Saturday, June 23, 2012

Muons, music, and mountains

 Have I mentioned recently, Gentle Reader, that I love living in my quirky hometown?  Here is a little slice of life from Los Alamos, NM: home of the atomic age, home of the highest per-capita library useage in the country, and home to me and my family for more than 28 years.

Last night for our weekly date night, Dave and I headed to  the Bradbury Science Museum.  There, we talked with two set of scientists. The first discussed their high voltage electromagnetic field array, complete with demonstrations, and pieces of steel that the magnet has broken.  Then we moved on to the next group, who had a mobile muon detector.  I had never heard of a muon before!  It is apparently a sub-atomic particle that is similar to but denser than an electron.  They are given off when cosmic radiation hits certain object, and this mobile unit can measure them, though  the guys there told us that there are other scientists at the lab that do not believe they are actually measuring muons.  My own scientist said quzzically, "When something is that little and lasts so shrt a period of time, how can you tell?" What a great place to have such interesting expertise at our fingertips, and to talk to scientists who are as giddy as children at Christmas to discuss their exciting discoveries.

We then went on to dinner at my favorite spot anywhere to get chicken fried steak and fried green beans.  OK, so I did NOT say it was a healthy place, but it is great comfort food.

And then on to Ashley Pond in the middle of town, where we heard very interesting music from some excellent musicians: the Guy Forsyth Band. There were twinkle lights in the trees as we watched the sun set over the Jemez mountains, and children dancing in the grass as we listened to roots music, tin-pan-alley, New Orleans-style jazz, rock/country, and even a little Gershwin.  What a lovely small-town summer evening!

And then this morning, we headed up to the ski hill to walk the cross-country ski trail.  We had not been up there since the Las Conchas fire, and while we enjoyed the exercise, the wild flowers, and the butterflies, it was sad to see the changes the fire has wrought.  What used to be a totally shaded hike up to a beautiful meadow, is now cleared of most trees.

 The ground is covered with a black, fine silt that is soft and gets all over everything, requiring laundry and showers after hiking through it!

 Though it is burned and changed, there is still a beauty there that pleases the soul. 

So now, refreshed and revived, I need to work on the mundane things in my house.  But our evening and morning in our hometown have been wonderful.  Come visit, Gentle Reader, and we'll show you around!


Amy in MD said...

David L. from MD here - I liked your post about muons and the footprint picture. Would it surprise you to know that I used muons to calibrate a cosmic ray detector for my graduate school thesis? Also, I recently heard an interesting talk about scientists in Japan who have also used muons to image the inside of volcanos. Dave might be interested in that. Finally, your picture of the footprint in the ash reminded me of a similar footprint picture of astronauts on the Moon.

Just some funny thoughts on a Saturday night. We are all hanging in here in MD.

MagistraCarminum said...

Somehow that doesn't surpriseme at all, David! you really do belong here, you know! I was just rejoicing on your account earlier this evening, and praying for you all. I miss you!