Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Maybe Ted Stevens isn't the craziest guy in Alaska

Heard a piece of a story about this on NPR this afternoon:

Wired News: The Cyclotron Comes to the 'Hood
Albert Swank Jr., a 55-year-old civil engineer in Anchorage, Alaska, is a man with a mission. He wants to install a nuclear particle accelerator in his home.

But when neighbors learned of plans to place the 20-ton device inside the house where Swank operates his engineering firm, their response was swift: Not in my backyard.

Local lawmakers rushed to introduce emergency legislation banning the use of cyclotrons in home businesses. State health officials took similar steps, and have suspended Swank's permit to operate cyclotrons on his property.

"Some of the neighbors who are upset about the cyclotron have started calling it SHAFT -- Swank's high-energy accelerator for tomography," attorney Alan Tesche said. "Part of what's got everyone so upset is we're not sure when it's going to arrive on the barge. We know Anchorage is gonna get the SHAFT, but we just don't know when." Tesche is also the local assemblyman who represents the area where Swank and his cyclotron would reside.

Johns Hopkins University agreed to donate the used cyclotron, which is roughly six feet tall by eight feet wide, to Swank's business, Langdon Engineering and Management.
For Swank, the backyard cyclotron is a personal quest: He lost his father to cancer years ago, and he says his community needs the medical resource. He also wants to use it to inspire young people to learn about science.

"My father worked with me while I was building my first cyclotron at age 17 in this same home, and he encouraged all of the educational pursuits that resulted in who I am," Swank said.

"Because of that and my desire to not see other cancer patients suffer -- if I can use this technology to prevent one hour of suffering, or stimulate one young person's mind to pursue science, I will devote every resource that I possess to that."
"Cyclotrons are not nuclear reactors," explains Roger Dixon of the Fermi National Accelerator laboratory or Fermilab in Illinois, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. "Probably the worst thing that could happen with small cyclotrons is that the operator might electrocute themselves."

At Fermilab, Dixon oversees the world's highest-energy collider, about four miles in circumference. It smashes matter and antimatter together so scientists can study the nature of energy.

Dixon told Wired News that shielding from concrete walls or lead sheets is typically used to prevent the electrical beams produced by smaller cyclotrons from escaping.

"Our neighbors here at Fermilab like us," said Dixon. "But then, our particle accelerator is not installed in a living room."
Messing with nature and the forces thereof seems to be coded into Alaskan DNA.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Albert Einstein: "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe."

Alaska just added some more stupidity....

7:30 PM  

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