October 20th, 2006 Search the View Archive

Berkeley Lab: 75 Years of World-Class Science 1931-2006 Berkeley Lab: 75 Years of World-Class Science 1931-2006 Berkeley Lab logo

Important Milestone Passed in Cookstoves-to-Darfur Project
Over 600 Have Fun at 29th Run-Walk-Bike-around
Energy Awareness Makes Berkeley Lab Greener
New Technique Being Used to Upgrade Lab's Water Pipeline
Berkeley Lab Science Roundup
Freedman Named AAAS Fellow, Also Wins Bonner Prize
Symposium, Dinner to Culminate 75th Anniversary Activities
Lab Offers Sessions in Grants.gov Preparedness
2006 Berkeley Lab SHARES Campaign Begins
People, Awards, and Honors


By George! Smoot Wins the Nobel Prize

By Lynn Yarris

George Smoot with the COBE skymap.

The phone call came in at around 2:45 a.m. on Tuesday, October 3, 2006. A man with a polite voice and Swedish accent informed Berkeley Lab astrophysicist George Smoot that he had won the Nobel Prize in Physics, along with NASA scientist John Mather, for their 1992 results from NASA’s Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite that provided the first substantial experimental evidence for the Big Bang theory of cosmology. The first question from Smoot, who had a new cell phone and an unlisted number, was: “How did you get my phone number?” Despite two subsequent speakers, including a friend, Smoot suspected a prank until he actually confirmed the news on the Nobel Prize website at around 3 a.m. He promptly emailed his family and called this writer.

And then the fun began.

Flanked by photographers, Smoot makes his way to a press conference in the Building 50 Auditorium.

Just about every scientist fantasizes about receiving that phone call from Sweden and winning a Nobel Prize, just as probably every actor or actress dreams of winning an Oscar.

But what happens after the phone call? Based on Smoot’s experience, what immediately happens are more phone calls.

A lot more phone calls.

Because of international time differences, reporters from the British and European media are well into their day when the Nobel announcement goes on-line, and they are anxious to meet deadlines. Reporters with deadlines are a relentless lot, like computerized solicitors or erroneous fax machines. From about 3:30 a.m. on, both the phones of Smoot and this writer (whose Lab number was listed) did not stop ringing. A formal press conference was scheduled for the Building 50 Auditorium at 10 a.m., in and of itself a logistical challenge. This was early enough for most Bay Area reporters, though TV camera crews showed up at the Laboratory as early as 4:30 for 5 a.m. newscasts. Smoot intended to be at the Lab by 7 a.m., but was lucky to make it in shortly before the press conference. Before facing the media, however, he received words of advice from Lab director Steve Chu, who won the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics for his development of optical traps for single atoms.

During the press conference, Smoot entertained Lab employees and journalists alike, humorously explaining that he thought the early morning calls from Sweden were a joke.

The press conference in the auditorium was packed with television camera crews, photographers, reporters and well-wishers from the Lab and University, including Director Chu and UC Berkeley chancellor Robert Birgeneau. In his remarks, the Chancellor was effusive in his praise for Smoot and said, “The entire campus community is enormously proud of George’s achievement and joins me in sending him hearty congratulations.”

In short order, the Chancellor extended to Smoot a number of invitations, mostly for fund-raising events, but also to toss the coin in the Cal-Oregon football game on the following Saturday. Smoot was also offered seats in the Chancellor’s box for the game, which was Homecoming for the campus. At that game, Smoot took on the job of “mic-man,” leading the fans in a series of cheers. Smoot himself was on the receiving end of the cheers when he took the field and Cal fans began chanting “Nobel Prize! Nobel Prize! Nobel Prize!” Perhaps inspired by Smoot’s cheerleading, the Golden Bears went on to conquer the Ducks by a score of 45-24.

Just after the press conference ended, Smoot was swarmed by reporters, eager to learn more about his Nobel experience.

In his own remarks at the press conference in the 50 auditorium, before taking questions from reporters, Smoot expressed his gratitude to the Laboratory and to the University of California for “providing the scientific freedom and culture of research” that make long-term experimental efforts like his possible.

“It’s no wonder the Free Speech Movement started at Berkeley,” he said. “For us it was the Free Science Movement, pick out the best science you can do and do it. That was so liberating, the thing that really made it so that I could think about science that was out of the ordinary and into a new field.”

He also thanked the U.S. Depart-ment of Energy and NASA for their financial support of his work, and taxpayers in general.

“You guys paid for this,” he said, gesturing to the audience. “I figured it out once and it was like $3 for every person in the country.”

Smoot shares a champagne toast with Lab Director Emeritus Chuck Shank, center, and former Deputy Director Pier Oddone, right, at a reception in the cafeteria dining hall.

Throughout those first hours after the phone call from Sweden, Smoot repeatedly stated that the winning of this Nobel Prize had been for a team effort, involving a large number of scientists and engineers and support staff. Despite the crush of calls from the media and well-wishers, he took the time early that Tuesday morning to send an e-mail message to all the members of the COBE project. The message read in part: “This award is shared by the two team leaders John Mather and George Smoot but is representative of the work done by all on the project and recognizes the importance of COBE as a keystone mission from cosmology.”

In his book, Wrinkles in Time, which was first published in 1993, Smoot insisted over the publisher’s objections on including an appendix in which he listed more than 1,500 contributors to this research. This list included Giovanni De Amici, Jon Aymon, Charles Lineweaver and Luis Tenorio, who were co-authors on the Astrophysical Journal paper of 1992, which first reported the COBE experimental results. During the day, in the course of dozens of interviews and conversations, Smoot acknowledged other scientists with whom he collaborated, such as physicists Rich Muller and Paul Richards (who was John Mather’s thesis advisor), and those who helped in the never-ending battles for funding, such as Robert Birge and Pier Oddone, previous directors of Berkeley Lab’s Physics Division, and former Berkeley Lab directors Andy Sessler, Dave Shirley and Chuck Shank. He also gave high praise to the work of Saul Perlmutter and other members of the Supernova Cosmology Project and paid special homage to his mentor, the late Nobel Laureate Luis Alvarez.

Smoot was invited to participate in the coin toss for the Cal vs. Oregon football game in Memorial Stadium.

Speaking of Wrinkles in Time, which Smoot co-authored with San Francisco Chronicle science writer Keay Davidson, at 6:30 a.m. on that Tuesday morning, the book ranked number 604,951 in sales on the Amazon.com website. By 5:30 p.m. that day, after the phone call, Wrinkles in Time had climbed more than half a million slots and was ranked at 14,249.

Of course there were parties. At noon on that day, there was a reception for Smoot hosted by his immediate colleagues in the Physics Division and at INPA (Institute for Nuclear and Particle Astrophysics). Director Chu and the Lab hosted a champagne celebration in the cafeteria at 3 p.m., which featured surprise appearances by both Shank and Oddone, the Lab’s director and deputy director respectively when the COBE results were announced. In making a toast at this celebration, Director Chu noted that even with the addition of Smoot, there’s still space on the Lab’s Nobel Laureate wall for a few more prize-winners. Following the Lab’s reception, Smoot was whisked down to campus for a UC Berkeley reception. He did not make it back home until around 7:30 p.m., which presented a problem.

Cal quarterback Nate Longshore escorts Smoot to the middle of the field for the coin toss.

Throughout the frenzy after the call, Smoot had expressed on several occasions his concern about a mid-term exam he’d scheduled for his freshman physics class on Wednesday, which he’d not yet fully prepared. Education and his teaching duties have long been top priorities for Smoot. Two years ago, he began a partnership with Berkeley Lab physicist Michael Barnett and the Particle Data Group, who led the development of the award-winning Particle Adventure educational website, to create the Universe Adventure, a website designed to teach the current theories and supporting evidence for the history, structure and fate of the universe. With help from Rollie Otto and the Center for Science and Engineering Education (CSEE), and funding from the Bechtel Corporation, this website is now up and running and can be viewed at http://www.universeadventure.org.

Early on the Nobel announcement morning, a Building 50 employee put a sticky note with Smoot's name on it in the spot next to framed pictures of the Lab's other Nobel Laureates.

Smoot is also now in discussion with UC Berkeley about donating his prize money to the campus to provide fellowships for postdocs and grad students, pending matching funding donations. His desire is “to encourage and help outstanding young people to enter scientific research.”

But first there was the mid-term for 174 students on thermal physics to prepare for. On the night after the phone call in which he was awakened shortly before 3 a.m., Smoot stayed up until 3 a.m. to finish preparing his exam.

On Tuesday he’d posited that in winning the Nobel Prize, “Perhaps now my students will pay more attention to me.”

Perhaps they do: their overall scores on the mid-term were much better than for the previous exam.

In the opening of Wrinkles in Time, Smoot wrote: “There is something about looking at the night sky that makes a person wonder.” Smoot looked at the night sky, wondered, and then devoted his life to finding answers. The reward was a phone call from a polite Swedish man. After the phone call, Smoot said he wanted to continue to teach and do research, but now, with his new celebrity, he adds:

Despite the hullabaloo of winning the Nobel, Smoot finds time to teach his physics class at UC Berkeley that day; his students wrote “congratulations” on the chalk board.

“I want to be an ambassador for science and help pave the way for the next generation of scientists.”

All of this should be possible, thanks to that phone call.


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Ribbon is Cut on National Center for X-ray Tomography

By Lynn Yarris

The ribbon was officially cut on the morning of October 11 to dedicate the new National Center for X-ray Tomography (NCXT). Located at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source, this new center features a first-of-its-kind x-ray microscope that will enable scientists to perform “CAT scans” on biological cells, just one of many unprecedented capabilities for cell and molecular biology studies.

Cutting the ribbon that officially opened the new National Center for X-ray Tomography were (from left) Roland Hirsch of DOE, Allan Basbaum of UCSF, Carolyn Larabell of Berkeley Lab, Barbara Alving of NIH, Amy Swain of NIH, and Roger Falcone, Berkeley Lab.

“X-ray microscopy is an emerging new technology that expands the imaging toolbox for cell and molecular biologists, and we are going to make this technology available to the greater biological community,” said cell biologist and microscopy expert Carolyn Larabell. Larabell holds a joint appointment with Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division and the Anatomy Department of UC San Francisco and is the principal investigator for NCXT, along with her co-principal investigator, physicist Mark LeGros.

Among those on hand to participate in the dedication ceremonies with Larabell and LeGros were Graham Fleming, Deputy Director of Berkeley Lab; Roger Falcone, the director of the ALS; Roland Hirsch, of the Biological and Environmental Research (BER) program in the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science; Amy Swain and Barbara Alving, of the National Center for Research Resources program in the National Institutes of Health (NIH); and Allan Basbaum, chair of the Anatomy Department at the University of California’s San Francisco campus.

In his dedication remarks, Falcone credited “the generosity of the DOE and NIH funding agencies,” working with Larabell and LeGros and other Berkeley Lab staff members, “for making this facility happen.”

Swain predicted that the NCXT would “open new windows into cellular architecture,” and said her agency was proud to have partnered with DOE and Berkeley Lab in the facility’s construction

The centerpiece of the NCXT is the first soft x-ray transmission microscope to be designed specifically for biological and biomedical applications. It is capable of imaging whole, hydrated cells at resolutions of about 35 nanometers, and specific structural elements within the cell at a resolution of at least 25 nanometers. Future improvements could put the resolution of this microscope as fine as 10 nanometers. This superior resolution is made possible by a combination of the high brightness of x-ray light produced by an ALS bend magnet beamline and nanofabricated zone plate optics produced by Berkeley Lab’s Center for X-ray Optics.

Said Larabell, “Although there are currently many powerful techniques for imaging biological cells, each with its own unique strengths and limitations, there remains a gap between the information that can be obtained with light micro-scopy and electron microscopy. X-ray microscopy can bridge this gap by combining some of the best features associated with light and electron microscopy, plus bringing in some entirely new capabilities.”

Berkeley Lab’s ALS is an electron-based synchrotron/storage ring capable of generating x-ray beams that are one hundred million times brighter than those from the best x-ray tubes. The intensity of the beamline will make it possible for users of the NXCT to collect a complete data set for an x-ray tomography image in a matter of minutes, compared to the days and even weeks required for electron microscopy.

In his remarks at the dedication, BER’s Hirsch, who has been involved with the ALS since it was first in the design stage, paid tribute to a number of DOE officials, but especially the late Iran Thomas, long-time director in the Office of Basic Energy Sciences, who passed away in 2003. Though himself a materials scientist, “Thomas took a big risk and successfully argued that there should be a place for the life sciences at the ALS,” Hirsch said. “It’s too bad he did not live to see this facility.”

Microscopy using photons that fall within the visible light region of the electromagnetic spectrum remains the workhorse of biology because it enables scientists to examine living cells in their natural state. Resolution, however, is typically no better than 200 nanometers, and that is only when the light is focused on a single spot.

First Light. The new soft x-ray microscope at the National Center for X-ray Tomography captured its first x-rays on August 23, 2006

Microscopy techniques based on the use of electrons can provide images at a resolution of five nanometers or better. However, samples must be sliced thin, put through an elaborate chemical preparation, and stained in order for the electrons to penetrate and yield high-res images.

With transmission x-ray micro-scopy, samples are rapidly frozen and need no further chemical alteration or staining to be imaged. Because of the quick turnaround time between sample preparation and data collection, scientists using the NCXT will be able to accumulate a statistically significant volume of data within a relatively short time.

“With the NCXT microscope, we can examine whole cells, identify subcellular components and locate macromolecules inside cells at substantially better resolutions than light microscopy, and without the elaborate specimen preparations needed for electron microscopy,” said Larabell.

The NCXT is being funded with grants from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). For its construction and five years of operation, the Biological and Environmental Research (BER) program in DOE’s Office of Science has provided about $7 million. NIH has provided about $5 million through its National Center for Research Resources program, which establishes “biomedical technology resource centers,” such as the NCXT, to provide scientists and clinical researchers with “the environments and tools they need to understand, detect, treat, and prevent a wide range of diseases.” As an NIH technology resource center, the NCXT will be available to qualified biomedical researchers throughout the nation.

“This facility gives us the prospect of answering some of the all-important who, what, where and when questions about cell biology,” said Fleming.

UCSF’s Basbaum said that as a scientist who specializes in studying the biology of nerve cells, “I can’t wait to make good use of this facility for my own research and to see what else comes out of here, because after all, biology is what this facility is all about.”


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Important Milestone Passed in Cookstoves-to-Darfur Project

By Pam Patterson

When Ashok Gadgil left the refugee camps of Darfur late last year after demonstrating his efficient cook stoves to the women of the war-torn region, he left behind the five stoves he and Christie Galitsky had taken with them and carried the heartsick knowledge that there needed to be 300,000 more to adequately meet refugee needs. The stoves, which reduce the consumption of wood, spare Darfur women the dangerous task of walking long distances from camp to gather fuel, an endeavor that can take seven hours a day, and exposes them to attack, rape and murder. In July of this year, Ashok revisited the Darfur camps with his grad student Susan Amrose, and demonstrated improved stoves that would reduce fuelwood requirements by 75%, but the refugee situation was only getting worse, and still there were no stoves in large numbers.

Late last month, the Lab’s Darfur Stoves Project passed an important milestone, when after more than a year of effort the group finalized a design of a stove for use in the refugee camps. Group members met late one evening to assemble a few models of the inexpensive stove here at the Lab. Their goal was to familiarize volunteer engineer Brian Tachibana with stove parts and assembly techniques in preparation for his two-month tour in Sudan, where he will teach the Sudanese craftsmen how to build the stoves.

Some of the many contributors to the Darfur stoves project, from left, front row: Jonathan Slack, Susan Amrose, Brian Tachibana, and Keith Gazda. Back row: Charles Sellers, Howdy Goudy, and Ashok Gadgil. Pictured above, in blue, is student assistant Sam Blau.

The stove design is based on feedback from two different visits to Darfur refugee camps (Nov. 2005 and July 2006) and performance testing of successive design changes in the stoves by UCB graduate students. Translation of the original prototype stove into an easily manufactured and assembled design was a volunteer effort by LBNL technical staff and the Engineers Without Borders Appropriate Technology Design Team, lead by Ken Chow.

Tachibana’s photo of a Sudanase metalworker proudly holding a stove.

The entire Darfur Stove team is now geared towards supporting Tachibana’s rapid progress in Darfur. At present he is in in Khartoum building 50 stoves with local craftsmen. The first goal is to have 5000 stoves built by end of Dec. 2006 and disseminated in early 2007. The goal is to win immediate support for the additional 295,000 based on the demonstrated success of the first 5000 stoves. Not a moment too soon for the refugees waiting in Darfur.


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Over 600 Have Fun at 29th Run-Walk-Bike-around

By Ron Kolb

The men’s race finally featured a winner other than Dula Parkinson, and the women’s race survived an unprecedented complication at the finish line that involved sorting out three finishers who at one time were all declared the winner. In the end, Runaround No. 29 last Friday was another memorable display of fast times, fantastic fall weather, and fun.

Ahead of all 603 runners and walkers, breaking the crepe finish line, was a first-timer, David Bronfenbrenner, who had to edge out four-time men’s champ Parkinson for the victory. He clocked in at a blistering 9:10. An experienced runner who has been a graduate student in Materials Sciences for the last few years, he missed prior races due to scheduling conflicts, but he came up big in ’06. Parkinson, a researcher at the Advanced Light Source from Physical Biosciences, just missed his “five-peat,” having won from 2002 through 2005.

David Bronfenbrenner crosses finish line

The women’s title wasn’t quite as easy to declare. First female across the line was Ashley Lin, an undergraduate at UC Berkeley who sheepishly admitted that she had no connection to the Lab and was simply running with friends for fun. The runner-up appeared to be Italian postdoc Elena Guardincerri of the Nuclear Sciences Division, who arrived for her assignment at Berkeley Lab just two weeks before the race. Wearing a t-shirt reading “Regione Liguria, Gente Concrete” (roughly translated: Liguria, it’s the place!), she breezed through the hilly five-kilometer course in 13:19.

It wasn’t until the following weekend’s review of participant cards, handed out by order of finish, that Race Director Steve Derenzo discovered another woman finished just ahead of Guardincerri. Thus Rebecca Jones, a graduate student in Materials Sciences with Eugene Haller’s group, moved to the top of the list, and both women earned championship trophies.           

Rebecca Jones

Derenzo was pleased with the turnout and the level of competition. However, he was disappointed in how few people entered his “silly award” competition. When no one approached the stage to be considered “most pregnant runner,” he said, “This does not speak well for the next generation of scientists.”

He did, however, get two candidates for the “best legs” contest for men, and after strutting their stuff before the hooting crowd, graduate student Bruno Colas, of France and the Advanced Light Source, emerged victorious.

Young Finnegan Reichertz, age 2, had no trouble being crowned the “youngest baby” in the race. Pushed most of the way by his mother Dorothee Rebscher of the Earth Sciences Division, he climbed out of his stroller to stagger across the finish line on two feet.s

Elena Guardincerri

No problem with the oldest runner, either. That was Oliver Morse, the age-defying 73-year-old whose first race was in 1981 and since 1983 hasn’t missed a Runaround. Morse is a retired engineer from the energy efficient lighting program.

Bo Bodvarsson, the Earth Sciences Division Director, served as master of ceremonies for the post-race ceremony. “I’m not going to tell you where I finished,” he joked, but he can be forgiven for that — you don’t see too many participants shoot the starting gun at the fire house, put it down, and then jump into the fray and run the course as Bodvarsson did. It’s a competition he has entered most years since 1993.

Finnegan Reichertz

Derenzo reminded the runners that their scores and standings in various age categories would be posted on the Runaround web site in about a week.


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Energy Awareness Makes Berkeley Lab Greener

By Dan Krotz

Berkeley Lab is a little greener this year, thanks to a successful new program that seeks to prevent pollution and conserve energy use at the Lab.

The Lab’s Environmental Manage-ment System (EMS), launched in 2005, focuses on ways to curb electricity use, diesel emissions, petroleum use, low-level radioactive waste, and on-site traffic. It also establishes guidelines for the procurement of environmentally friendly products.

Think of the program as the Lab’s way of “acting locally,” doing its part to derail climate change and environmental degradation. It’s also in keeping with the Lab’s scientific programs, such as its newly minted push to develop clean energy sources, as well as its longstanding tradition of developing energy efficiency technologies and understanding climate change.

The Lab’s Environmental Management System, launched in 2005, focuses on energy awareness

The EMS strengthens the environmental component of the Laboratory Integrated Safety Management system. The program is managed by a team of representatives from the Facilities Division, the Environment, Health & Safety (EH&S) Division, and the Procurement Department. Last year, the program passed an important milestone when it successfully weathered a three-day audit performed by an independent engineering consulting firm. The review found that the Lab’s EMS program conforms to the environmental management requirements prescribed by DOE.

“Our success is due to the combined effort of people from all of these different groups, who have worked across Divisions and departments to ensure an effective program,” says EMS team leader Ron Pauer of the EH&S Division.

This is good news, as a successful EMS program is required under Berkeley Lab’s new management contract between the University of California and DOE. And it’s good business. The program was launched in response to an executive order issued in 2005 that requires all DOE facilities to initiate programs that save energy and minimize environmental impacts. Rather than implement a generic approach to meet these goals, Berkeley Lab’s EMS team tailored a cost-effective, performance-based strategy that is designed to have the greatest impact at the Lab.

“We focused on programs that maximize environmental benefits and energy savings,” says Pauer.

When developing the program, the EMS team reviewed all of the Lab activities that have an environmental impact, and then focused on those activities that have a significant impact. In its short time in existence, the team was able to save $80,000 in electricity and natural gas costs for FY 2006. This cost cutting was achieved through an energy conservation awareness program, readjusting the lighting in less frequently used areas, reducing hot water temperatures, and making boilers more efficient, among other strategies.

In other areas, a new Dolphin water treatment system in the Building 37 cooling tower has reduced the consumption of water and chemicals. The electrical and natural gas use at Buildings 50A and 70 have been reduced, thanks to a duct sealing technology developed at Berkeley Lab. And a ridership survey was completed that identified ways to increase the use of mass transit.

Ongoing programs include developing policies that will lead to an increase in the procurement of Energy Star products and products made of recycled content. Other initiatives are aimed at evaluating ways to reduce particulate matter emissions from busses, and reducing the amount of fuel used by the Lab’s vehicle fleet.

The EMS program, which is evaluated by the EMS team at the end of every fiscal year, will undergo another external review in two years. The program’s strong start bodes well for the future.

“We’ve designed a program that is a systematic approach to ensuring that environmental stewardship activities are well managed and provide business value to the Lab,” says Pauer.


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New Technique Being Used to Upgrade Lab’s Water Pipeline

By Jim Miller

A new polyethylene pipe snakes past Building 75 on its way uphill.

“Pipe bursting” may sound like your worst plumbing nightmare, but to an engineer it’s a dream come true: a way to replace an underground pipe without having to dig it up.

For most of the past 40 years, Berkeley Lab’s domestic water supply has come from two pipelines, providing redundancy in the event of an earthquake or wildland fire. In December 2000, however, one of these lines was shut down, a casualty of earth movement on the slope between its hookup to the Centennial Drive main and the Lab’s pump house, about 720 feet downhill in Building 68.

Mike Dong, the Facilities Division’s Chief Engineer, explains: “Picture the pipe as like your arm, with a slight bend at the elbow. As the pipe moves downhill with the sliding earth, it tips up at the elbow.” This movement forced the downhill end, which enters the pump house through a concrete wall, to tilt upward, eventually cracking the wall.

According to Project Manager Bill Wu, “It was essential to replace the pipe, but because of the difficulty of trenching and compacting on that steep slope, we wanted to look at alternative methods. During design we looked at three schemes—traditional trenching, aboveground construction, and pipe bursting. In the end we chose pipe bursting because of its advantages in terms of cost and ease of construction.”

Pipe-bursting head used to break up old pipe and pull new pipe into place.

Pipe bursting is a sort of minimally invasive surgery for pipes: it eliminates the need to dig a trench. Instead, a powerful winch drags the new pipe into place by means of a cable extending down through the old pipe. A conical “bursting head” attached to the front of the new pipe uses slitting tools and main force to break up the old pipe and push it out of the way. The new pipe, which has a larger diameter than the old, fits snugly into the bore formed by the bursting head.

Dong and Wu have good reason to be satisfied with their approach. The project, which was funded by DOE as a special general plant project (GPP), was completed on time, in just four weeks, and the cost was some 30 percent lower than a conventional trench installation. The real payoff, though, is the safety margin that a redundant water supply gives the Lab in case of an emergency.

Jim Miller is a technical writer with the Creative Services Office (CSO)


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Berkeley Lab Science Roundup

Surprising Energies: From Particle Beams to Exploding Stars

Members of the LOASIS group, clockwise from left: Carl Schroeder, Csaba Toth, Bob Nagler, Don Syversrud, Nathan Ybarrolaza, Kei Nakamura, and Wim Leemans

Wim Leemans and his colleagues in the Accelerator and Fusion Research Division’s LOASIS group worked with Simon Hooker at the University of Oxford to accelerate electron beams to over a billion electron volts (1 GeV) in a distance of just 3.3 centimeters. The key to their success, and the promise of staging such tiny accelerators to vastly greater energies, is a capillary plasma tube carved in titanium sapphire that guides and focus the beam. The breakthrough was reported in the October first-anniversary issue of Nature Physics.

Members of the SuperNova Legacy Survey including Peter Nugent of the Computational Research Division and the University of Toronto’s Andy Howell, formerly of Berkeley Lab’s Physics Division, have discovered and modeled a Type Ia supernova twice as bright as the canonical Type Ia. The anomalous supernova’s brightness and low-velocity ejecta mean it must be 50 percent more massive than most Type Ia’s, possible only if its progenitor white dwarf was spinning very rapidly or was actually two white dwarfs in collision. The discovery was reported in the September 21 Nature.

Materials Ancient, Modern, and Simpler Than They Look

Jerusalem’s Roman-era wealth reveals itself in high proportions of silver in pottery.

Josephus chronicled the conquest of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE, noting “the vast wealth of the city” which its owners had “stored underground.” Now Frank Asaro and Robert Giauque of the Environmental Energy Technologies Division, working with Bar-Ilan University’s David Adan-Bayewitz, have used x-ray fluorescence and neutron activation analysis to show that pottery from this period of Jerusalem’s history has an unusually high proportion of silver compared to other sites, washed in by groundwater from the city’s buried treasure. The research appeared the August, 2006 issue of Archaeometry.

Nanocrystals of germanium embedded in glass don’t melt until the temperature rises almost 200 degrees Kelvin above the melting temperature in bulk, and they have to be cooled more than 200 K below the bulk melting point before they resolidify, a large, nearly symmetrical divergence of melting and cooling temperatures never seen before. Authors of the research, which appeared in the October 13, 2006 issue of Physical Review Letters, were Eugene Haller, Daryl Chrzan, Qing Xu, Ian Sharp, Jerry Yuan, D. O. Yi, Chih Yi Liao, Andreas Glaeser, Andy Minor, and Jim Beeman, from Berkeley Lab and UCB, with Mark Ridgway and Patrick Kluth from the Australian National University.

A decade ago, Ernie Glover of the Advanced Light Source demonstrated the laser-assisted photoelectric effect with clouds of atoms, knocking electrons out of the cloud with a beam of ultraviolet, while boosting or damping the effect with a simultaneous beam of infrared — a way of tracking the electrons on the femtosecond time scale. Research by University of Colorado physicist Margaret Murnane, appearing in the 15 September Physical Review Letters extends the technique to the more complex case of solids, showing, says Glover, “that the major features can be described simply.”

Waste Management: From Activated Sludge to Waste-Nothing Worms

The marine worm Olavius algarvensis

Microbial colonies treat tens of billions of gallons of wastewater a day in the U.S. alone, but activated sludge is a black box to sewage treatment engineers. The DOE Joint Genome Institute’s landmark metagenomic study of an activated sludge wastewater treatment process, appearing in the 24 September issue of Nature Biotechnology, promises to lead to more efficient operation and more robust design; even a marginal improvement would translate into huge savings and greater environmental safety.

DOE’s JGI has found another way of handling waste in a different kind of sludge: microbial communities living under the skin of the Mediterranean marine worm Olavius algarvensis, which makes its living in seafloor sediments, not only take care of the worm’s energy needs but its waste products as well. Indeed, the worm has no mouth or anus. Through metagenomic analysis the researchers found that the diverse microbes cooperate to convert sediment chemicals to power the worm and also take up its waste products. The research was published in the September 17 Nature.

Biological Engineering: New Rulers, Evolutionary Geometries

A nanoscale ruler capable of measuring protein-DNA interactions is made by attaching double-stranded DNA to gold nanoparticles.

Paul Alivisatos, Materials Sciences Division director, worked with UC Berkeley Bioengineering Professor Luke Lee and graduate student Gang Liu to create a macromolecular ruler made of scores of DNA double strands sprouting from a gold nanoparticle. The ruler can measure protein-DNA interactions inside a cell without labeling or waiting to count gene expression and promises to play a key role in understanding the flow of genetic information from DNA to RNA to protein. The research appeared in the October issue of Nature Nanotechnology, the journal’s premier issue.

Mina Bissell, Celeste Nelson, and Jamie Inman of the Life Sciences Division, working with Martijn VanDuijn and Daniel Fletcher (also of the Physical Sciences Division) of UCB’s Bioengineering Department, have discovered postulates for how growing epithelial tubules branch into different 3-D geometries in the breast, according to the dictates of the cellular microenvironment. The model may shed light on invasive cancer because, in addition to genetics, both normal and abnormal development is controlled by geometry. The research appeared in the October 13 issue of Science.


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Freedman Named AAAS Fellow, Also Wins Bonner Prize

By Paul Preuss

Stuart Freedman

Stuart J. Freedman of the Nuclear Science Division was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as a Fellow on October 8 in Boston, joining a long list of luminaries — 175 Fellows from the U.S., 20 Foreign Honorary Members — who include a couple of ex-presidents, Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush, the music director of the San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas, movie director Martin Scorsese, and airplane pioneer Elbert Rutan, among many other famous names. Although Freedman was the only physicist affiliated with the University of California at Berkeley, he was far from the only scientist with roots in the Bay Area, the University of California system, or California institutions in general, which together garnered almost a third of the fellowships in medicine and the physical sciences. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, not to be confused with that other AAAS, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, was founded by colonial-era luminaries including John Hancock and John Adams in 1780 “to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honour, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people,” and specifically to provide a forum for “scholar patriots” to work together on behalf of the democratic interests of the new republic. 

Just the week before, Freedman learned he was the winner of the American Physical Society’s 2007 Tom W. Bonner Prize in Nuclear Physics. The Bonner Prize is intended to recognize and encourage outstanding experimental research, and Freedman’s citation singles out “his contributions to neutrino physics and the study of the weak interactions in nuclei, in particular for his leading role in the KamLAND experiment, as well as for his work on precision measurements of the beta decay of the neutron.”


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Symposium, Dinner to Culminate 75th Anniversary Activities

The year-long celebration of Berkeley Lab’s 75 years of science and service will end with a bang — an all-day scientific symposium in the Building 50 Auditorium, and a gala anniversary dinner that will feature Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman as keynote speaker. They will both happen on November 14.

Lab employees, retirees and guests will be able to either attend or watch the symposium program, featuring a series of 30-minute talks by some of the lab’s most distinguished scientists. Seats in the auditorium will be limited and offered soon on a pre-registration basis, but anyone can view the proceedings live in either the Building 66 Auditorium or Perseverance Hall in the cafeteria.

One of the symposium highlights will be a panel discussion by current Director Steve Chu and former Directors Andy Sessler and Charles Shank, all reflecting upon the past achievements and future challenges of the Laboratory. Other invited guest speakers include energy efficiency pioneer Art Rosenfeld, Nobelist Don Glaser, science historian John Heilbron, and Fermilab Director Pier Oddone. A full agenda will be publicized soon, along with details on how to register for an all-day seat in the 50 Auditorium.

The dinner will be an invitation-only affair, due to space constraints, and will be held at the Claremont Hotel following the symposium. Bodman and most of his federal DOE laboratory directors, who will be meeting on the Hill the next day, will be in attendance.

A website will be launched with information and registration procedures. Its availability will be announced in “Today at Berkeley Lab,” the daily electronic newsletter.


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Lab Offers Sessions in Grants.gov Preparedness

The Berkeley Lab Institute and the OCFO Sponsored Projects Office (SPO) are offering a lunchtime discussion series to help researchers and staff gain the tools they need to get started, apply, and submit proposals through Grants.gov. Grants.gov is the single access point for over 1000 grant programs offered by the 26 Federal granting agencies such as NIH, NASA, NSF, DOE, DOI, USDA, DOD, and more.

Speakers will include Jeff Weiner, SPO Manager, Phyllis Gale, SPO Contracts Manager, and LBNL Principal Investigators who have submitted proposals through Grants.gov.

The first session will be held in Perseverance Hall on Nov. 3, from noon to 1 p.m. Subsequent sessions, also in Perseverance Hall, will be held on Nov. 10 and Dec. 5 from noon to 1 p.m. A session will be held on December 1 at 11:30 a.m. at Potter Street in the Sudar Auditorium.


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2006 Berkeley Lab SHARES Campaign Begins

For the ninth year, Berkeley Lab is sponsoring a charitable giving campaign called Berkeley Lab SHARES. The SHARES (Science for Health, Assistance, Resources, Education and Services) campaign continues through Friday, Nov. 3. SHARES is a convenient way to assist non-profit health and service agencies while supporting the Laboratory’s commitment to the community.

Any 510(c)3 organization is eligible to receive a donation. In addition to Berkeley Lab SHARES programs — which encompasses local charities that support science education and energy conservation — options may be found among the following organizations: Community Health Charities of California, United Way of the Bay Area, Earth Share of California, and the Bay Area Black United Fund.

To make an online donation, visit the SHARES website (www.lbl.gov/shares) and fill out the electronic form. For those who prefer to write a check, download the form and mail it to the payroll office (Bldg. 937-400).

For more information, visit the SHARES website or send e-mail to shares@lbl.gov.


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People, Awards, and Honors

Energy Experts Get Presidential Award

Bill Golove, left, a scientist in the Environmental Energy Technologies Division, and Alex Lekov, a research associate in EETD, are recipients of the 2006 Presidential Award for Leadership in Federal Energy Management as part of a team representing the U.S. Postal Service Pacific Area Energy Program Committee. The USPS received this award for over $100 million of clean energy retrofits during FY 2004-2005. Berkeley Lab was instrumental in designing the administrative structure of the program and providing technical assistance with the selection of technologies and the calculation of benefits.


Lab’s Foundry Project Wins Energy Award

The Department of Energy and the Federal Interagency Energy Policy Committee have selected Berkeley Lab to receive a 2006 Federal Energy Showcase Award for the energy-efficient design of its new Molecular Foundry building. The award recognizes buildings that take a comprehensive approach to energy management and stand out as exceptional models of energy efficiency, innovation, and sustainable design. The Foundry is the first Lab building to be designed to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) “Silver” rating standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council. It is projected to consume 30 percent less energy than the already-stringent California requirement for laboratory buildings.


EETD’s Harris Joins Alliance to Save Energy

Jeffrey Harris has joined the Alliance to Save Energy in Washington as vice president for programs, moving over from Berkeley Lab, where he spent more than 25 years as a staff scientist in Environmental Energy Technologies. At the Alliance, Harris oversees the buildings and utilities, industrial, and international programs. Since 1993, he had led the Government and Industry Programs Group at Berkeley Lab’s Washington, D.C., office. From 1982-90, Harris led the Buildings Energy Data Group at the Lab. He also served from 1990-93 in the Department of Energy’s Office of Building Technologies.


Energy Expert Gets Award for LED Work

Evan Mills, with the Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division, recently received a “Project of the Year” award in the international category, presented by the Association of Energy Engineers. He was recognized for his development of solar-powered LEDs to provide light for the nearly 1.6 billion people in the world without electricity.


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Fleamarket, the Lab's classified ad service, is now online and can be accessed at www.lbl.gov/fleamarket