Friday, October 8, 2004
1. OUTER LIMITS: PERIMETER INSTITUTE FOR THEORETICAL PHYSICS.
The Institute's stunning new headquarters in Waterloo, Canada opened Saturday. "Brain power rather than military might is fast becoming the way countries exercise their sovereignty," Prime Minister Paul Martin observed. The driving force behind creation of the Institute was entrepreneur Mike Lazarides, who donated $100 million, and led the drive to get additional backing from federal and provincial governments. For three years, the Institute was in temporary quarters with a small research staff, but it is now expected to become the largest concentration of theoretical physicists in the world. This is the future. The great basic research labs of industry are gone; research funding for university and government labs is narrowly targeted. An advisory committee, composed of top theoretical physicists from around the world, described the Perimeter Institute as "a bold experiment with the potential to become the most important new institute in theoretical physics since the founding of the Institute for Advanced Study 70 years ago." One member of that committee, Frank Wilczek, would be awarded a Nobel Prize three days later.
2. THE NOBEL: PHYSICS PRIZE GOES TO AMERICAN QUARK THEORISTS.
David Gross, David Politzer and Frank Wilczek shared the prize "For their analyses of nonabelian gauge theories at short distances, and the implications of these insights for the understanding of the strong interaction between quarks." Their 1973 explanation of the strong force that binds quarks into protons made it possible to show how mass arises in protons and neutrons. They were awarded the American Physical Society's J.J. Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics in 1986.
3. THE WRONG STUFF: SPACE STATION IS FILLING UP WITH GARBAGE.
No wonder there has been talk of abandoning the ISS; have you ever been through a garbage strike? When Congress was being urged to put up the money, the image of the station was of a spacious laboratory, with its crew engaged in sophisticated scientific experiments. Who imagined a crew of only two would spend their time picking their way through piles of empty food containers, dirty underwear and canisters of human excrement to reach a malfunctioning oxygen generator that must be coaxed to work? The shuttle/garbage truck return is still questionable.
4. THE RIGHT STUFF: THE SPIRIT ROVER FACES A NEW CHALLENGE.
Even as our two senior-citizen geologists on Mars, now 83 in rover-years, have discovered new evidence of ancient water, NASA says Spirit's wheels "did not operate as commanded" on Oct. 1. I sometimes have the same problem. Spirit is disabled until NASA finds a remedy. I find daily jogging helps.