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In this issue:
From the Director of Photon Science: Transitions
Paper Timesheets: Going, Going, Soon to Be Gone!
Seen around SLAC: Deer
Word of the Week: Spherical Cow

SLAC Today

Friday - September 17, 2010

From the Director of Photon Science: Transitions

(Photo - Keith Hodgson)

In today's director's column, I would like to inform you that I have decided to step down as associate laboratory director for the Photon Science Directorate at SLAC.

The directorate has been successfully reorganized over the past six months into two divisions: Chemical Sciences and Materials Sciences Divisions. We have initiated the SUN-CAT center, and the joint SLAC-Stanford institutes PULSE and SIMES are integrated into the divisional structure. The stage is now set for scientific growth in strategically selected research areas, aligned with SLAC and Department of Energy Basic Energy Sciences mission needs. Much of the research couples to and helps drive the experimental capabilities of the Linac Coherent Light Source and Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource. There are also new initiatives in areas that are not directly coupled to the lightsources. Plans are underway to add a third division (biosciences) in the coming year. We have developed a long-range space plan to augment the existing and soon-to-be renovated laboratory and office space in Building 40, to provide the needed infrastructure to achieve our vision for future growth. I am very pleased to have played a leadership role in helping create the Photon Science Directorate three years ago and positioning it to contribute strongly to SLAC's transition to a true multi-program laboratory.  Read more...

Paper Timesheets:
Going, Going, Soon to Be Gone!

In his August 13 SLAC Today column, Sandy Merola gave a preview of the top-rated Operation Division goals for fiscal year 2011, one of which was to "implement online time reporting." SLAC's paper-based system ensures that people are correctly paid, tracks leave use and allocates labor costs to the right charge numbers—a lot of functionality to replace. But many will agree the lab really needs to move out of the paper past and into the online future.

A core team with members from Human Resources Department and the Offices of the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Information Officer has been working behind the scenes to bring about this change, which is expected to launch in the spring of 2011. The core team has developed the requirements for an online time tracking system, issued a Request for Proposals from vendors, reviewed responses, participated in vendor demos and checked references. The Procurement Department is now negotiating the contract.


(Photo by Alan Altmann.)

Seen around SLAC: Deer

Alan Altmann, a former SLACer who worked on the PEP-I control system in the 1970s, was driving by SLAC recently on Sand Hill Road when he spotted three deer enjoying grass at the lab. He pulled off the road to catch some photos, including this shot of a doe near the Stanford Guest House.

Word of the Week: Spherical Cow

One of SLAC's neighboring Belted Galloways, "simplified" by Gary Shockley. (Image by permission.)

A strength of not only physics, but many scientific fields, is an ability to use a simplified model of an object, phenomenon or process to demonstrate fundamental truths. Any beginning physics student who has worked on problems featuring massless ropes, frictionless pulleys and projectiles not subject to air resistance has benefited from such simplifying models.

To outside observers, though, these simple models may seem too simple. Thus the origin of the unofficial mascot of theoretical physicists, the spherical cow, in a joke about a dairy farmer asking a physicist for help determining why his cows aren't giving much milk.

In variations on the punch line, the physicist's proposed solution sometimes posits the poor cow to be of of radius r, sometimes of uniform density, sometimes in a vacuum. Never does the joke include a model that successfully explains why a dairy farmer would ask a physicist for help, but maybe some things just can't be modeled.


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