Built on Facts

Ghosts and Kamikazes

Another grad student potluck today! Not sure what I’m going to make, as I’m writing this yesterday (relative to you reading it on Saturday). Last time I posted my recipe for praline bacon, so continuing the tradition today I’m going to post a cocktail of my own invention:

The Pearl Harbor

1 part vodka
1 part blue curacao
6 parts lemonade, frozen into cubes

Combine in blender, blend to a slush. Enjoy.

The curacao and the lemonade combine to form a nice sea blue color. This is essentially a more tropical variation of the Kamikaze, thus inspiring the name.

Now, some news.

This has been circulating about the physics blogs from several days: the mystery of the ghost muons, appearing in the detectors at Fermilab’s Tevatron. They’re called ghosts because there’s no known reason why they should have appeared. Instrument noise? A new discovery in fundamental physics? I don’t know, and neither does anyone else yet. High energy is not my field – the experiments my group runs are about 12 orders of magnitude lower in energy per event – but I do have some friends in the know about Fermilab recently. As you know, the considerably more powerful accelerator at CERN is about to come online in a few months and once that happens Fermilab will be pretty much obsolete in terms of new particle physics. So feeling the heat, they’re pushing the Tevatron way beyond its design parameters to squeeze out every last possible thing they can to beat the LHC to a few discoveries. Apparently their steering magnets are way past their radiation lifetimes and the whole machine just might collapse in a heap, but science never got anywhere by keeping experimental equipment in pristine unused condition.

Here’s China, considering ramping up their nuclear power program. It’s very good news. Despite the vehemence of the global warming debate in the US, the fact of the matter is that China already emits more CO2 in total than the US, and in fact it’s poised to more than double in the next few decades. Non-carbon-based is needed to fix that. Nuclear waste isn’t the easiest thing in the world to deal with, but it stays in one place and doesn’t affect the environment as a whole. The US ought to take a page from the Chinese playbook and get back in the nuclear power business with a vengeance. Now be assured that I have nothing at all against renewable power like wind and solar, it’s just that as baseload power both have severe shortcomings. But they have a very important place and I hope we see a lot more of them as well.

If you go outside tonight after sunset and look west, you’ll see two particular bright stars standing out very distinctly. Neither one of them are actually stars. They’re the planets Venus and Jupiter! Now just seeing them like that is pretty cool, but if you have a halfway decent pair of binoculars the view is incredible. You’ll be able to see both of them as distinct discs. Venus will actually have phases like the moon due to its relative proximity to the sun, and Jupiter’s four largest moons will be clearly visible and will change location from night to night as they orbit.

Some ScienceBloggers are agitating against the possible selection of Robert F. Kennedy in a high-ranking position, on the grounds of his somewhat wonky ideas about the practice of scientific medicine. This has been covered elsewhere very well, so I’d like to throw my two cents about the possible selection of James Oberstar as Secretary of Transportation. It would be seriously bad news for private spaceflight. Here’s an article from 2006 about his proclivity for trying to crush the nascent industry in its cradle. Let’s not have that, s’il vous plait.

And that’s a wrap. Have a great weekend!


  1. #1 Uncle Al
    November 8, 2008


    1 1/2 lbs sharp cheddar cheese (color, piquancy)
    1 lb Swiss cheese (flavor)
    1 lb mozarella cheese (non-Newtonian viscosity)
    1 lb sour cream (raw sin)
    1 can Campbell’s condensed cream of mushroom soup (emulsifier)
    1.5 lb elbow macaroni boiled al dente (foam filler)
    Two large glazed earthenware containers

    Dice each cheese. Reserve 1/2 lb of cheddar. Mix rest short of macaroni in one container. Distribute half to other container. Add hot cooked and well-drained macaroni with mixing to fill both. Top with reserved cheddar. Cover with aluminum foil lid. Bake at 350 degrees F for 50-60 minutes. Serve hot with a bottle of Tabasco sauce.

    Cool, refrigerate, apportion, plastic wrap, freeze. Defrost, remove plastic, and microwave to resurrect.

  2. #2 CCPhysicist
    November 9, 2008

    Regarding Apparently their steering magnets are way past their radiation lifetimes and the whole machine just might collapse in a heap, but science never got anywhere by keeping experimental equipment in pristine unused condition.:

    Good for them. The saddest paper in all of physics is the PRL by a group at Frascati, appearing the week *after* the J/psi papers were submitted. It starts with a sentence to the effect “having heard about the discovery at SLAC, we pushed our machine beyond its nominal design limit of 3.0 GeV …” Now go look up the energy of the J/psi. Yeah, 3.097 GeV. They had been running for quite some time, and could have had it all to themselves if they had listened to some theorists and pushed the machine just a little bit harder.

    I’ll second your comment about the moons of Jupiter. Seeing them change position is an amazing sight. Then imagine what it was like to be the first person to see that – to see the heavens changing, to see another moon.

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