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In this issue:
Helping a Computer Catch up with Itself
Safety Today: Go With the Flow
Referring Job Applicants Helps Keep Lab Vibrant
Safety Second

SLAC Today

Tuesday - September 26, 2006

Helping a Computer Catch up with Itself

SLAC Electrical Engineer Alex Garachtchenko with the device he built to help streamline the scanning of the Archimedes Palimpsest.

The Archimedes Palimpsest project has generated a lot of attention over the last few years as Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL) scientists used x-rays to scan the ancient document. Behind the scenes, a new computing device made the rapid pace of discovery possible. Last August, during the most recent experimental run, researchers blazed through pages of parchment at a pace five times faster than before, cutting the scan time for a single page from 60 hours to just 12.

The device behind this performance increase solves a problem of coordination between experimental x-ray detectors and the desktop computers used to assemble the data they collect. Desktop computers operate from a central processor that must orchestrate commands governing a host of separate functions, such as keystrokes and mouse clicks. Complicating matters, traditional detector interfaces have to switch between counting detector output pulses and sending the results to a computer, pausing briefly after each data point. Each of these operations takes a tiny sliver of time each second, which is generally not a problem for most users.  Read more...

(Column - Safety Today)

Go With the Flow

(photo - SLAC Main Gate)
Stopping for passengers on Loop Road can impede the flow of traffic through SLAC's main gate.

Each work day, nearly 1,500 vehicles pass through the Main Gate as employees and visitors make their way to SLAC. To help keep the flow of all that traffic going and to ensure the safety of pedestrians and motorists, Security asks that drivers do one simple thing: avoid stopping on Loop Road just beyond the main gate to drop off or pick up passengers.

Instead, says Account Security Manager Simon Ovrahim, drivers should stop for passengers at the visitor parking lot (Lot A), located to the right of the Main Gate, or at Lot C, located to the left of the Main Gate.

It only takes a few more seconds to stop at the parking lots, Ovrahim says, and doing so will help ensure the safety of passengers, prevent accidents, and minimize traffic backups.

Safety Seconds

In yesterday's edition, I asked if anyone could name a sophisticated organization, performing some of the most dangerous work imaginable, that experienced a series of identical near-misses and then declared them all to be "normal" because nothing exploded.

One answer: The phrase "normalization of deviance" was coined to describe NASA's behavior of ignoring repeated burn-throughs of rocket o-rings until the Challenger exploded in 1986.

Referring Job Applicants Helps Keep Lab Vibrant

A couple of weeks ago, Juanito "Johnny" Buhain was celebrating his 11th anniversary at SLAC when he got a unexpected call from the Human Resources department. "I thought they were calling about my retirement benefits to say, 'Hey, you're getting old,'" he laughed.

Instead, Buhain, who works as a Science and Engineering Associate in Control and Power Engineering, was surprised to learn he had earned a bonus through the Employee Referral Program. "They said, 'I've got good news for you. You've got a check here for referring someone who successfully got the job at SLAC.' I'd forgotten about that."

The $250 bonus is given to eligible SLAC employees who recommend successful candidates. The program has been in place since 2000 and has been a great success, says Lisa Mongetta, who manages staffing services in the Human Resources department. "We get really fabulous hires from the employee referral program."

Buhain, who works as a liaison between engineers and scientists on campus, referred a friend with whom he used to work at Bechtel. Although he now qualifies for retirement benefits, Buhain is not planning on leaving anytime soon. "Not right now," he said. "I'm still enjoying what I'm doing."

More information about the referral program can be found online.

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