Lamont Weekly Report, August 22, 2008

I got into science in the beginning via a misguided interest in high energy nuclear physics. So I was fully embroiled in quantum mechanics and all its bizarre predictions - several of which Einstein himself did not believe. One of the more intriguing predictions of quantum mechanics is that, given the right conditions, a particle can change the properties of another particle, no matter how far apart they are, and it can do this instantaneously - repeat instantaneously.  The
August 14 issue of Nature reports an experiment that claims to prove this (over a separation distance of 18 km) - establishing that, within their experimental resolution, the definition of 'instantaneously' is at least four orders of magnitude faster than the speed of light.  The closing sentence of the paper (by Salart et al on p861, and, I repeat,
this is in Nature) states "To maintain an explanation based on spooky action at a distance we would have to assume that the spooky action propagates at speeds even greater than the bounds of our experiment"  i.e. faster than four orders of magnitude faster than the speed of light. (Please note that neither italics nor quotation marks were used
in this sentence). Apparently 'spooky action' was a phrase used by Einstein to dismiss this phenomena (which he believed revealed a failing of quantum mechanics).  I am glad we do not work on this stuff at Lamont - I would never know when to take folks seriously... but I have to admit, this is indeed... spooky.

Summer is ending - classes begin September 2nd and we welcome the 57 new graduate students (yes - 57) joining the Department at a party behind Lamont Hall, 5 pm  Wednesday August 27th.  All are welcome - please join Steve Goldstein, the new Chair of DEES, and me to help make the new students feel at home.

We were privileged to entertain the new Dean of SIPA (School of International and Public Affairs) - John Coatsworth - on Thursday,  building a continuing relationship of increased interactions and shared research activities.  There are indeed a number of opportunities for growing interactions between Lamont and SIPA that we should work to develop in the coming years.

Our ship Marcus Langseth is safely alongside in Manzanillo Mexico after a very tough and long but highly successful cruise over the East Pacific Rise. The Chief Scientists report exciting new discoveries about the magmatic systems that will be ready to present at the fall AGU (yes indeed, the abstract deadline is just around the corner -  September 10th.)

I am headed for Cranberry Lake up in the Adirondacks this weekend - I need to see the stars.

Have a great weekend,

- Mike