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In this issue:
People: Bryce Cronkite-Ratcliff
Blood Drive Today
Brush Fire at Alpine Gate Quickly Contained

SLAC Today

Wednesday - June 10, 2009

People: Bryce Cronkite-Ratcliff

(Photo - Bryce Cronkite-Ratcliff)
Bryce Cronkite-Ratcliff. (Photo by Nicholas Bock.)

In seventh grade, Bryce Cronkite-Ratcliff was asked to make a project for his school's science fair. Instead of settling for standbys like the baking-soda volcano or the balloon-propelled rocket, Cronkite-Ratcliff got a laser and reproduced Thomas Young's classic double slit experiment, demonstrating light's wave-like properties in his parents' hallway. The next year he built a replica of the mirror system Archimedes allegedly used to set fire to the Roman Fleet during the Siege of Syracuse.

This went on throughout junior high and continued into high school, the projects becoming more involved each year. For his project this spring as a senior at Crystal Springs Uplands high School in Hillsborough, California, Cronkite-Ratcliff worked with SLAC Senior Staff Scientist Uwe Bergmann to explore the bonding configurations of water molecules. The project, titled "The Nonhomogeneous Intermolecular Bonding Structure of Liquid Water: An X-ray Study," won Grand Prize in Physical Science at the 2009 Bay Area Science Fair, earning Cronkite-Ratcliff a spot at the International Science Fair in Reno, where he received the Third Place Grand Award.

"It was kind of a party," Cronkite-Ratcliff said of the event. "A science party." Read more...

Blood Drive Today(Image - heart)

Blood donors get the satisfaction of knowing they've helped to provide hope and life to a patient in a local hospital. And today at SLAC, each donor will also receive a coupon for a free pint of Baskin Robbins ice cream. The SLAC Blood Drive takes place today from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Panofsky Auditorium lobby, and is open to members of the SLAC community and the public. Please make an appointment or drop by when you can. See the SLAC Blood Drive Web page for details.

Brush Fire at Alpine Gate Quickly Contained

(Photo - Firefighters work near SLAC's Alpine Gate)
Firefighters work near Alpine Gate.
(Photo courtesy Lance Lougee.)

Steel. Stone. Spark. That's about all it took to create a quarter-acre wildfire yesterday in the dry grass just inside SLAC's Alpine Gate.

The midday fire ignited when the cutting blade of a flail mower driven by a landscaping contractor struck a rock, sparking a fire in the newly cut grass. Ironically, the contractor was preemptively clearing the area of dry grass before it could become fuel for flames.

"Dried grass is easily ignited," said SLAC Fire Marshal Ralph Kerwin. "Fortunately, we aren't yet experiencing the high hazard weather that leads to extremely rapid fire spread, but people still need to be cautious with any activity that can cause fire in grassy areas."

(Photo - firefighters)
SLAC Emergency Management Coordinator Lance Lougee talks with local firefighters. (Photo by Brad Plummer.)

The contractor reacted speedily, but the fire grew too fast for him to put out alone. He tried to dial 911 for assistance but there was no cell phone signal available in that area. Ultimately, he caught the attention of employees at the nearby horse farm, the Portola Valley Training Center, and people there were able to phone for help. The contractor then hopped back on his tractor and mowed a width swath around the fire to further isolate it from surrounding uncut grass. The horse farm also sent their water truck to wet down the area around the fire to further slow its spread.

Seven fire engines from Palo Alto Fire, Woodside Fire and CalFire responded within minutes of initial dispatch, as did members of SLAC's Emergency Response Team. The fire was quickly contained with no injuries or structural damage, leaving only a large charcoaled area next to the road.

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