Tag Archive: Physics

This week: Gonna be some PHYSICS up in here (thanks to Princeton & PPPL)

New Jersey – at least its Democrats – have something of a history with Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, a  U.S. Department of Energy national lab managed by Princeton University. Rush Holt, my old boss and NJ’s former scientist-congressman, was an administrator there before he came to Congress representing NJ’s left flank (and CD12), defeating supercomputers, advocating less hackable voting systems and better funding for science research & education. These days, Holt’s got a larger role repping science itself. But now another denizen of PPPL, its Science Education chief Andrew Zwicker, is running for Assembly in LD-16, which has more Ds than Rs (including heavily-Dem Princeton) but is longterm-repped by Republicans.

It’s why I still have a PPPL Google alert. So I wanted to pass on to those of you whose wonkiness extends from politics to science, this: All week, PPPL’s offering live-streaming of lectures on plasma physics & fusion energy that students in PPPL’s Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) and other programs are attending. The SULI Internship brings students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to the Lab from all over the U.S., pairing them with PPPL scientist mentors.  Lecturers include scientists from national labs like PPPL and Sandia and universities including MIT, Michigan, Columbia and TCNJ.

Yeah, it’s heavy. And you’ve already missed the introductory stuff this morning. But it’s all week and it looks fun to me. Here’s all the info:

Rush Holt: Asteroids & meteors & NASA funding

russia2_384621cMeteor 50 feet wide and 10,000 tons streaks into Russia’s atmosphere and slammed into Earth. Same day, an asteroid passes closer to Earth than some satellites we sent up there. So, do you know how many pieces of debris the size of a softball (or larger) currently orbiting Earth? More importantly, what the hell’s an NEO and do we have anybody looking up to spot them before they turn us into a bad sci-fi movie?

This stuff is both cool and terrifying. Mostly cool. Congress’ only physicist congressman discusses the underfunded NASA program that’s supposed to be finding these hurtling bits of space crap. Rush Holt on The Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd:

Brief, unscrubbable ad. Just deal.

Rush Holt talks Watson-Jeopardy showdown

I’m amused by this video of my old boss Rep. Rush Holt, who is here explaining his history on Jeopardy (he was a 5-time winner decades ago) and how he came to be matched up against IBM’s supercomputer Watson. Holt is the only human to ever beat Watson in a Jeopardy contest. He talks about how since he was a kid he’s been interested in how the world works (that’s science) and how people get along (that’s politics), the first time he saw a computer (in a Scientific American spinoff). Holt uses his vanquishing of Watson to talk about investing in research – public and private – and investing in the kind of education that will produce the next wave of scientists and researchers. A common theme in this physicist-congressman’s life and work, and one he’s in a great position to make.

But really what gets me about this video (made by the social media folks at IBM, where Watson was hatched), is the solar power backlighting, the unironic illumination as New Jersey’s rocket scientist discusses … well, illuminating.

QoTD: Frog’s Legs & Particle Physics Edition


Quote of the Day:

Just as when Volta in the 18th century used electricity to make a frog’s legs twitch and had no idea where it would lead, even esoteric and tentative research like this helps make our world richer and more understandable.                                          – Rep. Rush Holt, PhD, the only physicist in Congress

The internets have been alive the last few hours with news that physicists might have detected the elusive Higgs boson, in theory (because nobody’s ever seen it), the means by which everything in the Universe obtains its mass. Basic building block of the universe. Holy grail. God particle.

This is the missing piece – or may be, when it’s finally confirmed – of the Standard Model of particle physics, “instruction booklet” of how forces and particles interact. Explainer of, if not everything, then a lot of the home universe.

Chills. Really, even though the mechanics of this elude my liberal arts mind, I have chills. Not just me. A few hours ago, my favorite tweet – from a science reporter in London: Never before in the field of science journalism have so few journalists understood what so many physicists were telling them! #Higgsupdate

Rush Holt, rocket scientist, vanquisher of IBM’s Watson supercomputer, and tireless advocate of science, and R & D funding is pumped up, even though he’s a plasma, not particle, physics guy. And though this news comes from the Large Hadron Collider, biggest particle smasher in the world, buried in a tunnel 500 feet below the Swiss-French border, there are 2 teams of 3,000 physicists each from all over the world that have been working on this for years.

I just looked back at the draft of this diary, loaded with links. This isn’t the usual kind of thing we report on, but the only physicist left in Congress lives in NJ (and used to be my boss). Sometimes science is politics.

More on the LHC, the ‘Hubble telescope of inner space’.

More on physics Team Atlas.

More on physics Team Compact Muon Solenoid.

Follow @RushHolt. (and @bluejersey!)

Follow @CERN – that’s European Organization for Nuclear Research, the biggest particle physics laboratory in the world.

Hashtags: #Higgsupdate #Higgs

New Jersey’s Nobel Prize in Physics

The 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics was shared by Charles Kuo for the fiberoptics and Willard Boyle and George Smith of New Jersey’s Bell Labs for “the invention of an imaging semiconductor circuit – the CCD sensor”  or “Charge-Coupled Device.”  

Just about every photo we’ve posted at Blue Jersey has used a CCD camera, for  they are now widely available as the heart of the “digital camera.” CCD’s are also widely used in scientific research, particularly astronomy, as Governor Corzine noted:

“The ingenuity and tenacity of the New Jersey spirit certainly shines through with Willard Boyle and George Smith receiving the Nobel Prize for physics. While their work has forever changed the world by making digital photography possible, it is noteworthy that their work builds on Albert Einstein’s discovery of the photoelectric effect – another New Jerseyan who won the Nobel Prize in 1921.

“This technology has revolutionized our knowledge of the universe, by making images from the Hubble Space Telescope and the surface of Mars possible. Their work will expand the bounds of science, medical technology, even the arts, for generations.

“I extend my sincere congratulations to Mr. Boyle and Mr. Smith for this high honor, and for showcasing New Jersey as the home of technology and innovation. As we continue to invest in the knowledge-based industries of the future, I look forward to many more honors coming to the Garden State.”

In honor of the Nobel Prize winners, I’d like to point you to this stunning photo of the Galaxy Cluster Abell 1689, which is a combination of different CCD images. The yellow galaxies are from a CCD image taken with Hubble Space Telescope.  You may notice a kind of stretching of the fainter galaxies to make arcs — this is due to the warping of space-time as predicted by Einstein, but as he never won a Nobel Prize for General Relativity we’ll stop there. But this image represents both “the visible and the invisible” as the phrase goes. CCD’s can also detect X-Rays — invisible to the human eye — and the purple encodes a CCD image taken with Chandra X-Ray Observatory.  This “purple” light reveals the existence of gas that is hundreds of millions of degrees filling what Hubble perceived as empty space.

Abell 1689

Senator Bob Menendez’s congratulatory statement in the Congressional Record is below the fold.

Quote of the Day

When Rush Holt was elected in 1998, he was only the second physicist in Congress. Bill Foster’s win in the special election this year made him the third. Eventually, physicists will rule the world.

“We’ve done the calculation,” Mr. Holt said. “By midcentury, I think, we’ll have a functioning majority.”