Today at Berkeley Lab

BOSS Quasars Measure Universal Expansion Rate With Highest Precision

The Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS), part of the third Sloan Digital Sky Survey, pioneered quasar studies of dark energy. Andreu Font-Ribera of the Physics Division has led a new kind of quasar analytical method. Combined with older methods, it establishes the universe’s expansion rate at redshift 2.34 within two percent: 68 kilometers per second per million light years, the most precise measurement of expansion since galaxies formed. BOSS PI David Schlegel remarks that when the technique was first suggested, “some of us were afraid it wouldn’t work,” but “our precision measures are even better than we optimistically hoped for.” More>

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Instagram ‘Takeover’ Shows Day in the Life of a Lab Intern

What is a day at Berkeley Lab like through the eyes of an intern? To find out, the Public Affairs Department handed over they keys to its Instagram account to Megan Long, a physics and math student at the University of Maine who is working on dark matter simulations with the NEXT experiment group at Berkeley Lab. Her photos give the public a “behind-the-scenes” look at working at Berkeley Lab. If you’d like to participate in a “day in the life” photo essay of your day at Berkeley Lab, contact the Public Affairs’ social media specialist Kelly Owen. You don’t have to be an intern. Any employee can participate.

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Physicist Eric Linder Participates in DOE Twitter Chat on Dark Energy

The questions came minute-by-minute last Friday as Berkeley Lab’s Eric Linder and physicists from SLAC and Fermilab participated in a one-hour, DOE-organized twitter chat on dark energy. Questions ranged from what is dark energy to what tools and instruments are used to study it. If you’re curious about how a conversation on dark energy can occur in 140-character segments, go here to see a recap of Berkeley Lab’s participation in the twitter chat.

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‘Particle Fever’ Film Chronicles Higgs Boson Search at CERN

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What does it take to find the Higgs boson? Find out in the new documentary, “Particle Fever,” opening this Friday, followed by a conversation with filmmaker, Mark Levinson. A special showing of the film will be held at 4:30 on March 14 at the Shattuck Cinema. Order tickets here. Says the New York Times of the film: “‘Particle Fever’ is a fascinating movie about science, and an exciting, revealing and sometimes poignant movie about scientists.” For the San Francisco Chronicle review, go here. With the Lab’s role in the Higgs effort you may just see someone you know onscreen.

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Haber’s Sound Restoration Research Makes Cover of Physics Today

Early recorded sound represents an invaluable slice of our global heritage, but the information stored on old recordings is constantly degraded through wear and other damage. To restore and preserve that vital content, physicists and archivists are turning to a technique first employed by particle physicists decades ago. Berkeley Lab physicist Carl Haber pens an article on his research efforts to bring some of the earliest sound recordings to life. More>

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Physicist Eric Linder Joins DOE Twitter Lab Chat on Dark Energy

On Friday, the Department of Energy will host a Twitter #LabChat on dark energy — the theoretical force that is causing the universe to expand at an accelerating rate — at 9 a.m. PST (noon ET). We’ll be joined by Fermilab scientist Brian Nord, a member of the Dark Energy Survey collaboration and host of the website DarkEnergyDetectives.org, and Berkeley Lab scientist Eric Linder, an expert on dark energy and the accelerating universe. Between now and Friday, submit your questions to @energy using the hashtag #labchat, leave a comment on Facebook.com/energygov, or send an e-mail to newmedia@hq.doe.gov.

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SNFactory Shows Type Ia ‘Standard Candles’ Have Many Masses

Type Ia supernovae, the best “standard candles” for measuring great distances, were thought to have similar brightnesses because they start from mass-accumulating white dwarf stars that reach 1.4 solar masses, the Chandrasekhar limit. The resulting thermonuclear explosions use the same fuel and the same explosion mechanism. So went the theory. However, says Greg Aldering of the Physics Division, who leads the international Nearby Supernova Factory based at Berkeley Lab, a new analysis shows that “white dwarfs exploding as Type Ia supernovae have a range of masses, and their light-curve widths are directly proportional to the mass involved in the explosion.” More>

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Obama Greets Lab’s Sessler as Part of Fermi Award Ceremony

President Obama shares a laugh with Lab physicist and former director Andy Sessler (left) as part of the Fermi Award ceremony. This image was also the White House’s Monday “Photo of the Day.” More>

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Sessler Receives Fermi Award at Streamed Ceremony Today at Noon

The Department of Energy will live stream the Enrico Fermi Award ceremony today at noon (3 p.m. EST). Former Berkeley Lab Director and physicist Andy Sessler is one of two recipients of the award, which will be presented by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. The Enrico Fermi (pictured) Award is one of the government’s oldest and most prestigious honors for scientific achievement. In addition to a medal, the prize includes a $50,000 honorarium, to be shared by the recipients. More>

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Physics’s Bousso Comments on Stephen Hawking Denial of Black Holes

[Nature] Berkeley Lab physicist Raphael Bousso weighs in on a recent paper by Stephen Hawking that has shaken the physics community by saying the theory that light cannot escape a black hole is flawed. Hawking argues: “The absence of event horizons means that there are no black holes — in the sense of regimes from which light can’t escape to infinity.” Bousso, who was a student of Hawking’s, concedes that many physicists will find Hawking’s work “abhorrent,” but continues: “The idea that there are no points from which you cannot escape a black hole is in some ways an even more radical and problematic suggestion than the existence of firewalls.” More>

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