SLAC Today is available online at:
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In this issue:
Biology, Meet Quantum Physics
SLAC Employees Help Each Other Navigate Tough Financial Times
Reminder: Quartet to Play Thursday
Panorama-o-rama

SLAC Today

Tuesday - January 20, 2009

Biology, Meet Quantum Physics

Most young scholars study photosynthesis, the process by which plants and some microorganisms convert sunlight into fuel.

Those middle school biology lessons generally steer clear of the topic of quantum mechanics, the physics of the subatomic world.

But it turns out the same rules that govern subatomic particles are at work in sun-gobbling plants, according to research at the University of California, Berkeley, and at Washington University in St. Louis.

According to a recent article in Discover magazine, electrons moving through a plant use quantum tunneling, the phenomenon of hopping spontaneously from one location to another, to make the process of photosynthesis more efficient than any energy-converting process created by man. Read more in Symmetry Breaking...

SLAC Employees Help Each Other Navigate Tough Financial Times

SERA volunteers John Escudero and Stephanie Carlson. (Photo by Lauren Schenkman. Click for larger image.)

In hard times like these, families are more vulnerable than ever to sudden changes of fortune. That's why now is an especially important time for SERA, the SLAC Emergency Relief Association.

SERA is a non-profit, cooperative loan house run by and for SLAC employees. Founded more than 40 years ago, it acts as a kind of SLAC family pot. Becoming a member requires a monthly donation, as little as one dollar a month, which can be automatically deducted from an employee's paycheck. The association's governing board—volunteers from within the SLAC staff—then uses the resulting fund to provide small loans, and, in special cases, grants, to members in urgent economic need.

"We are the last resort, for when people are in critical emergencies, really drastic situations," explained Stephanie Carlson, SERA's treasurer for more than 12 years. "They've gone to everyone else first—they've gone to the bank, they've gone to their relatives, they've gone to their church—and then they come to us. We review their application and we can respond immediately."  Read more...

Reminder: Quartet to Play Thursday

Don't miss the Saint Lawrence String Quartet this Thursday from noon to 1:00 p.m. in Kavli Auditorium.

Panorama-o-rama

(Image - wide view of the Klystron Gallery)

A roving photojournalist from the Exploratorium took three stunning portraits of SLAC's Klystron Gallery last fall. The 180-degree panoramas are mosaics of more than 150 individual photographs; the 360-degree pan is 477 shots.

The photographer, Ron Hipschman, took the pictures using a robotic tripod head called a GigaPan Imager. The device uses the same photo technology that the Mars Exploration Rovers use to create mosaic images of the Martian landscape. It cradles a point-and-shoot digital camera, calculates how many pictures it needs to take, and clicks the shutter button with a robotic arm several times a minute, panning and tilting to capture all angles. "You just stand back and let it go," Hipschman said.

Each panorama took about 40 minutes to shoot, but the results are dazzling. The images are also "shockingly zoomable," as Hipschman put it. They use the same image technology as Google Earth to let you zoom in on any point without losing resolution.

Hipschman's job as webmaster for San Francisco's Exploratorium science museum has taken him from CERN to Cape Canaveral to Antarctica, but he hopes to come back to SLAC for another photoshoot as well. "These pictures are just my foot in the door at SLAC," he said. "I hope to do more panoramas in additional interesting locations. SLAC's an amazing place."

You can explore Hipschman's SLAC panoramas online:

Inside the Klystron Gallery
Outside the Klystron Gallery
Klystron Gallery and primate research lab (360° view)

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