SLAC Today is available online at:
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In this issue:
Newly Revamped SSRL Beamlines 4-1 and 4-3 Bringing Smiles to Users
New Video of the Twinkling Gamma-ray Sky
Transition to Office 2007
Colloquium Today: When Silicon Valley was "Arc Alley"

SLAC Today

Monday - April 6, 2009

Newly Revamped SSRL Beamlines 4-1 and 4-3 Bringing Smiles to Users

Beamline 4-3's first user, University of British Columbia chemist Pierre Kennepohl, was left smiling after a successful run. (Photo by Lauren Schenkman.)

Two completely rebuilt beamlines at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource hosted their first experiments in March. Beamlines 4-1 and 4-3 are both X-ray absorption spectroscopy, or XAS, stations that cover the range of the X-ray energy spectrum most commonly used with this technique, between 2 and 35 keV. X-ray absorption spectroscopy is a bread-and-butter technique at synchrotron facilities, and the new beamlines will greatly expand access to these high-demand experiments.

"The idea is to take the simpler experiments off of other beamlines that are highly oversubscribed, and put them on here," said Joe Rogers, the engineering physicist who leads the user support team on 4-1. "We can hopefully get a lot of users through here, and collect a lot of data."  Read more...

New Video of the Twinkling Gamma-ray Sky

(Image - FGST sky image)
This map of the northern galactic sky shows Large Area Telescope counts of gamma rays with energies greater than 300 million electron volts. (Image courtesy of NASA/DOE/LAT collaboration. Click on image to view this and other sky movies.)

The gamma-ray sky is intensely frenetic, twinkling with abandon. And now, thanks to a series of time-lapse movies released Friday by NASA, the US Department of Energy, and the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope’s Large Area Telescope collaboration, you too can enjoy the frenzy.

The movies, which were made public during a webcast organized as part of the 100 Hours of Astronomy project, compress the space-based telescope’s first 87 days of science data into as little as 29 seconds. On this time scale, the sky is awash in softly blinking gamma-ray sources, which are again and again overwhelmed by the bright firework-like flashes of bright blazars.

Some of the most violent energy sources in the universe, blazars are galaxies that emit jets of particles traveling near the speed of light. In a blazar, one of these jets is oriented directly toward Earth, creating a very strong signal in many wavelengths—including gamma rays.

In one of the just-released movies of the Northern Hemisphere (accessible by clicking on the image at right), a careful examination reveals the sun scooting across the sky on the lower right corner of the frame. Although the sun does not directly emit gamma rays, cosmic rays streaming through the universe continually strike the sun’s gas and light, producing gamma rays. The sun’s position with respect to the background stars on the sky changes by about 1 degree per day as the earth advances in its orbit, leading to the steady progression in this highly compressed movie.  Read more in Symmetry Breaking...

Transition to Office 2007

SLAC will begin transitioning to Microsoft Office 2007 in June. The transition to this major new version of Office will be gradual, with each department setting its own pace. Scientific Computing and Computing Services will continue to support Office 2003 as long as it's needed by the lab and maintained by Microsoft.

In the near future, SCCS plans to offer an open session in Panofsky Auditorium to give a general overview of Office 2007. This session will address not only new features but also some of the migration challenges and strategies for coping with them. Watch for an announcement in SLAC Today.

Editor's Note: The April 2 issue of SLAC Today indicated that "In June, SLAC will migrate to Office 2007." This has been updated to clarify that in June, SLAC "will begin to migrate" to Office 2007.

Colloquium Today:
When Silicon Valley was "Arc Alley"

(Image - SLAC Colloquium banner)

Today at 4:15 in Panofsky Auditorium, Stanford Professor of Electrical Engineering Thomas Lee will present "When Silicon Valley was 'Arc Alley,'" covering technology development in the Santa Clara Valley before silicon became king.

Most histories of Silicon Valley begin with Shockley, Fairchild and the transistor. Occasionally, they'll go as far back as Hewlett and Packard. Few seem to be aware of the important prehistory that made all those developments possible. The first high-tech giant in the area was Federal Telegraph and Telephone, founded in 1909 by recent Stanford graduate Cyril Elwell as the Poulsen Wireless Telephone & Telegraph Company. Federal nurtured intellectual seeds that would flower here and elsewhere.

Lee's talk will focus on the Federal-dominated pre-silicon years of Silicon Valley, and will demonstrate that the patterns of today's high-tech industry are simply minor elaborations of historical motifs that were established a century ago.

Lee is an IEEE Distinguished Lecturer of both the Solid-State Circuits and Microwave Societies. A co-founder of Matrix Semiconductor, Lee holds 35 U.S. patents and is author of several books on RF circuit design. His talk is free and open to all.

Next Week: Precision Measurement in Biology

In next Monday's colloquium, Stanford Professor of Bioengineering (and of Applied Physics, by courtesy) Stephen Quake will discuss the role of precision measurement in both physics and biology, and argue that in fact both fields can be tied together by the use and consequences of precision measurement. See the Colloquium Web page for an abstract and event details.

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