SLAC Today is available online at:
http://today.slac.stanford.edu
In this issue:
The LCLS Takes on Computing
Colloquium Monday: The Iran Nuclear Crisis: An Update
New US Postal Service Rate Increase
LCLS Pours It On
SLAC to Phase Out Loaner Laptop Service

SLAC Today

Friday - May 4, 2007

(Image - Computer code)

The LCLS Takes on Computing

The LCLS will pull back the curtain on things familiar and exotic, expanding the frontier of science into unprecedented territories. Among its most promising capabilities is the ability to capture precise images of molecules using a single, intense X-ray pulse. By piecing together sequential images of molecules undergoing chemical reactions, we will for the first time be able to watch "molecular movies," showing the frenetic action of the chemistry of life as it happens.

Pushing the frontier of knowledge with this new kind of tool requires new ways of thinking about computing power. Creating a molecular movie requires capturing images of individual molecules, one at a time. Because of how the molecules are fed into the machine, each will appear at different stages of interaction and in different orientations to the camera. Piecing the frames together in a meaningful way will first require processing an ocean of imaging information.

Complicating matters, the LCLS beam is fundamentally different from the more common synchrotron x-ray sources. Synchrotrons create a rock-solid beam that is the same with every pulse. But because the LCLS generates each X-ray beam separately instead of storing the beam inside a ring to be used over and over, the beam changes slightly with each shot. Parameters like exact beam position and intensity must be recorded for each shot and later used to standardize all the images. This metadata adds to the bulk of data already being recorded, compounding the need for powerful computers.

This burgeoning field of research stands at the forefront of changing not only how we understand science, but how we use new instruments to gain knowledge. The LCLS represents a science being born. Realizing the full potential of the LCLS will take us into new territories of science while also changing how we think about scientific computing.

Colloquium Monday

The Iran Nuclear Crisis: An Update

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In Monday's colloquium, Scott Sagan will connect Iran's finances with the country's efforts to expand its uranium enrichment program.

Will Iran develop nuclear weapons capabilities and what effects would such capabilities have on international peace and security? Despite two recent U.N. Security Council resolutions sanctioning Iran for its nuclear activities, the government in Tehran continues to press ahead with efforts to expand its uranium enrichment program to industrial scale. Both the Tehran regime and the Iranian people remain divided on the nuclear question, creating opportunities for a negotiated settlement.

In Monday's colloquium, Stanford's Scott Sagan will discuss why he believes it is essential for US security that the Iranian program be contained. 

Don't miss The Iran Nuclear Crisis: An Update this Monday at 4:15 p.m. in Panofsky Auditorium. Learn more...

U.S. Postal Service
Rate Increase

(Image courtesy USPS)Effective May 14, 2007, U.S. postage rates will increase. The change that will affect the majority of us is the increase of the First Class postage stamp from $0.39 to $0.41. There will be rate changes for Priority Mail, Express Mail and International rates as well. For complete rate information, please visit the United States Postal Service website.

LCLS Pours It On

(Still from LCLS webcam)
The view from the Research Yard webcam early this morning. (Click on image to view webcam in real-time.)

Construction activity on the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) takes another big leap forward this week. Crews spent Thursday pouring 1,000 cubic yards of concrete for the second floor of the Near Experimental Hall. Today another 600 cubic yards of concrete are being poured into the Beam Transport Hall taking shape in the Research Yard.

SLAC to Phase Out Loaner Laptop Service

The loaner laptop service at the Computing Center Help Desk is being phased out. When the service first began, very few people had laptops and having a few to loan to travelers saved the lab money. Today, many travelers have their own laptops. Although the loaner service remains useful to some parts of the SLAC community, a central service is no longer cost effective. As a result, loaner laptops will no longer be available at the Help Desk after May 15.

Some departments have chosen to purchase an extra laptop for such occasional use. If your department is interested in doing this, please contact your desktop support person. Scientific Computing and Computing Services will be happy to work with him or her on hardware procurement and review of the required security procedures.

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