laboratory operations


The Rollchart drawthread is still up, though it usually requires one or two rescue bumps early on in the day. I’m being environmentally conscious and recycling unused rolls instead of getting new ones for myself.

- Sarah (Mother Up!)
- Dexter’s Mom (Dexter’s Lab)
- Rosemary  (Hong Kong Phooey)
- Agent Honeydew (Dexter’s Lab)
- Kida (Atlantis: The Lost Empire)
- Emma (Lou!)
- Elise Sr. (Dan Vs.)


Sterile neutrino search hits roadblock at reactors


by Kathryn Jepsen

A new result from the Daya Bay collaboration reveals both limitations and strengths of experiments studying antineutrinos at nuclear reactors.

As nuclear reactors burn through fuel, they produce a steady flow of particles called neutrinos. Neutrinos interact so rarely with other matter that they can flow past the steel and concrete of a power plant’s containment structures and keep on moving through anything else that gets in their way.

Physicists interested in studying these wandering particles have taken advantage of this fact by installing neutrino detectors nearby. A recent result using some of these detectors demonstrated both their limitations and strengths.

The reactor antineutrino anomaly

In 2011, a group of theorists noticed that several reactor-based neutrino experiments had been publishing the same, surprising result: They weren’t detecting as many neutrinos as they thought they would.

Or rather, to be technically correct, they weren’t seeing as many antineutrinos as they thought they would; nuclear reactors actually produce the antimatter partners of the elusive particles. About 6 percent of the expected antineutrinos just weren’t showing up. They called it “the reactor antineutrino anomaly.”

The case of the missing neutrinos was a familiar one. In the 1960s, the Davis experiment located in Homestake Mine in South Dakota reported a shortage of neutrinos coming from processes in the sun. Other experiments confirmed the finding. In 2001, the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory in Ontario demonstrated that the missing neutrinos weren’t missing at all; they had only undergone a bit of a costume change.

Neutrinos come in three types. Scientists discovered that neutrinos could transform from one type to another. The missing neutrinos had changed into a different type of neutrino that the Davis experiment couldn’t detect.
Since 2011, scientists have wondered whether the reactor antineutrino anomaly was a sign of an undiscovered type of neutrino, one that was even harder to detect, called a sterile neutrino.

A new result from the Daya Bay experiment in China not only casts doubt on that theory, it also casts doubt on the idea that scientists understand their model of reactor processes well enough at this time to use it to search for sterile neutrinos.

The word from Daya Bay

The Daya Bay experiment studies antineutrinos coming from six nuclear reactors on the southern coast of China, about 35 miles northeast of Hong Kong. The reactors are powered by the fission of uranium. Over time, the amount of uranium inside the reactor decreases while the amount of plutonium increases. The fuel is changed—or cycled—about every 18 months.
The main goal of the Daya Bay experiment was to look for the rarest of the known neutrino oscillations. It did that, making a groundbreaking discovery after just nine weeks of data-taking.

But that wasn’t the only goal of the experiment. “We realized right from the beginning that it is important for Daya Bay to address as many interesting physics problems as possible,” says Daya Bay co-spokesperson Kam-Biu Luk of the University of California, Berkeley and the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

For this result, Daya Bay scientists took advantage of their enormous collection of antineutrino data to expand their investigation to the reactor antineutrino anomaly.

Using data from more than 2 million antineutrino interactions and information about when the power plants refreshed the uranium in each reactor, Daya Bay physicists compared the measurements of antineutrinos coming from different parts of the fuel cycle: early ones dominated by uranium through later ones dominated by both uranium and plutonium.

In theory, the type of fuel producing the antineutrinos should not affect the rate at which they transform into sterile neutrinos. According to Bob Svoboda, chair of the Department of Physics at the University of California, Davis, “a neutrino wouldn’t care how it got made.” But Daya Bay scientists found that the shortage of antineutrinos existed only in processes dominated by uranium.

Their conclusion is that, once again, the missing neutrinos aren’t actually missing. This time, the problem of the missing antineutrinos seems to stem from our understanding of how uranium burns in nuclear power plants. The predictions for how many antineutrinos the scientists should detect may have been overestimated.

“Most of the problem appears to come from the uranium-235 model (uranium-235 is a fissile isotope of uranium), not from the neutrinos themselves,” Svoboda says. “We don’t fully understand uranium, so we have to take any anomaly we measured with a grain of salt.”

This knock against the reactor antineutrino anomaly does not disprove the existence of sterile neutrinos. Other, non-reactor experiments have seen different possible signs of their influence. But it does put a damper on the only evidence of sterile neutrinos to have come from reactor experiments so far.

Other reactor neutrino experiments, such as NEOS in South Korea and PROSPECT in the United States will fill in some missing details. NEOS scientists directly measured antineutrinos coming from reactors in the Hanbit nuclear power complex using a detector placed about 80 feet away, a distance some scientists believe is optimal for detecting sterile neutrinos should they exist.

PROSPECT scientists will make the first precision measurement of antineutrinos coming from a highly enriched uranium core, one that does not produce plutonium as it burns.

A silver lining

The Daya Bay result offers the most detailed demonstration yet of scientists’ ability to use neutrino detectors to peer inside running nuclear reactors.

“As a study of reactors, this is a tour de force,” says theorist Alexander Friedland of SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. “This is an explicit demonstration that the composition of the reactor fuel has an impact on the neutrinos.”

Some scientists are interested in monitoring nuclear power plants to find out if nuclear fuel is being diverted to build nuclear weapons.

“Suppose I declare my reactor produces 100 kilograms of plutonium per year,” says Adam Bernstein of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. “Then I operate it in a slightly different way, and at the end of the year I have 120 kilograms.” That 20-kilogram surplus, left unmeasured, could potentially be moved into a weapons program.

Current monitoring techniques involve checking what goes into a nuclear power plant before the fuel cycle begins and then checking what comes out after it ends. In the meantime, what happens inside is a mystery.

Neutrino detectors allow scientists to understand what’s going on in a nuclear reactor in real time.

Scientists have known for decades that neutrino detectors could be useful for nuclear nonproliferation purposes. Scientists studying neutrinos at the Rovno Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine first demonstrated that neutrino detectors could differentiate between uranium and plutonium fuel.

Most of the experiments have done this by looking at changes in the aggregate number of antineutrinos coming from a detector. Daya Bay showed that neutrino detectors could track the plutonium inventory in nuclear fuel by studying the energy spectrum of antineutrinos produced.

“The most likely use of neutrino detectors in the near future is in so-called ‘cooperative agreements,’ where a $20-million-scale neutrino detector is installed in the vicinity of a reactor site as part of a treaty,” Svoboda says.

“The site can be monitored very reliably without having to make intrusive inspections that bring up issues of national sovereignty.”

Luk says he is dubious that the idea will take off, but he agrees that Daya Bay has shown that neutrino detectors can give an incredibly precise report. “This result is the best demonstration so far of using a neutrino detector to probe the heartbeat of a nuclear reactor.”

Imagine Kaneki being an experiment that’s spent his entire life in the CCG HQ. He’s never known the outdoors, or anywhere outside of laboratories and operation tables.

Hide is a CCG intern who signs up just for the college credit. He meets Kaneki on accident, while he’s listening to his music, he accidentally stumbles into the lower levels, where Kaneki’s cell is.

When Kaneki sees Hide, he’s terrified. He’s never seen another person before (save for the doctors, but they’re usually in body suits and masks. He doesn’t even consider them human). Not to mention, he’s been taught to fear humans.   He crawls in the corner of his cell when Hide comes to the glass, and refuses to look up until Hide leaves.

He thinks he’s free of him, however, Hide returns the next day. Kaneki is still afraid, but able to see that Hide means no harm, he’s just curious. The wall is made of glass, though on the bottom is a slit, large enough to put food in.

Hide kneels down and sends a pen and piece of paper through it.

Slowly, Kaneki grabs it.

Written on the paper is, Hi! My name is Hide, what’s yours?

Kaneki is sightly scared at first, but gets a positive vibe from Hide, so he writes his name. He slips it underneath and Hide reads it out loud.

“Cool name—ohh!” Hide writes cool name down on the paper and slips it through. Kaneki smiles. Before they know it, they’ve gone back and forth with the paper, just writing things, and asking each other questions. On the next visit, Hide brings a small notebook, so that they can keep all of their conversation together.

Eventually, Hide learns that Kaneki has never been outside, and doesn’t even know how the sun feels on his face. So he starts writing down what the outdoors feel like, what nature feels like, and what the sun feels like on skin.  He sends the book to Kaneki, and watches sadly as he looks at the words with confusion.

He doesn’t understand. At least that’s what Hide thinks. However, Kaneki begins to scribble things down in the notebook, though he starts to scratch things out, and suddenly, his face is really red. Reluctantly, he slides the notebook back to Hide, and looks away.

Hide raises his eyebrow, and reads the book.

I don’t need to go outside, Hide—

You’re all the Heave

I really think that we

I’m sorry Hide, this is all really embarrassing. I guess what I mean to say Is that I don’t need to go outside to know what the sun feels like. I have you for that.

For the first time ever, Hide slides his fingers through the slot, and Kaneki puts his fingers atop of  Hide’s. For the longest time, they just stay like that.

Ալենուշ Տերյան
Alenush Terian

“Mother of Modern Iranian Astronomy”

She was born in 1920 to an Armenian family in Tehran, Iran. After graduating in 1947 from the Science Department of the University of Tehran, she began her career in the physics laboratory of the same University. She was promoted the same year as the chief of laboratory operations.

She was invited to france to furthur continue her studies, but got no support from her university proffesor Dr Sayyed Mahmoud Hessaby who said that it was unatural for a women to study more than she already had, nevertheless Terian went to france with the economical aid from her father, who was an Armenian poet in Iran at that time.

In france 1956 she obtained her doctorate in Atmospheric Physics from Sorbonne University. Upon this she returned to Iran and became Assistant Professor in thermodynamics at University of Tehran. Later she worked in Solar Physics in the then West Germany for a period of four months through a scholarship that was awarded by the German government to University of Tehran. In 1964 Dr Terian became the first female Professor of Physics in Iran.

In 1966, Professor Terian became Member of the Geophysics Committee of University of Tehran. In 1969 she was elected chief of the Solar Physics studies at this university and began to work in the Solar Observatory of which she was one of the founders. Professor Terian retired in 1979

She proved to the world that not only being a women, but also being part of a both a ethnic and religious minority. You can succeed.

The Armenian scientist was honored during a birthday ceremony in the Iranian capital city on celebrate the 90th birthday of Iran’s first female astronomer, physics professor and founder of modern Iranian astronomy.
Members of the Iranian Parliament and more than hundered Armenians paid tribute to the Armenian scientist.

“She always said she had a daughter named sun and a son named moon,” said lawmaker Hassan Ghafourifard, Terian’s former student at Tehran University.

Alenoush Terian passed away in 
March 4, 2011 at the age of 90 years.

The High Flux Isotope Reactor, located at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, operates at 85 megawatts and is one of the United States’ highest flux reactor-based sources of neutrons for condensed matter research, and provides the highest steady-state neutron fluxes of any research reactor in the world.

Neutron scattering research facilities at the High Flux Isotope Reactor contain a world-class collection of instruments used for fundamental and applied research on the structure and dynamics of matter. The reactor is also used for a number of different reasons: medical/industrial/research isotope production, research on severe neutron damage to materials, and neutron activation.

1/11 Pouring today. Everyone is sulking under cover.

The sheep were soggy sponges cowering in their shed, along with some bats taking shelter from the rain. Also a large dish of sheep mineral supplement, which is mostly iron oxide, also called “red ochre,” used by cavemen and Renaissance painters to make things Very Red. I mention the large dish of blood red dye that happened to be in the sheep shed for no reason whatsoever.

The Small Grey Lump That Goes Meow decided he fancied a bite of bat, so he ran from under the barn, through the pouring rain, into the sheep shed to try and catch one. He spent a while crouching and waving his paws in the air before realizing the bats were two meters off the ground.

I don’t know if the Small Grey Lump was trying to climb Gracie the Sheep, or if he just leaped and crashed into her, but she was very startled. Gracie (who seems to have been grown in a laboratory operated by the Council for the Promotion of Stereotypes About Sheep Intelligence) reacted by running headfirst into the nearest wall. The soaking-wet Small Grey Lump That Goes Meow fell into the dish of sheep mineral.

And that’s why it looks like a band of deranged cultists has been drawing The Enigmatic And Occult Sign Of The Cat Butt in blood all over everything today.


Director Christopher Nolan accepts an Academy Award of Merit dedicated to “all those who built and operated film laboratories, for over a century of service to the motion picture industry.” From the Academy’s Scientific & Technical Awards held on February 15, 2014 at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Nolan: There are alchemists who, for over 100 years in various windowless rooms, basements, what have you, all across the world, have practiced a very special form of alchemy – that is, turning silver and plastic into dreams. And not just any kind of dreams, but the kind of dream that you can unspool from a reel and hold in your hand, hold up to the light, and see frozen, magically. And these dreams can be run through a projector, thrown onto the screen where they will spark the imagination and emotion of audiences, as they have all across the world for so long for so many generations of filmmakers. 

So I’m very pleased to be here speaking on behalf of this award to the men and women who have practiced this very special dark art. The Academy’s Board of Governors and the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee have chosen to recognize all of the men and women, all of the companies involved in laboratory work and in the processing of film: the technology that lies at the heart of filmmaking and still represents the gold standard of imaging technology. 

This award will be on display in the Samuel Goldwyn Theater until the Academy’s new museum is completed, where it will be on display as a permanent reminder to future generations of the fine work of all of these men and women. This award is in recognition of the first 100 years of this fine work; I personally am very excited for the next 100 years of this work, and I’m very pleased to be announcing this special award. Thank you very much.

Videos from the entire Sci-Tech Awards and speeches are here.


Lockheed Martin unveils dual-use ship to resupply ISS, aid crewed deep-space missions.

Lockheed Martin also threw its hat into the arena for the upcoming CRS-2 contract last week. The company, who is also the prime contractor for the Orion crew module, announced a two-component spacecraft that will not only fulfill the CRS-2 contract by resupplying the space station, but can also aid crewed deep space exploration.

Upflight mass to the space station - or how much cargo can be delivered - will be 6,500 kilograms of cargo - greater than any other cargo craft in operation today (only the Automated Transfer Vehicle and Space Shuttle could carry more, and those were retired in 2015 and 2011, respectively).

The Jupiter spacecraft and Exoliner cargo carrier will launch together on an Atlas V rocket. Once rendezvousing and berthing to the orbiting complex, Exoliner serves a capacity similar to a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, becoming a temporary ‘spare room’ on the laboratory. After station operations are complete, the spacecraft unberths and rendezvous with a recently-launched Atlas V Centaur upper stage carrying another Exoliner module.

Jupiter will swap the spent module - full of trash and other waste materials - and pick up the fresh one. Once Jupiter refuels, the Centaur will then deorbit itself and the spent module while the new one rendezvous with the station.

Lockheed’s proposal offers partial reusability  in that only the cargo modules would have to be manufactured anew. Additionally, the company relies on proven technology that has already flown into space.

The Jupiter tug itself is based off of the MAVEN spacecraft bus, which Lockheed also built. The Exoliner module would be built by Thales Alenia Space, which builds the Cygnus Cargo Module and some modules of the International Space Station. MDA would build the Robotic arm needed to complete the cargo module exchange. They’re the Canada-based company that built CanadaArm 1 and 2, as well as DEXTRE. The United Launch Alliance will provide the Atlas V launch vehicle, which has a 100% success rating.

However, Lockheed hopes that Jupiter/Exoliner will serve more than just a cargo freighter to the space station. They propose a whole new space architecture based off of the dual spacecraft design, one which could support astronauts on deep-space missions.

With more than twice the habitable volume of Orion, an Exoliner module attached to the capsule could serve as additional workspace, living quarters and storage for missions to the Moon or asteroids. It could also potentially extend mission duration as it would have an independent supply of power generation, environmental regulation and consumables storage. 

In addition to Lockheed Martin, three companies have already confirmed they have submitted proposals to NASA for the CRS-2 contracts, which close March 21. SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell slipped an announcement Tuesday on their bid, but did not offer any further details. Sierra Nevada Corporation announced earlier this week its Dream Chaser Cargo Spacecraft, a cargo-variant of it’s lifting body spacecraft originally designed for the Commercial Crew contracts. It is also expected that Orbital Sciences will submit a bid, since they won the initial round of commercial cargo contracts in 2008.


Curiosity: Mars Radiation Not Too High For Humans (but…)

The Mars Science Laboratory radiation detector, in operation for over a year on the Red Planet, is showing levels that are manageable for human exploration but the planet has not been hit with any big solar storms during this time.

via Video From Space.