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I have spent weeks (not solid, more as a background task) trying to figure out how to produce a silkscreen for a set of front and rear panels I have been working on. As I indicated a while back, I am learning AutoDesk's Inventor 3D CAD software. In general, I have found it to be an intuitive and powerful package; however, to finish the job, I needed to produce the artwork so I could get a silkscreen done (just some basic lettering for the faceplate for some of the electronics controlling part of an experiment to go into SNOLAB). Well, whatever intuitivity (my invented word of the day) there may be in the rest of Inventor, it doesn't exist when trying to do a silkscreen. All the web pages I read talked about how to add lettering to a design, but didn't explain how to export it to what was once called "camera ready artwork" (basically the artwork needed to create the screen for the application of the ink/paint). The few web pages that went into any detail were either very old or simply indicated that it was a waste of time to even bother trying, and to use AutoCAD instead. Ultimately, that was the route I went, but I haven't used a version of that software in probably 20 years and it's not the same package at all anymore, so it was a learn-from-scratch scenario again.

I am clawing my way, millimetre by painful millimetre, to productivity.

For posterity's sake, here's the procedure I followed (I know these show up on searches of the Intertubes; and if I don't write it down, I'll forget it myself):
  1. From Inventor, create a drawing at 1:1 scale for the 3D part's face that will be silkscreened (choose the proper sized "paper" to hold the whole drawing... C size in my case). Fill out the information box as necessary as this will be included in the output file from AutoCAD. I did this by going New->Drawing, then clicking on the Base button in the Create tools, then setting the scale to "1" and selecting the "Hidden Lines Removed" Style. I have two drawings them from the same 3D part: one that I dimensioned and gave to the machinist to make the actual part (which has different scales and such), and a new one that I created for the silkscreeen generation that just has the holes and cutouts and stuff along with the info box and page border.

  2. Close the drawing for the silkscreen in Inventor and open the drawing in AutoCAD (if you don't close it in Inventor first, AutoCAD complains that something else has it open and offers to open it in "read only" mode).

  3. On the Home tab in AutoCAD (we're done with Inventor), in the Layers tools, click on Layer Properties and then delete all the layers that are not going to be needed (there are a bunch). The way to do it is to turn off (the little lightbulb) all the layers and bring back the ones you need, then delete everything else you can (on this job, one layer could not be deleted or renamed for me). In my case, I kept the following layers and deleted the rest: 0 (can't delete), Border (ANSI), Title (ANSI), and Visible (ANSI). On the previous one I did, there was another layer (Defpoints) I could not delete. Furthermore, I could probably have deleted the Border (ANSI) layer in both, but I just left it hidden.

  4. To satisfy the requirements of the company I was sending my artwork to, I had to rename Visible (ANSI) to MECH (the mechanical layer that showed the holes and such), and Title (ANSI) to PAGE (which had the identification information on it and any further instructions). I then needed to create two new layers: WHITE (one layer for each colour... I was only doing a single colour since it was basic lettering), and REGISTER (to hold registration marks to allow for alignment of the panel to the screen).

  5. Go to the Layers tools and, using the pulldown, select WHITE (or whatever colour you are using). Changes made will go in that layer. Under the Annotation tools (in the Home tab), select Multi-Line Text (or single line if that's what floats your boat... I'm just providing my experience) and place whatever text is needed. I did not have any artwork (the logo for the project would have taken days to convert to a monochrome one and that was out of scope for me). The company I'm sending it to indicated that I should use colour #7 for all the layers. The existing layers were, thankfully, imported with that colour already.

  6. To place text, select Multi-Line Text, one corner of the rectangle to place it in, and then the other corner of the rectangle to place it in. Type text into the box, resizing it as necessary to fit the text the way you want (one or more lines). You can use Enter to put in a line break. The key is to select the correct justification to allow the text to be positioned exactly. For instance, I wanted to place text below a cutout for an AC Power Entry Module about the allowable voltages, the maximum current draw, and what fuses to use. I put the text on two lines (voltages and current, and fuse specifications), selected the Center alignment button in the Paragraph tools, and then selected Top Center TC from the pulldown Justification list in the Paragraph tools. If you are aligning it to something below it, use Bottom Center BC (Left or Right Center to align it to the side, but then use Left/Right alignment as well for the text). That gave me centred text with a handle in the middle of the text above the text that I could choose to align with the cutout. Select Close Text Editor way over on the right to finish editing the text (it can always be opened up again by double-clicking on it).

  7. Align and place the text where you want it... sadly, easier said than done. You will need some feature to align it to for starters. In my case, I had a rectangular cutout. In Inventor, lines have convenient middle handles that can be used for alignment, but in AutoCAD, just the ends of the lines have handles. As such, to centre my text below the cutout, I had to go to the Annotate menu and select the Centerline button from the Centerlines tools, then select the sides of the cutout to create a centreline. Once that was done, I could click on the text to select it, click on the square handle (at the top in the centre per my justification choice earlier) and then hover it over the centreline I just created to lock it on, then I could drag it down below the cutout and, as long as I didn't drag it too far off to the side, release the mouse button to drop it below the cutout along the centre line (it snaps to the feature). As you drag the text, there will be a dotted line to the feature it is locked to so you know it's aligned with the centre (or whatever). This took me a long time to figure out how to do, but it's nice and easy once I knew. You can also use the Center Mark tool from the Centerlines tools on holes and circular cutouts, which is preferable (on my previous design, I had a hole aligned above my square cutout that I used for alignment, it was a lot easier).

  8. To set the distance between the text and the feature, you need to go to the Parametric tab and select the proper tool from the Dimensional tools. In this case, I used the pull down on the left of the tools to select Vertical. The theory is that you constrain the text to be a certain distance from an edge or a hole or something, but the reality is not quite so easy. If it is a hole, then it seems to work out fairly well, but for a rectangular cutout even, it takes some work. To set my distance on the cutout, I first had to draw lines (the Line tool from the Home->Draw tools) along the centre line from its top point to its bottom point, and along the two perpendicular lines to the centre line of the cutout. I then used the Trim tool from the Modify tools, selected the newly drawn line over the centre line, and then the top line I just drew (the two reference objects), then do a right click with the mouse to terminate object selection and put it into trim mode, then click on the part of the new centre line that is above the cutout to trim it off. It will look like the line is still there, but it is the proper centreline that was added earlier. Delete the proper centreline, and the top line that was drawn on the cutout. That will leave the rest of the new line drawn over the centreline (with its top trimmed off) and the line drawn along the bottom of the cutout. Go back to Trim, select the centre line and the remaining perpendicular line at the bottom of the cutout, right click, select the bit of the centre line sticking out. Finally, there is a handle in that can be accessed by the Vertical tool from the Parametric tool (ugh). There may be better ways of doing this, but this is what worked for me. Then... start the Vertical tool, hover over the text and you will see a red circle with an X through it for the text handle. Click on it. Hover over the intersection between the centre line and the line along the bottom of the cutout to find the next handle (red circle with X) and click on it. Slide off to the side to drag the dimension off to the side and click to place it. Double click on the dimension value and put in what you want (e.g. 0.5 inches in my case). The Parametric tool will pull or push the text to the distance you asked for. Placing other text is generally variations on this theme. Once the text is placed... delete the lines (center and bottom) used to place the text and any leftover dimensions if any (deleting the lines deleted the dimension on my drawing), otherwise these will show up on your silkscreen, which is presumably not desired! If I wasn't already bald, I would be after wrestling with AutoCAD as long as it took me to get this to work.

  9. Rinse and repeat for any remaining text (if you figure out how to place images, maybe post below for others that might find this post... or give a link to an article on how to do it perhaps if it is detailed as what I'm doing here, no need to repeat it if it already exists). At this point, with all the text placed, it is probably a good idea to turn off all the layers except WHITE and make sure the only thing there is text (and that it is all there). If you accidentally placed text on the wrong layer, I know there is a way to move it, but I forget what I did.

  10. Select the REGISTER layer to place registration marks (always a good idea unless the company you're sending to doesn't want them). Here, the hover/lock function I talked about is used heavily. It's quick work once you get the hang of it, but be patient until it makes sense. So... select the Line tool and hover over a corner of the faceplate (or whatever), a hollow green square will appear, move the cursor vertically from the corner and a dotted green line will appear with an X at the end, once away from the corner, click to start the line and then move the cursor up further to define the direction of the line, then enter the length of the line (I used 0.9 inches), press Enter to accept the number, press Enter again to finish the line. You should have a vertical line that isn't touching the faceplate. Do the same to place a horizontal line at the same corner. Then go to the Parametric tab and set a Vertical constraint between the bottom of the vertical line and the horizontal line (I set the constraint to 0.1 inches), and then set a Horizontal constraint between the horizontal line and the corner. Make sure to select the reference line before the line to move/constrain or the reference line will move instead (i.e. for the Vertical line, select the end of the horizontal line first before the vertical line). Repeat for the other three corners and you will have a full set of registration marks of equal length and of equal distance from the four corners. Now... delete all the constraint dimensions so they don't show up on the silkscreen! Stuff is where it is supposed to be and that's enough.

  11. One of the last things I needed to do was to go back to the Layer Properties (under the Main tab) and change the width of the MECH, PAGE, and REGISTER lines (and your silkscreen layer lines if you added any) to values useful to the company doing the silkscreen. In my case, the default they wanted was 0.010 inches, which is about 0.25mm. As long as you didn't override the line width and left the Linetype as "by layer", this is simple from the Layer Properties list (it has a pulldown list of acceptable line widths). I then added some additional text to the PAGE layer (selecting it from the pulldown layers menu) to indicate the ink colour and the material I will be providing to silkscreen (they can acquire it themselves, but I will be giving it to them). This was according to the guidelines provided to me. Lastly, the company I was sending it to could only read AutoCAD files up to version 2007, so once I was done, I did another "Save As..." and saved it to AutoCAD 2007 format with a different name (just appended _ac2007). I send them an AutoCAD 2017 file before I realized that limitation and when they opened it, they said it was blank. When I sent them the 2007 format version, they were able to open it fine.

Well, a technical post, but hopefully it helps someone some day (or reminds me when I need to do it again!).

Hmmm... appropriate video here? Hmmm...

pheloniusfriar: (Default)
Received minutes ago...

Dear Phelonius Friar:

I am pleased to inform you that the Senate of Carleton University, at its meeting of June 2, 2017 granted you the following degree:

Bachelor of Science
Minor in Mathematics

This degree will be conferred at the Convocation ceremony held on June 13, 2017 at 9:30 am. Please bring your campus card with you for registration purposes. Please visit for complete details regarding the June 2017 Convocation ceremonies. You may also view the list of medalists approved at the June 2, 2017 Senate meeting. Graduates also enjoy discounts at the Carleton University Bookstore. Please visit them at: for details.

On behalf of Carleton University, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on this important achievement.

Yours sincerely,
Suzanne Blanchard
Vice-President (Students and Enrolment) and University Registrar
pheloniusfriar: (Default)
Received in the past hour...

Dear Phelonius:

Congratulations! I am pleased to welcome you to the Bachelor of Arts Honours Women's and Gender Studies program at Carleton University. Enclosed are details regarding your offer of admission...

As stated before, I have completed all the requirements to graduate (they included an audit confirming it... the requirements change year over year, so it was possible that I could have gotten caught by something I didn't know about, but I'm good). So... as soon as I have graduated from my B.Sc. Honours program (I was told it would be around the end of May sometime, possibly early June), I can apply to graduate with the B.A. Honours (I already know my final grade as well, it's an A- ... not stellar, but pretty amazing for a degree I had not intended to get when I went to university, and much better than my final grade for physics, ugh). The convocation will be in the fall some time I believe. If you're in Ottawa on June 13, you are cordially invited to an apres-graduation soirée at my place in the evening (if you don't know the coordinates, message me).

In celebration, I present one of my favourite videos (it always makes me smile... and shake my head a little at it as I watch):

Never a dull moment!
pheloniusfriar: (Default)
I am still waiting for the Senate at Carleton University to grant me my B.Sc. Honours in Theoretical Physics (it usually happens at the end of May from what I understand), but I have gone ahead and applied for admission into the B.A. Honours Women's and Gender Studies programme, which should take about 2 weeks and will apparently be in time for the summer semester even though it has begun (I visited the Admissions Office this morning and that's their story and they're sticking to it). As soon as I'm accepted, I will apply to graduate in the fall as I have already completed all the requirements (to my knowledge). I am a broken man on a Halifax pier (and it has been more than 6 years since I sailed away), but it is a consolation that I survived (last year, there was some serious uncertainty) and the amount of time I spent in total is reflected in the multiple results (not my intent at all when I started, fyi).

I am now starting on life number eight (humans get about eleven, unlike cats, phew), at least per one of my favourite comics of all time, from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (there is much more to it than I repeat here to illustrate the points, so it's worth checking out):
Here is something true: one day you will be dead.
Here is something false: you only live once.
It takes about 7 years to master something.
If you live to be 88, after age 11, you have 11 opportunities to be great at something.
These are your lifetimes.

Most people never let themselves die.
Some are afraid of death.
Some think they are already ghosts.
But you have many lives.

Spend a life writing poems.
Spend another building things.
Spend a life looking for facts,
and another looking for truth.

These are your lifetimes. Use them!
Which also reminds me of the final monologue in the movie Sucker Punch:

And it also has a tinge to it of another comic that I have had pinned to the corkboard in my kitchen for years that I read at least once a week so I never forget (click on it to go to the page it is from):

I just found out that a very good friend had her visa application to teach in China approved last night and she will be leaving for over a year to do something that is utterly out of her comfort zone. She is a hero to me because she is starting a whole new life, and it is a beautiful and terrifying and magical thing to behold. And yes, I do plan to take her up on her offer to come visit her while she is there... I have never been to China.
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I am now working full time at the university (as an electronics specialist... sadly, an extension of my previous life and not as a physicist, but I at least get to work with physics instrumentation all over the world, so it could be worse).

One of the main issues I'm facing right now is trying to get a set of tools up and running that will do all of the things that are being asked of me: FPGA and possibly ASIC design, schematic capture and PCB layout, laboratory instrumentation systems, integrated circuit manufacturing and quality control, mechanical design, safety and reliability engineering for electronics equipment to go in a mine (2km deep) or into the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, etc., etc., etc.. My total budget for purchasing tools and training is zero. $0. Nada. Zilch. Bupkis. Being at a university, however, I can get free access to a bunch of very expensive tools for research and academic purposes. Furthermore, I got the physics department to get a Canadian Microelectronics Corporation membership, so we can access even more tools through them. So far, I am learning AutoDesk's Inventor for 3D mechanical CAD, Mentor Graphics' PADS PCB (including DxDesigner) for schematics and board layout, Mentor Graphics' HDL Designer for FPGA and ASIC design, Xilinx's ISE and Vivado for FPGA synthesis (I need both because I'm designing for both old and new families, including Zync), Xilinx's ModelSim for FPGA simulation, CERN's ROOT for scientific analysis and computing (C++ framework), and LabView for instrumentation control. I use LibreOffice for documents and spreadsheets ;). I switch back and forth on the one computer system I have between Linux and Windows depending on what task I have to perform.

Needless to say, I'm overwhelmed with training myself on all these systems all at once (some of which have nearly no actually useful documentation). And I need them all to accomplish the work I have been asked to do. It's like drinking from a firehose, with predictable results... ;)

pheloniusfriar: (Default)
I just got my grade for the last class I had to take (4th year quantum mechanics), and I passed. I did not get the mark I was hoping for, but moving on to a new phase of my life is much more important (it has been so many years of being stressed out of my mind 24/7/365.25, it is going to take me a while to decompress). As such, I will be graduating in June (well, officially before then I presume, but ceremonially in June). I will have a B.Sc. Honours in Theoretical Physics with a Minor in Mathematics. As soon as I get the official word that I have graduated (it is pending now and needs to be approved by the university Senate, along with approvals for everyone else graduating), I will be applying for admission to the B.A. Honours Women's and Gender Studies programme. Having completed all of the requirements for that programme already, as soon as I'm accepted (presuming, of course), I will be applying to graduate from that as well (it will be a fall convocation for that).

Anyone in the Ottawa area is cordially invited to a party at my place the evening of Tuesday June 13th, which is the day of my convocation. I will hold a post-graduation party as well within a couple of weeks of that (probably the weekend of the 24th) for those who can't make it out on a weekday night. Just private message me if you don't know the way... Note: if you ask me for the way to San Jose, then that song will be stuck in my head, and I will hate you ;).
pheloniusfriar: (Default)
This is the first real academic research and writing assignment I ever did, back in 2010. There were a few short essays I had to do earlier in the first year (year long) Introduction to Human Rights course I was taking at the time, but they were just a few pages and leveraged the analysis and integration and writing skills that I had apparently developed over the years (the writing skills were a big surprise to me since I assumed from my high school experiences decades before that it was not something I was good at). They were also not huge jobs. This, on the other hand, was a semester-long 3rd year independent study project on a subject I had no idea about previously (I knew what muons were, and had heard of cosmic rays, but that is about the extent of it). To have been presented with this opportunity in my first year of studies was quite the honour (especially because it would lead to employment over the summer of 2010 and possibly beyond), but it rapidly became clear that I was deeply in over my head both from a subject and skillset point of view. Specifically, writing an academic report is very, very different from any research and writing I had done before, and I was woefully unprepared for what it would take. Needless to say I learned a lot (and got an A-), but it definitely took a toll on my well-being (it ended up being 45 pages and cited 29 works, ugh). I do think it's a good first attempt at something like this, but it does contain some inaccuracies and is missing some fairly important stuff, however it is a good introduction to the topic and I've always wanted to post it here some day (it would have been better if I had MathJax, but I'll just post the images inline as there are relatively few). There are a few bits that I thought turned out quite well, and I can at least be proud of those parts.

Don't let the physics scare you away, I'm coming at the subject generally and mostly in plain English because that's all I had at the time (I do try to do that still, fyi, but I have a bit more knowledge to draw from now and can avoid some of the mistakes I've made here). As a note, completing this project did land me a gig that lasted from the summer of 2010 through the summer of 2013 on three projects related to cosmic ray muons (tomography and solar weather analysis), and formed the foundation for the work I've been doing since with upgrades to the ATLAS detector at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Switzerland (I've never been there myself, but I've been to TRIUMF, Fermilab, and DESY as part of all of this... and maybe SLAC this coming spring or summer?). A very good friend once claimed that they saw me “living a life of small adventures”, and that does seem to be an ongoing thing.

The Use of Cosmic Ray Muon Tomography in the Detection of Concealed High-Z Materials


A. The need for screening

It is becoming ever more important to monitor the flow of goods and people as a deterrent against state, criminal, or ideological organizations that may wish to wage war or cause serious disruption through the use of various asymmetric weapons systems within the territories we wish to consider secure. To that end, increasing surveillance and intrusive inspections have been implemented at points where the greatest risk exists, for instance at airports and border crossings. For an effective deterrent, all traffic through these key points of commerce and travel especially, as well as the appropriate measures for points between, require 100% screening to be maximally secure. For historic and economic reasons, this strategy of complete coverage presents an extreme challenge to even the most affluent and security conscious of societies. Furthermore, any onerous impediment to the efficient movement of goods and people elicits an economic cost of its own that can destroy the very prosperity that such security measures wish to protect.

While it can be argued that the smuggling of conventional weapons poses the greatest chance of occurring and resulting in harm being inflicted through their use, all but the largest of instances of such smuggling into otherwise stable countries are dwarfed by the already existent availability of these items within those countries. Where the national government of a country needs to protect its citizens against all forms of weapons smuggling, it has a special obligation to prevent the use of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) weapons against its population, infrastructure, services, and legitimate foreign interests: “Asymmetric CBR threats provide an adversary with significant political and force multiplier advantages, such as disruption of operational tempo, interruption/denial of access to critical infrastructure and the promulgation of fear and uncertainty in military and civilian populations. [...] Proliferation will continue to dramatically increase the threat from the use of CBR agents by states or terrorist organizations against unprotected civilian populations. Proliferation also poses an asymmetric threat against non-combatants outside the immediate theatre of conflict, including Canadians at home.”1 As such, most functional nations have embarked on integrated strategies to minimize the chances of CBRN related incidents. In general, those efforts can be categorized in five ways: supporting or directing the improvement of foreign CBRN control, detection, and enforcement; border CBRN detection equipment and domestic law enforcement training; the securing of legitimate CBRN materials within the country’s borders; improved intelligence operations to detect potential smuggling operations before they occur; and various domestic and international research and development projects to improve overall control and detection capabilities.2

Furthermore, of the CBRN threats, there are emergency measures and possible mitigations that can be taken to minimize the impact to the population and infrastructure of a successful attack with chemical, biological, or radiological weapons; however, the damage that would be inflicted should a nuclear device be detonated in a populated area would be devastating beyond measure to both the fabric and spirit of the country, its operation, and its people. Such results make special nuclear materials3 (as could be used in a nuclear bomb) particularly attractive targets for terrorists4 (“independent” or state sponsored): “Nuclear smuggling is an increasing concern for international security because creating a viable nuclear weapon only requires several kilos of plutonium or highly enriched uranium. The International Atomic Energy Agency has documented 18 cases of theft of nuclear [weapon grade] materials within the last decade, and probably more instances have occurred without report. This is especially prevalent within the former Soviet bloc, where large amounts of nuclear materials are insecurely guarded and inventories are often faultily kept.”5

Of particular concern is the realization that the view, held since World War II3, that the effort required to build a nuclear weapon was prohibitive, is no longer valid. This opinion had been based on the American experience of creating two small nuclear weapons, but it is now widely accepted that the expertise and technical capability to build a viable nuclear weapon is no longer the exclusive purview of large, economically advanced nation-states. In fact, the knowledge and infrastructure required is potentially within reach of any well-organized and funded group with sufficient long-term determination and resourcefulness: “The only real technological barrier to the clandestine construction of nuclear weapons is access to fissionable material itself. There is a growing black market for this material, and eventually demand will result in enough material reaching as-yet unidentified buyers to produce a nuclear weapon”3. In addition to the smuggling of processed special nuclear materials, given that uranium is roughly 40 times more prevalent in the Earth’s crust than is silver6, the smuggling of uranium ore or low quality extracted uranium from such ore is also a more likely possibility.

While it is widely acknowledged that “most known interdictions of weapons-useable nuclear materials have resulted from police investigations rather than by radiation detection equipment installed at border crossings”2, the asymmetric nature of the threat calls for exceptional measures in the effective detection of smuggled special nuclear and radiological materials that might make it past the intelligence operations to a port of entry into the country. Per the U.S. Container Security Initiative Strategic Plan: 2006-2011, “the cost to the U.S. Economy resulting from port closures due to the discovery or detonation of a weapon of mass destruction or effect (WMD/E) would be enormous. In October 2002, Booz, Allen and Hamilton reported that a 12-day closure required to locate an undetonated terrorist weapon at one U.S. seaport would cost approximately $58 billion. In May 2002, the Brookings Institution estimated that costs associated with U.S. port closures resulting from a detonated WMD/E could amount to $1 trillion, assuming a prolonged economic slump due to an enduring change in our ability to trade.”7 While this is a U.S. figure, it can be scaled appropriately to reflect the impact of such an event on any trading nation, or the domino effect such an act would have on global commerce if it happened anywhere.

B. Screening technologies )

1. Radiation sensors )

2. 2D imaging systems )

3. Tomographic imaging systems )

C. Muon Tomography Systems )

D. Outline of Thesis

Because of the sensitivity of Passive Muon Tomography (PμT) systems to high-Z materials (versus lighter elements) they are a much more targeted solution than more indiscriminate imaging systems, and the lack of an active radiation source eliminates the potential health concerns associated with x-ray and gamma ray imaging systems. While PμT systems only address a particular class of risk, specifically the threat posed by the trafficking of special nuclear materials that could form the basis for a bomb or large well-shielded shipments of radionuclides that could be used in a “dispersal” device, the asymmetric nature of the threat justifies the commercialization of this technology to compensate for the serious limitations of existing technologies in this area of detection. Carleton University’s proposal to use large-area drift chambers for muon detection will result in a device that will provide excellent spacial and temporal resolution with very cost effective readout electronics and data processing requirements; however, the initial requirement for a flowing gas in the first generation solution presents a negative offset through higher infrastructure and ongoing maintenance costs that would need to be mitigated as part of a widespread deployment of this particular solution.


A. Overview

Primary cosmic rays are very high energy charged particles (into the range of many TeV24) that originate mostly outside of the solar system, from astrophysical sources, and are comprised primarily of protons (~80%) and helium nuclei (~14%), with the remaining being heavier nuclei such as carbon, oxygen, and iron. These can also interact with interstellar gasses to create a much lower flux of secondary cosmic rays comprised mostly of anti-protons and lithium, beryllium, and boron nuclei23. When cosmic rays interact with the Earth’s atmosphere at high altitudes, they produce showers of thousands of “secondary” particles, usually also called “secondary cosmic rays”. Most of the particles so generated decay or interact with atmospheric atoms before they can reach the surface of the Earth; however, a shower of gamma rays, electrons, neutrons, and muons24 (due to relativistic time dilation) do reach the lower altitudes of the atmosphere and the surface itself. Of these, the cosmic ray muons are of primary interest in this application due to their high energy, penetrating power, and the relative ease that their path and momentum can be precisely determined.

B. Spectrum and properties )

C. Multiple scattering and tomographic analysis )

III. Detectors

A. Overview )

B. Drift Chambers )

1. Basic Operation )

2. Specific Topology )

3. Readout Electronics and Data Processing )

C. Scintillation counters )

IV. Implementation

A. Description of prototype project )

B. Readout Electronics )

V. Further exploration

In addition to the use of the proposed muon tomography systems in border security and container/vehicle inspection, the basic technology can be useful in other applications as well. Furthermore, with appropriate research and development, enhancements to the basic technology are possible that will reduce the total cost of ownership and operation.

A. Use as a scientific instrument

With the possibility of large area muon detectors being deployed along borders and in key strategic locations, it should be noted that each one of these devices can be used as an element in a larger cosmic ray observatory. The information on incident angle and momentum of incoming cosmic ray muons could provide a wealth of data to astrophysicists and particle physicists alike (who can analyze the data against various models developed for subatomic phenomena to support or discard various hypotheses). One major issue is that data on the contents of scanned targets cannot be shared with the general public due to security concerns. This can be addressed by sending data only when a scan is not in progress. Alternatively, if the initial momentum (before interaction with cargo) is reconstructed by projecting the final momentum backwards through the gathered tomographic data when cargo is present, there will be no way to determine anything about the contents of the scanned cargo from the data. In any case, the angular information from the top pair of detectors is gathered before any interaction with cargo and should not present any security risk as it is a purely astronomical data source at that point.

B. Developing a sealed chamber (no gas flow)

The major disadvantage of the drift chamber solution proposed by Carleton University is the need for a flowing gas mixture. If it were possible to seal the chamber and operate it for long periods without needing service, then it would be both cost effective from a readout electronics perspective and from the longer term operational cost and complexity perspective through the elimination of the need to manage gas supplies and disposal. Much work has been done over the years on sealed gas ionization based detectors, and research and development in this area could have a large impact on the cost of muon tomography systems in the field.

C. Use of active muon source system

One of the issues with using cosmic ray muons as a source of radiation for tomographic purposes is their relatively low flux (1 muon (cm2 min)-1). This low flux means that it takes at roughly a minute for a basic scan to determine whether there is any high-Z material of concern. By using an artificial source for a higher muon flux, it could be possible to do the scans faster or to build a more complete tomographic image of the contents of a shipping container or other target of interest. The issue is, of course, that this introduces a vary dangerous ionizing radiation source to the situation and the lack of any additional radiation is one of the attractive elements to using cosmic rays muons as the probe.

D. Use in sealed-container inventory determination and management

There are many installations, for instance Chalk River in Ontario, where there are sealed containers with unknown quantities of potentially dangerous materials in them. There are also situations where contents of containers are claimed to contain certain materials, but need to be verified as part of nuclear control treaties. In those cases, cosmic ray muon tomography could provide an excellent tool for cataloguing and monitoring the contents of these containers. Since this is more of an audit application, the lower flux and time to acquire the necessary level of data are not as much of an issue as for applications that impinge on commerce.

VI. Conclusion

Passive cosmic ray muon tomography systems present an excellent solution to the issue of deterring and detecting the trafficking in nuclear and radiological materials – in the first case through direct detection of high-Z materials, and in the second case, being able to detect high-Z shielding that might be hiding lower-Z radiological materials. The system further distinguishes itself by not introducing any new sources of radiation, thus sidestepping any potential health or safety concerns from the public or business. Carleton University’s proposed drift chamber muon detectors build upon decades of experience in implementing high resolution muon analysis systems, and can be used to determine to a high degree of accuracy both angular and momentum data on the muons passing through a detector system for analysis by the tomographic software. The low cost of readout electronics compensates for the higher cost due to the requirement for gas-filled chambers, and will result in a competitive solution for field-deployable systems.

VII. References )
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This was a short reflection paper I wrote as part of my “Activism, Feminisms & Social Justice” class back in 2013. I had posted the research essay associated with it some time ago, which was done before the exercise, which was before this reflection. Unfortunately, the radio show I did is no longer available on demand... I should find out if the media is still available so I can make it available as a podcast... hmmm... one more thing to do, right? I should mention up here, before reading the essay, that the feminist show mentioned did happen, ran for over a year, and eventually wrapped up when the host ran out of spare time to produce the show. It was wonderful while it lasted though! Here's the paper...

Mental Health Issues and Breaking The Stigma of Labels: A Reflection

As part of the WGST2801 “Activism, Feminisms & Social Justice” Winter 2013 course at Carleton University, it was a requirement to form subgroups within the class, each of which was to mount an activist feminist project on campus. The notion was to take an activity from conceptualization through implementation and then reflect on the process, all within the theoretical frameworks of feminism and of praxis itself. There is something to be said for exposing people to this sort of activity early in their post-secondary education as a way of expanding their capabilities. However, the notion of forcing students to participate in an activist project to qualify for any sort of accreditation in Women and Gender Studies at the university (Carleton University) is a problematic undertaking. Specifically, real harm can be done to those involved if they are unprepared, there is insufficient oversight, or something bad just happens. Conversely, to allow students to receive accreditation without engaging in any sort of praxis is equally problematic to the feminist effort, and has led to deep divisions within the movement over the years (Kerlee). A fine line needs to be walked in introducing a formalized activist framework to students, and it is my conclusion that WGST2801 was too much, too soon, for most participants. Much of the opportunity to learn and grow was lost as a result of having to diffuse the limited amount of students’ time and effort available into so many areas of operation. A more gradual and measured engagement with praxis through each year of an undergraduate degree, culminating in a full project as was attempted here – but in fourth year – would better serve to inspire and inform the next generation of well-rounded feminist activist scholars.

To initiate the projects, all students were guided through a brainstorming session to identify relevant issues of concern, and then through a voting process to create a short list. Due to the class size, it was broken into two main subgroups: four morning tutorials and four afternoon tutorials, and each main subgroup voted for four topics from the overall class list. Five topics were chosen to be shared amongst the eight tutorial groups: LGBTQ, Mental Health, and Reproductive Rights being selected by both morning and afternoon main subgroups, then Media Literacy by the morning subgroup, and Anti-Racism/Indigenous Rights by the afternoon subgroup. We then, based on whether we were in morning or afternoon tutorials, signed up for the topic we were interested in on a first-come basis. I signed up for the morning subgroup on Mental Health. We were then individually required to write a research essay to inform our activism while simultaneously deciding as a group on the specific focus for, and approach to, the topic we were working on. We were then to execute the project as a group with the guidance of the teaching assistants and professor – who provided feedback on ethical and practicality issues with regards to our proposed actions. Once complete, we were to write this reflections paper as a means of critically analyzing the work that was done, and the process itself. The actual execution of the project for our group took place on Monday, March 4th in the Atrium on the 4th floor of the Carleton Unicentre. Formal promotion of the event started the previous Wednesday with a one hour long radio show done by four members of the group and broadcast live on CKCU (CKCU), and followed up with posters placed around campus.

The rest of the essay is here... )

Unfortunately, we did not learn as much as we could and should have through this project. Firstly, due to the design of the course, the spectral goblin of the readings and the final exam haunted the process. It also seemed that the majority of participants had somewhat more than part time jobs on top of school, and that created huge logistic problems that required we use the tutorial sessions to organize the event. The way the course was structured also meant that there was a disproportionate theoretical component that had to be addressed. While it is entirely appropriate and necessary to ensure a strong grounding in feminist and activist theory for any undertakings in such a class, a set of core readings and then specific ones depending on the topics chosen would have helped tremendously in achieving better cohesion, and a more manageable workload. Given the wildly varying levels of knowledge, experience, and skill of the participants, a series of highly focused seminars (in class or in tutorial) at the start of term on the components and efforts that make up any activist campaign would have helped create a more equitable environment for everyone to operate in. More effort could also have been spent finding out the strengths of the participants, and students could have presented half-hour mini-seminars on some aspect of their own experiences or skillset. For instance, I have been trained professionally as a project manager, but there was no room for me to share any of that knowledge. Others worked in the community, both in institutions and literally on the street, and I would have loved to have had a session from them. In retrospect, a two hour tutorial would have been more appropriate: one hour guided or structured, and the other hour where the space was simply made available to the group to use in the organization process. Another small thing that likely would have made a tremendous difference to the cohesion and shared knowledge of the group would have been to encourage us to share the research essays we wrote once we had our marks back, possibly even anonymously (not making it mandatory in case someone was uncomfortable in doing so). A tremendous learning experience was missed there, I believe.

Despite the issues the group faced, as discussed above, the project was very successful and had an excellent outcome within the parameters it had to operate within. I did however become convinced through the effort that a more gradual approach to building a functional activist toolkit would be more encouraging and less problematic than what we had to do. I would envision preparing an information table or other small project in second year from a fixed set of well-defined topics, with the TA acting as project manager and facilitator for the teams. During second year activism classes, the techniques and theory of activism would be conveyed. In the third year, the theoretical underpinnings of activist efforts could be explored and participants could be teamed with a 4th year group. In the fourth year, a full group project would have to mounted – from conceptualization through implementation, much like what we had to do in this class. I know that some participants this year were put off of activism because of the demands that we all become Jacks, or Jills as the case may be, of all trades. The skillset needed, and the confidence that comes with it, need to be built up gradually to encourage lifelong activism. A patient approach in this area, I believe, would have a much more profound impact on those seeking a degree in Women and Gender studies, or those that are simply taking the course for their own interest.

And the bibliography and footnotes are here... )
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I have been ever so gently brushed with the most peripheral of emanations from the recently awarded Nobel Prize in Physics by my presence at Carleton University (and the fact I just recently visited SNOLAB where the science happened... with Dr. David Sinclair himself, no less, as our "tour guide"). Here's some links and a few more pictures I took on that trip:

Dr. David Sinclair, founder of SNOLAB, expounding in SNOLAB:

A look down into a new working area. SNOLAB is already a cleanroom, but smaller temporary ultra-clean cleanrooms are sometimes set up within it for specific experiments (often for cleaning and assembly of sensitive components). You can see one here (the tent-like thing) and another that was open but could be made into a cleanroom again if needed. For scale, those are full height grey storage shelves toward the top of the photo, and a workbench to the left (the green hose thing on the right of the photo above can be seen on the bench in this picture... it's taken from pretty high above). One of the experiments we saw being worked on there was DEAP, an experiment that will be looking for direct evidence of dark matter interactions (a thing we know almost nothing about, and have never observed, but which seems to make up 27% of our universe).

This photo is a reminder that SNOLAB is 2km underground. First, the white coating over the rocks is to keep the dust and small rock fragments from falling into the laboratory that is cut out of the rock. The yellow plates (which are everywhere) are terminators for huge cables that were driven deep into the rock surrounding the human-made caverns, and that keep the surrounding rock under tremendous tension so it doesn't just relax and collapse in on the hole we have dug to work in. Apparently if the blowers ever stop for maintenance, you can sometimes hear rock quakes (and sometimes even with the blowers going). I have been told it is one of the most terrifying things a person can experience.

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Remember how I said I spent my summer in 2014 chained to a radioactive block of concrete for three weeks? Well, I exaggerated... I wasn't actually physically chained... I spent every waking moment there of my own free volition (most of it really exited to be doing something so amazing) to help see that the project we were working on (PDF) gave us the data we needed. It was months of intensive preparation to get there, and what was supposed to have been a part-time consulting role for me turned into a key role with the data acquisition setup for the project. For all that it was certainly a highlight of my career so far as a physicist (and pretty much one of coolest things I have ever done in any capacity), I was seriously over-committed during that project and spent months afterward trying to get back into a groove (which never really happened). But... and here's a big but... I will soon have my name on an article in a peer-reviewed journal (Nuclear Instrument and Methods in Physics Research A) for the effort. I have been published in conference proceedings and have given presentations to some pretty amazing groups, which certainly gets some credit, but being published in a major journal is the full meal deal. Given my place in the grander scheme of things, this is a huge accomplishment for me, and hopefully presages wondrous things to come! A pre-press version of the paper was just released on if you want to take a look at how I spend my summer vacations these days (a PDF will open in a new tab):

Performance of a Full-Size Small-Strip Thin Gap Chamber Prototype for the ATLAS New Small Wheel Muon Upgrade

When it is formally published in NIM, I will definitely be having a major personal celebration!
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To start on a positive note, I have completed my summer courses: Ordinary Differential Equations II, and Introduction to Anishinaabe-Ojibwe. I suspect I got a good mark in the Ojibwe language class (miigwech Prof. Jean), but am still waiting on the results from my exam before the final mark is posted. I did sort of meh in the math class, but I think I will get an acceptable mark. Things have gone pretty badly for my physics degree because I actually failed a critical class that is a dependency for the last two core 4th year classes I need to take to finish up my degree. Sigh. I did say it has been a hard year for me. I will finish all my required classes this coming year except for those last two 4th-year Quantum Mechanics courses. On the plus side, it means that this coming year will be more survivable than the previous one. There's a lot of family stuff going on for me... not bad stuff, but stuff that is taking a tremendous amount of my time... that really pounded me hard this past year (on top of too much work as a Research Assistant apparently, and getting what the doctors suspect was viral pneumonia at the end of the winter term, which helped to lead to the failing of that class... I was surprisingly sick now that I look back at it). I'll use the extra time in school this year to improve my marks in a couple of classes I took but didn't shine in, to finish up the last (but two) credits I need for my physics degree, to retake the course I failed, and to ... ummm, finish the requirements for an Honours degree in Feminist Studies (officially Women's and Gender Studies). As I indicated previously, I had completed the requirements already for a B.A. General in it, but only need to take a few more courses to get a B.A. Honours, and since I have the time apparently... I might as well do it all. I found out today that Happy was accepted into the same university as I'm at for the fall term (she was on a waiting list before), and Beep continues to do really well in her schooling too (hopefully she'll finish up this phase of it this coming year — it is looking very positive, but there's a lot of work left to do).

I'm heading off to the UofT tomorrow to do physics Research Assistant stuff (going to spend a few evenings and all of Sunday doing touristy things). I'm doing work on the data acquisition hardware and software for the Phase II upgrades (due to be complete in 2025) of the ATLAS detector at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). They build the first few Canadian-made sensor modules in Toronto and I'm going there to see if the software/hardware I have can talk to them so we'll be ready at Carleton when they start showing up to test. I should be back in time to do my radio show Wednesday morning.

The fall school term starts for me two Thursdays from now... ugh. Until next time, "It's made out of f***ing cookies........ !!!!!"

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Hmmm... I just realized I haven't posted an essay in a while, something easily rectified (since I have many essays to post still). I have completed the requirements for a B.A. in Women's and Gender Studies (which I still call Feminist Studies) and continue to debate whether to put the moxie into getting a full Honours degree in the subject (I am continuing to slog away at my more technical degrees as well). I do have to say that I apply what I have learned in my everyday living and think I do it in a way that is constructive and not overbearing... it's a very powerful toolkit for looking at the world and has formalized many of the ways I already looked at things (and thrown a few new ideas in there as well). This was the final essay for a 4th year course called "Digital Lives in Global Spaces" that looked at the construction and reconstruction of how we define gender and society in general in a globalized and technologized world (to brutally make up a word). I got a pretty good mark on it even though it's somewhat middling in terms of how I thought it turned out (it's a bit confused in places I find... the prof thought so as well and commented that it marred an otherwise interesting essay). Either way, here ya go.

Blurring Gender Boundaries For Technology

There is no aspect of culture and society that is not somehow deeply entwined with constructions of gender, and the processes used for and artifacts created by technological innovation is in no way exempt. While this results in egregiously gendered products like pink tools and toolboxes1 and pink handguns and rifles2 to purportedly make them more attractive to women and young girls, these tend to be the low hanging fruit for criticism. It is the non-obvious gendering of technology that is more insidious – requiring careful analytic skills to effectively deconstruct, understand, and hopefully challenge how gender is manifest within them. However, if it was simply that technological constructs mirrored the hegemonic gendering so prevalent in society, this would only represent a fraction of the real problem being faced. Rather, it is the ways that technology in turn informs and reinforces how gender is constructed and performed that implements a critical channel of that hegemony. Every aspect and moment of our lives, in every part of the world, is deeply reliant on some form of technology for survival and the construction and maintenance of culture – be that a tool for digging furrows or the latest smartphone. The ubiquity of technology is what makes the messages we receive from that medium so powerful. To that end, if the conformity of invention to normative gender standards is the start of the problem, then that creative process needs to be broadened to be more inclusive of other ways of being and thinking, and if gender is the issue, then queer theory provides a powerful toolkit to apply towards solutions.

The rest of the essay is here... )

With the dominance and ubiquity of the Internet as a mediator of global cultures, a queer approach to existence does not have to be a local phenomenon – it can be demonstrated on a broad scale, and in ways that are difficult to challenge in the long run (as we saw in class, there are many brutal ways online to challenge perceived deviance in the short term). As the GamerGate fiasco has shown, the patience of the accepting majority is wearing thin with abusive behaviour online, and companies like Twitter and Facebook are finally starting to realize that their profits are in jeopardy if they do not provide the tools to their users to combat the online bullying of those that certain communities have deemed to be stepping out of line – a queering of these platforms has, in some ways, begun, and the respect and celebration of difference is starting to make inroads. If this way of thinking can become a dominant discourse, then the rejection of gendered hegemonies in the production and use of technologies of all kinds will become an acceptable possibility for more people. The tipping point will be when sufficient numbers of people can identify that a technical process or artifact exhibits an unwelcome or unnecessary gendered dimension, and have the courage and support to reject the identity that technology wishes to impose upon them. In the former, feminism has provided a robust toolset that can teach how we can become observant of gendered power structures; in the latter, queer theory and culture both shows and demonstrates that it is okay to reject those imposed identities.

And the bibliography and footnotes are here... )
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Well paint me purple and call me Barney, I have just confirmed that I have completed the requirements for a B.A. General in Women's and Gender Studies (WGST) at Carleton University (or "Feminist Studies" as I like to call it)! I will contemplate over the next few months whether to put in the extra effort (and probably one more semester of studies) in order to get a full B.A. Honours in the subject so I could potentially have the credentials to do post-graduate work in the field. Oddly enough, the marks I have in that subject are head and shoulders above what I'm getting in my primary (B.Sc.) degree program. Go figure. I will confirm again, but I do not believe I can apply for admission to the B.A. WGST program until I have completed the B.Sc. Honours Physics (Theory) degree program and graduated... even if I have completed all of the requirements for the B.A.. You are apparently not allowed to graduate with more than one degree at a time (except where particular dual degree programs are offered by the university, and then it's more of a combined degree rather than two separate degrees). Not a big deal. Having actually finished the requirements for something (anything) does mean that I am making progress even though it feels some days like I'm just floundering helplessly. I was really sick at the end of the term and had to defer my exam in mathematical physics, but I did complete the two WGST courses I was taking this past semester (thanks to the professors being very flexible), and thus completed the requirements for the B.A. General this semester (one was the last "core course" I needed to take for the degree, "Feminist Research": I got an "A+" [wtf???]; and the other was a 3rd year course called "Transnationalism and Feminism": I got an "A-" [woot!]).

Plans for today: continue cleaning my room (it is just cluttered and I need it to be not cluttered), start studying again for my mathematical physics exam in mid-June (I want to do at least one or two hours of mathematics and physics every day this summer... I really need to become, as my mathematical physics professors stated, more "agile" at doing math if I want to be successful next year in some extremely hard subjects), get a +/-15V power supply built so I can finally play with the vocoder kit I built several months ago (a PAiA model 6710... it has just been sitting there waiting for power, ugh), book a flight for sometime this week so I can get signed out for being able to rent planes solo again (I have not been consistent and you have to fly with a certain frequency or you have to get "checked out" by an instructor to be signed out at the flying club for solo flights... a policy that makes excellent sense, imho), I will be having delicious tacos for dinner tonight, and I will catch up on the two free Coursera courses I'm taking at the moment: "Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided" by The World Bank (of all people... but I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt to access much amazing information and lectures by dozens of scientists and policy makers), and "Web Application Architectures" from the University of New Mexico (a course giving the basics of Ruby on Rails, something I can probably leverage nicely for some of my ideas). Maybe I'll start re-reading Stephenson's "The Diamond Age" before going to sleep tonight (one of my favourite books!). I was basically slammed hard until the wee hours of the morning on Saturday when I turned in the last course work that was due this past semester, and spent most of the weekend drooling on myself (metaphorically speaking)... so it's time to slowly get to the things I have been unable to get to with school pressing so hard on me that past year.

Plans for tomorrow: probably just a continuation of today, heh, I can't imagine finishing all of that before I fall unconscious tonight ;).
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Heh, I realized that by taking that math course this summer (which does count towards a requirement for my theoretical physics degree), I'm also going to have completed the requirements for a minor in mathematics as well. I applied for a change to my program to add the math minor and it was approved. Yet another little surprise on the overall surprising journey I'm on.
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Wednesday I'm getting on a plane and flying from Ottawa to Toronto to Seattle to Spokane (translation: you can't get there from here). I'll be flying the "red eye" from Spokane to Seattle to Chicago to Ottawa (see previous assertion) on the way back... leaving at 8:30PM Saturday and arriving at 1:32PM on Sunday. I believe the administrator's assertion that it was the cheapest airfares they could find ;). While in glorious Spokane, I will be staying at the similarly glorious Super 8, which is only a 20 minute drive to the nearest shuttle service to the conference. It would be nice if we had a car, but we don't. And nothing says undergraduate like having to share a room with another student at a Super 8. But here I go again. I wonder if this roommate will be up all night playing the ukelele like that time in Sudbury? He was really good at least... We shall see what wonders present themselves.

So, what brings me to Spokane I hear you ask? (yes, I'm right behind you this very second as you read this... psych!). I will be presenting at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research about some of the work I have done, specifically the work I did on the small-strip Thin Gap Chambers (sTGC) for the 2018 Phase I upgrades of the New Small Muon Wheel of the ATLAS detector at the Large Hadron Collider when I was at Fermilab for that Test Beam last year. I can also preview some of the work I'm doing now for the 2025 Phase II upgrades of the Inner Tracker (ITk) of the ATLAS detector (one slide... just a teaser). I will be going there with two other Carleton University undergraduate students: one presenting on (I'm going to get this wrong, sorry) education strategies for children I think, and the other on Newfoundland folk songs about disasters (I'm a huge fan of east-coast folk music, so I'm looking forward to this one especially... maybe he'll sing in our hotel room... or play a concertina or something... maybe I should bring mine along, lol, and we can jam). The description and time of the talk is here if you are curious or want to drop by to say hello.

The main issue is that classes are still in session at Eastern Washington University where it's being held, but we're into the exam period at Carleton University... I still have a number of assignments to complete and hand in before I fly out, I had to reschedule my feminist research exam because it was to be written while I was away (the professor is graciously allowing me to write it on Tuesday, which is still a panic situation given everything else I've got going on and the fact I was terribly ill all this past week with a high (40°C/104°F) fever and am still really weak, but I still appreciate it... it's easier than trying to get an invigilator in Spokane). I also have what will be a brutal exam on the 21st in mathematical physics that I have to somehow find the time to study for. I also suspect that having an actual presentation when I show up in Spokane would be a good idea (I have most of the bits and pieces already, I just need to buff it up a little, but it is yet another thing). Some of my classmates from the feminist studies course are going to get together tomorrow at noon for a study session, so perhaps some help can be gotten there. I partnered with another classmate on doing the research project for the class and we turned it in on Thursday, so at least that's off the table now (although I don't think it's appropriate that a 3rd year report ended up being 50+ pages long when all is said and done). Well, off to re-read an article so I can summarize it for my classmates tomorrow (who are supposed to reciprocate with ones of their own from our required readings list): Bev Gatenby and Maria Humphries' "Feminist Participatory Action Research: Methodological and Ethical Issues", fyi, is the one I'm doing. Wish me luck.

Oh, I've decided to quit my job as a Research Assistant for the summer and focus on overcoming the serious burnout I seem to be experiencing (yes, I can hear the gasps of surprise... not). I will take two summer courses only. Now, I will be nominally volunteering as a Research Assistant over the summer, furthering the work I have already been doing, but it will be without deadlines or having to come in every day. The two courses I am currently signed up for (this may change, there are many conflicting and competing possibilities and I have a few weeks to modify my choices) are Ordinary Differential Equations II ("Series solutions of ordinary differential equations of second order about regular singular points; asymptotic solutions. Systems of ordinary differential equations of first order; matrix methods. Existence and uniqueness theorems. Nonlinear autonomous systems of order 2; qualitative theory. Numerical solutions of ordinary differential equations.") and Intro to Anishinaabe-Ojibwe ("Introductory study of a selected language. Oral skills; basic reading and writing skills. Language offered: Anishinaabemowin. For students learning the language for the 1st time.").

Over the summer my plan is to finish the renovations in the basement (only one thing left to do: a wall along the stairs to keep the cats out... I've had a wall of boxes doing the job until now) and set up my music studio finally... I have all the equipment, I just need to set up the space and haven't had the time or energy. I also want to paint some of the rooms in the house... I've seriously grown tired of the industrial off-white they painted it before I moved in (and crappy quality paint of that crappy "colour") and need something a little more energizing and fun. Beige is not fun. I am also hoping to work on some of my business ideas, but that is more of a "tinkering" sort of thing than serious work with deadlines as well. I plan to sleep a lot this summer... maybe do some hiking and camping (although I'm a little leery about camping given the rather staggeringly horrific tales I already have to tell from previous [ad]ventures). I really want to head up to the Lusk Caves at least and do some spelunking. Oh, and I'm going to work on my commercial pilot's license too with a view to finishing it up in the fall (yes, I've been working on it for far too long, but I'm quite close now, I just need to get in a lot of practice, which takes time and money... the time part has actually been the limiting factor as I even have cash on my account that I haven't used up... sigh...). There's also a nominal plan of driving down to North Carolina for a week to visit friends, but that's very much up in the air given the fact that I won't be gainfully employed this summer (I have some money, but not lots). While it sounds like I still have a lot on my plate, most of it is optional type stuff to do if I'm up to it, but to pass on otherwise. I really have needed to do some stuff for myself and my household and that is going to go a long way to reducing the stress I've been feeling.

Enough update... off to read academic articles!
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I am still trying to get around to posting about the rest of my last trip to Germany... before my next trip to Germany in 5 weeks... but I dug down to the surface of the desk in my room and found a sheet of paper that reminded me I had wanted to post some definitions and a (very) short essay I had to write out for an exam in a first year feminist studies class I took a couple of summers ago (I only have one more core course, that I'm taking next term, and then a handful of electives and I will have completed the requirements for a degree in the subject... this class was also a required class for the degree program). I just tallied my marks from the latest course I took (WGST4804: Digital Lives in Global Spaces), and it looks like my final mark is going to be an A. Now if only I could pull a few of those with my physics degree ;). With any further adieu, here are some definitions and a short essay.

Define each of the following terms in paragraph-length answers: 1) Reproductive Justice, 2) Rape Culture, 3) Compulsory Able-Bodiedness, 4) Queer, 5) Fatphobia.

Reproductive Justice: Definition is under the cut... )

Rape Culture: Definition is under the cut... )

Compulsory Able-Bodiedness: Definition is under the cut... )

queer Definition is under the cut... )

Fatphobia: Definition is under the cut... )

In a 2 page handwritten essay, reflect on how the terms you’ve just defined can help you develop a set of ideas that draw links between society, power relations, and one’s physical body. What are the themes that link these terms to each other? How can these themes be used to build a set of ideas about gender that are informed by feminist thinking? How can these terms be used to challenge normative ways of thinking? In your answer, you must make reference to the terms but do not need to define them. No outside sources are needed.

The short essay answer is here... )

And the citations are here... )
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Actually, Germany. And I'm not mad, I'm just pronouncing it wrong ;). A friend from North Carolina worked the photo processing booth in the town I lived in and she said that one day a lovely couple came in to have their film developed of the trip they had just made to <hard 'G'> "Germany"... Hearing stories from her was always an educational experience. I had stated in my post in August about my trip to Chicago that I would post about my trip to the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) in Hamburg, Germany ", and that "hopefully I can get to it before December". Hmmm... December is looking pretty near, and I'm planning my next trip to DESY in January (this time, I will be visiting both the Hamburg facility and their Zeuthen facility, which is just outside of Berlin... suweeeet!). It's going to seriously mess me up for my classes at the start of the school term (yes, I'm still an undergrad, ugh... doing this and having to continue to deal with offspring [now adult, wtf?, how did that happen... I'm still not sure I'm an adult yet, heh] is brutal), but seriously... Germany! Oh well, my life is, if nothing else, not boring.

So, where to start? Hmmm... let's start with Air France sucks farts from dead cows. The flight from Montreal, Canada (I had to take an "Air France" charter bus from Ottawa to Montreal) to the Charles de Gaulle airport in France was late getting in, so I missed my connecting flight to Hamburg. By the time I got there, I had missed all of the train connections to East Germany. I had planned to visit my very good friend [profile] blackbird_tanya (sorry to Dreamwidth users, that will be a broken or incorrect username) in and around the Erfurt region, and that was why I had arrived on the weekend before the conference. It only would have been for a day or so, but she visited me (and others, of course) while she was heading across Canada on family business, and I thought it proper to reciprocate since I was finding myself within reach of where she lived. But, it was not to be, there were no trains out that night, and if I tried the next day, I'd just have to turn around and head straight back to Hamburg at the crack of dawn on Monday. I was, shall we say, not a happy camper. When you add to that the fact that I had not made any arrangements for accommodations in Hamburg until Monday evening, and I was travelling on a starving-student budget (it was travel on the hairy edge of possible even though it was nominally funded by Carleton, I was on my own for any expenses outside of the three days of the conference proper I was going to, and wasn't expecting my piddling paycheque until Monday as well), I found myself stranded in Hamburg with no place to stay, not nearly enough money, and I had found out that I was going on the trip only a week or two before I left so I didn't even have a chance to learn a few words of German to let me function. It was not a good scene. I knew I could figure out a way of staying off the streets that weekend (I am, if I may say so, resourceful), but I was seriously bummed out about not being able to visit with my friend because of crappy airline service.

So... what to do? On the streets of a foreign city with no place to go, not knowing a word of the language (okay, no useful words... seriously how far was knowing how to say "lederhosen" going to get me?), and pretty close to broke for two more days. I did what anyone in my situation would do: called my punk friends to ask if I could couch-surf for the weekend! Now, to be fair, I had planned to meet up with them later in the week since they were living in Hamburg (thank goodness I was in Hamburg and not Bucharest or something), but this was an unexpected turn of events and I figured I should a least start there before I spent my last centime on two nights accommodations (presuming I could find a place cheap enough). Ultimately it all worked out and they were ultra-awesome in letting me impose for a few days. I managed to figure out how to buy a U-Bahn ticket, and then found my way out to the neighbourhood they lived in (they provided directions and met me at the station... Hamburg public transit is amazing... and my friends are even more amazing!!!), we grabbed a bite to eat at a restaurant on the way, and I got to stay with one of the coolest people on Earth for the weekend: [personal profile] dextra (hmmm... someone does seem to have this username on Dreamwidth, but it's not the person I'm talking about). [profile] pfloide was away at a mathematics conference or something at the time (or was it working on the updates for a paper that had been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal?... I know he was doing that too, my memory is a little fuzzy on the specific details, it has been a while and a lot has happened in the intervening months), but I did get to meet up with him later in the week for a fun get together with a bunch of expats, and few Germans (including someone that I knew in the physics community in Hamburg, who came out with me). I developed a nominal friendship with their crazy cat that weekend, and managed to get myself better oriented in Hamburg before heading in to the conference Monday morning. I remain very appreciative and thankful that my sorry ass was saved and that [personal profile] dextra and [profile] pfloide were so gracious that weekend. I was still bummed about not making it to Erfurt, but it was really good to get together with another old friend that I hadn't seen in many years. You can tell just how fierce their cat was in this picture I took...

Note: As with all of these sorts of posts, you can click on a picture to open the full size image in a new tab... just in case you should be so desirous ;).

I arrived at DESY bright and early Monday morning. My presentation wasn't until 17h25, so it was a day of being sprayed with a firehose of information on high energy physics and detector technologies. And yes, I seriously loved it! For anyone who has a burning desire to see what sort of stuff I'm working with, you should have that looked at by a doctor (or you can look at a PDF of my presentation, here). The building it was held in was only recently built (new buildings were going up elsewhere on the DESY campus too), and the internal architecture was pretty cool.

Photos of the insides of the building are under the cut... )

After we were done for the day, myself and some physicists from the conference went out for dinner in the harbour area of Hamburg (Hamburg is the 2nd largest port city in Europe from what I was told). The World Cup was on, so finding a place where we could hear ourselves think was something of a challenge. We ended up at a Portuguese restaurant a few blocks away from the waterfront, and it was divine! I ended up having a "country style rabbit stew" (or at least that's the best I could make out from the German translation of the Portuguese name for the dish) and it was certainly the envy of the others at the table (who ended up ordering much less adventurous dinners). The flavours were simple, but perfectly executed, and it was hearty and very satisfying. I also ended up having the best beer I had while I was in Germany, but can't recall the name of it, sigh... The meal did turn out to be the best I had while I was in Hamburg (overall the restaurant food was surprisingly disappointing), but I did have a few other good meals at least while there. I should mention that the cash machine they had in the cafeteria building at Hamburg did accept my bank's Interact (debit) card, so I could withdraw Euros from there to spend, so that all went well while I was there!

Photos of my first view of Hamburg's harbour are under the cut... )

So, there was my first few days in Hamburg. Coming up next is the tour I was able to tag along with on the following day to the decommissioned HERA ("Hadron Elektron Ring Anlage") accelerator tunnels, and many more amazing pictures of Hamburg (some of them are some of the best photos I've ever taken I think). Until then, I leave you with this picture of a tractor pulling out of the DESY facility. This was taken on my way in Monday morning. It's kind of bizarre, because other than the sign, it's just a typical Hamburg suburban street. When you walk in, you can see that's it's an industrial campus, but there are no clues standing where I was... Now that I've at least started my Hamburg posts, I can get back to studying for my 4th year Cosmology test on Monday (I've been grumbled that I haven't had the time to blog in months, it has been, as I have said, a brutal few months).

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Now that I have my overall mark back for the "Information Technology and Society" course I took at the start of the summer (an "A", I'm very happy with my mark, of course!), I can finally publish the final essay that I wrote. It took a couple of interesting twists and turns and brought together a few conceptual threads that I am surprised went together as well as they did. It starts by looking at the Canadian case of a man who was arrested for distributing child pornography and subsequently launched a Supreme Court of Canada challenge against his conviction because of how the police found him. The interesting part is that the court didn't stop at ruling on his case, but made sweeping statements about what expectation citizens in a civil society have to privacy and, more surprising to me that it was also tackled, anonymity. At odds with the notion of online privacy is Dawkins' notion of "memetic life", and I bring that into the discussion to ask whether we have any chance at all of having anything like what we consider to be privacy in this networked age — whether we want it or not.

Information Privacy and The Internet

On June 13, 2014 the Supreme Court of Canada, in the case of R. vs. Spencer, found that the constitutional rights of Matthew David Spencer had been violated when the police requested “pursuant to s. 7(3)(c.1)(ii) of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)”1, and subsequently received “without prior judicial authorization”1, identifying information from his Internet Service Provider (ISP) based on his Internet Protocol (IP) address and the time window of his criminal usage of the Internet. Spencer was tried and convicted with evidence collected from his residence — with a proper warrant secured to actually enter and search the house, and seize his computer equipment — based on the police’s observations of his online activities and the identifying information received from the ISP that led them there. However, Spencer appealed the conviction stating that the technique used to locate him was a violation of his Section 8 Charter rights, which states that “everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure”2. The case ultimately went to the Supreme Court of Canada which ruled that, yes, his rights had been unwittingly violated by the police, but that due to the nature of his crimes, “the exclusion of the evidence rather than its admission would bring the administration of justice into disrepute”1, and his appeal was denied. While the search was ultimately deemed to have been illegal, the police “were acting by what they reasonably thought were lawful means to pursue an important law enforcement purpose”1 (in other words, they didn’t understand how PIPEDA worked), and Spencer would do his time.

But the case took on a more important and far-reaching significance when the court went beyond the specific questions of admissibility of evidence, and took a broad look at information privacy and expectations of anonymity on the Internet. In particular, the court stated “the police request to link a given IP address to subscriber information was in effect a request to link a specific person to specific online activities [which] engages the anonymity aspect of the informational privacy interest by attempting to link the suspect with anonymously undertaken online activities”1. Since the police and the lower courts were apparently operating on an incorrect interpretation of PIPEDA and how the constitution applied to information privacy vis-a-vis the Internet, and in light of the tremendous amount of publicity and concern over privacy as it relates to the Internet at this time, the Supreme Court of Canada felt it necessary to examine the relationship between ownership and control of one’s personal information as it related to one’s activity on the Internet, and what were reasonable expectations of anonymity and privacy on what is essentially a public conveyance of information. This question is being asked in many different ways lately in light of the revelations widely circulated as part of the Snowden data leak — people are starting to question the impact of seemingly ubiquitous and aggressive government and corporate data collection on the security and privacy of customer’s data “in the cloud”, especially (but not limited to) data stored outside the borders of a country3 or that travels across international boundaries4.

The rest of the essay is here... )

The uneasy memetic to and fro between information seemingly “wanting” freedom, and the powerful drive to maintain control over it does not have a hegemonic solution, but rather will reach various states of dynamic equilibria over time. If one considers the memetic notion of info-freedom as a state, then this can be thought of as a “gaseous” phase of information; similarly, the meme of info-privacy can be conceptualized as information being in a “liquid” phase. [There can also be a “solid” phase where information is precipitated out of the infosphere and stored in a way that requires energy to release it from that phase into a liquid phase (or sublimated directly to the gas phase), but that is a subtlety that I will avoid for the moment in order to simplify the discussion]. In the former, information will expand to fill all the possible states available for it to be in and if new ideas (memes, information, data) is introduced into the system, it will over time diffuse through the entire infosphere. In the latter, information is still fluid, but it can be contained, controlled, measured, and distributed by those who manage its container. I humbly propose that what I have described comes complete with a fully-formed set of mathematical tools that could be used in the analysis of the flow of information from the “liquid” to the “gaseous” forms and back again: this field of study is called thermodynamics. Since information has already been framed using thermodynamic concepts (entropy), it seems natural to press the larger toolset available from that field into the study of how information will move towards a state where the flow of information between the “gaseous” and “liquid” states will be in balance — like a pool of liquid water in a vacuum at a certain temperature (where liquid water can still exist) will eventually stabilize into some amount of liquid and some amount of gas. As the pressure increases in the system, the equilibrium point will move toward more water and less gas; or as the temperature increases, that point will favour the gas phase. I would argue that we can consider the Internet (or broader infosphere) as the “box”, but one that is expanding exponentially (decreasing the gas pressure and favouring a gaseous state); but that the amount of information is also expanding exponentially (increasing the pressure and thus favouring a liquid state), and thus the equilibrium point is constantly moving and reacting to decisions we make regarding the extent of our global network infrastructure, privacy legislation, how much information is generated at what rate, and how accessible (from an interpretation standpoint) that information is, amongst other criteria.

Like any other ecosystem that humans participate in, we can and will shape it to suit whatever priorities we have at the time. In the end, if we consider the memetic perspective as accurate, neither absolute OCAP nor complete permissiveness will win, but rather a dynamic and ever-changing balance will be achieved between the two. The challenge we face then is, like trying to model the ecosystem of the Earth, to develop models we can use to analyze its dynamic behaviour, but to do so, we need to increase our understanding, though examinations like the R. vs. Spencer case, of what questions need to be asked.

And the bibliography is here... )
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I started writing this post at the end of May... and worked on it when I could in June... and am just getting to post it now... it has been quite the summer. Ugh.

As folks may or may not know, I am a full-time undergraduate student at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, studying Theoretical Physics (amongst other things). My home town is Ottawa, so it made sense for me to head back here when it was time to finally get a university education (read: I had family obligations); and Carleton University's physics department, for its tiny size and limited resources had consistently "punched above its weight" in the cut-throat world of particle and medical physics (if you will pardon the sports and subsequently mixed metaphors, I do know better...). When I was a teen, Carleton allowed me to sit in on a lecture series by David Bohm (one of the most important theoretical physicists of the 20th century). I vaguely understood at most 2% of what he said, but it was obviously an important event for me (I remember the excitement of mine and the others around me just listening). Also when I was a teen, a professor there (I don't even remember their name) used to let me hang around in the chemistry department's laser laboratories and help out (I'm not sure they realized I was skipping high school to be there, heh, but it was way cooler). I have been working part time as a Research Assistant in the physics department pretty much since the start of 2010 (although "part time" can be some value between 10 and 80 hours a week at times). I'm still very much a "larval physicist", but I had an entire career before arriving at university doing electronics, software, and international project management, and it was quite valuable for various projects at Carleton to be able to leverage my existing skill set (for pennies on the dollar I might add, heh). In return, I have gotten to work on some amazing physics projects (hitting, as it were, above my weight as a physicist). It is in that capacity that I got sent to Fermilab accelerator facility in Batavia, Illinois, USA in May 2014 to participate with an international collaboration at the test beam facility there. And by May, I mean pretty much the whole of said month.

I have been working with Carleton's copy of the EUDET Telescope since spring of 2013 (I've talked a little about it here, the link is to the web page I did for it). Fyi, the one at Carleton is called "Caladium"... each instance gets a proper name based on some sort of poisonous plant... an "in joke" for those who produce the units, the rest of us are confused. The first unit was designed as part of a pan-European effort in the early days of the proposed International Linear Collider to become more efficient at testing, characterizing, and learning how to best use new designs for particle detection equipment. There are five in existence and another on the way. The big problem is that the "telescope" was designed to be used in an artificial particle beam like those at DESY in Germany, or CERN in Swizerland (where the Large Hadron Collider is located), or... at Fermilab in the US — but Carleton does not have a particle accelerator to use. The only sufficiently high-energy (> 1GeV) particles we have are the particles that everyone has (even you as you read this, you have them too): cosmic ray muons. Cosmic rays pass through every square centimetre at the Earth's surface at a rate of one every minute (so several pass through your body every second) — they have an average energy of 4GeV and are energetic enough that they hardly slow down as they pass through you, ionizing your body's molecules as they go (fyi, the higher you go, the more of this natural cosmic radiation you get, e.g. flying or on a mountain). The justification for Carleton getting one is it does do a lot of particle detector development and construction for physics projects all over the world. Having a copy of the EUDET Telescope allows researchers to do all required integration work at Carleton before going to an accelerator facility with its very finite, rare, and precious time window to take experimental data while there. If we're going to facilities in Europe, they will quite possibly have their own copy and we can just hook our stuff up to it; and in the case of facilities like Fermilab, we could just bring the telescope with us.

I should be clear that this is not a "telescope" in the sense that most people think of telescopes, but rather a device that can precisely determine the path of particles through it by looking at the ionization they leave in a set of silicon detector chips as they pass through (by looking at where it passes through each chip in turn, you can see the path the particle took). Lots of software is involved to extract the data and do the analysis. Carleton is still in the process of learning how to use the telescope hardware, the data acquisition software (EUDAQ), and the data analysis software (EUTelescope), and one of the goals of the test at Fermilab was to advance our cause in that regard. I've been focusing on the hardware and EUDAQ side of things, and a post-doc physicist has been focusing on the analysis and EUTelescope side of things. I am in the process of broadening my focus to include the analysis as well. I did my 4th year Honours Project on the telescope, and I got an A+ as a result... and that's pretty sweet... but I have still just begun to scratch the surface of what this device can do and how it does it — there is a definite shortage of documentation, and because we have the only EUDET Telescope not in Europe, we're isolated from the community (it seems there's something of an oral tradition when it comes to these devices), so... the most basic things can be a challenge sometimes.

Initially, we were supposed to drive the equipment to Fermilab ourselves. And by "we", I mean me... they were going to rent a truck that I would drive down with another student in the cab with me, and a professor and another student were going to drive with us in a car. This seemed dodgy as fuck to me, and I repeatedly suggested that they be really sure that there would be no problems and that the paperwork was in extremely good order before we left. To look at it another way (and massively distorting the actual truth for storytelling purposes), they were going to load up a truck with nuclear equipment and send me across the border into the United States (that it wasn't actually nuclear equipment, but just detectors for use in high-energy physics experiments might be a subtlety lost on those protecting the border... I was going to be carrying a tube of KY with me just in case, heh). The notion made me (understandably?) nervous. In the end, somebody on our end finally realized what was being proposed and put a stop to it — the shipment would have to be made via a commercial carrier and I would be reasonably assured of not having lights shined places that light should not normally shine. We drove still, but I was able to convince them to get two cars and the trip went pretty well (we did it over two days in each direction, sleeping at a hotel in Sarnia, Ontario). The two cars really made a huge difference in the end and we were able to juggle transportation quite a bit better because of it while we were there. It also proved critical for me not being completely pissed off about how things worked out for me because I, and the other two students from Carleton (okay, one of them was from the University of Ottawa, but he was working at Carleton with one of the profs for his honours project), went to Chicago for the afternoon on our way back to Sarnia at the end of the trip.

Now, I worked my sad little butt off to get to Fermilab, putting way more work into my 4th year honours project than seems reasonable, but I really wanted to go (I fried pretty hard, but what else is new, sigh). I grew up reading about Fermilab and all it accomplished over the years. When I was a teen, Fermilab was the big thing going on in particle physics. The work done there helped to confirm the, then, proposed "Standard Model" of particle physics and shaped our understanding of the way the universe works (the link leads to an 5 minute video easy introduction to this theory). The Higgs Boson was the last piece of the Standard Model, and its discovery at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN was announced in 2013. Several of the earlier key discoveries were made at Fermilab's now defunct Tevatron. For what it's worth, the Standard Model did not exist when I was young... it didn't come into its modern form until I was about 8 years old or so, so I kind of grew up with it and watched it solidify as new data was gathered. Fermilab did a lot during its heyday (from the Fermilab propaganda):
The Tevatron became the world’s highest-energy proton-antiproton collider in 1985. The CDF and DZero collider experiments generated about 1,000 Ph.D. degrees and one scientific journal article a week describing their world-leading discoveries, observations and measurements. These experiments: discovered the top quark, determined its mass to high precision, and recorded two distinct top-quark production mechanisms; explored a new mass range for the Higgs boson and constrained its mass through top-quark and W-boson mass measurements; observed the strongest evidence yet for violation of matter-antimatter asymmetry in particles containing bottom quarks; discovered five B baryons and the Bc meson; and made the world’s most precise W-boson mass measurement.

The Tevatron’s fixed target program included 43 experiments from 1983 to 2000. About 400 Ph.D. degrees and more than 300 scientific papers were generated through these pioneering experiments that tested and refined the Standard Model of particle physics. These experiments: discovered the tau neutrino; observed direct CP violation in kaon decays; made pioneering measurements of charm-quark physics; recorded some of the earliest evidence of particle jets; measured the quark content and structure of the proton and neutron; and bserved the first atoms of antihydrogen using Fermilab’s antiproton source.
Truly heady days of discovery, and now I was finally going to be able to not only visit, but actually do particle physics with a world-class accelerator! Mind officially blown! The Tevatron stopped operation in 2011 due to budget cuts and competition from the Large Hadron Collider (I said it was a cutthroat business to be in...), but the main injector ring was still operational and there is plenty of bleeding edge physics being done at Fermilab still. In particular, neutrino physics is being done there now including the MINOS, MINERvA, and NOvA experiments that use the neutrinos generated by the truly terrifying NuMI device (they are created by slamming 120GeV protons from the main injector into a water-cooled graphite target, blocking the subatomic debris that is generated, and having nothing but neutrinos continue onward through the experiments at Fermilab and then 735km through the Earth to another detector in the bottom of a mine in Minnesota). More neutrino physics experiments are also on the way: in particular, the "Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment" will generate an intense beam of neutrinos at Fermilab that will travel 1300km through the Earth to a mine in South Dakota in order to study neutrino oscillation and help determine whether neutrinos are their own anti-particle (like photons). Down, but not out by any stretch, and the test beam facility that I was going to continues to provide the physics community and industry in general with a critical tool for testing devices and materials using high-energy particles as probes.

Since this is a long post already and I've just "arrived" at Fermilab, I will leave you with pictures of where I stayed (a farmhouse over a century old, Aspen East, my bedroom was the one on the second floor at the far right with the window under the eaves of the house), the bedroom I was in (it had a bathroom and tiny "efficiency" kitchen in which I still managed to make some amazing meals... and yes, the photo was taken at 5:23, All Hail Eris!), and a photo of the Fermilab Test Beam Facility (that strange curved-roof building in the distance behind the herd of bison and the berm of the main particle accelerator beamline). My next posts will be of my time at the test beam, and then my trip to Chicago. More photos will be provided in those posts! Consider these teasers...

And finally, finally, a musical interlude until then... I love this cover of The Cure's "Lovesong" by Nathaly Dawn (did you know she has a Masters Degree in French Literature now? Yowza!):

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But first, for those that enjoy a dabbling in philosophy... and from a reading (Floridi) in the 4th year "Information Technology and Society" course I'm taking at the moment (more on this in the actual Fermilab post to come)...

The Inverse Relationship Principle (IRP) states there is an inverse relationship between the probability of p — where p may be a proposition, a sentence of a given language, an event, a situation, or a possible world — and the amount of semantic information [meaning] carried by p. The IRP states that information goes hand in hand with unpredictability (Shannon’s "surprise factor"). So, the higher the probability of p occurring (as a piece of data), the less informative it is. If P(p) = 1 (that is, the probability of p happening is 100%, like suppose you say "tomorrow, it will rain, or it won't"... your prediction has a 100% chance of happening), it is tautological (includes all possibilities) and is thus non-informative. It is data, but not semantic information (information with meaning). From classic logic: Q is deducible from a finite set of premises, P1, ... , Pn, if and only if [P1 and P2, and ... Pn imply Q] is a tautology. Since tautologies carry no information, "no logical inference can yield an increase of information". So deductions extracted logically from tautologies also yield no information. But... for any logical deduction, the information contained in the conclusion must already be contained in the premises used for the deduction (logical and mathematical inferences are "analytical"), and therefore logic and mathematics must be "utterly uninformative", and this is known as the "scandal of deduction". The fact that we seem to have more collective knowledge after having solved a logic or mathematics problem, flies in the face of the argument that solving such systems conveys no meaning. This remains a huge unsolved bugbear in the philosophy of mathematics and logic.

As with all paradoxes, it usually means that the question being asked or the tools being used to generate the paradoxical conclusion are fundamentally flawed. One of my favourites is Zeno's Paradox of motion: to reach an end-point (say, shooting an arrow at a target), it must cross half the distance first. It must then cross half the remaining distance, and then half of the remaining distance after that, etc. with the implication that, logically, the end-point will never be reached. You can go all shmancy and say, well quantum electrodynamics says it's actually photons that mediate the actions of one object on another and so the objects will interact before the atoms get close to each other. Back to the arrow, the arrow will stop its motion because of photons hitting it from the target, and push atoms of the target out of the way using photons (this is really how the universe works, btw, you never actually "touch" anything, the virtual swarm of photons in your hand interacts with the virtual swarm of photons in the object you "touch" and it pushes your hand away as though there was a solid surface you are touching... kinda fries the ol' noodle to think about), and kathunk, arrow in target... but you can make the same argument that you will need to traverse half the distance required for the photons to be effective and then half that distance, etc. Going deeper doesn't help. Since we know we get to the grocery store when we set out or that we touch (given the definition above) things, what is the solution to the paradox (because it poses a valid question)?


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