light, and particle astrophysics that explores the riddles of everything from supernovas and black holes to the origin of the universe.

"We're unbelievably excited about these new missions for the lab," Streit said.

For photon science, SLAC engineers and scientists are building a huge new device called the Linac Coherent Light Source, a free-electron laser to produce hard X-rays - 10 billion times brighter than any X-ray beam on Earth. The laser will probe the arrangement of atoms in materials of all kinds, including the atomic properties of living molecules.

"That machine will be really cool," Streit said.

SLAC's director, Persis Drell, is on vacation and couldn't be reached for comment, but a university spokesman said Drell has accepted that the laboratory's name will be changed and has asked SLAC staff members to propose new ones. A short list of suggested names will be forwarded to Stanford President John L. Hennessy, but Energy Department officials will have the final say. No deadline has been set.

Opponents believe any name change will hurt the lab's ability to draw scientific talent.

"The Stanford Linear Accelerator Center is manifestly identified with Stanford University, and this connection is critical for recruiting the best scientists and engineers," said Martin Breidenbach, a particle physicist at SLAC and a Stanford professor. "Changing the name will weaken that link."

Drell agrees, according to the Stanford News Service. "SLAC has a long, illustrious history and the name evokes that history," Drell is quoted as saying.

Construction of the linear accelerator on the Stanford campus began in 1962, and when it was finished under the leadership of the now-deceased Wolfgang K.H. Panofsky, it was hailed not only as a feat of engineering and science, but also because it was completed on time and below its budget of $114 million - something no big scientific machine of the time had ever equaled.

Side note in response to first comment.

Persis S. Drell

Persis S. Drell is Professor and Director at SLAC. She received her B.A. in mathematics and physics from Wellesley College in 1977. She received her Ph.D. in atomic physics from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1983. She then switched to high-energy experimental physics and worked as a postdoctoral scientist with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She joined the faculty of the Physics Department at Cornell University in 1988. In 2000, she became head of the Cornell high-energy group; in 2001, she was named deputy director of Cornell’s Laboratory of Nuclear Studies. In 2002, Dr. Drell accepted a position as Professor and Director of Research at SLAC. Her current research activities are in particle astrophysics. She has recently been working with the GLAST project as Deputy Project Manager.

Dr. Drell has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award and she is a fellow of the American Physical Society.