Monday, April 14, 2008

4/14/08 Cosmic Gall

In 1995, two professors from the University of California, Irvine won Nobel Prizes. "Frederick Reines, distinguished professor emeritus of physics, received the 1995 Nobel Prize in Physics for the first experimental detection of neutrinos during the 1950s." And "F. Sherwood Rowland, Bren Professor of Chemistry, has received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for atmospheric studies which led to an understanding of how the ozone layer forms and decomposes."

It is my understanding that this is the only time that two Nobel Prizes were awarded to more than one person from the same university in the same year for different accomplishments.

I had the pleasure of taking a brief tour of some of the science and research buildings on the UCI campus last week. (My smarty pants friend is working towards her PhD in Chemistry at the ripe age of 25 and guided my tour). In the foyer of one building, there is a large poster with the accomplishments of Frederick Reines and his work on the neutrino. On that poster, Miss Smarty Pants noticed a poem about neutrinos titled "Cosmic Gall".

In keeping with the poetry tradition (started yesterday), here's another:

Cosmic Gall

-John Updike-

Neutrinos, they are very small.
They have no charge and have no mass
And do not interact at all.
The earth is just a silly ball
To them, through which they simply pass,
Like dustmaids through a drafty hall
Or photons through a sheet of glass.
They snub the most exquisite gas,
Ignore the most substantial wall,
Cold-shoulder steel and sounding brass,
Insult the stallion in his stall,
And scorning barriers of class,
Infiltrate you and me! Like tall
And painless guillotines, they fall
Down through our heads into the grass.
At night, they enter at Nepal
And pierce the lover and his lass
From underneath the bed-you call
It wonderful; I call it crass.

The New Yorker Magazine, Inc. , 1960


Neutrinos are elusive. A low energy neutrino has some chance of passing through 1000 light-years of lead without interacting.

YOU are now being invaded by about 10^14 neutrinos each second.


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