30 April 2009
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Even More Perfect

I was so disappointed when the Large Hadron Collider took almost a year off to allow the fixing of a problem that was probably caused by poor workmanship.  But, as the scientists involved pointed out, it would have been a surprise if there hadn't been some initial problems.  And, writing as one who often works with alpha software and prototype hardware, I'd be the last to say such things don't (or shouldn't) happen, although the scale of this problem was rather majestic compared to, say, the results of installing a small electrolytic capacitor with reversed polarity.  Some good news for the LHC, which I read a couple of days ago on (where else?) CNN, is that its particle detectors have been improved. 

Scientists have been improving two of the main experiments, called ATLAS and CMS, by taking advantage of cosmic rays, which naturally occur and contain the same high-energy particles that will be used when the collider restarts. This has helped experts better align and calibrate the detectors.

"They'll be even more perfect than before," said Bob Cousins, deputy to the scientific leader of the CMS experiment.

ATLAS and CMS were both designed to carry out their full physics programs with some parts that don't function properly, Cousins said. With the delay, scientists have been able to fix more of that small percentage that did not work.

The good news for Bob Cousins, almost certainly a fine fellow not normally given to linguistic excess, is that he is hereby authorized to withdraw the middle paragraph if the quote is correct, or to smite CNN if they got it wrong.  In return, Bob, may I request that you get that collider running promptly?  We're really eager for some new physics, notwithstanding my half-baked-not-quite-theories on cold fusion

Old Physics, New Economics

Long ago (several weeks!), I tried out some LED lamps a friend bought.  They worked well but were very expensivein the $40 - $80 range.  Just yesterday two LED flood lamps were spotted and purchased at Costco.  They're not quite appropriate for replacing ordinary incandescent lamps or CFLs, but they look like the ideal replacement for outdoor flood lamps, at least those that don't need to really turn the nighttime landscape into day.

Costco 5 Watt LED Flood Light Five watts (and 80 LEDs) to the left, 3.5 W to the right, a measurement I more or less confirmed with my Kill A Watt, which doesn't show fractions.  They both claim to provide the equivalent illumination of a 45W incandescent.  (They also claim "Heat Free Technology," which, of course, is nonsense.) Costco 3.5 Watt LED for Recessed Lighting
Costco 5 Watt LED Flood Light Costco 3.5 Watt LED for Recessed Lighting

These are brand new (well spotted, Jim).  Most importantly, they are now in the price range where they make really good sense to purchase.  The larger one (with 80 LEDs!) was $14; the smaller $11.  I think it's too early to recommend these or any LEDs for routine replacement of most incandescent lamps since the CFLs are still cheaper and brighter, if not quite as efficient.  But I'm encouraged by the presence of these LEDs at a mass market retailer.  As always with electrical stuff, improvement comes quickly.  If a RIKLReview is warranted after I've used them for a while, you know where you'll find it.

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"We Can Work It Out"
The Beatles



Here's one that brings back the memories!  The first and only time I went parachute jumping was at Lake Elsinore in California in the early '70s.  Much less of a story than you might think, but of course it will eventually appear here.

Richard Factor

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