Some photos from a construction tour of FRIB (the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams)

This is basically just the blogification of some social media posts I’ve written, since it occurred to me some web-searchers might find these photos also interesting! Caption accuracy is not guaranteed, click the photos to make them larger. If you don’t know FRIB, it is basically a $730 million bump-out of the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL) here in East Lansing, Michigan, that will enable them to run experiments much faster… it is also a linear accelerator rather than a cyclotron. The facility is a little over half-done. And now, some photos.

Here we are about to go on the tour.

DSC04105

Most of the folks with us were cyclotron operators – that is, they run the show at the NSCL. It was fun overhearing their conversations (especially about how they were going to fix stuff that breaks in the new setup!).

DSC04108

Place started to feel like a bunker once you headed underground, I know where I’m going once the zombies come.

DSC04123

Here is the main beamline tunnel, 35 feet below grade and about 500 feet long, which the beamline will travel through in a sort of paperclip pattern. It was nice and cool down there. The facility electrical connection is for 25 MW, more than Michigan State University’s powerplant can provide, with a 4 MW backup for cryo systems. The walls down here are 3 feet thick, the floor 4.5 feet, the ceiling 3.5 feet.

DSC04125

Just another photo of the tunnel, the long pipe running down the middle will carry cryo fluids.

DSC04127

This is where they’re going to lower the Stargate into the tunnel to travel to other planets. They’ll never admit it, of course. (Oh… you’re all Stargate fans.)

DSC04133

Near the target areas there was a special high-density concrete, cost $1600 per cubic yard, so high in iron it would attract a magnet (as our tour guide demonstrated).

DSC04134

I want to say this was a cooling control room, but note especially the renderings on the wall – our tour guide mentioned that 300 draftsmen worked on the project.

DSC04137

Lots of 3000 pound, lead-lined doors about.

DSC04139

I can’t remember what this room was for, but here is Bec looking professional.

DSC04141

The squares will eventually be leaded-glass windows looking into the target areas.

DSC04145

Final photo – and this photo doesn’t really do justice to the scale of the space. The wall on the left is 7.5 feet thick (“because we have neighbors on that side”). The facility bottoms-out about 60 feet below grade with some water storage tanks, above that is the beam dump (the last place the beam goes), and above that are the targets themselves.

DSC04151

Good tour.

Links I liked, July 19-25 (Bicycle Physics, Hungry Cleaner Shrimps, Family Bikes)

1. The Bicycle Problem that Nearly Broke Mathematics

Terrible headline here, but pretty cool story that goes to show that just because a device is very common, doesn’t mean it is well understood.  A couple snips:

In April 1970, chemist and popular-science writer David Jones demolished this theory in an article for Physics Today in which he described riding a series of theoretically unrideable bikes. One bike that Jones built had a counter-rotating wheel on its front end that would effectively cancel out the gyroscopic effect. But he had little problem riding it hands-free.

This discovery meant that there was no simple rule-of-thumb that could guarantee that a bike is easy to ride. Trail could be useful. Gyroscopic effects could be useful. Centre of mass could be useful. For Papadopoulos, this was revelatory. The earliest frame builders had simply stumbled on a design that felt OK, and had been riding around in circles in that nook of the bicycle universe. There were untested geometries out there that could transform bike design.

2. Trump: Tribune of Poor White People

Everyone was passing around this piece of political/cultural analysis last week – give it a read if you haven’t seen it, any excerpt can’t do it justice.  But I’ll drop one anyway:

The “why” is really difficult, but I have a few thoughts.  The first is that humans appear to have some need to look down on someone; there’s just a basic tribalistic impulse in all of us.  And if you’re an elite white professional, working class whites are an easy target: you don’t have to feel guilty for being a racist or a xenophobe.  By looking down on the hillbilly, you can get that high of self-righteousness and superiority without violating any of the moral norms of your own tribe.  So your own prejudice is never revealed for what it is.

3. What Happened With the Library Millages

This is a local story but… I bet this sort of thing happens all the time.  City passes millage specifically for library that should increase their “intake” by about $2,000,000 – but actual intake only increases by about $250,000 because the city decreases the amount of money given the library from the general fund.  There is an obvious incentive here to pass specific millages for popular programs (like the library), to free up more general fund money for less popular stuff.  Be aware…

4. A Brief Word to J.I. Packer on His 90th Birthday

Thomas Aquinas died at age 49.  John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards died at 54.  Charles Spurgeon at 57.  Martin Luther at 62.

5. Facebook Messenger Hits 1 Billion Users

There is nothing deep and complicated about this article just… whew.

More than 10% of voice over IP (VoIP) calls occur on Messenger, and 17 billion photos are sent on the app each month. And interactions with businesses have risen sharply. People now exchange 1 billion messages with businesses every month, a figure that has more than doubled in the past year.

6. Heavy Boots

To prove my point, we went back to our dorm room and began randomly selecting names from the campus phone book. We called about 30 people and asked each this question: 1

1. If you’re standing on the Moon holding a pen, and you let go, will it
a) float away,
b) float where it is,
or c) fall to the ground?

About 47 percent got this question correct. Of the ones who got it wrong, we asked the obvious follow-up question:

2. You’ve seen films of the APOLLO astronauts walking around on the Moon, why didn’t they fall off?

About 20 percent of the people changed their answer to the first question when they heard this one! But the most amazing part was that about half of them confidently answered, “Because they were wearing heavy boots.”

7. Cleaner shrimp stuffing his face at feeder ring

OK personal video here – I don’t know how common this is, but our cleaner shrimp has learned that me opening the top of our saltwater aquarium means food is coming, and he’ll now run up and over to the feeder ring and start grabbing food!  On the plus side his actions help the sinking food sink, which I suppose the other fish appreciate.

 

8. This man rescued a bear from the jaws of a cheese puff bucket

Man sees bear with cheese puff bucket on head.  Man lassos bear.  Man and bear roll around on the group together for a couple minutes (but bear cannot bite man because cheese puff bucket).  Bear gives up and climbs tree, man ties rope to tree, calls authorities to come help bear.

9. Taga 2.0: The Ultimate Most Affordable Family Bike

At the risk of totally getting sucked in by advertisement… this seems like a pretty awesome idea.

10. As More People Get High in Colorado, More Kids Head to the Hospital

By itself, not an argument against legalization perhaps, but legalization proponents like to pretend there is no downside, and that needs to be pushed against.

Although cannabis poisonings in children are not common, the incidents have definitely increased following Colorado’s legalization of recreational use in 2012. The rate of increase in hospital visits is considerable—it doubled between 2009 and 2015—but the overall numbers remain small: 1 child per 100,000 people before legalization and 2 children per 100,000 people after legalization. Numbers of poison control center calls, though still small overall, increased by more than five times.

11. 7-Eleven Delivered a Slurpee via Drone Without Dropping the Scoop Straw

Title says it all.

This week brought to you by blue jays in our backyard.

DSC04047

Notes from Fall, 2015 MIAAPT Meeting

I have been meaning to post my notes from the delightful Fall MIAAPT meeting at Interlochen Arts Academy!  Here they are.  As always, my notes are my notes – accuracy is not guaranteed.  Here also is a photo of the venue.

DSC08792

Links I liked, 8/10/2015 – 8/16/2015 (safe spaces, bad science, internet arguments)

Oh dear, I have been slacking on these lately.

1. The Coddling of the American Mind

OK, everybody on the internet has already linked this article – so if you haven’t read it yet, go do so. Too long to really quote, but essentially about what making colleges places of “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces”, where “microaggressions” are zealously hunted and punished, does to the way we think.

2. A Scientific Look at Bad Science

Another nice Atlantic essay on why an increasing amount of apparently bad science is being published.

3. There’s a sneaky trick that is allowing this biker to seemingly defy physics by driving on water

A free-body diagram! In a mainstream news article! (But is it correct?)

4. I Don’t Know if I’m Pro-Choice After Planned Parenthood Videos

As I’ve only realized lately, to be a man, and to declare yourself pro-choice, is to proclaim your neutrality. And, as I’ve only recently been willing to admit, even to myself, that’s another name for “wimping out.”

At least that’s how my wife sees it. She’s pro-life, and so she’s been tearing into me every time a new video is released. She’s not buying my argument that, as a man, I have to defer to women and trust them to make their own choices about what to do with their bodies. To her, that’s ridiculous—and cowardly.

Yes, someone unfriended me on Facebook because I shared this article, true story.

5. Whole Foods’ John Mackey: Why Intellectuals Hate Capitalism

I don’t watch a lot of video interviews. This was a good one. Made me order his book.

6. MY ID ON DEFENSIVENESS

Lot of ideas worth pondering in this essay.

People like to talk a lot about “dehumanizing” other people, and there’s some debate over exactly what that entails. Me, I’ve always thought of it the same was as Aristotle: man is the rational animal. To dehumanize them is to say their ideas don’t count, they can’t be reasoned with, they no longer have a place at the table of rational discussion. And in a whole lot of Internet arguments, doing that to a whole group of people seems to be the explicit goal.

7. Our Southern Mountaineers (1918)

Shot almost a century ago, this 1918 newsreel footage might possibly be the earliest known moving images of Appalachia.

Lake Lansing
Lake Lansing as we flew into town this week.

Cheap camera obscura photo of our dining room

Image

Hey, looking good.  See if we can do better tomorrow.  Wikipedia has a nice short explanation of how this works.  The way I made this one was just to take two cardboard tubes…

Image

…cover the end of one with tape to form a “screen”, cover the other with aluminum foil with a tiny hole created by a tack.  Then…

Image

…just slide one over the other, and you’re off.  Look through the uncovered end – for the photo, I aimed my camera down the uncovered end.

Refrigerator magnets have a striped pattern of magnetization

Striped magnetization

I always enjoy hearing about the Physics of everyday objects, and there were several such presentations at the Michigan AAPT meeting. One of these, by David A. Van Baak, was about refrigerator magnets.

It turns out that refrigerator magnets, because of the way they are made, have a striped pattern of magnetization (N-S-N-S-N-S, though the magnetization actually varies continously). You can see this easily yourself if you hold one behind one of those magnetic films (pictured above), or if you just take two magnets, hold them back to back, and then try to slide one along the other. Every couple of millimeters or so is a “happy spot” where north on one magnet meets south on the other, and the magnets will try to freeze in position there.

One consequence of this striped magnetization is that a magnetic field only exists on one side of the magnet. (I’m still trying to wrap my mind around exactly why.) Try putting the magnet onto your refrigerator backwards – won’t work. And not because of the thin sheet of paper in the way.

UPDATE: @mskblackbelt sends along a Wikipedia link to the Halbach array, a similar array of magnets that has, indeed, a magnetic field on only one side.

Feynman on the social sciences

A while back I was blogging through Alistair McGrath’s trilogy on A Scientific Theology. I largely gave up on that project – they were difficult books to follow, and I didn’t feel I was gaining much for my effort. But one thing that surprised me about McGrath was that he was very accepting of the social sciences, and felt that while different, they were as truly sciences as Biology or Physics. Many physicists, I know, are not so generous in their thinking, and here is one famous physicist offering his opinion. Feynman’s big point seems to be that he has learned just how difficult it is to reach a point where you can really say, with certainty, that you know something, and the social sciences don’t often reach that point.