Photowalking at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center

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To see all of my photographs from yesterday’s shoot at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, click through here.

Yesterday I had a great opportunity to get a private tour of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center by Bebo White, an emeritus researcher at SLAC. I got the tour as part of an upcoming Photowalking Episode for Podtech’s ScobleShow. Shel Isreal joined Robert, Bebo and I for an interesting and engaging afternoon of physics and science.

Bebo is an interesting guy. He helped design the first U.S. Website. He also plays in a jug band and was the perfect guy to give us the detailed tour.

Some of you may not be familiar with the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, but it an impressive place. If you drive down highway 280 you drive right over it just past Sand Hill Road. In addition to being an amazing 2 mile long particle accelerator, it is also the longest building in the United States and is also claimed to be the world’s straightest object. SLAC actually uses jacks to stabilize the accelerator in order to keep it straight and realigned due to the curvature of the earth. Looking down the giant klystron that sits above the accelerator you cannot see to the end of it because the vanishing point for the human eye is shorter than the two mile distance. This made for some great perspective shots that I took inside of the klystron.

The place is one of the more impressive things I’ve seen in my life. Built in 1962 it’s been the home of three Nobel Prizes in Physics. A lot of the physics that Bebo shared with us was way over my head. Quarks, tau leptons, etc. The best explanation that I understood was that in this copper tube, about 5 inches in diameter, particles are propelled by waves of magnetic energy underground that alternate between pulling and pushing the particles about every inch or so down this giant copper tube.

It get’s hot. According to Bebo, the temperature around the tube is about 175 degrees Fahrenheit. Giant water pump stations sit outside the kylstron and circulate water to cool the accelerator.

An interesting piece of trivia about SLAC. While Google may have the best perks in Silicon Valley (free food, snow trip, etc.). SLAC does have one perk that has them beat. Bebo told us that one of the perks for working at SLAC is that if you have a boat or an RV or a trailer or something and need a place to store it, SLAC will let you store it there, on site. You can’t live in it mind you (although the Atomic Mobil Home Park does have a certain ring to it), but you can store it there. That’s one thing you won’t see filling up the parking lot at the Googleplex.

Anyways, if you want to learn more about SLAC I’d recommend checking out the site about it on Wikipedia. You can get an even better first hand tour from Bebo when Robert has his Photowalking video up over at Podtech soon. In the meantime if you want to check out my own take on SLAC from a visual perspective check out my set of photos here. Robert, Shel and I are going back for a second trip in April and I’ll add a bunch more photos then as well.

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3 Comments

  1. BWJones says:

    They also have a great guest house up by the SLAC for visiting faculty and such replete with art from the accelerator on the walls of the rooms.

  2. Yuvi says:

    You are, from this moment, my official photography mentor. WOW

  3. Matt says:

    As a grad student who spends most of his life at SLAC, I’ve had the opportunity to take some pictures there… They’re not as impressive as Thomas Hawk’s, but I’d like to think they convey a bit of the sense of what it’s like to, well, live at SLAC.