Sunday, August 31, 2008


It doesn't look good and maybe this time paying attention to the [short] past will avoid disastrous large concentrations of the displaced, save lives, and allow individuals to retain their pets.

Honorarium to the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927...

Kansas Joe and Memphis Minnie

"When The Levee Breaks"

Scientific instruments--Richard Zitto's collection

Richard Zitto is seen holding a rare two-cylinder vacuum pump from the 1850s, made by the Benjamin Pike Company, which produced physics apparatus in New York City. Zitto is in talks with the Smithsonian Institution to possibly put the antique vacuum pump in the national museum’s collection.

A collector, Richard Zitto, of scientific apparatus will now offer items to the Smithsonian Institute. Many instruments are rare and exhibit a craftsman's skills and a sense of aesthetics.

"Retired teacher’s antique physics gadgets may end up on exhibit at Smithsonian"


Leonard Glenn Crist

August 31st, 2008

Salem News

Retired physics instructor Richard Zitto stores much of his antique physics apparatus collection in a two-story barn, in a cozy home office with an Albert Einstein action figure on the wall, and in a garage so cramped and cluttered it's hard to walk through.

Inside that garage last week, Zitto lifted up something that, to untrained eyes, resembles a dusty hunk of junk. It's actually a rare vacuum pump - in working condition - that dates from before the Civil War.

And it soon may be on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.

Zitto will meet with representatives of the national museum in October so Smithsonian officials can decide if they would like to include in their collection two of Zitto's antiques - one is the two-cylinder vacuum pump, the other an electro-static generator, both made in the 1850s by the Benjamin Pike Company.

Zitto hopes the Smithsonian might to take more than just the two pieces from his large collection of vacuums, voltmeters, amp meters, sonometers, and other physics demonstration equipment. If the collection gets passed down a generation, his two grown daughters certainly won't know what to do with it.

"Our kids tell us that he better have directions for taking care of it when he croaks - when he passes away - because they'll have no idea what to do with it," said Zitto's wife, Pam.

Zitto began amassing his large collection of physics-related antiques in 1969, he said, just one year after he began his first teaching job, at Kenton Junior High School, in Kenton, Ohio. A new high school had been built and the district purchased all new physics equipment.

"I just started just to salvage stuff," Zitto said. "I was afraid it was going to be thrown away. Some of the instruments were really beautiful. I didn't want to see them trashed."

The antiques, often very sturdy and with detailed brass and woodwork, are simply better than new physics teaching instruments, Zitto said. New instruments may be more precise, but only slightly. The old ones get the job done just as well.

Zitto later taught physics at Boardman High School from 1976 to 1999 and at Youngstown State University from 1981 until December 2007. His classes often utilized the antiques in his collection.

In 1978, Zitto, along with six other local physics teachers, founded the Physics Olympics at YSU. At its zenith, 32 area high schools schools participated, competing in areas such as the mousetrap racer, the egg drop and the bridge break, Zitto said. He has been involved every year since its beginnings, he said.

Zitto also helped start the Youngstown Area Physics Alliance, for which he served as co-director for 18 years.

In July, The American Association of Physics Teachers awarded Zitto a Distinguished Service Citation at its summer meeting in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

He also keeps busy by serving on Columbiana's parks and cemetery and library boards. He's been on the library board for 20 years and helped steward the building and later additions to the library.

He's also working to turn his barn into a museum space for his collection.

"I'm a do it yourselfer," Zitto said. "If something needs fixed, I'll fix it - or I'll try."

That credo also applies to his physics antiques. All of the instruments are in working order, or will be, once he gets the chance to fix them.

"Most people in physics are a little different," Zitto said. "They have a little different flair."

Vintage scientific catalogs:

American Hand-Book of Chemicals and Physical Apparatus, Minerals, Fossils, Rare Chemicals, etc.

Catalogue of Electrical and Galvanic Apparatus

Illustrated Catalogue of Engineering, Surveying and Scientific Instruments Manufactured by Mahn & Co.

John Taylor & Co.'s Illustrated Catalogue and Price-list...

Laboratory Supplies and Chemicals for Chemists and Bacteriologists [A. Daigger & Company]

MAX KOHL Price List No. 50, Volume 1

MAX KOHL Price List No. 50, Volumes 2 and 3

Pike's Illustrated Descriptive Catalogue of Optical, Mathematical and Philosophical Instruments...--Volume 1

Pike's Illustrated Descriptive Catalogue of Optical, Mathematical and Philosophical Instruments...--Volume 2

Price List of Chemical and Bacteriological Apparatus and Assayers' Supplies [E.H. Sargent and Company]


Link to sample instruments and a list of apparatus museums:

Physics instruments of days passed

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Purdue University's professor Rusi Taleyarkhan disciplined

Rusi Taleyarkhan

Strong action short of dismissal has been levied against professor Rusi Taleyarkhan for "research misconduct" involving "table top" nuclear fusion.

"Purdue Professor Reprimanded"

After research misconduct finding, bubble fusion researcher is stripped of title


Elizabeth K. Wilson

August 27th, 2008

Chemical & Engineering News

Rusi P. Taleyarkhan, the Purdue University nuclear engineer who achieved notoriety for his controversial claims to have achieved "tabletop" nuclear fusion by sonoluminescence, has been stripped of his named professorship in the wake of an academic committee's conclusion that he committed research misconduct.

Taleyarkhan, who was Arden Bement Jr. Professor of Nuclear Engineering, will remain on the Purdue faculty but with the title of Special Graduate Faculty.

In July, an academic committee determined that Taleyarkhan had been heavily involved in a supposedly independent replication of his work, which they concluded was research misconduct (C&EN, July 28, page 14).

"In my judgment as Purdues chief academic officer, it is inappropriate for a faculty member who has been found guilty of research misconduct to hold the title of a named university professor," Purdue Provost William R. Woodson said in a statement to Taleyarkhan on Aug. 27.

Taleyarkhan also will not be allowed to serve as a major professor for graduate students for the next three years, Purdue officials announced.

In 2002, while he was a scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Taleyarkhan performed experiments in which he bombarded deuterated acetone with high-energy sound waves, causing bubbles to form, expand, and implode with great energy (Science 2002, 295, 1868). Taleyarkhan claimed he had observed characteristic radioactive particles that suggested deuterons had fused in the implosion. The possibility that Taleyarkhan had discovered this long-sought-after, almost limitless energy source became an international sensation.

But many scientists were skeptical, and after several labs failed to replicate Taleyarkhan's difficult experiments, criticism of his work grew more vocal.

Taleyarkhan appealed the July decision, but his request was denied by the university's appeals committee. The case will be reviewed at the end of three years to determine whether Taleyarkhan will be reinstated as a full professor, Purdue officials said.

"Bubble-fusion researcher loses professorship"


Peter Gwynne

August 28th, 2008

Purdue University in the US has announced how it will reprimand Rusi Taleyarkhan after an internal committee ruled in July that he is guilty of scientific misconduct.

Taleyarkhan, a nuclear engineer who claimed the discovery of "bubble fusion" in 2002, will lose his title of Al Bement Jr Professor of Nuclear Engineering and will not be able to be thesis adviser to graduate students for at least three years.

Taleyarkhan retains his position as a member of the Purdue University graduate faculty, but with the reduced rank of "special graduate faculty".

In July the university concluded that he had cited a paper by researchers in his own lab as if it were an independent confirmation of his alleged discovery of bubble fusion.

Proportional punishment

"In considering the sanctions to impose, I have been guided by the principle that the sanctions should address and be proportional to the specific findings of the research misconduct," Purdue provost Randy Woodson wrote in a letter to Taleyarkhan that outlined the disciplinary actions.

Woodson added that the university will review Taleyarkhan's conduct after three years, to determine whether he can apply for reinstatement as a full faculty member.

Taleyarkhan believes that the decision is unreasonable. "The sanctions are unfair and egregious in their severity," he told He pointed out that a previous Purdue committee had exonerated him of misconduct charges in 2006, and that the latest committee absolved him of most charges of research misconduct.

Political motivation

The university started its latest investigation, involving "new allegations" of falsifying the research record, he said, "following political pressure from Congress motivated by articles in Nature." Overall, he continued, "the university system has failed miserably and taken the expedient way out."

What will happen next? Taleyarkhan, who has initiated a civil lawsuit against the university, does not entirely discount further legal action. "As a faculty member and a US citizen," he said, "I have a right to appeal the findings along with seeking redress from the courts of the United States for the extensive damage caused to me and several others."

Legal options

His lawyer, Indianapolis attorney John Lewis, said that "given the way Purdue administrators have handled this matter, Dr. Taleyarkhan has many options in the judicial system." However, Lewis continued, "after years of fighting and being overwhelmingly successful against his detractors, he may not want a further part in this aspect. Rather he may choose to focus on his teaching and research."

Taleyarkhan argues that the affair has not damaged the credibility of his research. "The matter . . . will not affect bubble fusion research," he declared, "as the final two allegations have nothing to do with the science which, as a consequence of this overall ordeal has been further vetted and strengthened in terms of its credibility."

Six-year saga

The controversy began in 2002 when Taleyarkhan, who was then working at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, co-authored a paper in Science in which he reported firing a barrage of ultrasound waves into a liquid mixture of benzene and acetone (Science 295 1868). He claimed that bubbles of gas, which emit flashes of light when the sound waves force them to expand and collapse, could reach such high temperatures and pressures that during this process fusion reactions are initiated.

Several groups, however, failed to replicate the research, while two other Purdue engineers — Lefteri Tsoukalas and Tatjana Jevremovic — complained that Taleyarkhan had tried to prevent them publishing their negative results. An internal investigation last year cleared Taleyarkhan of that charge, but when critics argued that the panel had not taken their views into account, Purdue began a second investigation. Although the committee completed its work in April 2008, Purdue did not issue the report until July when the Office of Naval Research, which funded Taleyarkhan's research, had accepted it.

Rusi Taleyarkhan--falsified research?

Rusi Taleyarkhan will fight

Friday, August 29, 2008

"YouTube"...venue for instruction and knowledge?

Frankly, it has great potential. It offers the ability for students and non-students [the general public] to witness college lectures for free. They can be viewed over and over, sometimes down loadable, and even embedded [as done here at POSP]. In some cases it may even save gasoline or offer availability during inclement weather. And it is a great repository of knowledge. Next to libraries this is a wonderful advancement in the dissemination of knowledge.


YouTube ( is an online, public-access videosharing site that allows users to post short streaming-video submissions for open viewing. Along with Google, MySpace, Facebook, etc. it is one of the great success stories of the Internet, and is widely used by many of today's undergraduate students. The higher education sector has recently realised the
potential of YouTube for presenting teaching resources/material to students, and publicising research. This article considers another potential use for online video archiving web sites such as YouTube and GoogleVideo in higher education - as an online video archive providing thousands of hours of video footage for use in lectures. In this article I will discuss why this might be useful, present some examples that demonstrate the potential for YouTube as a teaching resource, and highlight some of the copyright and legal issues that currently impact on the effective use of new online video web sites, such as YouTube, for use as a teaching resource.

The latent potential of YouTube - Will it become the 21st Century Lecturer's Film Archive?

University of California, Berkeley

UC Berkeley

California University System


Stanford Linear Accelerator Center

SLAC Colloquium

Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Frankenstein and bioethics is on campus at WSU

The traveling exhibit ["Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature"] since 2002 is still making the library circuits and will be at WSU's [Washington State University] Owen Science and Engineering Library starting September 1st. For nearly 200 years this fascinating tale through numerous modifications has explored the relationship between mankind and bioethics as well as human needs and desires. The traveling exhibit is sponsored by National Library of Medicine .

Joshua Clark of The Daily Evergreen [Washington State University] wrote:

Break out the pitchforks and gather an unruly mob: Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" is coming to Pullman in all of its reanimated glory. The Owen Science and Engineering Library may already have a lumbering giant in stuffed bear Sundance, but it’s about to get another on Sept. 1 when traveling exhibit "Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature" officially opens to the public.

For many, popular culture has skewed the image of the Frankenstein monster from Shelley's original vision. There are a number of characteristics attributed to the creature: green, stitched skin, a flat head, screw bolts jutting awkwardly from the neck, a lumbering gait with outstretched hands and a mind of subhuman intelligence. All of these images, though supposedly inherent to the history of the monster himself, are derived not from the original novel but from James Whale's 1931 film.

Shelley's version of the creature is quite a departure from the more infamous Hollywood version in the early 20th century. Her novel, published in 1818, depicted the monster as both sensitive and intelligent, with yellow skin and long, lustrous black hair. Notably, the monster was literate enough to have read "Paradise Lost," making him more well-read than most students on campus. The monster didn't even have a name in Shelley's novel, meant to emphasize his innate lack of even the most rudimentary sense of self and identity.

Frankenstein's image has changed with time. The story's thematic concerns, however, have remained largely intact. Shelley's Frankenstein, as well as Whale's and countless others', questions the ethics of scientific progress, consequences of man playing god and the innate human need of companionship.

The exhibit touches upon all these issues. Using Shelley’s novel as a launching pad, as well as various interpretations of the story that have gained notoriety, the exhibit seeks to frame modern issues in scientific ethics within the context of the Frankenstein lore.

"Mary Shelley's novel is exceedingly rich and complex. The exhibition alludes to some of these thematic threads while making a case that the continued examination of these issues is imperative for a vital society," said Patricia Tuohy, head of exhibition programs for the National Library of Medicine.

Owen Science Librarian Karenann Jurecki, the faculty member responsible for bringing the exhibit to WSU, had her own thoughts on the issues the exhibit explores.

"Thematically, I think this is a fairly open-ended exhibit," she said. "I hope it encourages visitors to look at Frankenstein on a metaphoric level as the ultimate other. (The idea is) that not only does one have an impact on a community, but a responsibility to it."

Like the evolution of the Frankenstein monster, the history of the Frankenstein exhibit is an interesting one. "Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Science" first opened in 1997 at the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland. Following the first successful run, the exhibition program collaborated with the American Library Association to adapt the exhibit to a traveling format, Tuohy said.

"During a five-year tour, the exhibition visited 82 libraries across America. This aspect of the project’s history drew to a close a year or so ago. Since then, we decided to 'reanimate' the project and make it available to interested libraries," she said.

Luckily for the students on campus, Jurecki stepped forward to have the Owen library host the exhibit.

"I thought that it would be a really interesting exhibit to bring because the possibilities are endless. Think of how Dr. Frankenstein’s creation has permeated popular culture. Most things with the 'Franken' prefix are overwhelmingly bad, but why? What is it about Frankenstein that resonates with us so deeply, and yet incurs such dread?" she said.

The issues inherently linked to the story of the monster were so fascinating they became a part of the theme for the 2008 Common Reading Program. This year, all students who attended Alive! orientation sessions received "Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers" by Mary Roach.

Like the monster himself, the Frankenstein exhibit will be more than the sum of its parts. It's an exciting chance for students of all academic years and majors to take part in some of the new campus attractions.

"I think the exhibition will encourage audiences to explore the interdisciplinary nature of science, and the intersections of science and philosophy and science and morality," Jurecki said. "In an era of genetically modified food, stem cell research and cloned sheep, 'Frankenstein' is more relevant, and perhaps more cautionary, than ever before. It asked the question that we are still asking today: 'just because we can, does it mean we should?'"

The exhibit will help support the Common Reading Program, said Beth Lindsay, assistant dean of libraries for Public Services and Outreach.

"We're really glad to get the Frankenstein exhibit during the fall," she said.

Companion book.

Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature

ISBN-10: 0813532000
ISBN-13: 978-0813532004

As science penetrates the secrets of nature, with each discovery generating new questions, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein will sound its note of warning. Many scientific developments have provoked references to Frankenstein, a story that, for nearly two centuries, has gripped our imaginations and haunted our nightmares. How can society balance the benefits of medical discoveries against the ethical or spiritual questions posed?

Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature accompanies a traveling exhibit of the same name. This lavishly illustrated volume begins by highlighting Shelley's novel and the context in which she conceived it. It next focuses on the redefinition of the Frankenstein myth in popular culture. Here, the fate of the monster becomes a moral lesson illustrating the punishment for ambitious scientists who seek to usurp the place of God by creating life. The final section examines the continuing power of the Frankenstein story to articulate present-day concerns raised by new developments in biomedicine such as cloning and xenografting (the use of animal organs in human bodies), and the role scientists and citizens play in determining acceptable limits of scientific and medical advances.

Online...Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus

Thomas A. Edison's Frankenstein [1910]

James Whale's Frankenstein [1931] Trailer

Bell Lab's physics research to be shut down

Left to right:
William Shockley, John Bardeen, and Walter Brattain

I am sure that there is some sound corporate reason for this move--NOT.

"Bell Labs Kills Fundamental Physics Research"


Priya Ganapati

August 27th, 2008


After six Nobel Prizes, the invention of the transistor, laser and countless contributions to computer science and technology, it is the end of the road for Bell Labs' fundamental physics research lab.

Alcatel-Lucent, the parent company of Bell Labs, is pulling out of basic science, material physics and semiconductor research and will instead be focusing on more immediately marketable areas such as networking, high-speed electronics, wireless, nanotechnology and software.

The idea is to align the research work in the Lab closer to areas that the parent company is focusing on, says Peter Benedict, spokesperson for Bell Labs and Alcatel-Lucent Ventures.

"In the new innovation model, research needs to keep addressing the need of the mother company," he says.

That view is shortsighted and may drastically curtail the Labs' ability to come up with truly innovative discoveries, respond critics.

"Fundamental physics is absolutely crucial to computing," says Mike Lubell, director of public affairs for the American Physical Society. "Say in the case of integrated circuits, there were many, many small steps that occurred along the way resulting from decades worth of work in matters of physics."

Bell Labs was one of the last bastions of basic research within the corporate world, which over the past several decades has largely focused its R&D efforts on applied research -- areas of study with more immediate prospects of paying off.

Without internally funded basic research, fundamental research has instead come to rely on academic and government-funded laboratories to do kind of long-term projects without immediate and obvious payback that Bell Labs used to historically do, says Lubell.

Most of the scientists working in the company's fundamental physics department have been reassigned, says Benedict. Nature Science, which first reported the news, says just four scientists are left working the fundamental physics department in Murray Hill, New Jersey. Benedict wouldn't confirm or deny that.

Computing and wireless technologies owe much to advancements in physics, though the connection may not always be immediately apparent. An example is the Global Positioning Systems or GPS.

For instance, an integral element of GPS are atomic clocks, which stemmed from the creation of the hydrogen maser.

The hydrogen maser, or hydrogen frequency standard, uses the properties of a hydrogen atom to serve as a precision frequency reference.

"GPS is based on very accurate timing mechanisms," says Lubell. "So the measure of time and the frequency standards that are used to do it date back to research in optical pumping which led to the development of hydrogen maser."

In the past Bell Labs was the place where such fundamental research that impacts the fields of both computing and physics could meet.

Bell Labs was founded in 1925 by Walter Gifford, then president of AT&T. AT&T, a monopoly, established Bell Telephone Laboratories, popularly known as Bell Labs, as a joint venture with Western Electric, AT&T's manufacturing subsidiary.

The Labs became the Mecca for researchers in science, computers and mathematics. Deregulation, however, forced AT&T in 1995 to spin off Bell and other parts of the company into Lucent Technologies. The move marked a shift in fortunes for the research arm as research budgets came to be trimmed and Alcatel-Lucent faced increasing pressure from stockholders.

"Bell Labs could do the kind of fundamental research it did in the past because it was functioning as part of a monopoly," says Lubell. "With that gone the landscape changed dramatically."

In recent years, Bell Labs' physics unit had its share of controversy when researcher J. Hendrik Schön was found to have published data in the area of molecular-scale transistors between 1998 and 2001 that had been manipulated and falsified.

That's a long way from where the Labs once stood with its position as a Nobel Prize magnet.

In 1937, Bell Labs researcher Clinton Davisson shared the Nobel Prize in physics for demonstrating the wave nature of matter.

Nearly twenty years later, in 1956 came the Nobel prize for inventing the transistor and it was shared by William Shockley, John Bardeen and Bell scientist Walter Brattain.

In the seventies, Bell Labs won two Nobel prizes in physics back-to-back in the years 1977 and 1978. Philip Anderson shared the Nobel for developing an improved understanding of the electronic structure of glass and magnetic materials. The next year Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson were feted for their discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation.

Former Bell Labs researcher Steven Chu shared the Nobel in 1997 for developing methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light. A year later Horst Stormer, Robert Laughlin, and Daniel Tsui were awarded a Nobel for the discovery and explanation of the fractional quantum Hall effect.

In the last few years, Lucent has sold its semiconductor business and that means research in areas connected to that had to be scaled back, especially in areas such as integrated circuits and Microelectromechanicals Systems (MEMS).

Meanwhile, Alcatel-Lucent continues to hack away at its jewels. Though Murray Hill in New Jersey, the company's U.S. headquarters, and the site of many great scientific discoveries remains safe, Alcatel-Lucent has sold its Holmdel campus. Holmdel's technological contributions include contributions to Telstar, the first communications satellite and Chu's Nobel Prize-winning work.

Still for fundamental physics research there will be life after Bell Labs, though it will be dependent on the whims of the federal government.

Increasingly, long-term research is being carried out in universities and national laboratories with federal grants, says Lubell.

For Bell Labs, yet another chapter in its storied history of comes to a close taking the once iconic institution closer to being just another research arm of a major corporation.

Deceased--Morgan Sparks

"Our Mr. Sun"--boomer classic

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Isomer Bomb--more

"Russia's Isomer Bomb, Funded by Your Taxes"


David Hambling

August 27th, 2008


The research that could, perhaps, lead to nuclear isomer bombs one day remains contentious in America; the weight of the physics establishment says the science is unproven, even unlikely. But what is the rest of the world doing? In particular, what about the Russians, who carried out some of the earliest work in this area?And what about the Chinese?

Shortly after first writing about the potential for an isomer bomb, I came across an article in the Russian paper Nezavisimaya Gazeta. This was on 12th August 2003; for the 50th anniversary of the first Soviet hydrogen bomb, they interviewed Viktor Mikhailov, scientific director of the Federal Nuclear Center. (The original is in Russian, translation thanks to Babelfish.)

Q: But what still are the possibilities in principle of using the nuclear effects?

A: We have the also very large field of work with the nuclear energy. Besides the isotopes of fissionable elements there are the so-called isomers. Isotopes differ from each other only in terms of number of neutrons in the nucleus. But isomers have the same number of electrons, and protons, and neutrons. The entire difference is in the fact that the isomer is in an excited state, but can convert to stable state. And this also releases nuclear energy. Any transition from one state to another occurs with the release of energy. The fission energy of nuclei exceeds chemical energy 10 million times. But who says that a weapon this powerful is necessary these days? But the transition of isomers gives off thousands of times more energy than chemical reactions.

Q: This is way to the creation of a new generation of nuclear weapons?

A: It is difficult to say, developments are still under way today. I simply want to emphasize that nuclear energy is not only fission energy or fusion, but can be, for example, the transition energy of separate nucleons.

So the Russians also have a theoretical interest, at least, in isomer weapons.

In America, the most controversial research has involved trying to "trigger" -- get energy out of -- a Hafnium isomer. In Russia, there has been plenty of controversy over Hafnium, as well. A 2005 paper on induced decay of the nuclear isomer 178m2Hf and the 'isomeric bomb' written by E. V. Tkalya, is deeply skeptical of the physics involved.

However, I came across a more recent scientific paper, which puts a different light on hafnium triggering. The work was carried out by a team of Russian and Chinese physicists in the area of "resonance conversion" as an efficient triggering technique and was published in the journal Chinese Physics Letters.

Much of the argument about triggering energy release from Hafnium is about the size of the target. Imagine the Hafnium atom is a bomb, which you are trying to detonate by firing bullets at it. One school of thought says the critical area you need to hit is tiny; controversial, Darpa-funded researcher Carl Collins and his colleagues say that (according to his disputed results) it’s a billion times bigger.

The Russian and Chinese paper attempts to bridge the gap between these two, explaining how a resonance effect might make the target area tens of thousands of times larger than you would otherwise expect. It doesn't fully account for the difference, and it relies on some assumptions which have yet to be proven.

It would be potentially alarming if the Russians and Chinese cracked the secret of isomer triggering and plunged while the scientific community dismissed it as physically impossible. But the paper on resonance conversion had a surprising footnote: DTRA is one of the U.S. military agencies pursuing isomer research. In these international times, it is not so easy telling who is on which side.

Controversial Nuke Research Quietly Returns...

...As Crucial Test Remains Under Wraps

Is the Pentagon Funding Isomer Bombs Again?

Livermore Claims Isomer Advance (But No Bomb)

Pentagon Agency Looks to Fund Cold Fusion, Isomers, Antimatter

Hafnium-178=isomer bomb

Monday, August 25, 2008

FBI's methodology in the anthrax case

From Chemical & Engineering News:

""After nearly seven years of investigation, we have developed a body of powerful evidence that allows us to conclude that we have identified the origin and the perpetrator of the 2001 Bacillus anthracis mailings," said Vahid Majidi of the FBI's Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate."

"...the experimental data need to be validated through a peer review process. He tells C&EN that the FBI has a publication plan, and the process is already under way. Speaking of the science, he adds, "We are hoping to get as much as we can into peer-reviewed journals.""

And, I might add, the judicial system.

FBI's Anthrax Analysis

FBI to release more data on anthrax case this week

Deceased--Henri Paul Cartan

Henri Paul Cartan
July 8th, 1904 to August 13th, 2008

"Henri Cartan, French Mathematician, Is Dead at 104"


Kenneth Chang

August 25, 2008

The New York Times

Henri Cartan, a mathematician known for meticulous proofs and for inspiring a revival of mathematics in France after World War II, died in Paris on Aug. 13. He was 104.

His death was confirmed by the American Mathematical Society.

"He's a mathematician that contributed in two different ways to the subject," said John Morgan, a professor of mathematics at Columbia University. "There was his own work, which was quite influential. But just as influential were the students that he had, which led to the generation of French mathematicians that, at its high point, were the best in the world."

In the 1930s, Dr. Cartan was a founding member of a group of French mathematicians who set out to rigorously write down the foundations of mathematics; the group published papers under the pseudonym Nicolas Bourbaki. Many of France's top mathematicians and scientists had died during World War I.

"We were the first generation after the war," Dr. Cartan recalled in an interview with the American Mathematical Society in 1999. "Before us there was a vide, a vacuum, and it was necessary to make everything new."

Dr. Cartan said the Bourbaki group was the beginning of a mathematical renewal.

Through sometimes argumentative collaboration, the Bourbaki group worked to establish the foundations for different areas of mathematics, an approach that was highly influential for decades.

"He liked things to be perfect," said Jean-Pierre Serre, an eminent mathematician who was one of Dr. Cartan’s graduate students.

Again, after World War II, Dr. Cartan, who stayed in Paris while many mathematicians left for other countries, inspired a revival of the study of math in France.

He started a seminar series that ran from 1948 until 1964. Each year, a different topic was tackled in depth and detail.

"Nothing was left in the shadows," recalled Luc Illusie of the University of Paris-Sud, in a tribute published in 2004 for Dr. Cartan’s 100th birthday.

"There was no 'black box,'" he continued. "The necessary preliminaries and background were presented in detail. The proofs were not simply 'sketched' but presented completely. Cartan was concerned that one should understand, a legitimate concern that is no longer so widespread, it seems to me. Many times I saw him interrupt a lecture to ask the speaker to 'light the way.'"

In his research, Dr. Cartan worked in several areas, but perhaps the most significantly in a field known as homological algebra, which applied the technique of algebra to topological spaces.

A doughnut is intrinsically different in shape from a sphere because of the central hole; the algebraic calculations enable mathematicians to differentiate many different spaces.

"It's a way to compute with spaces," Dr. Morgan said.

Together with Samuel Eilenberg, Dr. Cartan wrote the fundamental textbook for the subject. Although it was published in 1956, Dr. Morgan said he still taught with it.

Dr. Morgan recalled attending a gala in Paris in 1974 for Dr. Cartan's 70th birthday. "He was the grand old man of French mathematics," Dr. Morgan said. "There was no doubt about that. They deferred to him and treated him with enormous respect."

Henri Cartan was born in 1904, the son of Élie Cartan, one of the most famous mathematicians of the early 20th century. He received a doctorate in mathematics from the École Normale Supérieure in Paris.

Dr. Cartan taught at the University of Strasbourg from 1931 to 1940 and at the École Normale from 1940 to 1965.

After World War II, Dr. Cartan helped French and German mathematicians re-establish academic connections even though the Germans had executed a younger brother of his, who was a member of the French resistance.

Dr. Cartan later taught at the University of Paris-Sud at Orsay until he retired in 1975.

He received the Wolf Prize in Mathematics in 1960, one of the highest awards in the field.

"All by himself, he put the level of French mathematics much higher," Dr. Serre said.

"Interview with Henri Cartan"

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Graduate School exams and tighter security

Cheating by a few institute new and more invasive security programs.

"When individuals register for the test now, they are digitally fingerprinted, photographed and have their signature recorded. They also are videotaped while taking the exam."

"Graduate-school admission test to require palm scan"


Amy Eagleburger

The Arizona Republic

Beginning this fall, individuals taking the rigorous Graduate Management Admission Test will have to submit themselves to a palm-vein scan to ensure that they are who they say they are and not a hired brain paid to bring in a higher score.

More accurate than fingerprints, the PalmSecure scan is the next level of security for the exam that is essential to admissions at more than 1,800 graduate schools. In July, 140,638 people took the exam.

"We're committed to weaving the best security possible through the testing programs we provide to customers," said Adam Gaber, spokesman for Pearson Vue, the company that owns the testing centers where the exam is given.

"We chose (PalmSecure) because it is extremely accurate, easy to use, scalable and perceived more positively by test-takers who often associate other biometric technologies, such as fingerprinting, with the police and criminal activity," Gaber said.

In 2003, federal investigators exposed six proxy test takers who took hundreds of exams, including the graduate-admission test, for those willing to pay $3,000 or more for guarantees of high scores.

The Graduate Management Admission Council, the non-profit organization that owns and oversees the graduate-admission test, first used biometric identification in 2006 when it began digital fingerprinting.

"We've had people come back to retest, and it wasn't the same person who tested the first time," council president Dave Wilson said.

When fingerprints didn't match up, the individual would not be allowed to take the test. On one such occasion, a proxy test taker turned and ran when her identity was scrutinized, Wilson said.

When individuals register for the test now, they are digitally fingerprinted, photographed and have their signature recorded. They also are videotaped while taking the exam.

The new PalmSecure, manufactured by Fujitsu, will replace the digital-fingerprinting device, which was sometimes subject to errors due to skin irregularities or poor reads.

Palm-vein patterns remain the same throughout the course of a person's lifetime, even during serious illnesses.

Getting a palm scan is as simple as holding your hand over the device for a few seconds. The scan is 99.99% accurate, and the likelihood that it will record one person's palm as someone else's is less than 0.00008%, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council.

Those who have taken the exam previously and had digital fingerprints taken will still have to reconfirm their fingerprints as well as submit themselves to a palm scan the next time they take the test.

The palm-scan technology is being used in some hospitals in the United States and on automated teller machines in Japan.

Trials of the palm-vein scan for the graduate-admission test will begin this month at some testing sites in South Korea and India. If all goes well, the scanners will be distributed starting in the fall and are scheduled to be in every testing center by March 2009.

Jay Bryant, assistant vice president of admissions and recruiting for the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Ariz., said the need for security with exams was underscored by the discovery in June of The site posted live graduate admission test questions for VIP site members. The site has since been shut down, and the Graduate Management Admission Council has sued the site's creator, a Chinese citizen.

"Being an international school, (exam security) is something that we are always concerned about and watching for," Bryant said. More than one-half of Thunderbird's students come from outside the United States.

"(The graduate-admission exams) are the one thing (where) every student has equal playing ground because everyone comes from a different background as far as undergraduate major and institution, different work experience," Bryant said.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Deceased--Philip Geoffrey Saffman

Philip Geoffrey Saffman
March 19th, 1931 to August 17th, 2008

"Philip Geoffrey Saffman, 77; Caltech professor, leading expert on vortex dynamics"


John Johnson Jr.

August 22nd, 2008

The Los Angeles Times

Philip Geoffrey Saffman, the former Theodore von Karman Professor of Applied Mathematics and Aeronautics at Caltech and a leading expert on vortex dynamics -- the study of how liquids and gases of varying densities and viscosities interact -- died Sunday in Pasadena after a long illness. He was 77.

Among his best-known contributions to the field was profiling viscous fingering, which became known as "Saffman-Taylor Instability." This refers to the process by which a low- viscosity fluid forms a finger-like projection when injected into a higher viscosity fluid.

This work was key to helping the oil industry develop the best methods to recover oil in trapped basins, where water or steam must be injected to force the oil to the surface.

Saffman also made major contributions to the understanding of vorticity, which is the way ships and airplanes move through water and air, respectively.

In particular, he developed a precise mathematical understanding of wake turbulence caused by jets during takeoff. That analysis helped uncover the conditions that contributed to several aircraft accidents, including a Delta Air Lines crash in Dallas in August 1985, when the flight crew tried to land in a thunderstorm.

Saffman's work helped convince airlines and airports that they must allow a minimum amount of time to pass between takeoffs to let the wake turbulence of the preceding jet to subside.

"He really was one of the leading figures in fluid mechanics," said Dan Meiron, a professor of applied and computational math at Caltech. "He had an impact in almost every field of the science."

Despite his revolutionary effect on the field, he was an understated man with a dry sense of humor whose approach to his work was very simple, Meiron said.

No matter how complex the problem seemed, Saffman found a way to reduce it to its simplest elements and work from there.

"He didn't want to work on what he called the kitchen sink," Meiron said. "He really was about the basics."

Saffman was born in Leeds, England, on March 19, 1931, and earned his bachelor of arts, master of arts and doctorate at the University of Cambridge. In 1964, he was appointed a professor of fluid mechanics in Caltech's Division of Engineering and Applied Science. He was named the Von Karman professor in 1995.

Saffman was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 1988 was elected a fellow to the Royal Society, Great Britain's premier scientific organization. He also received the Otto Laporte Award from the American Physical Society.

Saffman served as associate editor of the Journal of Fluid Mechanics and Physical Review Letters. He most recently was an editorial board member for the journal Studies in Applied Mathematics.

He is survived by his wife, Ruth; three children, Emma, Louise and Mark; and eight grandchildren.

[To Pamela...if you know of an older photograph, let me know.]

Thursday, August 21, 2008

College TERROR...bedbugs

Prospects of college life include the "jitters", professors, social life, grades, high costs of books and for those living on campus...BEDBUGS.

"Bedbugs move into dorms"


Greg Toppo


Just as they've made an itchy, scratchy comeback in hotel rooms, bedbugs increasingly are appearing in dorm rooms, say college officials and pest-control experts, who are busy devising ways to eradicate the bloodsuckers.

"They're taking off right now," says Dan Mizer, associate director of residence life at Texas A&M University.

TIPS: 'Don't let the bedbugs bite' is tough advice to follow

Bedbugs are everywhere, he says. "They're finding these things in public transit, in movie theaters, in cruise ships, in all the hospitality accommodations."

PERSONAL ACCOUNT: How a USA TODAY reporter handled them

Blame an increase in international travel, bigger bedbug populations worldwide, new protocols that discourage widespread spraying and possibly even tougher bugs that are resistant to pesticides.

The size of an apple seed, the nocturnal six-leggers hitchhike on luggage, old furniture and clothing and can live up to a year without a blood meal. So a dorm room left empty over the summer poses but a brief nutritional challenge.

Among those fighting the bugs:

• Ohio State University has seen "several incidents" over the past 15 months, spokeswoman Ruth Gerstner says, including an outbreak in May 2007 in three rooms of a high-rise dorm. Workers treated 114 rooms.

• At the University of Florida's 4,000 dorm rooms and 980 apartments, "bad" infestations are limited to a couple of times a year, says Wayne Walker, who supervises dorm pest control. The school treats the problem with extreme heat, steam cleaning and pesticides.

• Greg Baumann of the National Pest Management Association says he has heard from "quite a few" members called to campuses. Like hotel rooms, dorms are the ideal bedbug habitat: small and crowded, with "quite a bit of humanity per square foot."

Unlike cockroaches, bedbugs aren't an indicator of bad housekeeping, says Richard Cooper, co-author of Bedbug Handbook: The Complete Guide to Bedbugs and Their Control. "The bug doesn't discriminate on social status. Blood's blood."

Texas A&M has spent $37,000 in the past year to fly in bedbug-sniffing dogs. This fall, Mizer plans to call in a Minnesota outfit called Temp-Air, whose eradicator heats the room overnight to 130 degrees, killing the bedbugs but leaving students' belongings unharmed. His other secret weapon: eternal vigilance. "When we get a report, we get the pest-control staff, and we respond. These bugs can take over quickly."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Eleventh hour legal wrangling

"Twists in the doomsday debate"


Alan Boyle

August 19th, 2008


Preparations for starting up the world's largest atom-smasher on Sept. 10 are proceeding smoothly, but the legal tussle over whether it should be stopped is facing new twists. Look for Nobel laureates and diplomats to weigh in as a key federal court hearing nears.

The hearing is scheduled to begin in Hawaii on Sept. 2, just a week before the official startup of Europe's Large Hadron Collider. U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor will consider whether to dismiss a civil lawsuit claiming that the machine could destroy the world.

The plaintiffs in the case, former nuclear safety official Walter Wagner and Spanish science writer Luis Sancho, say the officials in charge of the LHC at the CERN particle-physics center have not fully considered the possibility that the collider could create globe-gobbling black holes or other catastrophes of cosmic proportions.

The defendants, including CERN and the U.S. Department of Energy, say the doomsday worries are pure science fiction - and have cited a series of safety reports concluding that the Large Hadron Collider poses no global threat.

Both sides are getting their briefs in order as the hearing date approaches - and picking up new allies (or new foes, depending on how you see the issue) along the way. Here are several developments of note:

CERN in default, or off the hook?

Some observers have wondered whether a European organization such as CERN can rightly be held accountable by a private party in U.S. court over activities that will be happening exclusively in Europe. Wagner and Sancho say it can, and they hired a process-server to deliver legal documents to CERN's headquarters on the French-Swiss border. When CERN didn't respond, they filed a motion seeking a default judgment against the organization.

However, last week the Swiss government sent the court a letter through diplomatic channels, saying that the document drop-off did not officially make CERN a party to the case. According to Swiss charge d'affaires Alexander Wittwer, the only way CERN could be served would be if the U.S. Embassy in Switzerland delivered the documents to the Swiss foreign ministry.

The Justice Department, which is handling the federal government's defense in the case, had no comment today on how the procedure might play out. A hearing on the plaintiffs' motion for a default judgment has been scheduled on Sept. 25, and the issue is sure to come up at that time - that is, if the case hasn't been resolved by then.

Nobel laureates weigh in

The defendants' side of the story is about to get a high-powered boost from two Nobel Prize-winning physicists and a well-known colleague of theirs from Harvard. The scientists are seeking to file a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, saying that they have "special knowledge which they believe will assist the court."

The three physicists are Boston University's Sheldon Glashow (Nobel in Physics, 1979), MIT's Frank Wilczek (Nobel in Physics, 2004) and Harvard's Richard Wilson (an expert on high-energy physics, nuclear safety and risk analysis).

"All three of them had done work with respect to the accelerator at Brookhaven, which Walter Wagner challenged back in the day," said Martin Kaufman, an attorney for the New York-based Atlantic Legal Foundation who is handling the filing.

Kaufman was referring to the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, or RHIC, an earlier "big bang machine" that Wagner claimed would create a catastrophe. No catastrophe has occurred to date, eight years after RHIC's startup.

In their new brief, the physicists say that questions about the LHC's safety "have been raised, studied and answered decisively," and that the plaintiffs "have apparently not educated themselves about the extensive analysis that has been done."

Kaufman tried to get the physicists involved in the case as friends of the court last week, but it turned out that he lacked the legal standing to do so. Kaufman told me he was now in the process of getting the official go-ahead, known in legalese as "pro hac vice" permission.

In the meantime, an initial draft of the brief wound up in the court docket with some scientific errors: For example, the draft called the LHC a linear accelerator (it isn't) and said that the collider wouldn't smash nuclei together (it will). That drew Wagner's derision: "They're just being way off the wall on the facts," he told me.

Kaufman said Glashow independently caught mistakes in the draft document, and the errors will be fixed in the final copy.

When I spoke with Glashow, he said he hoped the friend-of-the-court brief would add an extra bit of gravity to the legal proceedings - and lead to the speedy dismissal of a "frivolous" lawsuit.

"It's wasting lots of time and effort to argue against this, but I think it's important to dispose of this as soon as possible," he told me.

Dueling documents

If the case goes forward, there will likely be a flurry of scientific papers cited by both sides. Glashow and the other would-be friends of the court cite one yet-to-be-published paper titled "Exclusion of Black Hole Disaster Scenarios at the LHC." The three German physicists behind the research look at the different scenarios for the growth of black holes and contend that the collider couldn't put a black hole on a world-threatening course.

Meanwhile, Wagner's retort to the friends of the court cites another unpublished paper titled "On the Potential Catastrophic Risk From Metastable Quantum-Black Holes Produced at Particle Colliders." This paper, written by German astrophysicist Rainer Plaga, contends that tiny black holes could conceivably emit harmful radiation soon after they were produced, and that such phenomena would "remain undetectable in astrophysical observations."

Wagner's most recent filings also cite warnings about the LHC's risks from German chemist Otto Rössler. Those warnings have gotten so much press lately that a group of leading quantum physicists in Germany, known as the Committee for Elementary Particle Physics, recently issued a letter countering Rössler's claims.

"There is no way that the LHC will produce black holes capable of swallowing up the Earth," the letter read, according to a report on Spiegel Online. "This claim is based on extremely well tested theories of physics and on observations of the cosmos."

The University of Wuppertal's Peter Mättig told Spiegel Online that he didn't think many people took the doomsday fears seriously. "But it is notable how often we have been asked about the problem," he said. "And we especially want to refute those, like Dr. Rössler, who try to use science to back up their claims."

Even as the hearing date nears on the topics of black holes, strangelets and magnetic monopoles, Wagner told me he is gearing up for a new challenge to LHC operations, on the grounds that the builders haven't fully considered the possibility that a wayward beam of protons could touch off an explosive "fusion propagation wave."

CERN says the LHC is designed to cope with particle beams that go astray. Here's how the question is addressed in the organization's file of frequently asked questions:

"... The beam of particles has the energy of a Eurostar train traveling at full speed, and should something happen to destabilize the particle beam there is a real danger that all of that energy will be deflected into the wall of the beam pipe and the magnets of the LHC, causing a great deal of damage. The LHC has several automatic safety systems in place that monitor all the critical parts of the LHC. Should anything unexpected happen (power or magnet failure, for example) the beam is automatically 'dumped' by being squirted into a blind tunnel where its energy is safely dissipated. This all happens in milliseconds - the beam, which is traveling at 11,000 circuits of the LHC per second, will complete less than three circuits before the dump is complete."

To research his claims, Wagner is reaching back to the 1940s, the golden age of nuclear paranoia, when Edward Teller and two other physicists wrote a report discussing the idea that nuclear bombs could set Earth's atmosphere on fire. (They concluded it wasn't possible because the bombs weren't powerful enough.) The long-classified report, known as LA-602, recently came up for discussion on the Overcoming Bias blog.

You might get the impression from all this that Wagner just doesn't like the LHC, no matter what anyone says. "It's not that I don't like it," he insisted. "In fact, I think it's wonderful ... if it's done safely."

BIG BOOK on high-energy physics available soon

Cooooooooool--LHC in preparatory stage

"Fear and trembling"...of the unknown

"God particle"/Higgs boson--knowledge of the universe

Government and lawyers put suits to rest

LHC again

Σπυροπούλου [Maria Spiropulu]--physicist