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In this issue:
String Theory's Next Top Model
People Today: Cartoon: A Drawing Intended as Satire, Caricature or Humor
McCallum-Turner Focuses on Quality
Energy Tip of the Week

SLAC Today

Wednesday - October 24, 2007

(Image - Calabi-Yau diagram)
Different "Calabi-Yau" spaces like the image above offer promising candidates for inflationary models of string theory. Shamit Kachru and his colleagues are hoping to find a simpler, "toy" model to help string theorists address deep conceptual issues.

String Theory's Next Top Model

Ernest Rutherford used to tell his physics students that if they couldn't explain a concept to a barmaid, they didn't really understand the concept. With regard to the cosmological implications of string theory, the barmaids and physicists are both struggling—a predicament that SLAC string theorist Shamit Kachru hopes to soon resolve.

String theory is currently the most popular candidate for a unified theory of the fundamental forces, but it is not completely understood—and experimental evidence is notoriously elusive. Physicists can, however, gain crucial insight into the theory by evaluating how accurately its models can predict the observed universe.

Using this indirect approach, Kachru, in collaboration with theorists at Rutgers University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, sought models that could reproduce inflation—the prevailing cosmological paradigm in which the nascent universe experienced a fleeting period of exponential expansion. Although there is already a substantial body of literature presenting such models—spawned in part by publications of Kachru and his Stanford and SLAC colleagues Renata Kallosh, Andrei Linde and Eva Silverstein in 2003—the complexity of the models leaves room for doubt.  Read more...

(Weekly Column - Profile)

Cartoon: A Drawing Intended as Satire, Caricature or Humor

(Photo - Jean-Charles Castagna)
Jean-Charles Castagna with one of his cartoons. (Click on image for larger version.)

Lots of people doodle—a stick figure in the margins of a notepad or maybe a geometric design in the corner of a lab notebook—but SLAC engineer Jean-Charles Castagna takes it to the next level.

Castagna, who has been building instruments at SLAC for five years, has been cartooning all his life.

"I draw mostly stuff with people," Castagna says. "I see something that's funny and I draw."

His cartoons not only keep him smiling, they also provide memorable teaching tools. A French company used his cartoons for safety training. And when working part-time as a pastor, Castagna used cartoons to illustrate his message for parishioners.

"You can say it," he says, "But that's not going to be as powerful in meaning as a cartoon."

Born in France, Castagna trained as an engineer before spending two years doing missionary work in Africa. He returned to France with his future wife, an American missionary kid, and worked as an engineer.

But his third world experience had inspired him, and in his thirties, already a father of two, Castagna put his engineering career on hiatus to study the Bible at what is now Columbia International University in Columbia, South Carolina. He returned to France afterwards, because he felt he could help people there.

Castagna now has four children and currently lives in San Jose, where he and his wife run French Bible clubs and camps for kids.

In addition to drawing, Castagna paints with watercolors and enjoys photography. He likes to take close-ups and other unusual angles on everyday objects, "things that other people don't see," he says.

One of Castagna's cartoons was recently added to the SLAC Today archives page. More of Castagna's cartoons and photos are posted to his personal website.

Film Crew Visits SLAC

Click on image for larger version. (Image courtesy of Brad Plummer.)

Yesterday at 6:30 a.m., an army of production vehicles rolled through the Main Gate on their way to a full morning of filming at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL). The 40-person crew spent seven hours capturing images for a video on Stanford's outstanding research institutions. Having first filmed at BaBar last week, the crew returned yesterday with a state-of-the-art high-definition camera to catch researchers in action at SSRL.

McCallum-Turner Focuses on Quality

This, the seventh article in SLAC Today's series covering the 11 McCallum-Turner management and operations focus areas, centers on Quality.

Quality at SLAC involves the oversight of construction, manufacturing, and engineering projects, including the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), the Gamma Ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) and SPEAR3. It also includes procedures and processes in groups such as the Klystron Microwave Department, Mechanical Fabrication Department and Accelerator Systems Division. At SLAC, everyone is responsible to ensure each department and experiment is progressing with the highest levels of accuracy, precision, and safety and that everything is adequately documented. Read more...

Energy Tip of the Week

(Photo - Clothes washer)Here are some no-cost tips for saving energy and money at home:

Do only full loads when using the clothes washer and dryer. Clean the dryer lint trap after each use. When possible, line dry your clothes.

Lower the water heater's temperature to 120° F or "low." (If you have a dishwasher without its own heating element, chose 140° F or "medium.")

Wash only full loads in the dishwasher. Use the energy saver, air-dry cycle, or, if allowed, open the door and let dishes dry naturally.

Also, consider checking the PG&E website to identify rebate incentives for home energy efficiency projects. The rebates being offered this year are, in some cases, very substantial.

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