SLAC Today is available online at:
http://today.slac.stanford.edu

In this issue:
SLAC Researchers Reveal the Dance of Water
Can SLAC Reach You in an Emergency?
SLAC Safety Note: "Phishing" Scam Provides a Good Reminder about Computer Security

SLAC Today

Tuesday - August 11, 2009

SLAC Researchers Reveal the Dance of Water

This artist's depiction shows two distinct structures of water: in the foreground, tetrahedral low-density water and in the background, distorted high-density water. (Image courtesy Hirohito Ogasawara and Ningdong Huang, SLAC.)

Water is familiar to everyone—it shapes our bodies and our planet. But despite this abundance, the molecular structure of water has remained a mystery, with the substance exhibiting many strange properties that are still poorly understood. Recent work at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and several universities in Sweden and Japan, however, is shedding new light on water's molecular idiosyncrasies, offering insight into its strange bulk properties.

In all, water exhibits 66 known anomalies, including a strangely varying density, large heat capacity and high surface tension. Contrary to other "normal" liquids, which become denser as they get colder, water reaches its maximum density at about 4 degrees Celsius. Above and below this temperature, water is less dense; this is why, for example, lakes freeze from the surface down. Water also has an unusually large capacity to store heat, which stabilizes the temperature of the oceans, and a high surface tension, which allows insects to walk on water, droplets to form and trees to transport water to great heights.

"Understanding these anomalies is very important because water is the ultimate basis for our existence: no water, no life," said SLAC scientist Anders Nilsson, who is leading the experimental efforts. "Our work helps explain these anomalies on the molecular level at temperatures which are relevant to life."  Read more...

Can SLAC Reach You in Emergency?

AlertSU

Last year Stanford University implemented an emergency notification system called AlertSU. This system was put in place to be able to rapidly alert all Stanford faculty, staff and students in the case of a developing emergency situation. It simultaneously uses several technologies to deliver time-sensitive emergency notifications: voice mail, e-mail and text messaging. SLAC employee office phone numbers and SLAC e-mail addresses have been included in the database from the beginning, and many of us have received phone calls and/or emails during their periodic testing.

What is changing?

As of today, SLAC subcontractors, students and visiting scientists can enter their emergency contact information into the AlertSU system via the SLAC Phone Directory Web page. Up to three phone numbers and one e-mail address can be tagged for use by the AlertSU system.  Read more...

SLAC Safety Notes

"Phishing" Scam Provides a Good Reminder about Computer Security

On Monday, August 3 many users at SLAC began receiving emails from "Microsoft" through their SLAC e-mail addresses (as well as campus e-mail addresses, if applicable) about a critical update to Windows. On Tuesday, emails began arriving about a configuration change needed in Microsoft Outlook. The email messages were sent in "HTML format" so it wasn't obvious to the user that clicking on the link provided in the e-mail opened a Web page in the Republic of the Congo (.cd) or Australia (.au).

Screen shot of the phishing Web site, requesting login information, which will then be stolen.

A number of people reported that the e-mail looked suspicious, and most deleted it. Unfortunately, a few people at the lab clicked on the link. The link then displayed a form asking for the user's ID and password. It's not clear how many users might have filled in the form or what malware might have been downloaded. However, SLAC Computing does have a record of who clicked on the link. In order to mitigate the risk to SLAC, we required the users who clicked on the link to change their passwords. This approach mitigated the risk, and only inconvenienced the users by less than one minute.

"This incident is a good opportunity to remind ourselves of the importance of being diligent and not responding to e-mail or clicking on links in emails that look suspicious," Said Donald Lemma, SLAC's new chief information officer and director of the Computing Division. "IT security is always a matter of balance; we can easily design a system that is totally secure, but it will also be totally unusable. We try to maintain a computing environment that strikes a reasonable balance and SLAC employees are our first, and best, line of defense."

Suspicious e-mail should be reported to SLAC Computer Security or e-mail administration. No legitimate e-mail from SLAC, or any of our vendors, will ever ask for your password.

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