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  • richardmitnick 4:36 pm on August 24, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , In unstable times the brain reduces cell production to help cope, ,   

    From Princeton: “In unstable times, the brain reduces cell production to help cope” 

    Princeton University
    Princeton University

    August 24, 2016
    Morgan Kelly

    People who experience job loss, divorce, death of a loved one or any number of life’s upheavals often adopt coping mechanisms to make the situation less traumatic.

    While these strategies manifest as behaviors, a Princeton University and National Institutes of Health study suggests that our response to stressful situations originates from structural changes in our brain that allow us to adapt to turmoil.

    A study conducted with adult rats showed that the brains of animals faced with disruptions in their social hierarchy produced far fewer new neurons in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for certain types of memory and stress regulation. Rats exhibiting this lack of brain-cell growth, or neurogenesis, reacted to the surrounding upheaval by favoring the company of familiar rats over that of unknown rats, according to a paper published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

    A Princeton University and National Institutes of Health study suggests that our response to stressful situations originates from structural changes in our brain that allows us to adapt to turmoil. Adult rats with disruptions in their social hierarchy produced far fewer new neurons in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for certain types of memory and stress regulation. They also reacted to the disruption by favoring the company of familiar rats. Their behavior manifested six weeks after social disruption, during which time brain-cell growth, or neurogenesis, had decreased by 50 percent. The photo shows adult hippocampal neurons that are less than two weeks old. (Image courtesy of Maya Opendak, New York University)

    The research is among the first to show that adult neurogenesis — or the lack thereof — has an active role in shaping social behavior and adaptation, said first author Maya Opendak, who received her Ph.D. in neuroscience from Princeton in 2015 and conducted the research as a graduate student. The preference for familiar rats may be an adaptive behavior triggered by the reduction in neuron production, she said.

    “Adult-born neurons are thought to have a role in responding to novelty, and the hippocampus participates in resolving conflicts between different goals for use in decision-making,” said Opendak, who is now a postdoctoral research fellow of child and adolescent psychology at the New York University School of Medicine.

    “Data from this study suggest that the reward of social novelty may be altered,” she said. “Indeed, sticking with a known partner rather than approaching a stranger may be beneficial in some circumstances.”

    The findings also show that behavioral responses to instability may be more measured than scientists have come to expect, explained senior author Elizabeth Gould, Princeton’s Dorman T. Warren Professor of Psychology and department chair. Gould and her co-authors were surprised that the disrupted rats did not display any of the stereotypical signs of mental distress such as anxiety or memory loss, she said.

    “Even in the face of what appears to be a very disruptive situation, there was not a negative pathological response but a change that could be viewed as adaptive and beneficial,” said Gould, who also is a professor of neuroscience in the Princeton Neuroscience Institute (PNI).

    “We thought the animals would be more anxious, but we were making our prediction based on all the bias in the field that social disruption is always negative,” she said. “This research highlights the fact that organisms, including humans, are typically resilient in response to disruption and social instability.”

    Co-authors on the paper include: Lily Offit, who received her bachelor’s degree in psychology and neuroscience from Princeton in 2015 and is now a research assistant at Columbia University Medical Center; Patrick Monari, a research specialist in PNI; Timothy Schoenfeld, a postdoctoral researcher at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) who received his Ph.D. in psychology and neuroscience from Princeton in 2012; Anup Sonti, an NIH researcher; and Heather Cameron, an NIH principal investigator of neuroplasticity.

    The study is unusual for mimicking the true social structure of rats, Gould said. Rats live in structured societies that contain a single dominant male. The researchers placed rats into several groups consisting of four males and two females in to a large enclosure known as a visible burrow system. They then monitored the groups until the dominant rat in each one emerged and was identified. After a few days, the alpha rats of two communities were swapped, which reignited the contest for dominance in each group.

    The rats from disrupted hierarchies displayed their preference for familiar fellows six weeks after those turbulent times, during which time neurogenesis had decreased by 50 percent, Opendak said. (Any neurons generated during the time of instability would take four to six weeks to be incorporated into the hippocampus’ circuitry, she said.)

    When the researchers chemically restored adult neurogenesis in these rats, however, the animals’ interest in unknown rats returned to pre-disruption levels. At the same time, the researchers inhibited neuron growth in “naïve” transgenic rats that had not experienced social disruption. They found that the mere cessation of neurogenesis produced the same results as social disruption, particularly a preference for spending time with familiar rats.

    “These results show that the reduction in new neurons is directly responsible for social behavior, something that hasn’t been shown before,” Gould said. The exact mechanism behind how lower neuron growth led to the behavior change is not yet clear, she said.

    Bruce McEwen, professor of neuroendocrinology at The Rockefeller University, said that the research is a “major step forward” in efforts to explore the role of the dentate gyrus — a part of the hippocampus — in social behavior and antidepressant efficacy.

    “The ventral dentate gyrus, where they found these effects, is now implicated in mood-related behaviors and the response to antidepressants,” said McEwen, who is familiar with the research but had no role in it.

    “The connection to social behavior shown here is an important addition because social withdrawal is a key aspect of depression in humans, and the anterior hippocampus in humans is the homolog of the ventral hippocampus in rodents,” McEwen said. “Although there is no ‘animal model’ of human depression, the individual behaviors such as social avoidance, and brain changes such as neurogenesis, have been very useful in elucidating brain mechanisms in human depression.”

    At this point, the extent to which the exact mechanism and behavioral changes the researchers observed in the rats would apply to humans is unknown, Gould and Opendak said. The study’s overall conclusion, however, that social disruption and instability lead to neurological changes that help us to better cope is likely universal, they said.

    “Most people do experience some disruption in their lives, and resilience is the most typical response,” Gould said. “After all, if organisms always responded to stress with depression and anxiety, it’s unlikely early humans would have made it because life in the wild is very stressful.”

    “For people who are exposed to social disruption frequently, our animal model suggests that these life events may be accompanied by long-term changes in brain function and social behavior,” Opendak said. “Although we hope that our findings may guide research on the mechanisms of resilience in humans, it is important as always to exercise caution when extrapolating these data across species.”

    The paper, Lasting Adaptations In Social Behavior Produced By Social Disruption And Inhibition of Adult Neurogenesis, was published June 29 in The Journal of Neuroscience. This work was supported by the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH).

    See the full article here .

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    Princeton University Campus

    About Princeton: Overview

    Princeton University is a vibrant community of scholarship and learning that stands in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations. Chartered in 1746, Princeton is the fourth-oldest college in the United States. Princeton is an independent, coeducational, nondenominational institution that provides undergraduate and graduate instruction in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and engineering.

    As a world-renowned research university, Princeton seeks to achieve the highest levels of distinction in the discovery and transmission of knowledge and understanding. At the same time, Princeton is distinctive among research universities in its commitment to undergraduate teaching.

    Today, more than 1,100 faculty members instruct approximately 5,200 undergraduate students and 2,600 graduate students. The University’s generous financial aid program ensures that talented students from all economic backgrounds can afford a Princeton education.

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  • richardmitnick 4:09 pm on August 24, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    From Rutgers: Rutgers Panelists- Increasing Awareness, Ending Stigma Is Critical in Addressing Perinatal/Postpartum Depression 

    Rutgers University

    Rutgers Research

    dsc_0210An article from Robert Wood Johnson Medical School opens the conversation about something many women experience: perinatal/postpartum depression.

    As many as one in seven women experience postpartum depression, according to a study in JAMA Psychiatry; but despite its frequency and the overwhelming success rates of treatment, the vast majority of women—up to 85 percent—receive no professional treatment for the condition. Experts at a recent forum on perinatal/postpartum depression say a change is long overdue, calling for increased awareness among women and clinicians, advocacy, and systemic changes in the approach to collaborative treatment.”

    Read more here.

    View original post

  • richardmitnick 3:50 pm on August 24, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Most Distant Galaxy Clusters Ever Found   

    From Keck: “Most Distant Galaxy Clusters Ever Found” 

    Keck Observatory

    Keck Observatory.
    Keck, with Subaru and IRTF (NASA Infrared Telescope Facility). Vadim Kurland

    Keck Observatory

    August 24, 2016
    Steve Jefferson
    W. M. Keck Observatory
    (808) 881-3827

    Massive galaxy cluster MACS J0416 seen in X-rays (blue), visible light (red, green, and blue), and radio light (pink). Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO/G.Ogrean/STScI/NRAO/AUI/NSF.

    Color images of the central regions of z > 1.35 SpARCS clusters. Cluster members are marked with white squares. Credit: Nantais, et al.

    The international University of California, Riverside-led SpARCS collaboration has discovered four of the most distant clusters of galaxies ever found, as they appeared when the Universe was only four billion years old. Clusters are rare regions of the Universe consisting of hundreds of galaxies containing trillions of stars, as well as hot gas and mysterious Dark Matter. Spectroscopic observations from the W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea, Hawaii and the Very Large Telescope in Chile confirmed the four candidates to be massive clusters.

    ESO/VLT at Cerro Paranal, Chile
    ESO/VLT at Cerro Paranal, Chile

    This sample is now providing the best measurement yet of when and how fast galaxy clusters stop forming stars in the early Universe.

    “We looked at how the properties of galaxies in these clusters differed from galaxies found in more typical environments with fewer close neighbors,” said lead author Julie Nantais, an assistant professor at the Andres Bello University in Chile. “It has long been known that when a galaxy falls into a cluster, interactions with other cluster galaxies and with hot gas accelerate the shut off of its star formation relative to that of a similar galaxy in the field, in a process known as environmental quenching. The SpARCS team have developed new techniques using Spitzer Space Telescope infrared observations to identify hundreds of previously-undiscovered clusters of galaxies in the distant Universe.”

    NASA/Spitzer Telescope
    NASA/Spitzer Telescope

    As anticipated, the team did indeed find that many more galaxies in the clusters had stopped forming stars compared to galaxies of the same mass in the field. Gillian Wilson, professor of physics and astronomy at UC Riverside, added, “Fascinatingly, however, the study found that the percentage of galaxies which had stopped forming stars in those young, distant clusters, was much lower than the percentage found in much older, nearby clusters. While it had been fully expected that the percentage of cluster galaxies which had stopped forming stars would increase as the Universe aged, this latest work quantifies the effect.”

    The paper concludes that about 30 percent of the galaxies which would normally be forming stars have been quenched in the distant clusters, compared to the much higher value of about 50 percent found in nearby clusters.

    Several possible physical processes could be responsible for causing environmental quenching. For example, the hot, harsh cluster environment might prevent the galaxy from continuing to accrete cold gas and form new stars; a process astronomers have named “starvation”. Alternatively, the quenching could be caused by interactions with other galaxies in the cluster. These galaxies might “harass” (undergo frequent, high speed, gravitationally-disturbing encounters), tidally strip (pull material from a smaller galaxy to a larger one) or merge (two or more galaxies joining together) with the first galaxy to stop its star formation.

    While the current study does not answer the question of which process is primarily responsible, it is nonetheless hugely important because it provides the most accurate measurement yet of how much environmental quenching has occurred in the early Universe. Moreover, the study provides an all-important early-Universe benchmark by which to judge upcoming predictions from competing computational numerical simulations which make different assumptions about the relative importance of the many different environmental quenching processes which have been suggested, and the timescales upon which they operate.

    The W. M. Keck Observatory findings were obtained as the result of a collaboration amongst UC faculty members Gillian Wilson (UCR) and Michael Cooper (UCI), and graduate students Andrew DeGroot (UCR) and Ryan Foltz (UCR). Other authors involved in the study are Remco van der Burg (Université Paris Diderot), Chris Lidman (Australian Astronomical Observatory), Ricardo Demarco (WUniversidad de Concepción, Chile), Allison Noble (University of Toronto, Canada) and Adam Muzzin (University of Cambridge).

    MOSFIRE (Multi-Object Spectrograph for Infrared Exploration) is a highly-efficient instrument that can take images or up to 46 simultaneous spectra. Using a sensitive state-of-the-art detector and electronics system, MOSFIRE obtains observations fainter than any other near infrared spectrograph. MOSFIRE is an excellent tool for studying complex star or galaxy fields, including distant galaxies in the early Universe, as well as star clusters in our own Galaxy. MOSFIRE was made possible by funding provided by the National Science Foundation and astronomy benefactors Gordon and Betty Moore

    Science paper:
    Stellar mass function of cluster galaxies at z ~ 1.5: evidence for reduced quenching efficiency at high redshift, Astronomy and Astrophysics, 24 August 2016

    See the full article here .

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    To advance the frontiers of astronomy and share our discoveries with the world.

    The W. M. Keck Observatory operates the largest, most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth. The two, 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectrometer and world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics systems. Keck Observatory is a private 501(c) 3 non-profit organization and a scientific partnership of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA.

    Today Keck Observatory is supported by both public funding sources and private philanthropy. As a 501(c)3, the organization is managed by the California Association for Research in Astronomy (CARA), whose Board of Directors includes representatives from the California Institute of Technology and the University of California, with liaisons to the board from NASA and the Keck Foundation.
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  • richardmitnick 2:34 pm on August 24, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ,   

    From CERN: “LHC pushes limits of performance’ 

    Cern New Bloc

    Cern New Particle Event

    CERN New Masthead


    19 Aug 2016
    Harriet Kim Jarlett


    The Large Hadron Collider’s (LHC) performance continued to surpass expectations, when this week it achieved 2220 proton bunches in each of its counter-rotating beams – the most it will achieve this year.

    This is not the maximum the machine is capable of holding (at full intensity the beam will have nearly 2800 bunches) but it is currently limited by a technical issue in the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS).

    CERN  Super Proton Synchrotron
    “CERN Super Proton Synchrotron

    “Performance is excellent, given this limitation,” says Mike Lamont, head of the Operations team. “We’re 10% above design luminosity (which we surpassed in June), we have these really long fills (where the beam is circulating for up to 20 hours or so) and very good collision rates. 2220 bunches is just us squeezing as much in as we can, given the restrictions, to maximize delivery to the experiments.”

    As an example of the machine’s brilliant performance, with almost two months left in this year’s run it has already reached an integrated luminosity of 22fb-1 – very close to the goal for 2016 of 25fb-1 (up from 4fb-1 last year.)

    Luminosity is an essential indicator of the performance of an accelerator, measuring the potential number of collisions that can occur in a given amount of time, and integrated luminosity (measured in inverse femtobarns, fb-1) is the accumulated number of potential collisions. At its peak, the LHC’s proton-proton collision rate reaches about 1 billion collisions per second giving a chance that even the rarest processes at the highest energy could occur.

    The SPS is currently experiencing a small fault that could be exacerbated by high beam intensity – hence the number of proton bunches sent to the LHC per injection is limited to 96, compared to the normal 288.

    “Once this issue is fixed in the coming year-end technical stop, we’ll be able to push up the number of bunches even further. Next year we should be able to go to new record levels,” says Lamont with a wry grin.

    See the full article here.

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    Cern Courier




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  • richardmitnick 2:26 pm on August 24, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , The $100 muon detector   

    From Symmetry: “The $100 muon detector” 

    Symmetry Mag


    By Laura Dattaro

    Spencer Axani

    A doctoral student and his adviser designed a tabletop particle detector they hope to make accessible to budding young engineering physicists.

    When Spencer Axani was an undergraduate physics student, his background in engineering led him to a creative pipe dream: a pocket-sized device that could count short-lived particles called muons all day.

    Muons, heavier versions of electrons, are around us all the time, a byproduct of the cosmic rays that shoot out from supernovae and other high-energy events in space. When particles from those rays hit Earth’s atmosphere, they often decay into muons.

    Muons are abundant on the surface of the Earth, but in Axani’s University of Alberta underground office, shielded by the floors above, they might be few and far between. A pocket detector would be the perfect gadget for measuring the difference.

    Now a doctoral student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Axani has nearly made this device a reality. Along with an undergraduate student and Axani’s adviser, Janet Conrad, he’s developed a detector that sits on a desk and tallies the muons that pass by. The best part? The whole system can be built by students for under $100.

    “Compared to most detectors, it’s by far the cheapest and smallest I’ve found,” Axani says. “If you make 100,000 of these, it starts becoming a very large detector. Instrumenting airplanes and ships would let you start measuring cosmic ray rates around the world.”

    Particle physicists deal with cosmic rays all of the time, says Conrad, a physics professor at MIT. “Sometimes we love them, and sometimes we hate them. We love them if we can use them for calibration of our detectors, and we hate them if they provide a background for what it is that we are trying to do.”

    Conrad used small muon detectors similar to the one Axani dreamed about when leading a neutrino experiment at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory called MiniBooNE. When a professor at the University of Alberta proposed adding mini-muon detectors to another neutrino experiment, Axani was ready to pitch in.


    The idea was to create muon detectors to add to IceCube, a neutrino detector built into the ice in Antarctica. They would be inserted into IceCube’s proposed low-energy upgrade, known as PINGU (Precision IceCube Next Generation Upgrade).

    U Wisconsin ICECUBE neutrino detector at the South Pole
    IceCube neutrino detector interior
    U Wisconsin ICECUBE neutrino detector at the South Pole

    IceCube PINGU
    IceCube PINGU

    First, they needed a prototype. Axani got to work and quickly devised a rough detector housed in PVC pipe. “It looked pretty lab,” Axani said. It also gave off a terrible smell, the result of using a liquid called toluene as a scintillator, a material that gives off light when hit by a charged particle.

    Over the next few months, Axani refined the device, switching to an odorless plastic scintillator and employing silicon photomultipliers (SiPM), which amplify the light from the scintillator into a signal that can be read. Adding some electronics allowed him to build a readout screen that ticks off the amount of energy from muon interactions and registers the time of the event.

    Sitting in Axani’s office, the counter shows a rate of one muon every few seconds, which is what they expected from the size of the detector. Though it’s fairly constant, even minor changes like increased humidity or heavy rain can alter it.

    Conrad and Axani have taken the detector down into the Boston subway, using the changes in the muon count to calculate the depth of the train tunnels. They’ve also brought it into the caverns of Fermilab’s neutrino experiments to measure the muon flux more than 300 feet underground.

    Axani wants to take it to higher elevations—say, in an airplane at 30,000 feet above sea level—where muon counts should be higher, since the particles have had less time to decay after their creation in the atmosphere.

    Fermilab physicist Herman White suggested taking one of the the tiny detectors on a ship to study muon counts at sea. Mapping out the muon rate around the globe at sea has never been achieved. Liquid scintillator can be harmful to marine life, and the high voltage and power consumption of the large devices present a safety hazard.

    While awaiting review of the PINGU upgrade, both Conrad and Axani see value in their project as an educational tool. With a low cost and simple instructions, the muon counter they created can be assembled by undergraduates and high school students, who would learn about machining, circuits, and particle physics along the way—no previous experience required.

    “The idea was, students building the detectors would develop skills typically taught in undergraduate lab classes,” Spencer says. “In return, they would end up with a device useful for all sorts of physics measurements.”

    Conrad has first-hand knowledge of how hands-on experience like this can teach students new skills. As an undergraduate at Swarthmore College, she took a course that taught all the basic abilities needed for a career in experimental physics: using a machine shop, soldering, building circuits. As a final project, she constructed a statue that she’s held on to ever since.

    Creating the statue helped Conrad cement the lessons she learned in the class, but the product was abstract, not a functioning tool that could be used to do real science.

    “We built a bunch of things that were fun, but they weren’t actually useful in any way,” Conrad says. “This [muon detector] takes you through all of the exercises that we did and more, and then produces something at the end that you would then do physics with.”

    Axani and Conrad published instructions for building the detector on the open-source physics publishing site arXiv, and have been reworking the project with the aim of making it accessible to high-school students. No math more advanced than division and multiplication is needed, Axani says. And the parts don’t need to be new, meaning students could potentially take advantage of leftovers from experiments at places like Fermilab.

    “This should be for students to build,” Axani says. “It’s a good project for creative people who want to make their own measurements.”

    See the full article here .

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    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

  • richardmitnick 2:13 pm on August 24, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    From Nature- “China, Japan, CERN: Who will host the next LHC?” 

    Nature Mag

    [The title is in error. There will possibly be another particle accelerator, or more than one. But none will be the LHC. It is what it is. They will want and need a new name. Might I suggest superconducting super collider, and might I suggest the United States?]

    19 August 2016
    Elizabeth Gibney

    Labs are vying to build ever-bigger colliders against a backdrop of uncertainty about how particle physicists will make the next big discoveries.

    Whether the Large Hadron Collider will find phenomena outside the standard model of particle physics remains to be seen. Harold Cunningham/Getty

    CERN/LHC Map
    CERN LHC Grand Tunnel
    CERN LHC particles
    LHC at CERN

    It was a triumph for particle physics — and many were keen for a piece of the action. The discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012 using the world’s largest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), prompted a pitch from Japanese scientists to host its successor. The machine would build on the LHC’s success by measuring the properties of the Higgs boson and other known, or soon-to-be-discovered, particles in exquisite detail.

    But the next steps for particle physics now seem less certain, as discussions at the International Conference on High Energy Physics (ICHEP) in Chicago on 8 August suggest. Much hinges on whether the LHC unearths phenomena that fall outside the standard model of particle physics — something that it has not yet done but on which physicists are still counting — and whether China’s plans to build an LHC successor move forward.

    The Standard Model of elementary particles (more schematic depiction), with the three generations of matter, gauge bosons in the fourth column, and the Higgs boson in the fifth.
    The Standard Model of elementary particles (more schematic depiction), with the three generations of matter, gauge bosons in the fourth column, and the Higgs boson in the fifth.

    When Japanese scientists proposed hosting the International Linear Collider (ILC), a group of international scientists had already drafted its design. The ILC would collide electrons and positrons along a 31-kilometre-long track, in contrast to the 27-kilometre-long LHC, which collides protons in a circular track that is based at Europe’s particle-physics laboratory, CERN (See ‘World of colliders’).

    ILC schematic
    ILC schematic

    Because protons are composite particles made of quarks, collisions create a mess of debris. The ILC’s particles, by contrast, are fundamental and so provide the cleaner collisions more suited to precision measurements, which could reveal deviations from expected behaviour that point to physics beyond the standard model.

    Higgs study

    For physicists, the opportunity to carry out detailed study of the Higgs boson and the heaviest, ‘top’ quark, the second most recently discovered particle, is reason enough to build the facility. Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) was expected to make a call on whether to host the project — which could begin experiments around 2030 — in 2016. But the Japanese panel advising MEXT indicated last year that opportunities to study the Higgs boson and the top quark would not on their own justify building the ILC, and that it would wait until the end of the LHC’s first maximum-energy run – scheduled for 2018 – before making a decision.

    That means the panel is not yet convinced by the argument that the ILC should be built irrespective of what the LHC finds, says Masanori Yamauchi, director-general of Japan’s High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK) in Tsukuba who sat on an ICHEP panel at a session on future facilities. “That’s the statement hidden under their statement,” he says.

    If the LHC discovers new phenomena, these would be further fodder for ILC study — and would strengthen the case for building the high precision machine.

    US physicists have long backed building a linear collider. And a joint MEXT and US Department of Energy group is discussing ways to reduce the ILC’s costs, says Yamauchi, which are now estimated at US$10 billion. A reduction of around 15% is feasible — but Japan will need funding commitments from other countries before it formally agrees to host, he added.

    Chinese competitor

    Snapping at Japan’s heels is a Chinese team. In the months after the Higgs discovery, a team of physicists led by Wang Yifang, director of the Institute of High Energy Physics in Beijing, floated a plan to host a collider in the 2030s, also partially funded by the international community and focused on precision measurements of the Higgs and other particles.

    Circular rather than linear, this 50–100-kilometre-long electron–positron smasher would not reach the energies of the ILC. But it would require the creation of a tunnel that could allow a proton–proton collider — similar to the LHC, but much bigger — to be built at a hugely reduced cost.

    Wang and his team this year secured around 35 million yuan (US$5 million) in funding from China’s Ministry of Science and Technology to continue research and development for the project, Wang told the ICHEP session. Last month, China’s National Development and Reform Commission turned down a further request from the team for 800 million yuan, but other funding routes remain open, Wang said, and the team now plans to focus on raising international interest in the project.

    By affirming worldwide interest in Higgs physics, the Chinese proposal bolsters Japan’s case for building the ILC, says Yamauchi. But if it goes ahead, it could drain international funding from the ILC and put its future on shakier ground. “It may have a negative impact,” he says.


    In the future, the option to use China’s electron–positron collider as the basis for a giant proton–proton collider could interfere with CERN’s own plans for a 100-kilometre-circumference circular machine that would smash protons together at more than 7 times the energy of the LHC. Until the mid-2030s, CERN will be busy with an upgrade that will raise the intensity — but not the energy — of the LHC’s proton beam. And by that time, China might have a suitable tunnel that could make it harder to get backing for this ‘super-LHC’.

    At ICHEP, Fabiola Gianotti, CERN’s director-general, floated an interim idea: souping up the energy of the LHC beyond its current design by installing a new generation of superconducting magnets by around 2035. This would provide a relatively modest boost in energy — from 14 teraelectronvolts (TeV) to 20 TeV — that would have a strong science case if the LHC finds new physics at 14 TeV, said Gianotti. Its $5-billion price tag could be paid for out of CERN’s regular budget.

    For decades, successive facilities have found particles predicted by the standard model, and neither the LHC nor any of its proposed successors is guaranteed to find new physics. Questions asked at the ICHEP session revealed some soul-searching among attendees, including a plea to reassure young high-energy physicists about the future of the field and contemplation of whether money would be better spent on other approaches rather than ever-bigger accelerators.

    Indeed, the US is betting on neutrinos, fundamental particles that could reveal physics beyond the standard model, not colliders. The Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Batavia, Illinois, hopes to become the world capital of neutrino physics by hosting the $1-billion Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility, which will beam neutrinos to a range of detectors starting in 2026.

    SURF logo
    Sanford Underground levels
    LBMF/DUNE map from FNAL, Batavia, IL to SURF, SD, USA; DUNE’s Argon tank; SURF caverns for science

    Funding will require approval from US Congress in 2017. But at the ICHEP session, Fermilab director Nigel Lockyer was confident: “We are beyond the point of no return. It is happening.”

    See the full article here .

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    Nature is a weekly international journal publishing the finest peer-reviewed research in all fields of science and technology on the basis of its originality, importance, interdisciplinary interest, timeliness, accessibility, elegance and surprising conclusions. Nature also provides rapid, authoritative, insightful and arresting news and interpretation of topical and coming trends affecting science, scientists and the wider public.

  • richardmitnick 1:49 pm on August 24, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    From PPPL: “Major next steps proposed for development of fusion energy based on the spherical tokamak design” 


    August 24, 2016
    John Greenwald

    Among the top puzzles in the development of fusion energy is the best shape for the magnetic facility — or “bottle” — that will provide the next steps in the development of fusion reactors. Leading candidates include spherical tokamaks, compact machines that are shaped like cored apples, compared with the doughnut-like shape of conventional tokamaks. The spherical design produces high-pressure plasmas — essential ingredients for fusion reactions — with relatively low and cost-effective magnetic fields.

    A possible next step is a device called a Fusion Nuclear Science Facility (FNSF) that could develop the materials and components for a fusion reactor. Such a device could precede a pilot plant that would demonstrate the ability to produce net energy.



    Spherical tokamaks as excellent models

    Spherical tokamaks could be excellent models for an FNSF, according to a paper published online in the journal Nuclear Fusion on August 16. The two most advanced spherical tokamaks in the world today are the recently completed National Spherical Torus Experiment-Upgrade (NSTX-U) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), and the Mega Ampere Spherical Tokamak (MAST), which is being upgraded at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in the United Kingdom.

    Mega Ampere Spherical Tokamak (MAST)

    “We are opening up new options for future plants,” said Jonathan Menard, program director for the NSTX-U and lead author of the paper, which discusses the fitness of both spherical tokamaks as possible models. Support for this work comes from the DOE Office of Science.

    The 43-page paper considers the spherical design for a combined next-step bottle: an FNSF that could become a pilot plant and serve as a forerunner for a commercial fusion reactor. Such a facility could provide a pathway leading from ITER, the international tokamak under construction in France to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion power, to a commercial fusion power plant.

    ITER Tokamak
    ITER Tokamak, France

    A key issue for this bottle is the size of the hole in the center of the tokamak that holds and shapes the plasma. In spherical tokamaks, this hole can be half the size of the hole in conventional tokamaks. These differences, reflected in the shape of the magnetic field that confines the superhot plasma, have a profound effect on how the plasma behaves.

    Designs for the Fusion Nuclear Science Facility

    First up for a next-step device would be the FNSF. It would test the materials that must face and withstand the neutron bombardment that fusion reactions produce, while also generating a sufficient amount of its own fusion fuel. According to the paper, recent studies have for the first time identified integrated designs that would be up to the task.

    These integrated capabilities include:

    • A blanket system able to breed tritium, a rare isotope — or form — of hydrogen that fuses with deuterium, another isotope of the atom, to generate the fusion reactions. The spherical design could breed approximately one isotope of tritium for each isotope consumed in the reaction, producing tritium self-sufficiency.

    • A lengthy configuration of the magnetic field that vents exhaust heat from the tokamak. This configuration, called a “divertor,” would reduce the amount of heat that strikes and could damage the interior wall of the tokamak.

    • A vertical maintenance scheme in which the central magnet and the blanket structures that breed tritium can be removed independently from the tokamak for installation, maintenance, and repair. Maintenance of these complex nuclear facilities represents a significant design challenge. Once a tokamak operates with fusion fuel, this maintenance must be done with remote-handling robots; the new paper describes how this can be accomplished.

    For pilot plant use, superconducting coils that operate at high temperature would replace the copper coils in the FNSF to reduce power loss. The plant would generate a small amount of net electricity in a facility that would be as compact as possible and could more easily scale to a commercial fusion power station.

    High-temperature superconductors

    High-temperature superconductors could have both positive and negative effects. While they would reduce power loss, they would require additional shielding to protect the magnets from heating and radiation damage. This would make the machine larger and less compact.

    Recent advances in high-temperature superconductors could help overcome this problem. The advances enable higher magnetic fields, using much thinner magnets than are presently achievable, leading to reduction in the refrigeration power needed to cool the magnets. Such superconducting magnets open the possibility that all FNSF and associated pilot plants based on the spherical tokamak design could help minimize the mass and cost of the main confinement magnets.

    For now, the increased power of the NSTX-U and the soon-to-be-completed MAST facility moves them closer to the capability of a commercial plant that will create safe, clean and virtually limitless energy. “NSTX-U and MAST-U will push the physics frontier, expand our knowledge of high temperature plasmas, and, if successful, lay the scientific foundation for fusion development paths based on more compact designs,” said PPPL Director Stewart Prager.

    Twice the power and five times the pulse length

    The NSTX-U has twice the power and five times the pulse length of its predecessor and will explore how plasma confinement and sustainment are influenced by higher plasma pressure in the spherical geometry. The MAST upgrade will have comparable prowess and will explore a new, state-of-the art method for exhausting plasmas that are hotter than the core of the sun without damaging the machine.

    “The main reason we research spherical tokamaks is to find a way to produce fusion at much less cost than conventional tokamaks require,” said Ian Chapman, the newly appointed chief executive of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority and leader of the UK’s magnetic confinement fusion research programme at the Culham Science Centre.

    The ability of these machines to create high plasma performance within their compact geometries demonstrates their fitness as possible models for next-step fusion facilities. The wide range of considerations, calculations and figures detailed in this study strongly support the concept of a combined FNSF and pilot plant based on the spherical design. The NSTX-U and MAST-U devices must now successfully prototype the necessary high-performance scenarios.

    See the full article here .

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    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University. PPPL, on Princeton University’s Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. Results of PPPL research have ranged from a portable nuclear materials detector for anti-terrorist use to universally employed computer codes for analyzing and predicting the outcome of fusion experiments. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the largest single supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit

  • richardmitnick 1:35 pm on August 24, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Kleine Gaisl: a large rockfall in the Italian Dolomites   

    From AGU: “Kleine Gaisl: a large rockfall in the Italian Dolomites” 

    AGU bloc

    American Geophysical Union

    23 August 2016
    Posted by dr-dave

    Kleine Gaisl rockfall

    Kleine Gaisl (Piccola Croda Rossa), is a large (2859 m) mountain in the Braies Valley in the South Tyrol in the northern Italian Dolomites. At the end of last week a large rockfall occurred in a series of stages over two days between 18th and 20th August. There is a good report on Planet Mountain, although they have the volume wrong by three orders of magnitude. From other sources the estimated volume is 600,000 to 700,000 cubic metres.

    Mountain guide Roman Valentini captured a part of the rockfall in a video that has been uploaded to Youtube. But note that this is not the main collapse event, as Planet Mountain notes:

    “The footage below was filmed by Roman Valentini, a mountain guide working for Alta Badia Guides, who was in the area on Thursday, August 18 at around 12:30. Although this is only the first, smaller part of the landslide, Valentini told “It was ‘spectacular’ … I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It looked like a river in spate, with rocks half the size of houses tumbling down.”

    Although the main rockfall event occurred later (the seismic data will be interesting here in order to understand the sequence of events), there is a significant collapse event at about three minutes into the video:

    The rockfall had been anticipated as a large tension crack had been observed prior to the collapse event. has a nice article, in German, though Google Translate does a good job, that includes an interview with the Deputy Mayor, Erwin Steiner, which also includes this good image of the source area of the rockfall:

    The rockfall scar on Kleine Gaisl, image by Erwin Steiner

    Whilst another article on the same site has another view of the source zone that also captures some of the rockfall deposit::

    Image of the Kleine Gaisl rockfall zone, including a part of the deposit. Image by Tourismusbüro Prags

    See the full article here .

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    Stem Education Coalition

    The purpose of the American Geophysical Union is to promote discovery in Earth and space science for the benefit of humanity.

    To achieve this mission, AGU identified the following core values and behaviors.

    Core Principles

    As an organization, AGU holds a set of guiding core values:

    The scientific method
    The generation and dissemination of scientific knowledge
    Open exchange of ideas and information
    Diversity of backgrounds, scientific ideas and approaches
    Benefit of science for a sustainable future
    International and interdisciplinary cooperation
    Equality and inclusiveness
    An active role in educating and nurturing the next generation of scientists
    An engaged membership
    Unselfish cooperation in research
    Excellence and integrity in everything we do

    When we are at our best as an organization, we embody these values in our behavior as follows:

    We advance Earth and space science by catalyzing and supporting the efforts of individual scientists within and outside the membership.
    As a learned society, we serve the public good by fostering quality in the Earth and space science and by publishing the results of research.
    We welcome all in academic, government, industry and other venues who share our interests in understanding the Earth, planets and their space environment, or who seek to apply this knowledge to solving problems facing society.
    Our scientific mission transcends national boundaries.
    Individual scientists worldwide are equals in all AGU activities.
    Cooperative activities with partner societies of all sizes worldwide enhance the resources of all, increase the visibility of Earth and space science, and serve individual scientists, students, and the public.
    We are our members.
    Dedicated volunteers represent an essential ingredient of every program.
    AGU staff work flexibly and responsively in partnership with volunteers to achieve our goals and objectives.

  • richardmitnick 1:25 pm on August 24, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , deadly ice slide baffles researchers, Giant,   

    From Nature: “Giant, deadly ice slide baffles researchers” 

    Nature Mag

    23 August 2016
    Jane Qiu

    The massive ice avalanche in Rutong county, Tibet, covered 10 square kilometres with its debris. Jibiao Zong

    One of the world’s largest documented ice avalanches is flummoxing researchers. But they suspect that glacier fluctuations caused by a changing climate may be to blame.

    About 100 million cubic metres of ice and rocks gushed down a narrow valley in Rutog county in the west of the Tibet Autonomous Region on 17 July, killing nine herders and hundreds of sheep and yaks.

    The debris covered nearly 10 square kilometres at a thickness of up to 30 metres, says Zong Jibiao, a glaciologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research (ITPR) in Beijing, who completed a field investigation of the site last week.

    The only other known incident comparable in scale is the 2002 ice avalanche from the Kolka Glacier1, 2 in the Caucasus Mountains in Russia, says Andreas Kääb, a glaciologist at the University of Oslo in Norway. That catastrophic event killed 140 people.

    Preliminary analyses show that the Rutog avalanche was unusual because it started from a flat point at 5,200–6,200 metres above sea level rather than in steep terrain. The ice crashed down nearly one kilometre along the narrow gully and ran into the Aru Co lake, 6 kilometres away.

    “The site of collapse is baffling … the Rutog avalanche initiated at quite a flat spot. It doesn’t make sense,” says Tian Lide, a glaciologist also at the ITPR, who runs a research station in Rutog.

    Zong adds: “It went with such a force that the gully was widened out by the process.”

    Glacier surge

    This force is likely to have been caused by lubrication of the ice from rain or glacial melt, and researchers think that increasing precipitation in recent years may be partly to blame.

    Temperatures in Tibet have soared by 0.4 °C per decade since 1960 — twice the global average. Warming can generate meltwater that carves out a glacier from within, making it vulnerable to collapse, says Tian.

    Kääb thinks that both the Kolka and Rutog avalanches could have been triggered by a rare glacier surge, in which a glacier periodically advances 10–100 times faster than its normal speed. The phenomenon affects about 1% of glaciers globally.

    Western Tibet has many surge-type glaciers, and some researchers suspect that climate change at high elevations could affect the frequency of surges3.

    Regardless of what triggered the Rutog avalanche, “climate change is causing more glacial hazards through mechanisms we don’t fully understand”, says Tian. “There is an urgent need for more monitoring and research efforts, especially in populated areas in high mountains.”

    See the full article here .

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    Nature is a weekly international journal publishing the finest peer-reviewed research in all fields of science and technology on the basis of its originality, importance, interdisciplinary interest, timeliness, accessibility, elegance and surprising conclusions. Nature also provides rapid, authoritative, insightful and arresting news and interpretation of topical and coming trends affecting science, scientists and the wider public.

  • richardmitnick 1:16 pm on August 24, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESOCast 87 video   

    From ESO: “ESOcast 87: Pale Red Dot Results” Video 

    ESO 50 Large

    European Southern Observatory

    Aug 24, 2016

    Watch, enjoy, learn.

    This is the ESOcast that no viewer will want to miss. We discuss the result of the quest to find a planet around the closest star to the Solar System.

    The Pale Red Dot campaign aimed to find a planet orbiting our nearest stellar neighbour, Proxima Centauri. Incredibly, the quest succeeded and the team did indeed find a planet. Even more excitingly, the planet, Proxima b, falls within the habitable zone of its host star. The newly discovered Proxima b is by far the closest potential abode for alien life.

    In this ESOcast, the results of this groundbreaking research are explained in detail, providing insights into the following points:

    • The extensive verification process the team went through to ensure this result was accurate.
    • The factors for and against the possibility of life on Proxima b.
    • The nature of a “habitable zone” around a star.

    The discovery of Proxima b is a major science result, making this ESOcast a must for those of you curious about one of the most intriguing questions in astronomy — “are we alone?”

    More information and download options:…

    Subscribe to ESOcast in iTunes!…

    Receive future episodes on YouTube by pressing the Subscribe button above or follow us on Vimeo:

    Watch more ESOcast episodes:…

    See the full article here .

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    ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre European Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

    ESO LaSilla


    ESO Vista Telescope


    ESO VLT Survey telescope
    VLT Survey Telescope

    ALMA Array


    Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) Telescope

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