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In this issue:
XPP's Monster Arm
Flash Forward: Science Fact vs. Science Fiction
Rider Feedback Sought for Proposed Marguerite Shuttle Line S Schedule
Word of the Week: Tomography
Colloquium Today: Extrasolar Planetary Systems

SLAC Today

Monday - December 14, 2009

XPP's Monster Arm

(Photo)
J. Langton peers up at the newly installed robot arm. (Photo by Lauren Knoche.)

Last week the X-ray Pump Probe instrument, slated to become the third instrument at the Linac Coherent Light Source, reached a milestone in its installation phase with the addition of a robot arm. Dubbed "Monster" by XPP Instrument Scientist David Fritz for its large size and green hue, the robot was hoisted to the ceiling last Wednesday after more than a year of planning and preparation. This marks the first time a robot arm like Monster has been installed for the use in experimental physics.

"This has not been done before in physics," said XPP Engineer J. Langton who along with Jim DeLor and Jim Defever did much of the planning for the installation. "These scientists want a lot of flexibility, and with this robot arm, we can give it to them," he said.

Robots like Monster are typically mounted on the floor for manufacturing cars, not flipped upside-down and hung from the ceiling for physics research. Because Monster is upside-down, a few adjustments had to be made to the robot. An engineer from the manufacturer, Stäubli, came to assist in the installation process, opening up the arm to change the robot to a ceiling mount configuration before it was raised off the ground.  Read more...

(Photo - the cast of FlashForward)
The cast of ABC's TV series FlashForward. (ABC/Bob D'Amico)

Flash Forward: Science Fact vs. Science Fiction

In the December 3 episode of ABC's FlashForward television drama, researchers from a fictional research organization called the National Linear Accelerator Project, purportedly located in Palo Alto, California, announced that they might have caused the worldwide blackout that killed 20 million people by conducting "proton-driven plasma-wakefield acceleration" experiments.

While this makes for enthralling TV, it's definitely not reality TV.  Read more in Symmetry Breaking...

Rider Feedback Sought for Proposed Marguerite Shuttle Line S Schedule

SLAC wants to help you green up your commute, reduce your carbon footprint, and maybe cut down your gas bill in the process. To do that, we [staff members from the Operations Division] are updating the Marguerite S-line schedule, and would like you, the rider, to tell us what you think of the proposed new schedule.  Read more...

Word of the Week: Tomography

Tomography is a common 3-D imaging technique used in a variety of fields, including medicine. Imaging scientist Joy Hayter talks with Brad Plummer about how researchers at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource are taking tomography down to a whole new level in this Video Word of the Week.

Colloquium Today:
Extrasolar Planetary Systems

(Image - SLAC Colloquium banner)

More than 300 extrasolar planets are now known. Almost all have been detected indirectly—through radial velocity measurements or eclipses of their parent star. Direct detection—spatially resolving the planet from the star—opens up new areas of exoplanet phase space and new avenues for planet characterization. Macintosh will discuss the challenges in detecting such faint signals—a mature Jupiter-like planet is a billion times fainter than its parent star—and approaches to overcoming them. The promise of this approach was recently demonstrated with images of a planet orbiting Fomalhaut and a three-planet system orbiting the young A star HR8799. Macintosh will discuss the latter in detail, and will summarize future prospects in this field, including advanced ground-based instrumentation and the path towards detection and characterization of Earthlike planets.

Macintosh completed his PhD at UCLA in 1994. He is currently a physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, working in astronomical adaptive optics, and an associate director for the National Science Foundation Center for Adaptive Optics. He is principal investigator for the Gemini Planet Imager, a next-generation instrument for the 8 meter Gemini South telescope designed to directly detect and spectroscopically characterize Jovian planets orbiting nearby stars.

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