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In this issue:
Kahn and MacFarlane Step Up as Director and Deputy Director of PPA
Profile: Tim Nelson says Au Revoir to Buying Pinot Noir
GLAST Collaboration Meets this Week at SLAC

SLAC Today

Wednesday - August 1, 2007

Kahn and MacFarlane Step Up as Director

Steve Kahn (left) and David MacFarlane. (Images courtesy of Diana Rogers.)

and Deputy Director of PPA

Steven Kahn and David MacFarlane officially take on their new roles as Director and Deputy Director of Particle and Particle Astrophysics (PPA) today.

"I would like to offer my sincere thanks to Persis Drell, who led the directorate with exceptional skill over the past five years," said Kahn. "This is an interesting time in particle physics and astrophysics, and I look forward to the many challenges and the many triumphs that lie ahead."

MacFarlane added, "The SLAC PPA Directorate has world famous faculty and a tremendous staff. I look forward to working with them over the next few years."

Today also marks an official change in the name of the PPA directorate; previously known as Particle and Particle Astrophysics, the directorate is now Particle Physics and Astrophysics.

"The High Energy Physics faculty recently voted to change their name to Particle Physics and Astrophysics, and we're following suit," said Kahn. "It certainly introduces some grammatical stability to the directorate."

(Weekly Column - Profile)

Tim Nelson says
Au Revoir to Buying Pinot Noir

(Image - Tim Nelson)
Tim Nelson stands next to the grapevines he cultivates in his backyard. (Click on image for larger version.)

Besides being a self-proclaimed "coffee freak" who roasts his own coffee beans, SLAC physicist Tim Nelson likes to live off the land. His yard is home to an assortment of vegetation including blueberry, blackberry and raspberry bushes, cherry, peach, and olive trees, and a standard vegetable garden. So when Nelson needed something to screen the view beneath his deck, he decided on grapevines. And what better use of grapes exists than making wine?

After testing the soil, examining the sun exposure, and researching the climate, Nelson decided to plant grapes for Pinot noir, a notoriously difficult variety to cultivate and ferment. And because it takes four years before grapevines mature enough to harvest, and Nelson planted his just over a year ago, he is currently practicing with locally purchased grapes.

"I didn't want to spend four years meticulously growing great grapes only to mess them up in the wine-making process," said Nelson. "So I made my first batch of Pinot noir last year, and it turned out pretty well. I was happy for a first effort."

Creating wine is a very involved process. Besides growing, crushing and de-stemming the grapes—all of which requires specialized equipment—one must battle taste-destroying bacteria during months of fermentation and aging.

"It's like creating a sculpture," said Nelson. "You have this raw material that you're trying to cut something out of. And once you change something, it can't be undone. You can't undo mistakes."

Formerly a competitive cyclist, Nelson sometimes finds it difficult to schedule time for wine-making over biking, fixing up his new home, raising his young child and researching detectors for the proposed International Linear Collider. But, he says, if the wine turns out as well as his current batch of Cabernet Sauvignon seems to be, it is a hobby he will continue for years to come.

GLAST Collaboration Meets this Week at SLAC

(Photo - GLAST collaboration meeting)
Participants socialized yesterday before the early morning start of this week's GLAST Collaboration meeting. (Click on image for larger version.)

This week SLAC is hosting over 100 scientists from around the world for a Gamma Ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) collaboration meeting. For four packed days scientists will discuss the current progress and future plans for GLAST, which launches in early 2008.

"We're basically oiling all of the skids," said Richard Dubois, GLAST's offline software coordinator.

Once in orbit, GLAST's two instruments will scan the skies for gamma rays to probe some of the universe's biggest mysteries. Each GLAST group is studying a different astronomical phenomenon, including black holes, neutron stars and pulsars. For months, the groups have been practicing analysis techniques using simulated data. The progress they are making with these simulations is at the heart of the meeting.

The simulations allow scientists to see how well their analytical processes work, spot any communication problems, and determine just how ready they are for the launch of GLAST. This process also ensures the smooth operation of the communication relays between space, the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, SLAC and the scientists.

Other conference sessions will bring scientists up to date on the satellite's assembly, which has been progressing for nine months in Gilbert, Arizona. Attendees will discuss the Science Operations Center in Building 84, which is responsible for receiving data from Goddard, analyzing and monitoring it for errors, and sending it on to the scientists. Finally, discussions will help script the satellite's first 60 days in space. These critical first steps determine what data to take, where to focus the telescope and when to put the satellite into full survey mode.

"This conference is specifically for bringing scientists up to date, making sure everyone is prepared, and seeing how well everyone is communicating with each other," said Dubois.

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