Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Antimatter matters

One of the biggest mysteries of physics (and life, the universe, and everything)  is this: why is anything even here?

In physics, the question crops up at two levels. First, why did the Big Bang happen? Second, once the Big Bang did happen, matter and antimatter were, per theory, created in equal quantities. So: why didn't the universe's matter and antimatter eradicate each other and leave behind nothing but energy? 

(I'm not complaining that we're here. Merely puzzled.)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cyber war

If you visit this blog with any regularity, you'll know that I'm a technophile. That said, for all the many wondrous things technology offers, it also creates new ways to become vulnerable. One vulnerability I particularly monitor is attacks on our increasingly networked infrastructure.

Recent years have offered inklings of cyber warfare. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Getting smashed

No, not a New Year's Eve hangover retrospective.  Rather, reflections on the near-term prospects for particle accelerators (what in my youth we called atom smashers).


First came word that the brand-new, scarcely operational Large Hadron Collider would will shut down for maintenance throughout 2012. Then CERN, the trans-European organization that runs the LHC, announced the shutdown will last more than a year and that they'll also be shutting down the rest of their accelerators in 2012.

UPDATE (2/1/2011): CERN has reconsidered. The LHC will continue running in 2012. Yea!

Now comes word that FermiLab plans to turn off the Tevatron later this year.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Head in the clouds

One of the hottest ideas in information technology these days is "cloud computing."

The expression originates in an early Internet convention: customer-centric drawings that showed detail of Internet connectivity only at the end points. That is, you're likely to care how your computer (or phone) connects to the Internet. You're likely to care about the server that's providing a function to you. And the gear that lies between? The redundant components and fail-over mechanisms and keen in-the-background software that make the Internet resilient? For most end users, not so much.

To network engineers, those "between" things -- routers and comm links and protocol stacks and specialty servers for background functions like domain-name look-ups -- are, collectively, "the cloud." And so, many a network diagram (like the one nearby) shows connections into and out of a featureless cloud.