Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Science getting in the way of life, and vice versa

Sorry it has been so long between posts...even my boss is complaining!

I have been up to my eyeballs in "science" meaning the stuff you do to dress up and publicize your work, when important people are watching.  My real science has been waiting patiently on the back burner, hoping that I will be able to attend to it soon.

My current "science" project is attending a national meeting in Anaheim. Yes Disneyland. Going there tomorrow, today was spent at talks...

More specifically a symposium dedicated to one of my mentors, who has won a presitigious award. He helped put together a fantasy league of a session. Great talks, all day, mostly on topics that I adore.This session was also striking for another reason.

Life doesn't always yeild to the rigors or our work. Life says No. One of the most moving talks was given by a recently bereaved husband, for his wife.  He gushed with enthusiasm for the excellence of his late wife's work, and when he reached the last slide, there was a collective intake of breath as he hesitated, as if saying goodbye all over again. His love for his wife and his love for their work was so beautiful, and so touching.

A good friend of mine was giving a retrospective talk, later on in this same session, and he reached a crystal structure that he has collaborated on with a good friend, who had since passed.  There was another pause, as if the whole audience and the speaker were all giving a collective moment of silence. It was a poignant reminder that our science , our discoveries and triumps, will live on in the minds of those who carry on, and those who follow after.

Scientists are often portrayed, in the media and entertainment realms,  as cold and removed characters, who have no feelings for theri common man. The palpable emotion and humanity today destroyed any vestige of that fallacy.

I will have more from the lovely OC, I promise.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mom's Chili- Whose Mom, I don't know...

This is a recipe from my sister's friend. I fgured I would share it, because it is amazingly simple and wonderful. Bonne chance!

Mom’s Chili (Not sure who Mom is)

1 can (28oz) Crushed Tomatoes
1 can (14.5oz) Petit Diced Tomatoes
1 can (15oz) Chili Beans
2 cans (15.25oz) Kidney Beans (drained)
1 can (7oz) Diced Green Chilies
15.25oz Whole Kernel Corn (drained)
1 packet Buttermilk Recipe Ranch Dressing Mix
1 packet Taco Seasoning
~1lb Ground Turkey
1 yellow/white onion (baseball sized)
Cup of water
Optional: butter or olive oil

Combine the canned ingredients ( for this, I hope you have a much more awesome can opener than I do. Mine sucks, therefore, I consider making this recipe pretty hard core) into your large pot or slow cooker. If you are using a Crock Pot, I set it up for 3 hrs on High at this point. In a separate, fairly large frying pan, sauté the onions to slight brownness; I do this in a little olive oil or butter, but they seem to do okay without, if you are trying to be healthy.  Add turkey to the frying pan, and brown. (Not sure why we call it browning, since really turkey goes more white first, then slightly golden if you push it, oh well) Once there is no more raw turkey visible, add the Ranch dressing packet and the taco seasoning packet. Mix meat , onions and mixes together thoroughly  then transfer to pot/slow cooker.  Use the one cup of water to wash the frying pan out, and transfer all the wonderful goodness to the main pot/slow cooker. If you are using a pot, simmer for a couple hours.  I like the Crock Pot, because I turn it on, and go riding!


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Beamtime, lovely beamtime

I mention beamlines, beamtime, and all things having to do with beams constantly. I suppose it would be good to clarify what the hell I am talking about…
I work in a synchrotron. It is a grandson of the cyclotron, which was a circular particle accelerator and collider.  Synchrotrons became useful because of the revelation  that electrons produce electromagnetic radiation when they are made to turn a  corner.  This radial deceleration results in energy lost in the form of light.  I recommend you read herehere and here to learn more about synchrotrons, because I am a chemist, not a physicist and am therefore not the best reference.

It was a grad student who actually observed this with his eyes. Poor guy!

 Synchrotrons run on a 24hr/7day a week schedule. Electrons are constantly being accelerated and  shoved out into the storage ring, to do their job of cornering, losing energy, and producing photons.  Preferably X-ray photons.
This is where the beamlines come in. Beamlines are how the light gets from the synchrotron to the experimental sample. With UV, vacuum UV and Soft X-rays, the beamline is usually under high vacuum, and includes focusing  and monochromating optics of many types. In the case of X-rays, the beamline is also what keeps the X-rays from irradiating you, with selective placement of lead.  The beamline I use is a hard X-ray beamline, so there is a lead-lined shed at the end, called a hutch. Inside the hutch is where the magic happens. Probably a whole other post.  During my beamtime, my world revolves around a lead lined shed and it’s expensive contents, a microscope, a couple computers and somebody else’s potentially very interesting, but probably infuriating samples. What more could I want, right?
So flash back to this week: I currently have two collaborators who are on my back for results (NOW!!!!).  So what did I do this week? What did I accomplish? I collected data, and helped others collect data. I have spent the majority of the last week sitting at a desk surrounded by the bedlam hum of mechanical work.  I can tell the difference between a turbo pump spinning and a roughing pump coughing.  I can hear undulator gaps changing.  Can I hear my phone ringing? No. The cacophony of a synchrotron is an unbelievable assault on your aural system. At times, you are sure there is music, lurking in the background, on the edge of your strained hearing, but it is really just the motors driving the pitch of that monochromator behind your desk.
On Friday, after spending the majority of the last week on the beamline, I walked out of the building, and ambled towards my car. The soft light of the late afternoon fell on a hushed lab left vacant by fresh snows in the mountains. A flock of juvenile turkeys pecked and scratched at  damp soil under fragrant eucalypts. The peace was revitalizing; having a new lease on life, I drove home to see the horses.