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In this issue:
Billions of Fuel Tanks May be Better than One
Science Today: Visualizing Dark Matter
BaBar Physicist Excels in Gay Games Competition

SLAC Today

Thursday - August 24, 2006

Billions of Fuel Tanks May be Better than One

Anton Nikitin with a small sample of carbon nanotubes grown on a silicon plate. (Click on image for larger version.)

Meeting the world's future energy demands will be an enormous challenge on many fronts. While hydrogen gas has piqued the interest of researchers as a clean, renewable energy resource, a number of major obstacles remain before an integrated system of producing, storing, and using hydrogen can supplant fossil fuel usage in a meaningful way. Perhaps the biggest of these problems is how to store this plentiful gas. Viable techniques for producing and using hydrogen, while still years away, have been proven, at least in principle. But a workable option for containing—and therefore, distributing—hydrogen gas remains elusive.

"The problem now is that at the most basic level, the technology simply doesn't exist," said Anton Nikitin, a PhD student conducting research at Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL) under the guidance of Anders Nilsson. "And if you don't have all the pieces of the puzzle, you can't build the system."  Read more...

(Daily Column - Science Today)

Visualizing Dark Matter

(Image - Dark matter visualization)
In this still image, created by KIPAC's John Wise, dark matter (blue) has become separated from luminous matter (red) in the bullet cluster. Click on the image to view an animation of the event that separated the two types of matter.

Last Tuesday, KIPAC researcher Marusa Bradac asked if it would be possible to create an animation of the collision of two clusters of galaxies. This type of request isn't too unusual for those of us working in scientific visualization, but there was a catch: Bradac needed it within three days to accompany a press release on dark matter.

The animation needed to show the collision of both visible gas and invisible dark matter in each cluster. Fortunately, Bradac and her collaborators had detailed observational analysis of these components, and our research group had existing 3D visualization software and a cosmological hydrodynamic code in hand. The visualization software renders 3D data that allows real-time interactive exploration of the data over time.

By plugging into the code the physical parameters of the clusters, such as mass and impact velocities, and tweaking the input parameters, we were able to create the visualization in time for Bradac's press release. Studying the results in three dimensions not only made pretty pictures for the news media, but also led to some physical insights, including a better understanding of the clusters' initial conditions. We now believe that the clusters must have dense and relatively cool cores in order to match our observations.

See the visualization in KTVU's television report...

BaBar Physicist Excels in Gay Games Competition

(Photo - Giampiero Mancinelli)
Giampiero Mancinelli lands a personal best—and the gold—in triple jump at the Montreal Outgames. (Click on image for larger version.)

BaBar collaborator Giampiero Mancinelli will never forget when he entered the Ajax stadium in Amsterdam. "It's something you dream about since you were a kid," he says.

Mancinelli first played in the 1998 Gay Games for Los Angeles' soccer team. They won gold in Amsterdam.

After such success in soccer, Mancinelli switched to track and field for the 2002 games in Sydney. Started in 1982 in San Francisco, the Gay Games have been held every four years in countries near and far. More than 10,000 people compete in the Games, and track and field alone draws about 1,000 competitors across the age groups.

In the year leading up the 2006 Games, held July 15-22 in Chicago, Mancinelli trained with the San Francisco track team three to five times a week. Despite injuring his back before Christmas, Mancinelli felt his best in time for the opening ceremonies. He won five medals: gold in triple jump and in all relays but the 4 x 400 meter, in which he and his team won silver. The San Francisco track team excelled in the event "We dominated like the East German female swim team in the 1970s," Giampiero says. He admits he held a slight advantage this year: "I had just turned 40, so I was the baby in my [40 to 44 year] age group."

This year, differences among Gay Games organizers led to a split and a second international event, the Outgames, was held a week later in Montreal, where it drew almost as many competitors. There, Mancinelli won five more medals, including another gold in triple jump.

"I was ecstatic!" he says "It doesn't matter where people went to compete; I was going to win the triple jump."

The Games' main appeal, he says, "is the friendship. People there are very high quality. A lot of people couldn't come out while doing sports when they were younger. Others go through intense training and pain to get there." Overall, he says, "it's about being accepted and aiming for personal bests."

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