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In this issue:
New Issue of symmetry Now Online
Science Today: Another Step Toward Understanding Autism
Raymond L. Orbach Addresses the Universities Research Association

SLAC Today

Thursday - January 31, 2008

The current issue of symmetry is dedicated to the imminent switch-on of the Large Hadron Collider.

New Issue of symmetry Dedicated to the LHC

We are on the eve of one of the greatest experiments in the history of physics. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a 27-kilometer ring straddling the Swiss-French border, is pushing the frontier of exploration into the fundamentals of our universe.

The machine is currently being prepared for first injection of the high energy proton beams, due in the next few months. Soon after, the largest detectors ever made will be peering into the debris of collisions, a tangle of data that physicists will dissect, examine, and probe in their journey to reveal long-sought secrets of nature.

In recent years, particle physics has been revolutionized with the discovery that 95% of the universe is missing. The LHC will answer many significant questions about the part of the universe we know and start to reveal critical information that will guide our exploration of the rest. The LHC will answer much, but it will raise just as many new questions for the ongoing scientific enterprise.
Read more in symmetry...

(Daily Column - Science Today)

Another Step Toward Understanding Autism

The establishment of neural connections is critical for proper brain function, and errors in the process are thought to be associated with autism and other disorders. Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators Axel Brunger (Stanford University School of Medicine and Photon Science) and Thomas S├╝dhof (University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center), working in part at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL), have solved the structure of the proteins that form this connection-neuroligin-1 and neurexin-1β—giving clues to how neurons forge physical connections between one another. The results are published in the December 20, 2007, issue of the journal Neuron.

Nerve impulses are triggered when a presynaptic neuron releases a chemical neurotransmitter into the synapse that is recognized by the postsynaptic neuron. Neurexin and neuroligin, respectively, are presynaptic and postsynaptic connector proteins that extend outside of the cells where they are produced and contact one another to form a physical link across the synapse. Using SSRL Beam Line 11-1 and ALS Beam Line 8.2.2, Brunger and colleagues solved the structure of neuroligin-1 by itself and in complex with neurexin-1β.

To learn more about this research, see the full scientific highlight in SSRL Headlines.

Raymond L. Orbach Addresses the Universities Research Association

Yesterday, Under Secretary for Science Dr. Raymond L. Orbach addressed the Universities Research Association Council of Presidents in Washington, D.C. His remarks follow.
                      ...
Though you have heard this phrase before, we are now at a perilous moment in the history of funding for science in the United States. I speak from the perspective of the Director of the Department of Energy Office of Science, and as Under Secretary for Science, but I believe I also represent the views of other leaders of the federal agencies that support science.

I refer you to the consequences for the funding for science of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 Omnibus Bill, and the preceding year-long FY 2007 Continuing Resolution. Both failed to provide adequate funding for the physical sciences in the United States and for many other fields of science. The President's Budget Request for FY 2009, in the context of the American Competitive Initiative, or ACI, will again be a vote of confidence for the three federal agencies that are the primary supporters of the physical sciences: the Office of Science within the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and the core research component of the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
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