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Science Technology

Tour of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center 98

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the straight-and-narrow dept.
Thomas Hawk writes "Last month Robert Scoble and I were able to do a video/photo shoot of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) with SLAC Emeritus Bebo White. SLAC is both the longest and straightest building in the world and is the home of three Nobel Prizes in physics. There is also a video tour available; part one and part two."
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Tour of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center

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  • by pestie (141370) on Friday March 09, 2007 @12:09PM (#18290574) Homepage
    "SLACware" jokes in 3... 2... 1...
    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by ghoti (60903)
      That video was posted weeks ago! Somebody's been SLACing off, apparently. Though I will cut them some SLAC, since the videos are really quite interesting. That's a SLAC piece of equipment they have there at SLACford ...
  • by ScentCone (795499) on Friday March 09, 2007 @12:12PM (#18290632)
    Maybe it is. But I think that the time I had to pull several thousand feet of CAT5 through an old retail building that was constructed entirely of:

    1) Rat feces

    2) Razor-wire-lined plaster/lathe ceilings

    3) Meter-thick sedimentary deposits of cigarette smoke

    4) Did I mention rat feces?

    ... well, that sure seemed like the longest building in the world. We actually had places where we used a crossbow and fishing line.
    • by Intron (870560)
      RC cars can be good, too.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)
        It's all about radio-controlled tanks. It's a lot easier to get them unstuck without pulling them back towards you. You can typically pick up a decent model at radio shack. I like the crossbow idea, though.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Loudog (9867)
      I worked at SLAC for more than 6 years, night shift in the accelerator maintenance. It's not the rat droppings, it's the black widows you need to watch for. I once killed more than 20 of them -- and that was in one sector (100m), on one task (ranging). And that's only the ones that were in my way.

      I still miss the place, but like my current job better.

      -- Loudog
      -- Listening to the song of the klystrons
  • Question (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Friday March 09, 2007 @12:12PM (#18290638) Journal
    "Straightest building". Does this mean that the building is constructed to take into account the curvature of the earth? Granted this would only be less than half a meter (if I did the math right), but would seem to be important in this sensitive of a project.
    • Re:Question (Score:4, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 09, 2007 @12:32PM (#18290894)
      No. It just means fewest mac users.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Emnar (116467)
      Yes, the building itself does curve with the surface. I have been in it, and if you kneel down on one end you can see the earth's curve looking toward the other end (when there isn't something in the aisle on either side of the cyclotrons).
    • I think it would only have to take account of the gravity of the earth
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by marked23 (693822)
      I'm no physicist, but I think in order to "be straight" it must follow the curve of earth's gravitational field. Not sure if I understand that correctly, but if physicists say that an orbit is a straight line through space/time (in a sense), then it follows that a straight line inside a planetary gravitational field would have a curve to it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ortholattice (175065)

        Not sure if I understand that correctly, but if physicists say that an orbit is a straight line through space/time (in a sense), then it follows that a straight line inside a planetary gravitational field would have a curve to it.

        The curve you are talking about is the path that a light beam would follow, not the curvature of the earth. Otherwise, the earth would look flat to someone on the surface, and of course it doesn't, since ships, etc. disappear over the horizon.

        That said, I don't understand w

        • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Yes. The actual accelerator (like all currently built) is truly straight so the distance between the floor of the klystron gallery (the long building on the surface) and beam pipe beneath varies. As someone else mentioned the variation is negligible (from an engineering perspective).

          In contrast, the International Linear Collider, which will be tens of kilometres long, will curve to follow the surface of the earth, since it is long enough that it would create engineering problems to try and go in a straigh
    • by Bananenrepublik (49759) on Friday March 09, 2007 @01:14PM (#18291554)
      That is the point about straightest building. They're accelerating electrons, so bremsstrahlung (= energy loss due to curves, grows very fast with decreasing particle mass, decreases slowly with the radius of curvature) is a real problem. In order to eliminate bremsstrahlung, the SLAC building doesn't follow the earth's curvature, but instead is straight in the same sense that a lightbeam is straigh.

      I once calculated the amount of energy the LEP (CERN's old huge accelerator, a 20km approx. circle) lost due to bremsstrahlung. IIRC it amounted to one 100W lightbulb every 10cm or 20MW of enrergy loss, simply due to the curvature.

      Currently a new huge linear accelerator is being discussed inside the scientific community. They want to use supraconducting magnets, which in terms requires large reservoirs of cooling liquids. Since liquids are subject to gravitation it may be that they will build it following the earth's curvature in order to keep the cooling circuits simpler. These issues haven't been decided yet.
      • I should have made this clear: the bremsstrahlung losses of the LEP were due to the 20km circle of the accelerator, not the earth radius.
      • by students (763488)
        Watts are a unit of power, not energy. Which did you calculate?
      • by swarsron (612788)
        >bremsstrahlung (= energy loss due to curves, grows very fast with decreasing particle mass,

        You probably meant that it grows with increasing particle mass
      • by dwater (72834)
        > but instead is straight in the same sense that a lightbeam is straight

        I thought light was bent by gravity too...
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by athena_wiles (967508)
      I think SLAC actually does NOT follow the curvature of the earth. I remember touring it as a fifth grader and being rather amazed when they told us that you can get on rollerblades at one end & have gravity pull you (albeit very slowly) toward the middle.

      Also, as one of the previous posters noted, if you have electrons going at relativistic speeds and you force them to curve to match the curvature of the earth, you're essentially going to be creating a sort of a syncrotron radiation source (SLAC does
    • The accelerator itself follows an exactly straight line, it traces a chord [wikipedia.org]. The surface building, which is actually over the accelerator and contains the power systems and microwave generators, follows the curvature of the Earth.

      When I visited the place I put my head on the floor and could see it curving out of view.

    • Yes, the accelerator really is straight in that sense. My back of the envelope calculation says it's about 20 cm deeper in the center than at the start and end. I'm not really sure if the floor of the building is that straight, though, and it doesn't really have to be - it would be really hard to make that happen in a single pour of concrete (according to my info they did in fact pour the entire 2 miles in a single pour, hundreds of cement trucks were lined up). The accelerator is mounted on a "strongback"
  • Do [big and awesome] walls count as buildings? Wiki refers to it as the longest building in the US, so maybe they mean the Great Wall to be the longest in the world?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      A wall is not a building [wikipedia.org].
    • by dwater (72834)
      How about CERN's SPS? Wikipedia says it's 2km in diameter, which would make it 2PI km long ~= 6km. That's close to twice as long as SLAC.

      OK, so it can't claim to be the straightest, but if SLAC is going to claim the straightest title, then it should also qualify it's longest claim as 'longest straight building'.

      Also, I'd like to take this opportunity to say that I think the claim that the great wall of china is not a building to be complete bollocks.
      • by dwater (72834)
        > Also, I'd like to take this opportunity to say that I think the claim that the great wall of china is not a building to be complete bollocks.

        I might add, there are many places along the great wall that indeed were intended for permanent human occupancy - probably soldiers, of course, but they're still human.

        I still think the wikipedia definition is bollocks though.
  • by Dolly_Llama (267016) on Friday March 09, 2007 @12:14PM (#18290668) Homepage
    SLAC is both the longest and straightest building in the world

    I'm a gay particle physicist, you insensitive clod!
  • by Seumas (6865) on Friday March 09, 2007 @12:15PM (#18290680)
    Nothing shouts serious, professional scientist like the name Bebo.
    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by Red Flayer (890720)

      Nothing shouts serious, professional scientist like the name Bebo.

      As opposed to these physicists:

      Zoltán Lajos Bay
      Neils Bohr
      Gerd Binnig
      Fritjof Capra
      Hippolyte Fizeau
      Tsung-Dao Lee
      Thanu Padmanabhan

      Because nothing says scientific rigor like thinking that someone's name, because it is different for cultural or other reasons, has anything to do with their scientific ability.

      I know, you were 'making a funny' -- but one would think that your average scientifically-interested slashdotter wouldn't... oh

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Seumas (6865)
        No, those physicists sound completely legitimate. On the other hand, Bebo sounds like a little furry pokemon thing or some sort of cute anime character. Well, except Zoltan. That guy sounds like he's either a Transformer or he's trying to generate massive earth-based black-holes so he can hold the planet ransom for one million dollars.

        Also, your average scientifically-interested slashdotter apparently things that a refrigerator modified to catapult you a can of beer is awe-inspiring and amazing. I don't put
        • I must've gotten up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. But making fun of a physicist's name? Surely there is some more original humor to be found in the article?

          FYI, Zoltan is a non-extraordinary Hungarian name. Zoltar was a GI Joe baddie, IIRC.

          I'm only back here because Slashdot still picks up better stories than Digg and is less spammy and redundant about it. Good old slashdot.

          I'll agree with you there.

          Somehow I feel like I've fallen out of step with the slashdot zeitgeist, though. Has th

    • by ndurbin (1073842)
      hey don't dis Bebo. I have met him and he is quite jovial, but probably when it comes to his work, like a linear accelerator, he is serious and professional.
  • Proton beam (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mattr (78516) <mattr&telebody,com> on Friday March 09, 2007 @12:17PM (#18290702) Homepage Journal
    I visited RIKEN's accelerator in Wako City, Saitama Prefecture, Japan last year and was told they were one of only three facilities in the world manufacturing proton beams for medical purposes. The other two were in Germany and at Stanford, but I was told that Stanford had closed its facility so now there are only two.

    Perhaps antimatter is better than proton beam, I don't know. Sounded like it is extremely expensive to run.. anybody know? I saw how RIKEN uses CAD to design thick IIRC bronze beam masks. It is underground and the whole building is built like a ship apparently, separate from the surrounding earth, which presumably helps it stably ride out earthquakes. They opened in Dec. 2006 the most powerful radioisotope accelerator, accelerating aluminum to 70% c.

    I am not a physicist nor do I work there but am curious about these aspects concerning the place mentioned in the article.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by niklask (1073774)

      I visited RIKEN's accelerator in Wako City, Saitama Prefecture, Japan last year and was told they were one of only three facilities in the world manufacturing proton beams for medical purposes. The other two were in Germany and at Stanford, but I was told that Stanford had closed its facility so now there are only two.

      You are confused. SLAC != Stanford. SLAC is operated by Stanford under an agreement with the DoE. The accelerator at SLAC does not provide proton beams. It has been a electron-positron mac

      • by sconeu (64226)
        t is currently supplying the BaBar experiment with electrons and positrons and it is also undergoing modifications to accomodate the LCLS

        So now we have talking French elephants doing particle physics?

        • by niklask (1073774)

          So now we have talking French elephants doing particle physics?

          Yes, pink ones too.
      • ...cancer treatment. If I understand correctly, positrons have been used experimentally to treat cancer. There is another Slashdot article covering this.
      • by mattr (78516)
        I see, thanks. I was told this info by the Japanese at RIKEN, that Stanford had closed a similar facility. And that Japan could only afford it because it was on the political agenda. I remember a 300 million dollar number but don't know if that is yearly or what it cost to build.

        I meant better for anticancer. TFA states 4 times better IIRC.

        As for elephants, a RIKEN page in which it collaborates with another lab (I don't remember if it is Brookhaven or what) calls itself experiements with particles that weig
        • by niklask (1073774)

          I see, thanks. I was told this info by the Japanese at RIKEN, that Stanford had closed a similar facility. And that Japan could only afford it because it was on the political agenda. I remember a 300 million dollar number but don't know if that is yearly or what it cost to build.

          Stanford might have had a similar facility, but that facility is not SLAC.

          As for elephants, a RIKEN page in which it collaborates with another lab (I don't remember if it is Brookhaven or what) calls itself experiements with part

    • by treeves (963993)
      There was a proton facility at Loma Linda Medical Center when I was there a few years ago. Not sure what you meant by manufacturing proton beams. Maybe those places you mentioned made the equipment used at LLMC.
  • AmTech Day (Score:4, Insightful)

    by leighklotz (192300) on Friday March 09, 2007 @12:21PM (#18290760) Homepage
    SLAC is kind enough to allow the Foothiils Amateur Radio Society to hold a monthly outdoor/indoor amateur radio symposium and operating event there, called AmTech Day [k6ya.org]. Now that no morse code test is required for any level of amateur license in the US, it's a great time to get into amateur radio and experiment with digital communications, microwave technology, satellites, or even Maker [makezine.com] style operations such as bouncing radio waves off the ionosphere with equipment you can build yourself.
  • Straight? Thats not what I heard.
  • From Wikipedia ....and is claimed to be "the world's straightest object." Are they serious? somebody get me a 3 mile long piece of thread so I can be in Guinness.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)
      If it's three miles long, it will definitely sag. Thread does not have the tensile strength to draw that much of it straight. You might instead consider... Chuck Norris.
      • by stonefry (968479)
        Who said I was going to stretch it horizontally?
        • by drinkypoo (153816)
          You're going to have a hard time finding a building three miles tall to protect you from the influence of wind... And probably not much more luck finding a three mile deep hole to drop it in.
    • by tenco (773732)

      somebody get me a 3 mile long piece of thread
      somebody get me a laser pointer.
  • by derinax (93566) on Friday March 09, 2007 @01:51PM (#18292114)
    This takes me back to when I was a NeXT Campus Consultant at Stanford-- one of my duties was the maintenance and sales of NeXT hardware at SLAC. At the time, I was also an Amiga enthusiast, and was amazed to see how entrenched the Amiga was at SLAC. Mostly due to the encouragement of Willy Langeveld, some great scientific apps came out of SLAC for the Amiga: VLT, Hippograph (both Willy's), TeX (authored by Stanford alum Tom Rokicki); I'm sure there were others. I even saw an A500 out on the floor, in production.

    The biggest impression I had of SLAC in the late 80's was of gigantic, warehouse-sized rooms filled with massive, unused rusted machinery. Reminiscent of the Orrery in Oblivion, or Oghma's lair from Dark Crystal. Weird and amazing place; but perhaps my memory has augmented the tour a bit.

    • by dauwhe (562291)
      Surely you don't mean to imply that Dr. Rokicki was the creator of TeX... I seem to recall some guy named "Knuth" or something...
      • by derinax (93566)
        AmigaTeX, for its time, was arguably the finest implementation of TeX. But no, no implication meant, nor did I mean to imply that AmigaTeX's creation was tied to SLAC in any way-- its use was ubiquitous on the Amigas at SLAC, while Tom Rokicki attended to his doctorate and maintained the program while at Stanford.
    • Yes, we had about 100 Amigas at SLAC at one time. Most of them were Amiga 500's which were used as intelligent graphical terminals to access the linear accelerator control system. The rest were scientific workstations, mostly A2000's and later A3000's for scientists. Even the director of SLAC had an Amiga. An Amiga 3000T was used as a data acquisition system, connected to CAMAC hardware, for one of the experiments.
  • Worst video? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Windrip (303053) on Friday March 09, 2007 @02:21PM (#18292540) Journal
    Part II is 7:44 minutes of my life I'll never get back.

    I cannot believe these guys had an insider tour of SLAC and they post cheesy tourist shots of a FUCKING COOLING TOWER!!!!!!!!!!!!

    No wonder Engineering/Physics &c suffers in this country.

    Oh, and I also resent Bebo's comparison of chemistry to postage stamp collecting. But at least he has earned his "I'm a HEPP*" stripes.

    *High Energy Physics Prick

    of course HEP also means How Easily Phooled...
    • the previous part has the meat in it. the photographer was dazzled by pretty colors of rot on a pipe flange here and there. we can be like that.

      having spent a moderate amount of time maintaining cooling towers, in yet another previous life, it's just another pan of airborne waterous spore breeders to me....
    • by Loudog (9867)
      Dude, the cooling system in that place is more amazing then almost anything else. You should see how many pipes there are in there.

      A two mile long LINAC, damping rings, beam switch yard, final focus, all klystrons, most magnet drivers, power supplies, etc... all water cooled. Friggen amazing.

      The only things there more amazing is the the positron vault and the Z detector.

      -- Loudog
    • by tenco (773732)

      Oh, and I also resent Bebo's comparison of chemistry to postage stamp collecting.
      Uhm... why?
    • by Curl E (226133)

      Oh, and I also resent Bebo's comparison of chemistry to postage stamp collecting.

      Its a quote from New Zealand physicist Ernest Rutherford [wikipedia.org] who said: "All science is either physics or stamp collecting"
  • Ok,

    I was expecting a tour of the accelerator. Not a tour of the visitor center and a film of someone taking pictures of eyewash stations and cooling towers.

    Sad really... The interviewers hardly seemed interested in SLAC.

  • >SLAC is both the longest and straightest building in the world and is the home of three Nobel Prizes in physics. Only until the next big SF quake... After which it will have to be renamed the SPLAC (Stanford Piecewise Linear ACcelerator).
  • You can go on a tour of SLAC pretty much every week and they are pretty interesting - especially if you know something of particle physics. Had the opportunity to take one when I was out in San Jose and thoroughly enjoyed it, and would heartily recommend it to anyone else in the area. Not surprisingly, my photos probably look very similar to the ones posted here.

    My Photo [chase.net.au]
    Tour Times [stanford.edu]
  • I posted some videos in HD of the CERN ATLAS, which is the worlds largest physics experiment, located in Geneva, costs 8 billion dollars to build and is nearly complete: http://charbax.com/2007/02/09/a-tour-at-the-cern-l hc-atlas/ [charbax.com] http://charbax.com/2007/02/19/cern-lhc-atlas-contr ol-room/ [charbax.com] http://charbax.com/2007/02/19/cern-lhc-atlas-inter views/ [charbax.com] http://charbax.com/2007/02/20/cern-lhc-atlas-grid/ [charbax.com]
  • I had a very progressive 6th grade teacher that was very keen on Science Education. -Eric

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