Thursday, June 16, 2005

Tango, anyone?

On Friday and Saturday we are scheduled to meet with the elusive Dr. Marcela Carena, an Argentinian theoretical physicist whom everyone describes as "fiesty," "dynamic," "full of life," "a real spitfire," or something similar. She's pretty amazing, and we've gotten footage of her in her office, in meetings, and on a horse taking polo lessons. When we first went to her house, we met her husband (a physicist at Argonne National Laboratory, a facility nearby) and her two sons. The younger one (I can't think of his name) was about four, and apparently mistook me for someone from Fermilab and immediately grabbed my hand and wanted to show me his toys and have me watch a cartoon. He never left my side the whole time we were there.

On Friday we'll be in a club, where we expect some fancy footwork since Dr. Carena will be with her Tango instructor. On Saturday night we'll actually be at her house, where she teaches Tango lessons to other physicists from Fermilab. If you've been reading, you've seen me use the term "camera gold" before to refer to priceless moments that will almost certainly make the cut in the editing room (Robin Erbacher's red hard hat with her name in stick-on letters comes to mind). A room of physicists learning how to tango? Ahem.

Thanks to Tickmeister for asking some good followup questions about the budget. See those comments for more clarification. I'll try to make a post which concisely sums up the budget problems for Fermilab.

Our trip to Washington DC is in the planning stages for mid-July. We're interviewing a journalist named Chris Mooney --- he's built a career on writing about the Bush administration's relationship to science. Here's his site. Granted, he's a bit left of center. We'll be balancing that out with interviews we hope to get with Bush's science advisor, John Marburger, and the Department of Energy's Ray Orbach. Andrew is working on setting those up. Not an easy task. Now we just have to figure out how to pay for our airfare...


Professor said...

Having taken a quick read through of the entire blog, I find myself drooling a little bit. Although my experience in still photography was a different, I still read your entries and remember the thrill of capturing something on film you knew was going to look great and tell part of a story. It's all very exciting.

I was trying to explain your project to someone today (found myself having to explain how a supercollider works, which I thought was odd. Hasn't everyone heard of a supercollider? I really don't consider myself all that "up" on science topics.)The further I got into the explanation, the more excited I became by the project. I really think this will make for a great doc!

Good Luck!

Clayton said...

Thanks for the positive feedback! It is exciting. It's a little daunting, too. Things are moving quickly. I agree --- hasn't everyone heard of a supercollider? If they don't know what the heck you're talking about, try this analogy: an alien scientist with a high-powered telescope is on the moon, watching the earth. He's focusing on the interstate highways. He wants to know what's inside these little things he sees whizzing around the freeways at 75 miles per hour. He doesn't know what they are, but he's figured out a way to control them. So he directs two of them to head down I-90 on a collision course at top speed. When they crash, he snaps a picture through his telescope. Oh, an orange fireball? Must be gasoline. Strange black cloud --- looks like rubber burning. Different black cloud --- plastic melting. Shiny stuff --- glass. Sparks --- metal must be crashing together. So he gets a pretty decent idea of what they are from watching them explode.

That's kind of how the atom smasher works, in a nutshell.

As a side note, I asked Ben Kilminster, one of the young physicists we've been interviewing to use this analogy. He said that's right, and what they're doing in the search for the higgs boson is looking at millions and millions of car crashes and hoping to see just one elephant come bouncing out.

Professor said...

That's a great analogy, although I notice you left out drivers, which I think is a good thing in the long run. Think you can get Ben to talk about it on camera?

Actually, this leads to an interesting question; at some point in the doc, are you going to explain the supercollider and how it works? I can't imagine I work with the only six people who don't know what one is.

Clayton said...

Actually, Ben did say that on camera. And I think you're right, an overview of the supercollider would be a good idea. Thanks. And yes, I decided not to mention anything about flying body parts.


nano said...

i love the fact that a four year old already understands that people @ fermilab are the type that want to immediately check out & play with toys.