Friday, June 19, 2009

The best thing ever: chocolate cherry yogurt à la Danielle Venton

In a first official 'sundries' post, I have to share with you my latest favorite discovery: chocolate cherry yogurt à la Danielle Venton.

Here's how you do it:
1. Take the Coop brand cherry yogurt.
(I guess step one would actually be
'get ye self to the Coop,' sorry should have told you sooner.)

2. Add a nice big spoonful of unsweetened cocoa powder.

3. Mix well and enjoy the most lovely, chocolate mousse-like cherry-tinged thing of goodness ever. It is probably not fair play to have this sort of thing for breakfast . . . yet it's what I did this morning, and I think tomorrow morning may call for a repeat!

If you try it, let me know what you think!

Bon weekend à tous!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Dragon Boating!

It is at least never boring around here. The Dragon Boat tournament in Dole was tons of fun . . . particularly because (or in spite of the fact that?) we won. No seriously. Out of 16 teams, even though we’d never rowed together before.

While we all appear happy in this victory photograph (below), I must admit that I was a little embarrassed. While we were all young-ish, hyper-competitive, athletic, over-achieving, darn-it-if-I-can-succeed-at-five-years-of-calculus-I-can-succeed-at-this-too, CERNois types (at least the other members of the team were), some of the teams we competed against were sweet, mixed-aged, mixed-ability cancer charities, with fewer members on their team. They had no chance. We were coached by one of the top kayakers in Britain (number 7 in a national competition—no joke), who kept us motivated by practice drills, inspiring speeches and loud shouting.

Our prize was several bottles of the vin jaune which is a specialty of the Jura . . . . feeling as I do about this kind of wine I couldn’t help but wonder, “This is an award?” Here we are on the celebratory stage to receive the honorary wine, I am the tall pale thing on the left with the water lily wedged in my hat and the dubious expression on my face.
More photos from this event (including quite a few of the rather muscular folks who operated the rudders) are here.

I kept trying to get people to sing the Trogdor from the very famous Sbemail58 . . . but my efforts were all in vain. Europeans! Sheesh!

Friday, June 12, 2009

It doesn't get much better than when it involves mammoth skulls

I'm working at the moment on one of the neatest stories I've come across in a long time, an archaeological project studying submerged prehistoric archaeology. (Read their news announcement.)

All I can say is if it involves mammoth skulls--I'm all for it!

In other water-related news I'll be paddling along with fellow CERNois at the Dragon Boat Festival in Dole tomorrow. Time to warm up the triceps . . .

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Listening for whispers of dark matter

(Author's note: while I love working at CERN, my workspace is pretty standard . . . my office mates are all humans for example, some people have it a little more exciting. Digging this up from the old files . . . as found in symmetry magazine.)

Jodi Cooley works half a mile underground, in a mine that stopped operating 40 years ago. A rattling elevator takes her to work, 27 floors beneath the surface. The ride down the mineshaft is five minutes of complete darkness. A colony of bats inhabits the mine.

"For someone who's squeamish," says Cooley, "it's not the best work environment." When she is on shift she spends 10 hours a day in the mine, 10 days in a row. Looking to find a new type of particle, Cooley is listening for whispers of dark matter.

The underground experiment she works on, a collaboration of 60 physicists and engineers, is the world's most sensitive search for a type of particle that, as of yet, has only been theorized. The Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS) uses detectors chilled nearly to the lowest possible temperature, minus 273 degrees Celsius, to "listen" for vibrations caused by these particles streaming in from space. The discovery of these particles would revolutionize our view of the cosmos.

For Cooley, a postdoc at Stanford University, a day at the Soudan Underground Laboratory in Minnesota begins with a cup of coffee. After a telephone meeting with Dan Bauer, who leads the CDMS operations, she and her shift partner spend the rest of the day monitoring the experiment's cooling system, detectors, and electronics. Cooley, speaking from the mine by telephone, says she never suffers from boredom.

"Even when things are going smoothly, down here we can always find more work to do," she says. "There is no lack of work to be done."

Read the full article at

--Danielle Venton

Better lasers on their way . . .

As Napoleon Dynamite as it might sound, we're en route to a world with better lasers thanks to MATLAB and grid comptuting . . . . (my article in the current International Science Grid this Week)

Do more with MATLAB

Researchers from disciplines as far apart as lasers and finance have a new computing tool at their fingertips: MATLAB can now run on Enabling Grids for E-sciencE (EGEE) computing power.

The software is a high-level language and interactive environment that enables users to perform computationally intensive tasks faster than with traditional programming languages such as C, C++, and Fortran. Widely regarded as a powerful piece of simulation software, for use in everything from optimizing rocket launch control settings to vector analysis, it is now fully compatible with any grid computing system using gLite middleware.

Read the full article here.

(Photo note: Using MATLAB on EGEE middleware, researchers can make a better laser - such as this solid state Cornellium Cn3+ laser created by a sapphire crystal. Image courtesy MATLAB Central)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Plenty more fish in the sea?

Article I wrote for the OMII-UK newsletter:

Once thought to be an endless source of bounty, rampant over-fishing around the globe has caused world fish stocks to plummet, with some of our favourite species hovering near collapse. The effects of over-fishing are being exacerbated by global climate change, which changes the distribution of species and the location of biodiversity hotspots. Under these conditions, good fisheries management is crucial. But how can stocks be controlled if we don’t know their location and numbers? A new grid-based tool, AquaMaps, looks like it could provide the answer.

Read the full article.

Starting a new blog -- very exciting

Welcome all, to the inaugural blog post of "Science and sundries."

I'll be a place for me to post updates about my latest projects and to-doings. Great to see you here!

Recent science-themed highlights in my life was the EGEE communications team meeting at CERN last week which involved a trip down the LHC pit to see CMS (the Compact Muon Solenoid detector). Easily the prettiest detector I've ever had the pleasure to see. See pictures from the work field trip here.