Archive for February, 2007

Joel Achenbach Visits Fermilab

Posted in humor, physics on February 18, 2007 by Mike Procario

Joel Achenbach’s Sunday Washington Post Magazine column discusses his visit to Fermilab and how much he learned. I felt compelled to post two comments, including one on an attempt to build a cloud chamber at CERN.

The mention of the cloud chamber required me to tell this story. I did my Ph.D research at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. We used a bubble chamber which is much the same idea as a cloud chamber but used cryogenic liquids instead of humid air. There were only a small number of American graduate students at CERN in those days, and we tended to hang out together when we weren’t working. One day we decided to build a cloud chamber. One of the key components of a cloud chamber is dry ice. Well, it turns out that modern particle physics labs do not stock dry ice. You can get liquid nitrogen by the ton or liquid helium, but no dry ice. We took a bus all the way across Geneva to find dry ice. The cloud chamber worked and we saw particles in real time.


Bookmark Problems

Posted in Technology and Software on February 18, 2007 by Mike Procario

I have access to large number of computers. At home I use a linux box, a windows box, and a dual boot laptop for my own use. I also have access to the other computers in my home that are used by my family, and I have a computer at work. All of these computers have Firefox installed on them. It would be nice if I could share the same bookmarks on all of them. There is a Firefox extension called Foxmarks which promises to do that for me. When I update my bookmarks it send the updates to a server at and when I use another computer it gets the updates from the server. The appealing thing about foxmarks is that it uses the builtin Firefox bookmarks, so I can keep accessing my bookmarks from the same menu.

This would be a great solution if foxmarks didn’t not lose bookmarks on me. I have looked at the comments about foxmarks on the Firefox extension page devoted to foxmarks and some people have had similar problems, although many people are happy. I have not been able to figure the problem. Perhaps it is the large number of computers I have it on, or the mix of windows and linux. Sometimes I may have it running on more than one computer at a time. Only a few bookmarks are disappearing. I have a folder of bookmarks with humor sites that I would open all at once in different tabs so I could read the comics. About half of these bookmarks have disappeared.

I have disabled foxmarks and I am now trying Google bookmarks and the Google toolbar. Google books uses tags, so a bookmark can be found in multiple ways. The toolbar means that I do not have to keep a tab open on the Google bookmarks site. I can access them through a menu. I have not found a way to upload all of my current bookmarks into Google bookamrks, so I am growing the list slowly.

Need to Keep This One Somewhere

Posted in Uncategorized on February 13, 2007 by Mike Procario

I am attending a review of the plan for a research research in superconducting RF today so I had to save this quote when I saw it.

Today’s quote of the day.

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
34th president of US 1953-1961 (1890 – 1969)