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Posts Tagged ‘Menlo Park

For now we see through a glass, darkly…

A computer simulation shows how invisible dark matter coalesces in halos (shown in yellow). Photograph: Science Photo Library, via The Guardian

For all the bright clutter of the night sky, the stars and planets that we see are only about 4% of what’s there.  The balance, scientists believe, is dark matter– an invisible substance that plays a critical role in existence via the gravitational force that it exerts.  The Swiss astronomer Fritz Zwicky postulated dark matter in 1933, when he noticed that a distant cluster of galaxies would fall apart were it not for the extra gravitational pull of some mysterious unseen mass in space.  Since then, astronomers and cosmologists have wrestled with the idea– and with the challenge of verifying dark matter’s existence.

Now, The Guardian reports, that challenge may have been met:

In a series of coordinated announcements at several US laboratories, researchers said they believed they had captured dark matter in a defunct iron ore mine half a mile underground. The claim, if confirmed next year, will rank as one the most spectacular discoveries in physics in the past century.

Tantalising glimpses of dark matter particles were picked up by highly sensitive detectors at the bottom of the Soudan mine in Minnesota, the scientists said.

Dan Bauer, head of the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS), said the group had spotted two particles with all the expected characteristics of dark matter…

“If they have a real signal, it’s a seriously big deal. The scale on which people are looking for dark matter is vast,” said Gerry Gilmore at Cambridge University’s institute of astronomy. “Dark matter is what created the structure of the universe and is essentially what holds it together. When ordinary matter falls into lumps of dark matter it turns into galaxies, stars, planets and people. Without it, we wouldn’t be here,” Gilmore said…

Read the whole extraordinary story here.

As we slip off our shades, we might it was on this date in 1879 that Thomas Edison first privately demonstrated incandescent lighting at his laboratory in Menlo Park (or “the other Menlo Park,” as it’s known out here in your correspondent’s neck of the woods…)

Illustration from Edison’s patent application

Tempting one’s inner-civil-engineer…

Recently returned from a quick visit to the incandescent oasis that is Las Vegas, your correspondent wishes that he had discovered “The All-Inclusive All-You-Can-Eat Buffet Guide” before the trip.

A service of Eating the Road (“On a journey to find out what the American road tastes like”), the Guide is quite comprehensive:  from preparation…

…Meals leading up to the buffet have been debated for ages. My recommendations are a large dinner the night before consisting mostly of light breads and vegetables to expand the stomach. It is also advantageous to drink plenty of liquids, preferably water. This also varies greatly on what time of day your buffet meal is going to be. For a breakfast buffet your larger meal should be the lunch prior with a small dinner. The morning of I would suggest a very small meal containing some sugar in order to get your metabolism up and running. Eat nothing more throughout the day. Liquids are advised, preferably water, as almost a mandatory health concern due to the high sodium content you are about to consume…

through strategy:

Initial scouting: This takes discipline and some patience but will pay off in the end. Be sure to walk the entire length of the buffet including the dessert area. Sometimes you’ll find hidden and unexpected items. Take note of all dishes that you would like to try. With knowledge of the layout and items at handle you can now plan your attack. Some things to consider on your first go around is what items have been freshly placed out and which will be available during your subsequent trips. Make note of the costliest items as well as the most popular.

Grab a dinner plate, this is a must, always use the largest plate they offer…

To “exit strategy”:

You’ll want to be sure that you have no further commitments for at least 3 hours…

With sections on Types of Buffets, Objective, Preparation, Location, Pre-meal Setup, Strategy, Etiquette, Exit Strategy and Post Game, it’s the Baedeker of buffets!

As we consider how to pay for our repasts, we might we might  pause to honor the debut of the stock ticker, that auger of bulls and bears, which clacked for the first time on this date in New York City in 1867…  In a scenario not unknown in these times, the ticker was created by Edward Callahan, who rigged a telegraph to print stock (and gold) prices on streaming paper tape.  But only two years later, Thomas Edison (who had been, we might recall, a telegraph operator) patented a slightly modified version, closed Callahan out of the market, and made his first fortune– the one that financed his laboratory in Menlo Park… from whence the stream of inventions for which Edison is remembered, along with the accompanying stream of patent litigations that generated dominance of one market after another.

Callahan’s Stock Ticker (source: Early Office Museum)

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