Monday, Nov. 16, 2015
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School's Day Out: November 23-25

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NALWO Thanksgiving dinner demo - Nov. 18

Linux at Fermilab quarterly meeting - Nov. 18

English country dancing at Kuhn Barn with live music - Nov. 22

Workshop on Booster Performance and Enhancments - Nov. 23-24

Deadline for University of Chicago Tuition Remission Program - Nov. 24

No international folk dancing on Thanksgiving

Professional and Organization Development 2015-16 fall/winter course schedule

Holiday travel planning for foreign nationals

Fermilab prescription safety eyewear notice

Fermilab Board Game Guild

Open pickleball league at the gym

Indoor soccer

Scottish country dancing Tuesdays evenings at Kuhn Barn

Employee discount at Warrenville Oil Express

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An avian mixed bag reflects Fermilab's diverse ecosystem

Fermilab has a strong bird-watching community, one that hosts the occasional competition. Photo: Reidar Hahn

In 1971, bird-watchers found a rare bird near a rest stop picnic table in Patagonia, Arizona. As word got out, birders flocked to the rest stop for a glimpse. Looking for the first rare bird, they found a second. And then another. Soon, the rest stop became famous among bird-watchers.

"The reason is not that it was a particularly good area for birds, but that there were a lot of people birding in the area to find the rare birds," said Peter Kasper, Accelerator Division scientist and lead bird monitor at Fermilab. The events at this rest stop gave name to a birding phenomenon, the Patagonia Picnic Table Effect.

"And there's something of that at Fermilab," Kasper said.

Binocular-bearing birders visit Fermilab from near and far, but the Patagonia Picnic Table Effect doesn't explain all the allure. Kasper also credits Fermilab's popularity as a birding site to its diversity of species. Birders have found 287 bird species at Fermilab.

Volunteer bird monitors have tracked Fermilab's birds for 30 years. A small, dedicated crew — led by Kasper — continues to monitor the birds weekly. Even more bird-watchers come for the annual, daylong Christmas Bird Count, a National Audubon Society event. Last year, the site that includes Fermilab, a circle 15 miles in diameter known as the Fermilab Circle, had 106 observers total — more than any other circle in Illinois.

Dave Spleha, member of the Fermilab Ecological Land Management Committee, has been birding at the lab for 20 years. Spleha helps upkeep Kasper's online diary, an archive of bird sightings. The sightings are organized into five-year survey periods.

"All this data helps us visualize the changes in the bird population over time," Spleha said.

Fermilab ecologist Ryan Campbell and the rest of Roads and Grounds also find the data useful.

"Birds are an important part of the ecosystems here at Fermilab, and we are grateful for the dedication of the monitors," Campbell said. "The rigor of the sampling in this long-term study is a benchmark for the quality of data we're trying to use in order to inform our ecological land management and protection efforts."

Fermilab hosts a wide variety of birds because it has wide variety of habitat, including wetlands, grasslands and woodlands. The diversity of species attracts bird-watchers, but it also gives Fermilab an advantage in unofficial birding competitions.

The premise of these competitions is simple. One person looks for birds at one site; the other looks for birds at another. The winner is whoever saw the most bird species in a six-hour window.

"He threw down the gauntlet," Kasper said of a birder friend who forced him into a competition one day. "Illinois Beach State Park versus Fermilab. I didn't stand a chance."

Illinois Beach State Park is on Lake Michigan, a magnet for migrating birds. Though Kasper didn't out-bird his friend that day, sites sans lakefront make easier adversaries.

Glenn Perricone, Fermilab bird monitor and biology major at Elmhurst College, runs competitions every other month with a birder friend at Pratt's Wayne Woods Forest Preserve.

"We just bird our brains out," Perricone said. "We go all over the place looking for as many species as we can find. It's fun. It's friendly competition." Perricone usually wins these games, but attributes his success to the many bodies of water at Fermilab, which allow him to crush the competition in shorebirds and waterfowl. The real benefits of species diversity at Fermilab, however, lie elsewhere.

"We see species diversity as the measure of the quality of the habitat," Kasper said. The goals are to maintain this diversity, an indicator of healthy habitats, continue taking accurate data for Kasper's web diary, and enjoy birding for what it is — not to win.

"Birding for me is not about the silly competitions," Perricone said. "It's about being in nature. I'm out here seeing amazing things that normally people just drive or walk past and don't even think twice about."

Chris Patrick

From symmetry

Dark matter's newest pursuer

Scientists have inaugurated the new XENON1T experiment at Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy. Photo: XENON collaboration

Researchers at a laboratory deep underneath the tallest mountain in central Italy have inaugurated XENON1T, the world's largest and most sensitive device designed to detect a popular dark matter candidate.

"We will be the biggest game in town," says Columbia University physicist Elena Aprile, spokesperson for the XENON collaboration, which has over the past decade designed, built and operated a succession of ever-larger experiments that use liquid xenon to look for evidence of weakly interacting massive dark matter particles, or WIMPs, at the Gran Sasso National Laboratory.

Interactions with these dark matter particles are expected to be rare: Just one a year for every 1000 kilograms of xenon. As a result, larger experiments have a better chance of intercepting a WIMP as it passes through the Earth.

XENON1T's predecessors — XENON 10 (2006 to 2009) and XENON 100 (2010 to the present) — held 25 and 160 kilograms of xenon, respectively. The new XENON11 experiment's detector measures 1 meter high and 1 meter in diameter and contains 3500 kilograms of liquid xenon, nearly 10 times as much as the next-biggest xenon-filled dark matter experiment, the Large Underground Xenon experiment.

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Mike Ross

Photos of the Day

Autum is everywhere

nature, autumn, fall, trees
This wonderfully fiery sugar maple is on the pedestrian path between Lederman Science Center and Wilson Hall. Photo: Jamieson Olsen, AD
nature, autumn, fall, trees, Interpretive Trail
Colors take over the Interpretive Trail. Photo: Amy Scroggins, Abri Credit Union
nature, autumn, fall, trees
The sun's rays shine through autumn trees in the Village. Photo: Nitin Yadav, Indian Institute of Technology–Kandur
nature, autumn, fall, trees
Fallen leaves cover the ground. Photo: Nitin Yadav, Indian Institute of Technology–Kandur
In the News

Dark matter uncovered

From Cosmos, Nov. 9, 2015

Most of the matter in the Universe consists of stuff we can't see. It is dubbed "dark matter" and we know it must be out there. Without dark matter rapidly spinning galaxies (such as those circled, above) would not have sufficient gravitational glue to hold their stars and gas clouds together. These elements would fly off into space instead, like rain drops on a spinning bicycle wheel. What might this ghostly, galaxy glue be made of? Nobody knows. But in 2006 astronomers got a new clue.

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