Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tuesday, July 22

Undergraduate Lecture Series - Curia II
Speaker: Brian Nord, Fermilab
Title: Cosmic Acceleration

3:30 p.m.

3 p.m.
LHC Physics Center Topic of the Week Seminar - WH11NE
Speaker: Matthew Reece, Harvard University
Title: Natural SUSY's Last Hiding Places


Wednesday, July 23

3:30 p.m.

4 p.m.
Fermilab Colloquium - One West
Speaker: James Welsh, NIU Institute for Neutron Therapy at Fermilab
Title: The Abscopal Effect, Contagious Cancers, Transplanted Cancers and Pregnancy: Clues to a Genuine Cure for Cancer?

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Wilson Hall Cafe

Tuesday, July 22

- Breakfast: All-American breakfast
- Breakfast: bacon, egg and cheese bagel
- Ranch chicken breast sandwich
- Smart cuisine: pork piccata with lemon sauce
- South American chicken and rice
- California turkey panino
- Peruvian beef and potato stir fry
- Minnesota chicken and rice soup
- Chef's choice soup
- Assorted pizza by the slice

Wilson Hall Cafe menu

Chez Leon

Wednesday, July 23
- Greek meatballs with feta yogurt dressing
- Lemon couscous
- Baklava

Friday, July 25
- Spinach and blue cheese souffle
- Filet mignon with cabernet sauce
- Golden mashed potatoes with fried onions and bacon
- Broccoli
- Coffee creme brulee

Chez Leon menu
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From symmetry

A physicist in the neurobiology lab

After 10 years as a theoretical particle physicist, Larry Abbott discovered a new passion. Image: Sandbox Studio

Most of us hope that we'll eventually figure out what we want to do when we grow up. For former theoretical particle physicist Larry Abbott, that "Aha!" moment came about 26 years ago, when, at the age of 39, he stepped into neurobiologist Eve Marder's laboratory, where experiments were taking place to study a small neural circuit.

"One of the postdocs took me into the rig and showed me the neurons firing away," Abbott says. "I'm a neuroscientist today because they had left the loudspeaker on and the hypnotizing sounds of the spikes of electrical activity in the tissue were quite beautiful."

He knew as soon as he walked out of the lab that neuroscience was what he wanted to do, "and I was terrified," he says.

That was in 1988 at Brandeis University, where Abbott was in his 10th year as a theoretical particle physicist. He had been working on the types of neural networks being studied by computer scientists and physicists for their interesting memory and information processing capabilities. Until one of his physics students encouraged him to visit Marder's lab, he knew nothing about what neural networks meant to neuroscientists.

After the visit, Abbott felt that, despite having taken only one biology course in his life, he could probably make his way in a new field with a strong mentor and a foundation in particle physics.

"Physics is a great education for doing any sort of science. It gives you the math tools, which are the hardest tools to learn, and it gives you a confidence of going at certain kinds of problems," Abbott says.

He spent about a year in transition between professions, working with Marder every day. They published together for more than a decade.

"The hard part is the culture," Abbott says of shifting between sciences. "It is like moving to a foreign country. You can study the vocabulary, learn the language, but it takes a long time to learn the culture."

In the early days of his career, Abbott and Marder invented a method for recording cells, called the dynamic clamp technique, which is now used in many labs.

"It was the result of us coming at it from two viewpoints," Abbott says. "It came about because I was coming at it from one side, and she from another."

Abbott uses computer simulation and mathematical methods to model and analyze the neural circuits that drive behavior. His work is dedicated to helping describe what nervous systems do and figuring out how they function.

Read more

Rhianna Wisniewski

Photo of the Day

Aspen East at night

Ursa Major is visible in the sky above Aspen East. Photo: Richa Sharma, Panjab University
In the News

Proton spin mystery gains a new clue

From Scientific American, July 21, 2014

Protons have a constant spin that is an intrinsic particle property like mass or charge. Yet where this spin comes from is such a mystery it's dubbed the "proton spin crisis." Initially physicists thought a proton's spin was the sum of the spins of its three constituent quarks. But a 1987 experiment showed that quarks can account for only a small portion of a proton's spin, raising the question of where the rest arises. The quarks inside a proton are held together by gluons, so scientists suggested perhaps they contribute spin. That idea now has support from a pair of studies analyzing the results of proton collisions inside the Relativistic Heavy-Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y.

Physicists often explain spin as a particle's rotation, but that description is more metaphorical than literal. In fact, spin is a quantum quantity that cannot be described in classical terms. Just as a proton is not really a tiny marble but rather a jumble of phantom particles appearing and disappearing continuously, its spin is a complex probabilistic property. Yet it is always equal to one half.

Read more

Director's Corner

Mu2e moves forward

Fermilab Director
Nigel Lockyer

Today's column shines a spotlight on the next major experiment proposed to be built at Fermilab: Mu2e. The recent P5 report placed Mu2e first in line for construction among major projects, to be followed immediately by the high-luminosity LHC and then by LBNF.

The Mu2e project took a big step forward two weeks ago when DOE approved the CD-3a step in the construction process. Until now, the team had been focused on the development of a detailed design for the experiment, including modifications to the Fermilab accelerator facility and a new hall to house the detector. CD-3a approval means that the team can purchase 45 miles of custom-made superconducting cables for the experiment's solenoid magnets.

Mu2e stands for muon-to-electron conversion, which tells you exactly what the 155 scientists working on the experiment will use it to search for. The collaboration has spent five years designing a sophisticated apparatus that will be used to search for the spontaneous conversion of muons into electrons in the vicinity of an atomic nucleus. While there are many predictions for how this conversion could happen, none are included in the Standard Model of particle physics. So if the conversion is detected, it's a clear signal for new physics.

The experiment's complex magnet system uses four different types of superconductors that required a year of R&D to develop, including an exhaustive series of tests both at vendors and at the lab. It will take two separate vendors over a year to fabricate all of the conductor required, so the DOE's approval of this long-lead procurement will allow the experiment to accelerate its schedule to be ready to take physics data in 2020.

Mu2e is proposed to join the Muon g-2 project on Fermilab's new Muon Campus, making excellent use of the muon beams that our accelerator complex will provide starting later this decade.

Congratulations to Ron Ray for leading the project team through a successful CD-3a review and to the Technical Division for carrying out the conductor R&D under Mike Lamm's leadership, with Vito Lombardo heading up the quality assurance work. And thanks very much to the whole collaboration for their work to define the science requirements that drive the experiment, which P5 has recognized as of critical importance for our field.

Video of the Day

Got a minute? Finding the best collisions

Fermilab's Nhan Tran explains the challenges facing LHC scientists as they try to determine which collisions are important to record and which are ones we can ignore. View the video. Video: US CMS
In the News

Scattered neutrons could mimic DAMA-LIBRA's 'dark matter' modulation

From Physics World, July 17, 2014

For the last 16 years, researchers at the DAMA/LIBRA experiment in Italy have seen a controversial annual oscillation in the signal from their dark-matter detector. This type of variation would be seen if the Milky Way galaxy was wreathed in a "halo" of dark matter. But apart from the CoGENT dark-matter experiment in the US, no other dark-matter searches have seen a similar effect. Now, a physicist at Durham University in the UK has proposed an alternative source for the modulation in the form of neutrons, which are knocked out of atoms by muons and neutrinos scattering in the rock or shielding material around DAMA/LIBRA.

Read more


Fermilab prairie plant survey - July 23, Aug. 9

Call for applications: URA Visiting Scholars Program - apply by Aug. 25

FermiWorks for managers with direct reports

Fermilab Tango Club

Scottish country dancing Tuesday evenings in Ramsey Auditorium

International folk dancing Thursday evenings in Ramsey Auditorium

Outdoor soccer

Fermi Days at Six Flags Great America

Employee Appreciation Day at Hollywood Palms Cinema