Category Archives: News

Stephen Chu’s White Roof Proposal and Rush Limbaugh’s Response

White roofing on urban row homes in Philadelphia

White roofing on urban row homes in Philadelphia

It does not surprise me that Rush Limbaugh would think that Energy Secretary Stephen Chu’s proposal to paint flat roofs white is idiotic, but I found it rather amusing that he couldn’t even figure out how reflection works on his radio talk show this morning. This is a very simple idea, light colors are brighter or lighter than dark colors because they reflect more light. The key is to understand that light is energy and light that impinges upon dark surfaces is far more likely to be absorbed and converted to kinetic energy, a.k.a. heat. Although I’m not sure, I bet the reason for only painting flat roofs white is because slanted roofs will reflect the light such that it will travel through far more of the earth’s atmosphere and therefore almost certainly be absorbed by the air, whereas a flat roof will reflect the light nearly vertically and thus the photons will be far more likely to escape our atmosphere back out to space. The solution is simple and cheap, yet elegant in its simplicity.

I feel that anybody who has completed a high school education in this country should be able to come up with the explanation that I just gave above, but the sad fact is that probably the majority of American’s could not give such an explanation, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans have completed high school. Science has been the hallmark of the advancement of all civilizations, why is “illiteracy” in science (and innumeracy) so acceptable in our society? Although left wing extremists will jump at the opportunity to make Rush look stupid, the general public won’t care. Although it is possible that Rush was being disingenuous and really did understand the simple ideas behind the proposal, but feigned ignorance for political reasons, I am more inclined to believe that he was being honest when he said he didn’t understand how it works.

We really need to look at how we teach in this country, and start experimenting with radical new approaches because this perfectly illustrates how inadequate current methods are. I realize changes in how science is taught have been made since Mr. Limbaugh attended school, but I am quite certain that most recent graduates would respond similarly.

Dark Matter and Particle Physics

Michael Peskin recently posted an article to the arxiv entitled “Dark Matter and Particle Physics”. The article is an almost layman’s guide to how the WIMP model of dark matter might soon be partially validated experimentally at the LHC.

In the article he outlines the reasons why most matter in the universe is dark or in other words does not emit light or radiation, and thus is normally only detected via its gravitational effects. He then goes on to describe the WIMP model for dark matter and its predictions. Next he talks about how the LHC might detect WIMPs:

The discovery of events at the LHC with apparent unbalanced momentum will signal that this accelerator is producing weakly interacting massive particles. However, it would be far from clear that this particle is the same one that is the dominant form of matter in the universe. To demonstrate this, we would need to correlate properties of the WIMP that we observe at the LHC with astrophysical observations.

There are two possible ways to observe WIMPs outside of the LHC. First is the direct approach of observing the scattering of a WIMP from a nucleus in an extremely sensitive detector located deep underground in a mine to minimize noise. The second method is to observe gamma rays emitted from pairs of WIMPS annihilating each other. These gamma rays should have a characteristic spectrum and be most commonly found coming from parts of our galaxy where the concentration of dark matter is highest, namely near the center of the Milky Way.

If the mass of the WIMP seen at the LHC is the same as the mass from astrophysical detection experiments, this will provide strong evidence that the LHC is producing the true particle of dark matter.

Thanks to Hwasung “Mars” Lee for pointing out this article in his blog.

Cool Feature on NY Times Website

I was just reading an article on the New York Times entitled “Science of the Soul? ‘I Think, Therefore I Am’ Is Losing Force” and while reading I came across the word “palaver” in the text. Not knowing its meaning I double clicked on it to highlight it so I could easily paste it into Ubuntu’s dictionary, but there was no need. The website popped open a window with the definition for me. Pretty cool! I wonder how long this has been working?