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Berkeley Lab Currents

January 9, 1998


Lab Supernova Expert Says Universe Is in Perpetual Expansion

By Paul Preuss

At this week's annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington, D.C., Saul Perlmutter, leader of the international Supernova Cosmology Project and a member of the Center for Particle Astrophysics based at Berkeley Lab, announced that his team has found strong evidence that our universe, which began with the Big Bang, will never come to a standstill or collapse in a Big Crunch, but will expand forever.

Using several ground-based telescopes plus, more recently, the Hubble Space Telescope, the Supernova Cosmology Project has determined that the universe was expanding faster seven billion years ago (roughly half the time since the Big Bang) than it is today. Although expansion has slowed, the deceleration is not enough to suggest that gravity can bring outwardly rushing galaxies and other celestial matter to a halt.

"On the basis of both the ground-based data and the new Hubble data, we find evidence for a universe which may ultimately expand indefinitely," Perlmutter said.

The evidence comes from observing Type 1A supernovae in very distant galaxies. To look at a distant object in space is to look into the distant past. To measure that distance, astronomers use "standard candles," objects whose intrinsic brightness is the same wherever they are found. Type 1A supernovae at their maximum brightness can be brighter than entire galaxies, bright enough for their light to have traveled billions of years and still be visible.

Because the whole universe is expanding, no matter where a telescope is pointed it sees galaxies speeding away. The light from receding galaxies is shifted toward the red end of the spectrum, and the light from more distant galaxies is redshifted farther, even at a constant rate of expansion. By comparing redshifts with brightnesses at various distances, it is possible to see whether the rate of expansion was the same or different in the past.

Spectroscopic studies done with ground-based telescopes--notably the Keck 10-meter telescope on Mauna Kea, which was designed at Berkeley Lab--have shown that the most distant (thus most ancient) Type 1A supernovae are essentially identical in nature to nearby Type 1As, an assumption upon which the whole method rests.

Since the explosion of a distant star cannot be predicted, finding a supernova was a rare chance event until the Supernova Cosmology Project developed a novel technique for catching them in the act. Charge-coupled devices (CCDs) mounted on ground-based telescopes in Chile, Australia, and elsewhere take pictures of 50 or so small patches of sky at a time--enough to include 1,000 galaxies--and the same fields are recorded again three weeks later. Any new bright spot in the field is a supernova candidate.

"Of course the bright spot might also be an asteroid, or a cosmic ray hitting the CCD," says Gerson Goldhaber, who helped develop the technique, "so we immediately take a third picture to confirm that the supernova is what it seems." The time interval is important, says Goldhaber, not only to take advantage of the dark of the moon, but also "because we want to catch the supernova before it reaches its maximum brightness."

Goldhaber says, "In the three years prior to 1992, before we developed the technique, no supernovae were found...In 1997 we found 25." Observation time on all major telescopes is at a premium, but with the new method, more than a dozen supernovae can be found in a single series of observations, the majority of which are the desired Type 1A.

Because it is hard for ground-based telescopes peering through the Earth's shifting atmosphere to resolve distant objects sufficiently --for example, to separate the spectrum and the brightness of a supernova from that of its home galaxy--dependable measures of the early universe had to await access to the Hubble Space Telescope.

"We first proposed using the exquisite imaging capabilities of the Hubble Space Telescope two years ago," says Perlmutter, "once we had proven that we could supply it with large numbers of distant supernova discoveries 'on demand.'"

The Supernova Cosmology Project team plans to do more than simply determine the rate of expansion of the early universe. Gravity, the mutual attraction of all the mass in the universe--whether visible or dark--works to slow expansion, but an unknown repulsive force associated with the putative cosmological constant seems to be pushing matter apart.

Because he assumed the universe was static, Albert Einstein introduced the cosmological constant as a "correction" to what he assumed would be the tendency of the universe to collapse under gravitational attraction. He abandoned it when, around 1930, Edwin Hubble showed that universe was in fact expanding. Einstein called it his greatest mistake, but it seems he spoke too soon.

"With a large enough sample of data of the kind we can expect routinely from the Hubble Space Telescope," Goldhaber explains, "we now believe it will be possible to independently measure the effects of gravity and the cosmological constant."

One casualty of the discoveries announced this week by Saul Perlmutter and his teammates is the simplest version of the inflationary theory, which predicts a flat universe.

Although many additional observations are still to come, the Supernova Cosmology Project's work has already put our understanding of the universe on a revolutionary new path.

Photo: Berkeley Lab astrophysicist Saul Perlmutter (here posing in front of supernova 1987a) provided evidence this week that the universe is open. (XBD9707-03068-01) Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt

Photo: Hubble Space Telescope (hubble)


Retirees Look Back on Four Decades of Computing Sciences

By John Bashor

When David F. Stevens and Bill Benson first came to work at the Lab, Dwight Eisenhower was president, cars had tailfins (albeit residual ones) and classified research was still being carried out in a couple corners of the Laboratory.

Now, as the Lab's Computing Sciences organization is reinventing how scientific computing is conducted on the Hill and across the DOE complex, Stevens, Benson and Eric Beals are wrapping up careers that witnessed the emergence of computing as a key component in scientific research. Together, the three men have more than 100 years of combined Lab experience.

Through the years, they say, some things have not changed much. For example, the relocation of the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center at the Lab to better serve as a center for users in other parts of the country was similar to an effort here more than 20 years ago.

Beals was part of the efforts in the 1970s to make the Lab a regional computing center for other government agencies. At the time, many organizations did not have their own computers and were able to remotely access the Lab's to use unoccupied cycles. In fact, the fledging NERSC center at Livermore ran some programs here.

"The things we were doing, supplying geographically remote services, actually served as a model for NERSC, which was originally set up for a specific audience--magnetic fusion researchers," Beals says. Things came full circle when he was put in charge of the project to rebuild the area in Bldg. 50B, now housing the NERSC computers.

When he began working at the Lab as a summer student, Benson says, the computing work done here was dominated by physics applications. Back then, the Lab didn't even have its own computer and relied instead on IBM computers on campus and at Livermore.

Shortly after Benson and Stevens arrived, the Lab installed a succession of IBM systems, culminating in a unique two-headed 7094 configuration. The Lab then became one of the early converts to Control Data systems for scientific computing, purchasing two CDC 6600s and a 7600, which kept things humming for a decade or so.

"That was supercomputing at the time," Benson says. The next generation of computers were the PDP 11s built by Digital Equipment Corp. Those machines were the precursors to the VAX machines, descendants of which still run here today under Beals' care.

A computer engineer, Benson started out doing applications programming, then moved up to programming operating systems for the Lab's mainframes. He also spent a number of years of doing graphics work and more recently working on databases. A highlight of his career, he says, was co-publishing a paper with Andy Tanenbaum, then a grad student and today a noted author of books on computer architecture.

Like Benson, Stevens has worked for every Lab director except founder E. O. Lawrence. Over the years he saw the Lab grow from being a place focused solely on high energy physics to a multi-disciplinary facility. Today, he sees the beginning of another fundamental change as Berkeley strives to become as preeminent in computational science as it is in experimental science. The future, he admits, can be hard to predict.

"Computers were supposed to make paperwork obsolete, but today we have more paper than ever before. Telecommunications were supposed to reduce travel, but we have more flights today and they're more crowded than they used to be," he says. "Whatever computing is going to do in the future, it won't be to replace what people think, but I sure don't know what it will be."

One of Stevens' recent assignments has been to interact with the DOE, reviewing directives and formulating responses. He has also served as the Lab's Computer Protection Program manager. He started out as a mathematical programmer in Bldg. 46A, then moved into the Bldg. 50 complex as sections were added and computers installed.

In the mid-70s, Stevens had a one-year stint as a consultant at CERN. In addition to heading various organizations at the Lab, he also served on several national standards committees.

It was working with one of the Control Data machines, the 6600, that Stevens enjoyed most. "I was still technically competent then," he says with a smile. The machine also stands out because of its speed at the time. "We were used to putting in cards and getting the output back two to four hours later. When we were testing the 6600 at the factory, we put in a job and were heading out the door, expecting to come back in an hour, but output was coming out before we reached the door. That was two orders of magnitude faster than what we had."

When Beals wraps up his 34-year Lab career in March, it will truly be the end of an era. For the past 10 years, he has been the point person supporting users of VAX computers at Berkeley Lab. When the first generation of VAX machines built by Digital Equipment arrived, they became the computers at the Lab. Each of the machines was a collection of five cabinets, each about three feet square and standing six feet tall. "And that's not talking about the disks," he says.

Each disk--and there were about 75 of them taking up half the space of what is now the NERSC machine room--was about the size of a two-drawer filing cabinet. At least two of them were broken at any given time and Beals' big contribution was automating the repair-and-replace procedures so that users only suffered half a day or less of down time, compared to up to a week before that. Seven generations later, the newest VAXes are desktop machines, and are still used by about 500 people on site.

First on Beals' post-retirement agenda is moving to the family vacation home near Yosemite and checking off a long list of deferred projects (some of which he may choose to forget, he says with a grin). He is also thinking about either going back to school or teaching. "I'm looking forward to doing things I want to do, rather than the things I think I have to do." He also wants to continue lending his computer skills to his wife's genealogical work.

Benson and Stevens' plans are less firm, although they both intend to maintain their ties to the Lab.

"I'm not the sort of person who has planned his life," Stevens says. "I took a job here because I got married and had $25 in the bank. Along the way, the Lab has been an interesting ride and provided me with a variety of interesting work. I don't think of myself as a pioneer in scientific computing, but I did get to work with some of the pioneers."

Photo: Eric Beals, David F. Stevens and Bill Benson are retiring after more than 100 years of combined Lab experience. (XBD9801-00003-01) Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt

Photo: David Stevens (at the typewriter) and Carol Bruno install an IBM 7040 computer in the early 1960s. (XBD9801-00004)


Mystery of Vital Cell Protein Solved After 30 Years

By Lynn Yarris

Discovery could lead to cancer treatment

A 30-year quest to solve the structure of one of the most important types of proteins in a living cell has been achieved. Berkeley Lab scientists have created the first three-dimensional atomic model of tubulin, a protein that makes possible such vital life processes as cell division and the movement of materials within cells.

Eva Nogales, Sharon Wolf and Kenneth Downing, biophysicists with the Life Sciences Division, announced the completion of their model in the Jan. 8, 1998 issue of the scientific journal Nature. At a resolution of 3.7 angstroms, the model provides the first highly-detailed three-dimensional look at tubulin, including the site where the protein interacts with the promising anti-cancer drug taxol.

Tubulin is the protein that polymerizes into long chains or filaments to form microtubules, hollow fibers which serve as a skeletal system for living cells. Microtubules have the ability to shift through various formations, which is what enables a cell to undergo mitosis or to regulate intracellular transport. The formation-shifting of microtubules is made possible by the flexibility of tubulin, which is why scientists have sought to understand the protein's atomic structure since its discovery in the 1950s.

Interest in tubulin structure heated up intensely in recent years when taxol, a natural substance found in the bark of the Pacific yew tree (the name "taxol" has been trademarked by Bristol-Myers-Squibb), was shown in clinical tests to be an effective treatment for a number of cancers, including ovarian, breast and lung. Cancer occurs when cell division runs amok.

By binding to tubulin and causing the protein to lose its flexibility, taxol prevents a cell from dividing. With better knowledge of tubulin structure and its interaction with taxol, scientists believe that an even more effective anti-cancer drug, one that interacts only with the tubulin of cancerous cells, could be synthesized.

"An awful lot of people have wanted to know what tubulin looks like at the atomic level," says Nogales. "The knowledge gained from this model should be of invaluable help in understanding the microtubule system in the cell."

Tubulin is a "heterodimer" protein, meaning it is comprised of a pair of polypeptide chains--called monomers--that differ in the sequence of their amino acids. The model presented by Nogales, Wolf and Downing shows that each tubulin monomer--the alpha and the beta--is a compact molecular structure with three functional components, or domains--one that binds to nucleotides, one that binds to drugs like taxol, and one that looks to be a binding site for other proteins.

"The interaction between domains is very tight so that the effects that nucleotides, drugs, and other proteins have on tubulin are firmly linked," says Nogales. "The assembly of tubulin and its regulation through dynamic instability results from the fine tuning of the three components."

To produce their model, the Life Sciences researchers first polymerized tubulin proteins under the same conditions in which microtubules are formed except for the additional presence of zinc. The zinc prevents tubulin chains from curling around into hollow fibers. Instead, the polymerized tubulin forms two-dimensional crystalline sheets that are ideal for imaging by electron crystallography. The use of electron-based rather than the x-ray-based crystallography techniques customarily employed in protein studies was crucial to the model's 3.7 angstrom resolution.

"Working with x-ray crystallography requires much more protein than electron crystallography," says Downing. "Obtaining diffraction patterns with an electron beam enables us to work with crystals only one molecule in thickness, giving us our high resolution."

The final 3-D model is a computerized reconstruction, derived from a data set that included 93 electron diffraction patterns and 159 images culled by the researchers from the more than 4,000 images which were recorded over a six-year period.

The diffraction patterns and images were generated on an electron microscope equipped with a special "cold stage" that reduced damage to the crystals from the electron beam and yielded less "noise" than a conventional electron microscope. This microscope is also equipped to allow the tilting of samples at various angles so images can be obtained from different directions.

"We needed to keep our samples extremely stable during the imaging process in order to get the resolution we wanted," says Nogales. To this end, she and her colleagues used taxol to lock their samples into fixed positions for imaging. That the taxol would bind to their crystals is in part a confirmation that their structural model of tubulin is accurate.

Photo: Tubulin, one of the most important proteins in living cells, is composed of two nearly identical monomers. (dimer)

Photo: Lab biophysicists Eva Nogales, Kenneth Downing and Sharon Wolf produced the first 3-D image of the taxol binding site in 1995. (XBD9801-00032) Photo by Paul Hames


Washington Report

DOE Opens Formerly Secret Files

In a show of good faith and to demonstrate its commitment to eliminating unnecessary secrecy, DOE has released 270,000 pages of formerly classified information, plus never-before-seen films on nuclear tests and weapons, and the specific yields of 11 atomic tests conducted between 1958 and 1975 to determine whether nuclear explosions could be used for industrial purposes. Secretary of Energy Federico Peña also announced that a joint review with the Defense Department recommended 100 changes in DOE classification policies related to nuclear weapons. He also announced new DOE rules to bar agency officials from declaring secret any information that solely concerns environment, safety and health issues; to protect whistleblowers from retaliation; and to prevent DOE contractors from being reimbursed by taxpayers for litigation costs if they are found liable in whistleblower cases. Peña described his actions as "historic steps that will make openness an everyday fact of life at DOE."

Krebs Says Improved Public Outreach Needed

In a speech last month at CERN, DOE Energy Research Director Martha Krebs said that physicists must do a better job of explaining the importance of their work to the public if international cooperative efforts such as the Large Hadron Collider are to become commonplace in the next century. Tighter federal budgets, she said, will force DOE to continue to justify why it should fund this and future international projects. Krebs called on CERN participants to have a "conversation" with politicians and the public about the value of scientific research. "It is important to recognize that we are really not doing this for ourselves or our colleagues but for the next generation of researchers who will be using these facilities," Krebs said.

New Management for Brookhaven

DOE signed a contract this week for management and operation of Brookhaven National Laboratory to be assumed by the Brookhaven Science Associates. The five-year agreement, worth an estimated $2 billion, marks the first time the Long Island research complex has been managed by a contractor other than the Associated Universities, Inc. BSA, which won the contract after a six month competitive process, is led by the State University of New York at Stony Brook and Battelle Memorial Research Institute of Columbus, Ohio. Energy Secretary Peña terminated BNL's contract with AUI last year following complaints from the community and elsewhere about environmental safety violations.--Lynn Yarris


In Memoriam -- G. Donald Paxson

By Jon Bashor

Memorial services will be held Saturday, Jan. 10, for Don Paxson, who retired in 1985 after a 39-year Lab career first as an engineering physicist and then a patent advisor. Paxson died on Jan. 2 at his home in Orinda after a short illness. He was 77.

His son, Vern Paxson, a member of the Network Research Group in the Lab's Computing Sciences organization, remembers his father's enthusiasm for his work on various accelerators.

"He used to talk about how Lawrence would drop in to see how things were going," Vern Paxson recalled. "He also used to talk about the excitement of some of the physics discoveries they made here during the 1950s. He really was a Lab old-timer."

Another son, Mark, said his father liked to tinker with things, find out how things worked, and build new things. "He used to say he had two big gifts--one scientific and the other musical." Both talents emerged while Don Paxson was a youngster growing up in Long Beach, Calif.

As a member of the St. Luke's Choristers choir, Paxson appeared on the silver screen in a couple of Errol Flynn's costume dramas, including "The Prince and the Pauper" in 1937. On the technical side, young Paxson found himself the center of attention in the aftermath of the 1933 Long Beach earthquake as his neighborhood turned to him and his short-wave radio as their main link to the outside world. Also during this time, he worked for a firm repairing car radios. The story is that he would tell his clients that in order to test his repairs, he had to drive their cars, and subsequently found himself behind the wheel of Auburns, Packards, an occasional Deusenberg, and other famous marques. He later turned his talents to the war effort and worked on the famed Norden bomb site being developed at the nearby McDonnell-Douglas aircraft plant.

After earning a two-year degree in physics at Long Beach State College in 1946, he attended UC Berkeley and earned his bachelor's degree in physics in 1949. He returned to Cal to study music in 1955.

As a violinist, he was a concertmaster for various community symphony orchestras, as well as member of a Lab string quartet, known as "Haydn on the Hill."

During his Lab career, Paxson worked in the electronics experimental group and was involved in projects such as the electron ring accelerator, the plasma-physics Sherwood Project, the high-frequency drive for the Bevatron and the Proton Linear Accelerator.

In 1971 he began an assignment as a Lab patent engineer. At that time, he had seven inventions and patents to his credit. These included development of the first analog computer for calculations of radioactive growth and decay, invention of a function generator for analog computers, and the invention of a system that increases the speed and accuracy of airport radar systems. Paxson was also a licensed pilot who enjoyed flying friends around California, Oregon and Nevada.

Congratulating Paxson upon his retirement in 1985, then-Lab Director David Shirley cited his work on experimental facilities and in the patent office. "The Lab is fortunate indeed to have your perspective and effort in all of these areas," Shirley wrote.

Away from the Lab, Paxson enjoyed exploring the Sierra foothills. On many of these trips, he used a self-built ultraviolet light and drove around at night shining it out the window of his car and looking for tungsten, hoping it would lead him to gold.

Paxson is survived by his wife, Hilde; sons Vern, Mark and Jeff; daughter Carol, and several grandchildren. The family asks that memorial donations be made in the name of Don Paxson to Kaiser Hospice, 1425 S. Main St., Walnut Creek CA 94596. Memorial services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 10, at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, 66 St. Stephen's Drive, Orinda.

Photo: G. Donald Paxon (XBD9801-00002)


Lab Physicists Elected to APS

Kam-Biu Luk and Ronald Madaras have been elected fellows of the American Physical Society last month for their contributions in the field of particle physics.

Luk was recognized for his "measurements of hyperon properties and studies of heavy-quark production in proton-nucleus collisions." Madaras' citation is for his "pioneering technical projects and in physics analysis with the Fermilab DØ detector, the PEP TPC and the SPEAR Lead-Glass Wall."


Researchers Awarded Time on NERSC Supercomputer

Twelve Lab scientists have been awarded computing time on the two Cray T3E supercomputer at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC). A second Cray T3E supercomputer was installed at NERSC last year to make supercomputing capabilities available to scientists here and to boost computational science at the Lab.

Those awarded time on the new machine are Stephen Holbrook, Structural Biology; Arlon Hunt, Environmental Energy Technologies (EET); Jonathan Koomey, EET; William Lester, Chemical Sciences; Steven G. Louie, Materials Sciences; John Morris, Materials Sciences; Garrison Sposito, Earth Sciences; Albert Thompson, Materials Sciences; Chin-Fu Tsang, Earth Sciences; Michel Van Hove, Materials Sciences; Don Vasco, Earth Sciences; and Ganquan Xie, Earth Sciences.

More information about the proposals can be found on the web at


Lab People in the Spotlight
Two Lab Employees Perform with Slavyanka Men's Slavic Chorus

By Monica Friedlander

Two Berkeley Lab employees-- Donn F. Davy and Deane W. Merrill--are among the 30 members of the popular Slavyanka Men's Slavic Chorus, which will perform in Berkeley on Saturday, Jan. 17, at the St. John's Presbyterian Church. Known for its passionate rendition of the Slavic soul in song, Slavyanka performs regularly throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and California. Its repertoire is drawn mostly from Russian sources--Orthodox liturgical as well as Russian secular music, including folk songs. Selections include music by such notables as Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, and Rachmaninoff, among many others.

"Performing with Slavyanka is a wonderful experience," says Davy, a computer systems engineer who has been with the chorus since 1980. "You get to the soul and heart of the music."

The chorus was formed in 1979 by several former members of the Yale Russian Chorus, and now draws its members from all walks of life. Slavyanka was the name given by early 19th century Russian colonists to what is now known as the Russian river, near their original settlement on the California coast just north of the San Francisco Bay Area.

In 1986 and 1989 Slavyanka toured the former Soviet Union, and plans are in the works for another trip to Russia next year.

The group also prides itself with five recordings, with a sixth one expected to come out soon. Credits also include television and movie recordings, including "What Dreams May Come" with Robin Williams and "Little Odessa." KTVU TV (Channel 2) recently taped Slavyanka for a special broadcast scheduled for Jan. 17.

Other California concerts are planned for April 11 (Walnut Creek), May 16 (San Luis Obispo), June 6 (San Francisco), July 25 (Fort Ross), July 17 (Grass Valley) and July 25 (Gualala).

For more information about Slavyanka, contact its website (, which is maintained by Donn Davy.

Photo: Members of the Slavyanka Men's Chorus include two Berkeley Lab computer scientists: Donn Davy (first from the left, standing) and Deane Merrill (third from the right, standing). This picture was taken last year at a concert in Fort Ross, on the Mendocino Coast. (slavyanka)


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Exchange Program Teaches South Africans to Dream

By Monica Friedlander

A freshly-painted blue and green phone booth stands out like a visitor from another world amid the ramshackle, rusted, tin dwellings crowded together in the impoverished black township of Oukasie, South Africa. On closer look, the entire village is entangled in an equally-shocking world of incongruities.

Until two years, ago, the village had no electricity or plumbing. Those children lucky enough to attend school were crowded in classes of 90 students each in schools with leaking roofs and broken windows. They had no textbooks or school supplies, and had to travel as far as 50 kilometers to school each way. Since then, a new, modern school was built for the village's older students--outwardly indistinguishable from any high school in the U.S.--and a new community center has just opened its doors.

These are isolated reminders that South Africa is undergoing radical changes in the aftermath of the 1994 elections--changes that are just beginning to affect the lives of most people living in such destitute villages. Yet when Eileen Engel of the Lab's Center for Science and Engineering Education (CSEE) went to visit Oukasie's new school last October, what she found was not despair, but a pervading sense of optimism and an insatiable eagerness to learn.

"People believe that education is the key to their future," Engel says. "They have a strong sense of values and a sense of pride that they bring to school. The kids see all the changes that have taken place and they see hope, which is remarkable, because they have a long way to go."

Two years ago Oukasie was picked to participate in a teacher exchange program with the City of Berkeley. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, the program is run by the CSEE as part of its BASTEC (Bay Area Science and Technology Education Collaboration) in partnership with the Berkeley Sister Community Project. Additional funding is provided by the Banyon Tree Foundation in Washington, D.C. Private companies and educational institutions have also donated to the project.

The goal of the program is to develop links between teachers in the United States and South Africa, share learning experiences, train South African teachers in hands-on math and science, and help them develop leadership skills. The South Africa Project took off in February of 1996, when six South African teachers from Oukasie came to the Bay Area, toured Oakland schools, and visited Berkeley Lab, where they met with notable scientists such as Glenn Seaborg, Mark Levine, and Howard Matis.

The teachers returned to South Africa with $10,000 worth of materials donated by the DOE, the Encyclopedia Britannica, and the Lawrence Hall of Science. Donations also included the first computers their school had ever seen--although, Engel said, as recently as last October five out of six teachers still did not know how to turn on a computer. The donations from the U.S. were used to start a resource center and pave the way for educational reform and improvements.

The teachers were especially impressed with the Lawrence Hall of Science, and adopted some of its science curriculum. Over time they hope to develop a mini hall of science of their own in their new community center, which will also house the township's first library.

Last October, Engel and Oakland teacher Don McKenney traveled to South Africa for two weeks to observe first-hand the way the science curriculum had been implemented in Oukasie, help the teachers write further funding proposals, and set them on their way towards expanding the program through peer teaching.

"They changed the way they teach," McKenney said. "They used to teach the old, 19th century system, emphasizing the `chalk and talk' approach. Real science involves a hands-on, inquiry-based approach, which is what real science is, what this laboratory does. That's what we want them to understand. Real science is not memorization of facts."

In other words, they learned how to make science fun. For example teachers challenged students to balance a pencil on its top using a piece of wire and couple of clothes pins, and showed them how to measure the amount of soda in a can of coke.

Although the South African teachers and students are the main beneficiaries of the program, Engel points out that Americans have something to learn from their experience and attitude towards learning.

"It's a two-way street," she said. "They bring a different perspective. Their parents are involved in schools, the family networks are strong, everyone is interested in education. They bring stories of hope and courage in the face of incredible problems."

Although conditions have improved somewhat in recent years, the resources simply are not there yet for radical change. Younger students still use the old run-down school, and school supplies are extremely scarce. Textbooks are not available at all.

"One of the teachers told the kids `You must use your pencil for this activity'," Engel recalled. "They all had pens but had to share the five pencils in the class. I thought, `Why is she doing that?' And then I realized. She had only one piece of paper for every two students and she wanted to use it again. They had to erase it and use it over. If she wants to use another 20 sheets of paper, she has to buy them herself."

Engel was especially touched by the children, whose discipline and love of learning, she said, are rarely seen in schools in the U.S. "We never saw a student misbehave all the time we were there. And we were there when there were no teachers around. The kids take care of themselves."

McKenney co-taught classes with the South African teachers in Oukasie and prepared them to, in turn, teach science workshop to more than 100 other teachers from 50 schools in the area. Ultimately they hope that the methods they implemented there will serve as a model for others throughout black South Africa.

Future plans include establishment of Internet communications, annual teacher exchanges, expanding the program to other South African communities, and continued fundraising to help open a mini Lawrence Hall of Science to support the growth of science and math activities. But whatever will be accomplished from now on, McKenney says, the most important thing has already happened.

"When the teachers came to the U.S. it was outside their realm of thinking to even dream about what they may want," he said. "The most important thing they learned was how to dream."

Photo: A typical landscape in the black township of Oukasle, South Africa. (XBD9801-00008) Photo by Eileen Engel

Photo: Children in Oukasle's new school are delighted with their new math and science curriculum, developed through the South Africa exchange program. (XBD9801-00005) Photo by Eileen Engel

Photo: Teachers in the program emphasize hands-on-math and science experiments. Here, teachers measure the amount of liquid in a soda can. (XBD9801-00007) Photo by Eileen Engel


Scientists Take A Measure of the Internet

By Jon Bashor

For all the Internet users who wonder why e-mail sometimes bogs down or why a favorite website takes an eternity to load up, a new effort by computer scientists in Berkeley and Pittsburgh may start turning up some answers.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the year-long pilot study of the Internet structure and its performance could serve both to troubleshoot problems and to eventually give users a means to rate Internet services and providers. The projected is led by Vern Paxson of the Lab's Computing Sciences Network Research Group and by scientists at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center.

Researchers will place computers at various locations on the Internet to automatically measure network performance between stations. This effort is intended to provide the foundation for a much larger study of the Internet infrastructure.

Berkeley Lab alone participates in about 500,000 connections every day, as scientists rely increasingly on computer networks for scientific collaboration. For example, Internet traffic has grown from a mere 45 web connections in October 1992 to more than ten million last month, Paxson notes.

One of the biggest problems with the Internet today is congestion. The net's worst problem, however, also reflects one of its main strengths.The myriad of data connections in the network all share the available capacity among them, rather than reserving capacity individually, as do telephone connections. This sharing makes for a much more efficient use of the network, but it also leads to traffic overload.

The data for a particular connection travels along a series of links, each step being termed a "hop," with twenty or more hops in an end-to-end chain. "The network is very good at hiding the individual hops a message takes from the end users," Paxson says. "Links go down all the time and packets have to be re-routed, which happens automatically."

Within the Internet research community, the web is known as a "success disaster"-- something that was so useful that it grew faster than the system could accommodate. The underlying problem is that the web, a huge hypertext database, is poorly designed to run on the global Internet, Paxson says. As the popularity of the web grows, the problems loom ever larger.

"We can build systems with hundreds of things and they work fine, but when we scale them up to hundreds of thousands, they break down, and it's hard to predict where they will fail." he says. "Users may have the perception that something is overloaded when it's actually misengineered."

Without measurement, it can be impossible to tell where the problem lies. One of the basic measurements provided by Paxson and his Pittsburgh colleagues is the rate at which data packets are discarded, or "dropped" by the network, something which directly affects performance.

Information on the net is sent via IP--the Internet Protocol. When too many data packets come in, routers hold them in buffers until traffic thins out. When traffic is too heavy, the buffers fill up and the router drops packets. The IP provides the basic building block, which says, "You hand me a packet and I'll do my best to deliver it," Paxson explains. "But no promises--it may arrive as expected, it may get duplicated along the way, it may be corrupted or it may arrive out of order. Although that sounds like a weakness, it's actually a strength. It's very cheap to provide connectivity because you promise very little."

On top of the IP layer is the Transmission Control Protocol, or TCP. This is the mechanism that ensures that messages do in fact get there.

"On the web, when you do a data transfer and you get the desired item, the transfer is finished," Paxson says. "When you're using a browser like Netscape or Explorer and it stops, that means a packet was dropped. But TCP isn't giving up, it's really backing off because there's a problem. When you get a message back saying something can't be found, your packets did get through, but there's a problem with another part of the system."

Paxson ultimate goal is to give Internet users a method whereby they could click on a button and find out the root of the problem, and in the process contribute to the measurement database. While most users know about the typical problems, Paxson expects to find the unexpected.


Lab helps build a better Internet

For more than a decade, computer scientists at Berkeley Lab have analyzed problems with the Internet, then come up with technological solutions to fix them. In fact, many of the technical standards now used to keep the Internet working smoothly were invented here at the Lab.

In 1985, ARPANET (the forerunner of the Internet), was collapsing due to congestion of data transmission. Berkeley Lab computer scientists developed several Transmission Control Protocol algorithms to prevent them. The algorithms became mandatory standards in 1989.

In 1986, the network was plagued with routing instability between the many connecting systems, resulting in many transmissions being lost. Lab experts developed a tool to trace data packets along the way, allowing routing problems to be pinpointed and corrected.

As the Internet and the Web gained wider exposure, users began to look for wider applications. The idea of using the Net to transmit both audio and video was dismissed by many as impossible. The Network Research Group at Berkeley Lab saw it as a challenge and helped created Mbone, a multicast virtual network using the Internet. Today, more than 500,000 people around the world routinely use the technology to conduct meetings, seminars and workshops. Protocols developed here at the Lab are now Internet standards.

For more information about the Lab's Network Research Group, visit its website at:


New Employees

The Laboratory welcomed the following new career employees during the month of December.

Andrea Aerts, LSD
Keith Beall, LSD
Chia-Ling Gau, LSD
Jamie M. Jett, LSD
Anne G. Abrajano, LSD
Melissa Baker, LSD
Mary A. Edwards, ASD
Brent A. Lee, LSD
Marie L. Burnett, ASD
James E. Donnelley, NERSC
Tilden Moschetti, ASD
Lonny G. Simonian, FACIL


Bulletin Board
January Online Classes

EH&S Classes

Pre-registration is required for all courses except Introduction to Environment, Health & Safety (EHS 010). To pre-register, send your name, employee ID number, extension, course title, EH&S course code, and date you want to attend to: EH&S Training, 90-0026, Room 16C. You may also e-mail (, fax to X4805 or call X7366.

Oracle Channel Classes

Bldg. 936-12   *   8:45 a.m.-1 p.m.   *   Cost: $195.00 per course

To register for a class, contact Lynellen Watson (X5999, fax: X5870). Please obtain approval and account number to be charged from your supervisor. For information about class content, check out the program website ( Workplace/EDT/computers/oracle.html). The registration deadline is on the Monday prior to the week the class is to be held.

AIM Computer Training

Bldg. 51L computer room (next to the lower level of the Bevatron).

Cost: $100 per course, except for Windows 95 Transition, which is free.

To enroll, complete the AIM enrollment form located on the Employee Development and Training website (, obtain your supervisor's approval, and fax it to (510) 827-1614. You will receive a confirmation call within two business days.

Cancellation Policy: Your division account will be charged for classes that have a fee unless you cancel five working days prior to the class you are scheduled to attend.


Professional Skills Assessment Program

Professional Skills Assessment Program

The UC Office of the President is accepting applications for its Professional Skills Assessment Program (PSAP), designed to increase participants' knowledge about career-related skills, on-the job potential, and future career growth. PSAP is one of UCOP's most successful and highly recognized staff development efforts. The three-and-a-half-day, in-residence program will be held March 31 through April 3 at the Vallombrosa Center in Menlo Park. The application deadline is Jan. 30. Administrative Assistants 1, 2 or 3 may contact their division administrator for an application packet or visit the UC Training & Development website ( Completed applications should be mailed to Christa Brothers at Mail Stop 938A. For more information, contact Christa Brothers at X4238.


Waste Watchers Moves to EH&S Newsletter

Over the past year, Waste Watcher articles have appeared occasionally in Currents. From now on, Waste Management will instead publish articles on these issues in the quarterly EH&S Division newsletter in order to be able to provide readers with more technical information. Waste oriented articles that have broad application to the Lab community will continue to appear occasionally in Currents. The next edition of the EH&S newsletter will be published in January of 1998.


Lawrence Postdoctoral Fellowship Program

Applications are being accepted for the Lawrence Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, which offers postdoctoral fellows an opportunity to conduct research at Berkeley Lab. Research areas include energy sciences, general sciences, computing sciences, and biosciences.

Applicants must be U.S. citizens or hold permanent resident alien status, and have received a doctoral degree in an appropriate discipline within three years of the appointment start date. Members of groups historically underrepresented in the science and engineering fields are particularly encouraged to apply. Terms will be for a minimum of two years with the possibility of renewal. A monthly stipend will be paid at a rate competitive with current LBNL postdoctoral fellowships.

Applicants must submit a completed application package to the Lawrence Postdoctoral Program (Box # NCUR-LPF, One Cyclotron Rd., MS 938A, Berkeley, CA, 94720) before Feb. 15 for spring appointments or May 30 for summer/fall appointments.

For more information, see the program website at


BodyWorks Classes Cancelled

BodyWorks aerobic classes have been canceled until further notice due to the resignation of the class instructor, who had a scheduling conflict. A new session is expected to start in the spring. Stay tuned.


Library Seminar on METADEX Database Service

The Library staff will present a seminar focusing on the content and use of the web-based METADEX database service offered via the Library web pages. The presentation will be held Tuesday, Jan. 20, at 1:30 p.m. in the Bldg. 66 auditorium.

The METADEX database is derived from the print publication Metals Abstracts. It focuses on the science and technology of metals providing coverage of the literature in materials science, metallurgy, polymers, and composites used in engineering applications. More information about the METADEX service is located on the web at



Calendar of Events at Berkeley Lab


The Berkeley Lab Calendar is published biweekly here on the World Wide Web and in Currents by the Public Information Department. Employees can list a meeting, class, or event in the Calendar by using this submission form. The deadline for submissions is 5 p.m. on Monday in the week that Currents is published.

In addition to the events listed below, Berkeley Lab's Washington, D.C. Projects office is hosting a Science and Technology Seminars series. 

Scientific Conferences


WED., JAN. 14

General meeting, noon, the lower cafeteria


Berkeley TRIP commute store, noon to 12:45 p.m., cafeteria parking lot. Employees may purchase AC Transit, BART, and other commute tickets.

TUES., JAN. 20

Library staff seminar on the content and use of the web-based METADEX database service offered via the Library web pages. 1:30 p.m, Bldg. 66 auditorium.


7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Bldg. 54 parking lot
Items for the calendars may be sent via e-mail to, faxed to X6641, or mailed to Bldg. 65B. The deadline for the Jan. 23 issue is 5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 19 .

Seminars & Lectures

TUES., JAN. 13

will be presented by Professor R. Ray of Calcutta Univ./MSU at 2:30 p.m. in the Bldg. 71B-290 conference room.

WED., JAN. 14

will be presented by Dr. R. Jagannathan of the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Tamilnadu, India, at 10:30 a.m. in Bldg. 71B-290.

TUES., JAN. 15

"Designing Catalysts for High Activity and Selectivity: Metal Oxide-Metal Oxide Interactions" will be presented by Alexis T. Bell of MSD/UCB at 1:30 p.m. in the Bldg. 66 auditorium.

FRI., JAN. 16

"An Integrated Approach to Benchmarking, Performance Evaluation, Optimization and Modeling" will be presented by Erich Strohmaier at 9:30 a.m. in the 50D conference room.

TUES., JAN. 20

Berkeley Lab's Library staff will present a seminar on the web-based METADEX database service at 1:30 p.m. in Bldg. 66, Rm. 316.


Flea Market


`55 CHEVROLET, 2-dr, 210, 6 cyl. good cond., $4500, offer would be considered, Tom, 284-7932

`70 FORD MUSTANG, Grande, 351W, p/s, auto trans, family owned, have records & manuals, $2300/b.o., Jason X5873, 278-9633

`78 TOYOTA Celica, 5-spd, ac, sun roof, roof rack, gd cond., very reliable, new tires, 140K mi, $800/b.o. Chris, X5550

`87 DODGE B150 cargo van, slant 6, auto trans, pb, ps, ac, am/fm cass, extra window, roof vent lockable cargo box, 122K mi., $3000/b.o., Jim X7231

'87 OLDS, 98 Regency Brougham, 118K mi., a/t, a/c, p/s, all elec., leather, exc. cond., tires & brakes recent, $3000./b.o., Joachim X5083, 883-9521

'89 NISSAN 240 SX, hatchback, white, ac, power windows and door locks,premium sound system, 55K mi., always garaged, like new inside & out, $8K, 642-0653.

'91 SATURN, SL2, 4-dr, 5 spd, p/w, ac, alloy wheels, new tires, 63K mi., very good condition, $6500, Steve X5828, 631-1448

'94 MUSTANG, silver, fully loaded, V6, low miles, warranty, $11,500. Lisa, 906-9786


TICKETS, Cal Performances 10% off list, Radu Lupu (2/1), Skampa Quartet (2/15), Flying Karamazov Brothers (2/21), Russian National Orchestra (4/5), Paco de Lucia (4/9), Bill X7493, 558-8617


CAR TO RENT? Visiting scientist, responsible, looking for 2nd car. Wants to rent for daily short-distance commute from now through end of June.Will pay insurance + rental fee. Eric X6308, 527-2823

LONG-TERM APT. or cottage in East Bay sought by single, quiet, female LBNL employee, exc. ref., X5166, 524-2327

NECKTIES, donated for school project, the uglier the better. Mail to Vickie Saling MS88-163, X7826


BEVELED MIRRORS, six, 36"x8", $7 ea., X6412

COFFEE TABLE, 68x21, matching end table w/storage, 27x27, light inlaid wood, $150 for pair; color TV, Zenith, 25", $80, Stan, 758-8017

FIRE ESCAPE LADDER, First Alert, never used, still in box, $25. Don, X4558

FUTONS, two w/frames, twin size, like new, $45 & $55 ea. set; two twin size spring boxes w/frames, $45 ea. set. Nanyang X5814

MODULAR HOUSE, wood, currently in storage, 3-bdrm, 900 sq. ft., Douglas fir, easy to assemble, meets Cal. codes, flooring, wiring & plumbing not incl., $10K/b.o. Stan, 758-8017

SONY radio, cassette recorder, w/2-way & 4-speaker system, built in microphone, rarely used, $30, Jia Lu, X6817, 845-5154.


BERKELEY, furnished rm for rent, located very close to campus, 2 blks to LBNL shuttle w/kitchen & laundry facilities, $400/mo. avail. after 2/1/98. Call Jia Lu, 845-5154

BERKELEY, south of campus nr. LBNL shuttle, 1 bdrm in lg 2 bdrm apt. avail. March-April w/option to take over the entire apt., 666-0113, X5865 Christopher.

KENSINGTON, 5-bdrm house to share w/1 person, private bth, view of bay & Golden Gate, garden w/trees, nr shopping/buses, $500/mo. + 1/3 utils. 524-7086

KENSINGTON/Thousnd Oaks Area,1 bdrm in 4-bdrm 3-bth home (furnished, negotiable); split level house w/cathedral ceilings & good light; one blk fr shopping, pub, cafes, & busses; quiet family neighborhood, close to Bart, on st. parking, non smoker,$500/mo., 526-6790

ORINDA, rm in home, $750/mo., $300/wk, $50/night, utils. incl. Mrs. Johnston, 254-4763

PINOLE, nr I-80/San Pablo Dam Rd, 4-bdrm, 2-bth home, frpl, washer/dryer, refrig., lg. fenced backyd w/deck, nr shopping centers, $1200/mo. Stan, 758-8017

Real Estate

OAKLAND, 2-bdrm, 2-bth condo., 2 blks from Lake Merritt & Grand Lake Theater, 1234 sq.ft, living rm, dining rm, full sz. kitchen w/bkfast area, washer/ dryer/dishwasher, 2nd flr unit w/balc., sec. parking, avail. after 1/15, asking $160K. Andre, X6745, 559-8652

OAKLAND, 2-bdrm, 1-bth w/ in-law unit, at Morcom Rose Garden. Walk to Piedmont Ave & Grand Lake shopping. $249K Barry, 654-8518

SONOMA COAST, 2.16 acres, Timbercove, Ft. Ross area, all utils. Nick, 527-1965


BAHAMAS, Taino Beach Resort, nr Freeport, 1-bdrm condo, slps 4, every amenity, pool/tennis, on beach, maid service, $500/wk. X6005

HAWAII, 20 mi. below Hilo on rainy side of Big Island, convenient to Univ. of Hawaii & orchid plantation, unfurn. 2-bdrm, 2-bth house, nr schools, shopping & rec. center, 1 mi. to ocean bluff, $450/mo., possible lease-option to buy for $58K. X6005

SO. LAKE TAHOE, Tahoe Keys, 3-bdrm, 2.5 bth house, on the water, fenced yd, quiet area, nr skiing & other attractions, water & mountain views, $125/night. 376-2211


Flea Market Policy

Flea Market items may be sent via Quickmail, e-mailed to, faxed to X6641, or mailed to Bldg. 65B. The deadline for the Jan 23 issue is 5 p.m. Friday, Jan.16.


Cafeteria Menu

Due to unforseen circumstances, the cafeteria menu, regularly published in Currents, was not availble for publication at press time. As usual, the weekly menu will be posted at the cafeteria entrance. For further information, call the cafeteria at X5357.


Currents/The View and the Communications Department Staff

Published once a month by the Communications Department for the employees and retirees of Berkeley Lab.

Reid Edwards, Public Affairs Department head
Ron Kolb, Communications Department head

Pamela Patterson, 486-4045,
Associate editor
Lyn Hunter, 486-4698,

Dan Krotz, 486-4019
Paul Preuss, 486-6249
Lynn Yarris, 486-5375

Ucilia Wang, 495-2402
Allan Chen, 486-4210
David Gilbert, (925) 296-5643

Caitlin Youngquist, 486-4020
Creative Services Office

Berkeley Lab
Communications Department
MS 65, One Cyclotron Road, Berkeley CA 94720
(510) 486-5771
Fax: (510) 486-6641

Berkeley Lab is managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy.

Flea Market is now online at


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