Mormons, Trappist monks, gang kids, McCarthy era victims, Pope John Paul II, the mentally ill, presidential candidates, Richard Avedon, 9/11, South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Rwandan genocide, forgiveness: a small sampling of the documentary subjects treated by Helen Whitney, who will deliver the Memorial Church’s William Belden Noble Lectures titled “Spiritual Landscapes: A Life in Film” Feb. 27 through 29.Whitney is an award-winning producer, director, and writer of documentaries whose features have aired on PBS, HBO, and ABC. In these lectures, she will talk about her passionate interest in religious experience and her equally passionate fascination with peoples’ lives, especially the lives of outsiders. She will use her films to illustrate and delineate these spiritual landscapes, which have come to define and enliven her life in film.
In a breakthrough that could one day yield important clues about the nature of matter itself, a team of Harvard scientists has measured the magnetic charge of single particles of matter and antimatter with unprecedented precision.As described in a March 25 paper in Physical Review Letters, the team — led by Gerald Gabrielse, the George Vasmer Leverett Professor of Physics, and including postdoctoral fellows Stephan Ettenauer and Eric Tardiff and graduate students Jack DiSciacca, Mason Marshall, Kathryn Marable, and Rita Kalra — was able to capture individual protons and antiprotons in a “trap” created by electric and magnetic fields. By tracking the oscillations of each particle, the team was able to measure the magnetism of a proton 1,000 times more accurately than any proton had been measured before. Similar tests with antiprotons produced a 680-fold increase in accuracy in the size of the magnet in an antiproton.“That is a spectacular jump in precision for any fundamental quality,” Gabrielse said. “That’s a leap that we don’t often see in physics, at least not in a single step.”Such measurements, Gabrielse said, could one day help scientists answer a question that might seem more suited for the philosophy classroom than the physics lab: Why are we here?“One of the great mysteries in physics is why our universe is made of matter,” he said. “According to our theories, the same amount of matter and antimatter was produced during the Big Bang. When matter and antimatter meet, they are annihilated. As the universe cools down, the big mystery is: Why didn’t all the matter find the antimatter and annihilate all of both? There’s a lot of matter and no antimatter left, and we don’t know why.”Making precise measurements of protons and antiprotons, Gabrielse explained, could begin to answer those questions, by potentially shedding light on whether the CPT (charge conjugation, parity transformation, time reversal) theorem is correct. An outgrowth of the standard model of particle physics, CPT states that the protons and antiprotons should be virtually identical — with the same magnitude of charge and mass — yet with opposite charges.The predictions of CPT have been verified by experiments measuring the charge-to-mass ratio of protons and antiprotons, but further investigation is needed, Gabrielse said, because the standard model does not account for all forces in the universe.“What we wanted to do with these experiments was to say, ‘Let’s take a simple system — a single proton and a single antiproton — and let’s compare their predicted relationships, and see if our predictions are correct,’” Gabrielse said. “Ultimately, whatever we learn might give us some insight into how to explain this mystery.”While researchers were able to capture and measure protons with relative ease, antiprotons are only produced by high-energy collisions that take place at the extensive tunnels of the CERN laboratory in Geneva, which created a dilemma.“Last year, we published a report showing that we could measure a proton much more accurately than ever before,” Gabrielse said. “Once we had done that, however, we had to make a decision. Did we want to take the risk of moving our people and our entire apparatus — crates and crates of electronics and a very delicate trap apparatus — to CERN and try to do the same thing with antiprotons? Antiprotons would only be available till mid-December and then not again for a year and a half.“We decided to give it a shot, and by George, we pulled it off,” he continued. “Ultimately, we argued that we should attempt it, because even if we failed, that failure would teach us something.” In what Gabrielse described as a “gutsy” choice, DiSciacca agreed to use the attempt to conclude his thesis research, and new grad students Marshall and Marable signed on to help.Though the results still fit within the predictions made by the standard model, more accurate measurements of the characteristics of matter and antimatter may advance our understanding of how the universe works.“What’s also very exciting about this breakthrough is that it now prepares us to continue down this road,” Gabrielse said. “I’m confident that, given this start, we’re going to be able to increase the accuracy of these measurements by another factor of 1,000, or even 10,000.”
By Dialogo July 31, 2012 PANAMA CITY, Panama — Local authorities announced July 30 that they seized 1.3 tons of cocaine and detained four alleged drug traffickers in two recent operations around the country. Panama’s National Aero-Naval Service (SENAN), a component of the Public Security Ministry that combines navy and air force operations, seized 846 kilograms (1,865 pounds) of cocaine in a boat sailing near the city of Colón, on the country’s Atlantic coast. SENAN officials arrested two Hondurans who were in the boat and seized US$42,434 in cash. The suspects’ names were not made public. In a second operation, authorities seized 521 kilograms (1,149 pounds) of cocaine at La Arenera beach, located east of Panama City, on the country’s Pacific coast. Police arrested at the site a Colombian and a Panamanian, whose names were not released, and seized US$27,000 and three Colombian passports. [AFP, 30/07/2012; Aeronaval.gob.pa (Panama), 30/07/2012]
USC boasts the largest international student population of any university in the country and is located in one of the nation’s most diverse cities — on Friday, those two worlds came together.Students from a wide array of countries, including Thailand, China, Australia, Taiwan, Denmark, India, Columbia, Iran and Papua New Guinea, visited Vermont Avenue Elementary School as part of the school’s Literacy Day. Now in its third year, Literacy Day is a chance for elementary school students to interact with people from different countries and cultures, and a chance for USC students to tell children the importance of reading and going to college.Book it · A member of USC’s International Student Assembly reads aloud to children at Vermont Avenue Elementary School on Friday as part of the third annual Literacy Day. – Hide Kurokawa | Daily Trojan Topics ranging from after school activities to what species of animals live in each country filled each classroom Friday morning as USC students detailed their experiences growing up in other countries.Leidy Lim, a graduate student studying teaching English to speakers of other languages, said it was fun to watch the children’s reactions as the USC students talked about their cultures.“They ask so many questions,” Lim said. “The kids are so curious about how life in their country differs from mine. I told them Papua New Guinea doesn’t have theaters, and they were in absolute shock.”To the kids, the experience is a fun way to learn about a lifestyle outside the United States. But many of the USC student volunteers said they might have learned just as much as the children did.“It’s a great opportunity not for just the kids, but for us as well to give back to the society,” said Warren Chan, a senior majoring in business administration. “It’s mutually beneficial, and I find it very uplifting.”Prior to this year, Literacy Day had previously been held at Loren Miller Elementary School. But Brenda Cortez, who is now the principal at Vermont Avenue, heard about USC’s Office of International Students and the International Students’ Assembly and worked with the groups to bring the event to Vermont Avenue.Though this is the only outreach program specifically involving international students, OIS and ISA are looking to have a few more days like this at the elementary school. A culture day might be in the works for the future, with students from ISA spending a whole day focusing on teaching kids about traditional food, clothing and societal customs.Many of USC’s international students, including Xiaoran Wang, a graduate student studying electrical engineering, said they hope the program will be expanded.“The children just get so excited to see us, and it really makes me happy and makes me think to myself how I could get more involved,” Wang said.Becky Peterson, international student adviser at OIS, said she sees a great desire among international students to participate in these outreach programs, and she hopes more events of this type will develop.“The international kids have such huge hearts. To do something like this really showcases how much they really enjoy giving back,” Peterson said.