Tuesday, April 03, 2007

It's all about the science

On April Fool’s Day, we were invited to join the Dark Side.

Robert's invitation with the battle of the Dark Lords (him and Derek). Photo by Robert Schwarz.

There was an open house out at the Dark Sector and the scientists were all on hand to give tours of their facilities and explain the science that they’re doing.
Brien walking to DSL where BICEP and SPT live.

One of the projects is Ice Cube, a telescope currently being constructed to study neutrinos using detectors buried 1400 to 2400 meters down into the ice. Neutrinos are sub-atomic particles from deep space that bombard the Earth and pass through without doing much of anything. IceCube is currently drilling holes into the ice then deploying a string of digital optical modules, or DOMs, thousands of meters down and they will detect the muons that are created when neutrinos interact with atoms in the ice. For more info click here.

Ice Cuber Claire showing an older optical module used in AMANDA, an earlier neutrino project that is still running, as UT Dan looks on. The DOMs of Ice Cube are larger and more sophisticated.

MAPO (Martin A. Pomerantz Observatory) is home to QUaD, an acronym of an acronym for QUEST at DASI. This is Robert's project and it's a telescope that observes the sky looking for cosmic microwave background radiation left over from the Big Bang. By looking at the polarization of the CMB radiation, they are making a map of the very early universe as it first started to cool and emit radiation.
Laura, our facilities engineer, about to climb up into the QUaD telescope for a look.

Another project looking at CMB is BICEP, or Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization, looking at a different frequency from QUaD. Steffen runs this project over the winter and last year, Denis was at the helm.

The BICEP telescope.

The newest project at South Pole is the South Pole Telescope, a 10 meter telescope again looking at CMB for very small galaxy clusters far away. The telescope scans large areas of the sky and when it gets going, moves quite fast and shakes the whole building.

Zak, left and Steve, second from right are explaining how SPT works, as Steff and Brien listen.

Looking up into the receiver cabin of SPT, which is usually closed and lifted up across from the 10 meter dish.

There was an extra attraction at the Dark Sector Open House - liquid nitrogen ice cream! The cryogens tech, Nick, showed us how to make it.

Step 1: Pour Frosty Boy ice cream mix into bowl.

Nick adds the Frosty Boy as Brien gets ready to mix.

Step 2 (optional): add Kahlua

Step 3: add liquid nitrogen, which has a temp of about -340F, cold enough to turn Frosty Boy into ice cream. I also use it to burn off warts in the clinic.

Kris adding the LN2.

Step 4: mix well and take care not to freeze your fingers to the bowl

Step 5: eat it up!

As interesting as the science is, this was definitely the highlight of the tour for me.


At 11:12 PM, Anonymous Tara said...

Is liquid nitrogen edible?

At 6:45 PM, Blogger Heidi said...

I forgot to add that liquid nitrogen is super freezing cold and it actually freezes the mixture into ice cream. It will evaporate away into gas before you eat it. I edited the post to include that little fact. Sorry!


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