acceleration nation


“In a career spanning three decades, Ellen DeGeneres has lifted our spirits and brought joy to our lives as a stand-up comic, actor and television star. In every role, she reminds us to be kind to one another and to treat people as each of us wants to be treated. At a pivotal moment, her courage and candor helped change the hearts and minds of millions of Americans, accelerating our nation’s constant drive toward equality and acceptance for all.

Again and again, Ellen DeGeneres has shown us that a single individual can make the world a more fun, more open, more loving place so long as we ‘just keep swimming.’”


Tracks made by atomic particles from a particle accelerator, a device that speeds up the particles. The eye can’t see protons, electrons, and other subatomic particles, but a camera records their frothy wakes in a chamber of liquefied neon and hydrogen at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois. Physicists study the tracks to learn about the characteristics of the particles that produced them.” - National Geographic, 1978.

Melissa Franklin

(born 1956) Experimental particle physicist

Melissa Eve Bronwen Franklin is the Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics at Harvard University. While working at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Chicago, her team is credited for the first evidence of the top quark. She is a fellow of the American Physical Society and former chair of the Harvard Physics department. 

Number 143 in an ongoing series celebrating remarkable women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.


Watch Ellen DeGeneres tearfully accept one of Obama’s last Presidential Medals of Freedom

On Tuesday President Obama gave out his last Presidential Medals of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. The star-studded list of 21 recipients included Michael Jordan, Bill and Melinda Gates, Tom Hanks, Bruce Springsteen, and Diana Ross — all of whom Obama saidhad touched him in a “powerful personal way” and helped shape his presidency.

Many of the recipients have been critical of President-elect Donald Trump or have praised Democrats.

But when Ellen DeGeneres came up to accept her award, it was a particularly potent reminder of how different the next administration is likely to be, and the warm inclusivity that Obama inhibited while in office.

DeGeneres teared up as a White House aide introduced her and praised her courage in blazing a trail for LGBTQ equality: “At a pivotal moment, her courage and candor helped change the hearts and minds of million of Americans, accelerating our nation’s constant drive towards equality and acceptance for all,” the aide said.

“Ellen DeGeneres has showed us that a single individual can make the world a more fun, more open more loving place, so long as we just keep swimming,” he added, referring to DeGeneres’s role as Dory in Finding Nemo.

Then Obama gave DeGeneres the medal and an affectionate hug.

“It’s useful, when you think about this incredible collection of people, to realize this is what makes us the greatest nation on earth,” Obama said at the ceremony. “Not because of our differences, but because in our differences we find something in common to share. And what a glorious gift that is.”

Ellen DeGeneres first publicly came out as a lesbian in 1997, almost two decades ago, and incurred conservative backlash for a few years. She staged a comeback in 2003, with her groundbreaking standup special, Here and Now, her beloved role in Finding Nemo, and the premiere of her hit daytime talkshow, The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Now that marriage equality is the law of the land and LGBTQ people are more visible than ever, it can be easy to forget what a profoundly different time 1997 was for gay and lesbian Americans.

But given the justifiable fear many LGBTQ people feel about a Trump-Pence administration, it’s important to remember that the battle for equality is far from over.


The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope’s ‘Eye’ Will be Built at SLAC.

The Department of Energy has approved the start of construction for a 3.2-gigapixel digital camera – the world’s largest – at the heart of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). Assembled at the DOE’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, the camera will be the eye of LSST, revealing unprecedented details of the universe and helping unravel some of its greatest mysteries.

The construction milestone, known as Critical Decision 3, is the last major approval decision before the acceptance of the finished camera, said LSST Director Steven Kahn: “Now we can go ahead and procure components and start building it.”

Starting in 2022, LSST will take digital images of the entire visible southern sky every few nights from atop a mountain called Cerro Pachón in Chile. It will produce a wide, deep and fast survey of the night sky, cataloguing by far the largest number of stars and galaxies ever observed. During a 10-year time frame, LSST will detect tens of billions of objects—the first time a telescope will observe more galaxies than there are people on Earth – and will create movies of the sky with unprecedented details. Funding for the camera comes from the DOE, while financial support for the telescope and site facilities, the data management system, and the education and public outreach infrastructure of LSST comes primarily from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The telescope’s camera – the size of a small car and weighing more than three tons – will capture full-sky images at such high resolution that it would take 1,500 high-definition television screens to display just one of them.

This has already been a busy year for the LSST Project. Its dual-surface primary/tertiary mirror – the first of its kind for a major telescope – was completed; a traditional stone-laying ceremony in northern Chile marked the beginning of on-site construction of the facility; and a nearly 2,000-square-foot, 2-story-tall clean room was completed at SLAC to accommodate fabrication of the camera.

“We are very gratified to see everyone’s hard work appreciated and acknowledged by this DOE approval,” said SLAC Director Chi-Chang Kao. “SLAC is honored to be partnering with the National Science Foundation and other DOE labs on this groundbreaking endeavor. We’re also excited about the wide range of scientific opportunities offered by LSST, in particular increasing our understanding of dark energy.”

Components of the camera are being built by an international collaboration of universities and labs, including DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and SLAC. SLAC is responsible for overall project management and systems engineering, camera body design and fabrication, data acquisition and camera control software, cryostat design and fabrication, and integration and testing of the entire camera. Building and testing the camera will take approximately five years.

SLAC is also designing and constructing the NSF-funded database for the telescope’s data management system. LSST will generate a vast public archive of data—approximately 6 million gigabytes per year, or the equivalent of shooting roughly 800,000 images with a regular 8-megapixel digital camera every night, albeit of much higher quality and scientific value. This data will help researchers study the formation of galaxies, track potentially hazardous asteroids, observe exploding stars and better understand dark matter and dark energy, which together make up 95 percent of the universe but whose natures remain unknown.

“We have a busy agenda for the rest of 2015 and 2016,” said Kahn. “Construction of the telescope on the mountain is well underway. The contracts for fabrication of the telescope mount and the dome enclosure have been awarded and the vendors are at full steam.”

Nadine Kurita, camera project manager at SLAC, said fabrication of the state-of-the-art sensors for the camera has already begun, and contracts are being awarded for optical elements and other major components. “After several years of focusing on designs and prototypes, we are excited to start construction of key parts of the camera. The coming year will be crucial as we assemble and test the sensors for the focal plane.”

The National Research Council’s Astronomy and Astrophysics decadal survey, Astro2010, ranked the LSST as the top ground-based priority for the field for the current decade. The recent report of the Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel of the federal High Energy Physics Advisory Panel, setting forth the strategic plan for U.S. particle physics, also recommended completion of the LSST.

“We’ve been working hard for years to get to this point,” said Kurita. “Everyone is very excited to start building the camera and take a big step toward conducting a deep survey of the Southern night sky.”