Dec 30, 2011

Researchers at Fermilab just broke ground on a new research and industrialization facility called the Illinois Accelerator Research Center

When it’s finished sometime in 2013, scientists and private businesses will use the new 42,000-square-foot building to develop new accelerator technology that can be used for industry, medicine and national security purposes. In addition to a new building, the project will use space once dedicated to the now-silent Tevatron. 

Scientists from Fermilab and the Argonne National Laboratory will use the facility for research, but Fermilab says a major focus will be developing partnerships with private industry. Although we usually think of the Tevatron and the Large Hadron Collider, there are something like 30,000 other accelerators around the world, working on projects from paleontology and biology to food packaging. Accelerator-related industries are worth an estimated $500 billion a year, Fermilab says.

“However, the nation lacks enough training centers for accelerator scientists to feed this growing segment of the economy,” as Fermilab Today points out. And the country’s accelerator leadership is under fire. The new research center will address this problem. The facility will have space for test accelerators, cryogenics infrastructure, temperature-controlled workspaces, high-capacity electrical power systems and more.

Meanwhile, the scientists at Fermilab are still planning major new facilities and new experiments to follow on the heels of the storied Tevatron. A proposed new high-intensity proton accelerator, awesomely called Project X, would spark the development of new accelerator tech, which could also feed into the IARC. A new neutrino project called LBNE would use the world’s highest-intensity neutrino beam to determine why matter prevails over antimatter in the universe, and a new muon experiment called Mu2e will study whether muons can change into electrons, the way quarks and neutrinos can switch teams. 


Dec 29, 2011

Unconditioned Happiness

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down 'happy'. They told me I didn't understand the assignment, and I told them they didn't understand life." 

Typically we are happy when things are going well and unhappy when they aren't. Usually, "going well" means we are getting what we want, the way we want it.

That's conditioned happiness. Unconditioned happiness is an intrinsic sense of well being that is not based on the way things are around us. 

Unconditioned happiness has a deep quality of satisfaction while conditioned happiness is more on the surface, more like a flaming fire as opposed to one that is generating deep warmth without the flames.

When happiness relies on external conditions it is limited. Unhappiness is caused by wanting things to be different from the way they can be. Based on this wanting we run after things, pushing others out of the way to get them, or we get possessive and in our attempt to protect what is ours we are willing to cause harm to others or isolate ourselves.

Happiness comes from living a life in which one makes the effort to do no harm and to do positive things as much as possible. Positive things are things that help others.

I wish you true happiness!

Source: 2011 Pitagorsky Consulting

Dec 28, 2011

Dread the Shred!

9,000 teams registered for the shot at $50,000, but it took one three-man team just 33 days to solve DARPA’s Shredder Challenge, a contest to read destroyed documents. San Francisco-based “All Your Shreds Are Belong to U.S.” took the prize two days before the close of the competition, exhibiting the ability to blend computer vision algorithms and human know-how to reconstruct five different documents that had been run through a paper shredder and converted to more than 10,000 total pieces of paper.

Dec 27, 2011

Wine Racks

Yesterdays project was reorganizing our wine room, built four more racks (each rack holds four cases).  We now have room for 60 cases with 40 on hand.  We are currently drinking our 2005's.  Most of what you see at the far ends are 2008-2010.  Our walkout basement keeps this room at a perfect wine storage temperature.

Sheeba Digitized :o)

As a follow-up to my earlier post today, below is our Sheeba!

Is Your Pet a Superhero?

We all like to anthropomorphize our pets. Now you can make kitty or doggie a superhero! Illustrator Chris Piasic and Aaron Cohen of Unlikely Words have partnered to bring you Pets are Superheros. You can have your cat/dog drawn as your favorite superhero. For just $25 you’ll get a high resolution digital file, and for $40 you’ll get the digital file plus a 5″ x 7″ print. All you have to do is send a photo of your cat and his or her name. Get all the details here.

Dec 26, 2011

Santa Claus Effect

Rewards may be effective in motivating the neighborhood kids to find your missing dog, but when it comes to motivating your employees, they fail miserably. In fact, most traditional reward and recognition programs lead to an overall decrease in employee morale and productivity, with “Employee of the Month” programs serving as the poster child of bad ideas.  There are at least 20 reasons why such programs fail, based on 40 years of research.  

The Santa Claus Effect. Ever notice how kids shape right up when they are reminded that Santa is coming to town and only gives toys to good boys and girls, while bad children get coal in their stocking? This is just another one of those “dangling carrot” programs that lead to temporary changes in behavior.
Programs fail because they are programs. Diets only work as long as you’re on them. After the carrot is given, behavior returns to baseline. If the carrot is not given, the behavior actually dips below baseline. You’ll notice how less effective dangling the Santa carrot routine is the day after Christmas.

Now imagine this: Only the very best kids get a present; every other kid gets stuck holding an empty stocking. In truth, lots of these kids tried really hard, but in the less than magical place called the workplace, effort doesn’t necessarily count. You win or you don’t. And, guess what? As your programs continue to reward only your top performers, you end up demotivating your average performers who do put forth extra effort but don’t get recognized.

Santa’s approach is different. He’s created a culture where employees want to perform their best every day. Why? Because he’s got a very clear and inspiring mission and vision that his workforce can get behind. His team members value the work that they do and see how it supports the goals of the organization. Not only do they respect the work that they do, they also respect Santa and their fellow team members, and they feel respected. His elves aren’t being driven by some motivational program.

So, for the New Year, put your reward and recognition programs on the shelf and focus on creating a culture where your team members respect the work that they do and feel respected. By the way, Santa doesn’t only pay attention to his star players. If you really want to make a difference in your organization this year, find the overlooked Rudolph's with great potential and help them to shine.


Dec 24, 2011

From our house to yours, Merry Christmas!

Holiday Coping

While a lot of us rejoice in this season, celebrating our traditions, beliefs, family and friends, it is not like that for everyone.  So if you know someone who struggles this time of year, below are some tips to help them cope.

  • Keep expectations for the holiday season manageable.
  • Try to set realistic goals for yourself.
  • Pace yourself. 
  • Organize your time. 
  • Make a list and prioritize the important activities. 
  • Be realistic about what you can and cannot do.
  • Do not put entire focus on just one day (i.e., Christmas Day) remember it is a season of holiday sentiment and activities can be spread out (time-wise) to lessen stress and increase enjoyment.
  • Remember the holiday season does not banish reasons for feeling sad or lonely; there is room for these feelings to be present, even if the person chooses not to express them. 
  • Leave “yesteryear” in the past and look toward the future. Life brings changes. Each season is different
  • and can be enjoyed in its own way. Don’t set yourself up in comparing today with the “good ol’ days.”
  • Do something for someone else. 
  • Try volunteering some time to help others. 
  • Enjoy activities that are free, such as driving around to look at holiday decorations; going window shopping without buying; making a snowperson with children. 

The holiday season is a time full of joy, cheer, parties, and family gatherings. However, for many people, it is a time of self-evaluation, loneliness, reflection on past failures, and anxiety about an uncertain future. Many factors can cause the “holiday blues”: stress, fatigue, unrealistic expectations, over commercialization, financial constraints, and the inability to be with one’s family and friends. 

The demands of shopping, parties, family reunions, and house guests also contribute to feelings of tension. People who do not become depressed may develop other stress responses, such as headaches, excessive drinking, over-eating, and difficulty sleeping. 

Even more people experience post-holiday let down after January 1. This can result from disappointments during the preceding months compounded with the excess fatigue and stress. Studies show that some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) which results from fewer hours of sunlight as the days grow shorter during the winter months. 

Phototherapy, a treatment involving a few hours of exposure to intense light, is effective in relieving depressive symptoms in patients with SAD.

Other coping mechanisms:

  • Try something new. 
  • Celebrate the holidays in a new way. 
  • Spend time with supportive and caring people. 
  • Reach out and make new friends or contact someone you have not heard from for awhile. 
  • Save time for yourself! Recharge your batteries! Let others share responsibility of activities.

Dec 22, 2011


Robot guards are coming to a South Korean jail next spring, according to the Yonhap news agency. The guards are 5 feet tall and equipped with four wheels, a friendly face and who knows what sorts of pain rays and other implements. They are designed to look friendly to inmates, according to the designers.

The machines will monitor inmates for abnormal behavior, according to the BBC. They'll be able to detect prisoner violence and even notice attempts at suicide, which researchers say will help reduce human guards' workload. The robots will mostly work at night, patrolling correctional facilities and helping prisoners connect with officers, according to Yonhap. They come equipped with a "remote conversation function," via the cameras mounted on their torsos.

Three prototype guard ‘bots will spend a month in a jail in the city of Pohang. The Asian Forum for Corrections, a South Korean research group, developed the robots in concert with Kyonggi University. The project will cost about $864,000.

Robots are already a mainstay in factories, surgical bays and disaster areas, so it's reasonable to see them in prisons, too. But what happens when the prisoners take them over? 


Dec 21, 2011


"Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom."
- George S. Patton

Dec 20, 2011

Animal Quake

Common toadCan pond-dwelling animals pick up pre-earthquake signals?

Related Stories

Animals may sense chemical changes in groundwater that occur when an earthquake is about to strike.
This, scientists say, could be the cause of bizarre earthquake-associated animal behaviour.
Researchers began to investigate these chemical effects after seeing a colony of toads abandon its pond in L'Aquila, Italy, in 2009 - days before a quake.
They suggest that animal behaviour could be incorporated into earthquake forecasting.

Start Quote

When you think of all of the many things that are happening to these rocks, it would be weird if the animals weren't affected in some way”
Rachel GrantThe Open University
The team's findings are published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. In this paper, they describe a mechanism whereby stressed rocks in the Earth's crust release charged particles that react with the groundwater.
Animals that live in or near groundwater are highly sensitive to any changes in its chemistry, so they might sense this days before the rocks finally "slip" and cause a quake.
The team, led by Friedemann Freund from Nasa and Rachel Grant from the UK's Open University hope their hypothesis will inspire biologists and geologists to work together, to find out exactly how animals might help us recognise some of the elusive signs of an imminent earthquake.

Dec 19, 2011

Space Laundry?

Astronauts and cosmonauts are generally chosen based on a balanced blend of desirable traits: mental acuity and psychological stability (it’s isolated up there), physical fitness, physiological durability, willingness to be strapped to a massive controlled explosion and hurled into an environment that is extremely hostile toward life, etc. But it’s no secret: Right Stuff or no Right Stuff, astronauts stink. There’s simply no good way to stay clean in space.
After well more than a decade in orbit, NASA is finally trying to change that. The agency has commissioned Oregon-based UMPQUA to build a prototype low-power, low-water washing machine that would allow ISS residents to do their laundry. This would probably beat the usual protocol, which mandates that astronauts wear the same undergarments until they can’t stand it and then pack them into a used Progress capsule to be incinerated in the atmosphere (though that’s probably a legitimate fate for underwear that’s been worn to the olfactory breaking point).
But in zero gravity, liquid water is still problematic (especially with all the sensitive electronic equipment and instruments aboard the ISS). The machine proposed by UMPQUA Resarch would use a mix of vapor, air, and microwave rays to clean clothing. The company says achieves a greater softness than previously-tried low-water vacuum pressing systems, and that it could also be useful closer to home at isolated locales or aboard maritime vessels.

Dec 17, 2011

Change Shaper

Five Questions That Should Shape Any Change Program

1) Where do we want to go? Sounds simple, but answering this question for both performance and health means setting an aspiration at the intersection of where opportunities exist, what capabilities you have, and where you are passionate about making a difference. 
2) How ready are we to get started? Leaders of most failed change programs we've seen moved straight from aspiration to action. But you can't know what actions to take if you don't have a clear view of the capabilities and mindsets you'll need to develop to make the change stick.

3. What practical steps do we need to take?
 We've found that leaders need to be as clear about what the company won't do anymore as about what it will do to improve both performance and health. 
4. How do we manage the journey? Implementing a portfolio of performance initiatives can take different forms — everything from running pilots to 'big bang' roll outs. But too often leaders underestimate the amount of energy that is needed to roll out large scale change. 
5. How do we keep moving forward? Those few leaders who actually reach their performance goal too often see it as the end of the road, and don't plan a transition to a period of continuous improvement. This creates a risk that you won't be able to sustain the impact it's achieved. 

Dec 16, 2011


"No person is your friend who demands your silence or denies your right to grow."

- Alice Walker

Dec 14, 2011

Natural Gas from the Sun

They recently filed a patent, so this may be a new technology, but they are on the over-the-counter market at less than $0.25, so there is a ways to go.  I love new solutions!
SANTA BARBARA, CA – November 29, 2011 – HyperSolar, Inc. (OTCBB: HYSR), the developer of a breakthrough technology to make renewable natural gas using sunlight, today described how being green is the key to its low production cost. The company’s breakthrough two-step process cleans waste streams and uses captured CO2 to produce cost-effective renewable natural gas.
Instead of using pure water, a very expensive starting point, HyperSolar is optimizing its technology to work with wastewater containing organic molecules of all kinds, such as municipal and industrial wastewater. By photo-oxidizing (detoxifying) wastewater, the company’s invention simultaneously produces hydrogen and clean water. In another configuration, waste steams containing acids, such as hydrogen bromide and hydrogen chloride from industrial facilities, can be processed to produce pure bromine and chlorine, which are valuable and marketable byproducts.
The first step of HyperSolar’s process is a novel solar-powered nanoparticle system that mimics photosynthesis to separate hydrogen from wastewater. The free hydrogen is then reacted with captured CO2, a negative value stream, to produce pipeline ready methane in the second step.
Tim Young, HyperSolar’s CEO, commented, “Most approaches to alternative energy are expensive and require subsidies to compete in the marketplace. Our approach is unusual in that by being green we actually reduce the costs associated with making renewable natural gas. Our two-step process not only dramatically reduces our production costs, but positions us as one of the greenest energy solutions in the world.”
About HyperSolar, Inc.
HyperSolar is developing a breakthrough technology to make renewable natural gas using sunlight, water and carbon dioxide. This renewable natural gas is a clean, carbon neutral methane gas that can be used as a direct replacement for traditional natural gas to power the world, without drilling or fracking, while mitigating CO2 emissions.  Inspired by the photosynthetic processes that plants use to effortlessly harness the power of the Sun to create energy molecules, we are developing a novel solar-powered nanoparticle system that mimics photosynthesis to separate hydrogen from water. The free hydrogen can then be reacted with carbon dioxide to produce methane. From sunrise to sunset, our proprietary nanoparticles will work in a water based solution to produce clean and environmentally friendly renewable natural gas that can be collected for use in power plants, industrial plants and vehicles – anywhere and anytime. To learn more about HyperSolar, please visit our website at

Dec 13, 2011

Compassion At Work

Some people believe that compassion and especially compassion in the workplace is a form of weakness. Perhaps they think that survival of the fittest in the corporate jungle leaves no room for something like concern for other people and their feelings. March ahead, take no prisoners!

Yet report after report shows us that those who have a high degree of emotional intelligence come out ahead at work. Empathy is an important part of emotional intelligence. To relate to others you need to be able to see things from their perspective. That means acknowledging that some of your actions could be causing them distress.

Consider active listening for a minute. To have successful communications with others we work to employ active listening. This involves really understanding what the other person is telling you, again trying to put yourself in their shoes.

It is difficult to successfully show empathy and active listening without the caring component; you know the part where you truly care about what this other person is experiencing?

Of course compassion is more than just understanding or acknowledging the feelings of others, it is going beyond and wishing to alleviate their suffering. If you continue to interact with others and as a leader or influencer do not try to improve their situation (where possible and appropriate) then you are not doing your job!

It is easy to bury your head in the sand and ignore when others are having a difficult time; it is easy to make their difficulties their fault, to feel anger at them, to blame them for bringing difficulty upon themselves. It takes much more courage to step in and take action, to actively work to improve their situations.

Compassion in the workplace takes strength and courage. 

The Key Is That Your Compassion Must Be Genuine!

Dec 12, 2011

Wellspring of Power :o)

"Plan your progress carefully; hour-by-hour, day-by-day, month-by-month. Organize activity and maintained enthusiasm are the wellsprings of your power."

- Paul J. Meyer

Dec 10, 2011

Go Irish!

We are off for a bite to eat and then to the ND Hockey Game :o)

Gardening & Project Management

Since we are into the winter season, I would rather be outside playing in the yard, I thought I could at least put up a post and picture about it :o)

Keeping on top of a garden requires endless weeding, pruning and tidying. They are all small jobs individually but if left for any length of time at all the garden rapidly becomes overgrown and each one becomes a big job in its own right.

As a Project Manager, there is a similar range of tasks needing constant attention – reports, plans, issues list, defect queue, documents to review. As with a garden, these are all small jobs individually but if they are left for any length of time each one becomes a big job in its own right.

Both garden and project need to be kept under constant review; a repeated quick survey of both is needed to see if any single task is becoming urgent.

Both gardening and project management require constant vigilance, keeping a step ahead to provide some spare capacity to cope with the unexpected. Both assume a degree of planning to make sure everything gets done at the right time.  Finally both need flexibility to respond to changing events at no notice.


Dec 9, 2011


"When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen."

- Ernest Hemingway

Dec 8, 2011


Strategy is a way of thinking, not a procedural exercise or a set of frameworks. To stimulate that thinking and the dialog that goes along with it, it is essential to design metrics based on sound and practical parameters, and follow a set of action oriented steps aimed at helping assess the strength of your strategy.

It is imperative to design steps focused on testing the strategy itself (in other words, the output of the strategy-development process), rather than the frameworks, tools, and approaches that generate strategies, for two reasons. 

First, companies develop strategy in many different ways, often idiosyncratic to their organizations, people, and markets. 

Second, many strategies emerge over time rather than from a process of deliberate formulation.

Dec 7, 2011

Go Green!

Cryomation Cryomator Cryomation

The greenest way to go

  A person's carbon footprint keeps growing after death. Burial uses arable land, and cremation releases a body's carbon into the atmosphere. The Cryomator instead chills the body with liquid nitrogen until it breaks apart and then freeze-dries the remains to remove water and kill microbes. The powder retains the body's carbon, making the entire carbon impact of the process about 75 percent less than that of cremation. The company is currently building its first commercial unit, which should be in operation before the end of 2012.


Dec 6, 2011


"You'll never find a better sparring partner than adversity."

-Golda Meir

Dec 5, 2011


Here are some tips to encourage concise and effective communication:
  • Be clear about what you need. Don’t expect your team to guess. 
  • Teach your team how to communicate. While you can’t control every word that comes out of your team members’ mouths, you can establish standards of what is appropriate.
  • Have frequent in-person updates. No, you shouldn’t do your team’s work for them, you should get regular (and of course, succinct!) updates.
  • Use your negatives sparingly. If you frequently start each communication with negatives, your team will come to see you as a knucklehead, and they’ll start to ignore your message altogether.
  • Look in the mirror. The golden rule definitely applies to leadership and business. It’s always a good idea to treat your team as grown-ups and make them partners in whatever you’re doing.

Dec 3, 2011

Fukishima Update

Early on Wednesday morning, the Dow Jones News Wire first reported the following from Japan, before the rest of the mainstream media got hold of the story:
The melted nuclear fuel within the No. 1 unit at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant was of such intensity that it eroded through 2 meters of the 2.6 meter (8.5 feet) concrete base, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said in a report issued on Wednesday. 
What's been reported is a very conservative mathematical analysis that has yet to be physically confirmed. In other words, this is a worst case scenario. And as we've seen in our industry, even in the worst case scenario, there is still a very significant safety margin.

A quick read ofthe article could give one the impression that the melted core was a little more than half a meter -- about 2 feet -- from reaching the external environment. I think it’s important to note that according to the TEPCO analysis only .7 meters (a little more than two feet) of concrete was actually eroded.  In addition, plants have multiple redundant safety systems in place to protect the public, and that's exactly the case with Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1.

In addition to the 2.6 meters (about 8.5 feet) of steel reinforced concrete inside the containment vessel, underneath the steel shell of the containment vessel lies another 7.6 meters (about 25 feet) of basemat reinforced concrete and steel. Altogether, that means there was 10.2 meters (about 33.5 feet) of reinforced concrete and steel standing between the reactor core and the outside of the plant before the accident.

Even if 2 meters (about 6.5 feet) of that structure has been eroded, another 8.2 meters (almost 27 feet) of reinforced steel and concrete lies between the melted fuel and the external environment.

It’s also important to note that according to tests of air samples from inside containment, it appears that the process of erosion – called coriuminteraction – has essentially ceased and no further damage is occurring at this time. If that process is still continuing, it is doing so at such a slow rate that TEPCO has more than enough time to develop a mitigation strategy.

Almost lighter than Air!

Micro-Lattice on Dandelion Dan Little © HRL Laboratories, LLC
A collaboration of researchers from HRL, CalTech, and UC Irvine have created the new world's lightest material--some 100 times lighter than styrofoam. It's even lighter than aerogel, one of our favorite ultralight materials.
The material is a micro-lattice in structure, with the 0.01 percent of the material that's solid consisting of hollow tubes that are only 100 nanometers thick. It's rated at a density of 0.9 mg/cc, lighter than even the lightest aerogels, which have only achieved 1.1 mg/cc. It's also extraordinarily strong and shock-absorbent, thanks to all that air: it can compress by 50 percent and completely recover its shape, highly unusual for a material that is essentially metallic. It was actually inspired by architectural structures rather than other ultralight materials--the team looked to the Golden Gate Bridge and the Eiffel Tower to see how those structures are so light and yet so strong.
The project was undertaken for, who else, DARPA, which says it could be used for products ranging from battery electrodes to energy damping in addition to insulation, the main use for prior lightweight champ aerogel.

Dec 2, 2011

What Would You Do for A Permafrost?

Naled A sheet of naled ice in Mongolia. That black dot is a person. Nswanson
This month, Mongolia will launch a project creating a huge manmade ice block to combat the sweltering summer in the capital city of Ulan Bator. As the ice melts, it will cool the city and provide fresh drinking water.
The $750,000 geoengineering project, one of the world’s largest ice-making experiments, seeks to artificially make “naleds,” ice sheets that form along frozen streams and rivers. In Mongolian river beds, layers build up as new water flows onto the surface and freezes, forming ice caps that can build up to more than seven meters thick.
Anglo-Mongolian engineering firm ECOS & EMI will drill holes in the Tuul river as soon as ice forms, so that fresh water will bubble up and freeze, then repeat this process to create a naled so thick it will take months to melt. The hope is that the project will serve as a model for other northern cities to save energy, repair permafrost and combat rising temperatures.