Posts Tagged ‘Switzerland’
The CERN lab near Geneva, like many other research facilities, offers tours of the premises
They may be at work pursuing the greatest mysteries of the physical world—yet the men and women who operate the world’s most prestigious physics and astronomy laboratories aren’t necessarily too busy to host guests. Throughout the world, physics and astronomy labs—many of them shimmering like stars in the wake of tremendous discoveries and achievements, some on mountaintops, others underground—welcome visitors to tour the premises, see the equipment, look through the telescopes and ponder just why they almost always make you wear a hardhat.
CERN. It’s the little things in life that really matter to the researchers at CERN, or the European Organization for Nuclear Research. This facility—located near Geneva, Switzerland—has gained superstardom over the last year, after announcing the discovery of what had been a holy grail of physics for decades—sometimes called the “God particle.” First predicted by physicist Peter Higgs in 1964, the then-theoretical particle, which pops from a field that is believed to give other particles their mass—became known as the Higgs boson before more recently assuming its grandiose nickname.
CERN’s $10 billion atom smasher, called the Large Hadron Collider, had been at work for several years in its subterranean home in the Alps, beneath the French-Swiss border, colliding protons at high speeds before rendering what seemed to be evidence for the God particle in 2012.
Should you be in the charming Swiss countryside this summer, consider taking a guided tour of this most distinguished of the world’s great physics laboratories.
RTFA and consider many other tours around the world’s leading science labs. Leave more suggestions if you’re so inclined.
A music teacher and unlicensed acupuncturist in Switzerland was charged on allegations of intentionally infecting 16 people with HIV between 2001 and 2005.
A five-judge panel at Bern-Mitelland regional court indicted Maurice Goeller, 53, who does not himself have HIV, on charges of spreading human disease and causing serious bodily harm.
The regional prosecutor’s office said in a statement that most of Goeller’s victims were recruited from among his music school students.
Prosecutors say he practiced as an acupuncturist without a license, allegedly using the job as a pretext to prick his clients with needles infected with the AIDS-causing virus.
Officials began investigating Goeller after a complaint in 2005 from student Thomas Kaiser, who was diagnosed as HIV positive and told medics he could only have been infected from Goeller’s injections.
Investigators ultimately uncovered 15 others with similar stories.
Goeller denies all wrongdoing, or even performing acupuncture.
How does he explain all the victims being his students – that they identified him as practicing acupuncture. Sheesh!
Last July physics researchers at CERN said they thought they had found evidence of the Higgs boson, a theoretical but essential component of our standard model of physics, and the raison d’être of the enormous Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Now they’ve come back with further analysis of their data, and they’re more sure than ever that what they found is the real deal.
How sure? Well, these are scientists so there’s still a note of caution, but Joe Incandela, a spokesman for one of the LHC experiments, went on-record with a pretty confident statement: “The preliminary results with the full 2012 data set are magnificent and to me it is clear that we are dealing with a Higgs boson.”
“Having analysed two and a half times more data than was available for the discovery announcement in July, they find that the new particle is looking more and more like a Higgs boson, the particle linked to the mechanism that gives mass to elementary particles. It remains an open question, however, whether this is the Higgs boson of the Standard Model of particle physics, or possibly the lightest of several bosons predicted in some theories that go beyond the Standard Model. Finding the answer to this question will take time.”
It’s not surprising that this task takes time. CERN said a month ago that its storage systems were holding 100 petabytes of data.
The research organization has been working closely with companies such as Yandex to sift through that information in search of unusual events, and in Thursday’s statement CERN pointed out that finding one event means looking through around a trillion proton-proton collisions.
Probably more demanding than sifting through all the phony corporate fronts in the Cayman Islands.
Swiss residents voted Sunday to impose some of the world’s most severe restrictions on executive compensation…
The vote gives shareholders of companies listed in Switzerland a binding say on the overall pay packages for executives and directors. Pension funds holding shares in a company would be obligated to take part in votes on compensation packages.
In addition, companies would no longer be allowed to give bonuses to executives joining or leaving the business, or to executives when their company was taken over. Violations could result in fines equal to up to six years of salary and a prison sentence of up to three years.
The outcome of the referendum was a triumph for Thomas Minder, an entrepreneur and member of the Swiss Parliament…who turned a personal fight against the management of Swissair, the flagship airline that collapsed in 2001, into a nationwide referendum against “rip-off merchants.”
Almost 68 percent of Swiss voters backed Mr. Minder’s proposals, according to results announced late Sunday…
Read the gory details in the article. The point remains that the best analysts gauging executive salaries deny this vote will diminish Switzerland’s business climate – in fact, encouraging investors to come in where they now have more of a voice recognized by corporate directors.
Switzerland’s oldest bank is to close permanently after pleading guilty in a New York court to helping Americans evade their taxes. Wegelin, which was established in 1741, has also agreed to pay $57.8 million in fines to US authorities. It said that once this was completed, it “will cease to operate as a bank”.
The bank had admitted to allowing more than 100 American citizens to hide $1.2 billion from the Internal Revenue Service for almost 10 years.
Wegelin, based in the small Swiss town of St Gallen, started in business 35 years before the US declaration of independence. It becomes the first foreign bank to plead guilty to tax evasion charges in the US…
US Attorney Preet Bharara said: “The bank wilfully and aggressively jumped in to fill a void that was left when other Swiss banks abandoned the practice due to pressure from US law enforcement.”
He added that it was a “watershed moment in our efforts to hold to account both the individuals and the banks – wherever they may be in the world – who are engaging in unlawful conduct that deprives the US Treasury of billions of dollars of tax revenue”…
Mr Burderer’s further admission that assisting tax evasion was common practice in Switzerland has caused huge concern among the Swiss banking community, according to the BBC’s Switzerland correspondent, Imogen Foulkes.
“Some Swiss financial analysts are already speculating that Wegelin’s $58m fine, which many had expected to be higher, was kept low by the US authorities in return for Wegelin clearly implicating the rest of the Swiss banking community in tax evasion,” she said.
No one’s publishing anything more than speculation about which banks – and which bank officers – are next in line to be prosecuted. The obvious reason for the comparatively light fine and delay of indictments of Wegelin’s officers leads easily to the conclusion that cooperation and leads are being offered. It’s called turning state’s evidence to save your buns!
Mark Thiessen/National Geographic Society
When it comes to shutting down the most powerful atom smasher ever built, it’s not simply a question of pressing the off switch.
In the French-Swiss countryside on the far side of Geneva, staff at the Cern particle physics laboratory are taking steps to wind down the Large Hadron Collider. After the latest run of experiments ends next month, the huge superconducting magnets that line the LHC’s 27km-long tunnel must be warmed up, slowly and gently, from -271 Celsius to room temperature. Only then can engineers descend into the tunnel to begin their work.
The machine that last year helped scientists snare the elusive Higgs boson – or a convincing subatomic impostor – faces a two-year shutdown while engineers perform repairs that are needed for the collider to ramp up to its maximum energy in 2015 and beyond. The work will beef up electrical connections in the machine that were identified as weak spots after an incident four years ago that knocked the collider out for more than a year…
The particle accelerator, which reveals new physics at work by crashing together the innards of atoms at close to the speed of light, fills a circular, subterranean tunnel a staggering eight kilometres in diameter. Physicists will not sit around idle while the collider is down. There is far more to know about the new Higgs-like particle, and clues to its identity are probably hidden in the piles of raw data the scientists have already gathered, but have had too little time to analyse.
But the LHC was always more than a Higgs hunting machine. There are other mysteries of the universe that it may shed light on. What is the dark matter that clumps invisibly around galaxies? Why are we made of matter, and not antimatter? And why is gravity such a weak force in nature? “We’re only a tiny way into the LHC programme,” says Pippa Wells, a physicist who works on the LHC’s 7,000-tonne Atlas detector. “There’s a long way to go yet…”
The search for dark matter on Earth has failed to reveal what it is made of, but the LHC may be able to make the substance. If the particles that constitute it are light enough, they could be thrown out from the collisions inside the LHC. While they would zip through the collider’s detectors unseen, they would carry energy and momentum with them. Scientists could then infer their creation by totting up the energy and momentum of all the particles produced in a collision, and looking for signs of the missing energy and momentum.
One theory, called supersymmetry, proposes that the universe is made from twice as many varieties of particles as we now understand. The lightest of these particles is a candidate for dark matter…
Another big mystery the Large Hadron Collider may help crack is why we are made of matter instead of antimatter. The big bang should have flung equal amounts of matter and antimatter into the early universe, but today almost all we see is made of matter. What happened at the dawn of time to give matter the upper hand?
The question is central to the work of scientists on the LHCb detector. Collisions inside LHCb produce vast numbers of particles called beauty quarks, and their antimatter counterparts, both of which were common in the aftermath of the big bang. Through studying their behaviour, scientists hope to understand why nature seems to prefer matter over antimatter…
Extra dimensions may separate us from realms of space we are completely oblivious to. “There could be a whole universe full of galaxies and stars and civilisations and newspapers that we didn’t know about,” says Parker. “That would be a big deal.”
Read the whole article. Set your imagination free into science that moves faster than the speed of light.
If the idea of knitting your own hat has always appealed in theory, but you don’t know your double pointed needles from your garter stitch, then you may wish to take a look at the Rocking-Knit chair.
The Rocking-Knit is the brainchild of students Damien Ludi and Colin Peillex, based at Ecole cantonale d’art de Lausanne (ECAL), Switzerland. It allows a person to sit back, relax, and enjoy the gentle rocking motion of the chair, while a woolen hat is automatically knitted and eventually appears overhead, ready to wear…
The Rocking-Knit was exhibited at ECAL’s Low-Tech Factory exposition, as part of the Designers’ Saturday event held at Langenthal, Switzerland.
It should be in a museum. And not in my study.
One of the world’s most prominent Catholic theologians has called for a revolution from below to unseat the pope and force radical reform at the Vatican.
Hans Küng is appealing to priests and churchgoers to confront the Catholic hierarchy, which he says is corrupt, lacking credibility and apathetic to the real concerns of the church’s members.
In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, Küng, who had close contact with the pope when the two worked together as young theologians, described the church as an “authoritarian system” with parallels to Germany’s Nazi dictatorship…
The Vatican made a point of crushing any form of clerical dissent, he added. “The rules for choosing bishops are so rigid that as soon as candidates emerge who say, stand up for the pill, or for the ordination of women, they are struck off the list.” The result was a church of “yes men”, almost all of whom unquestioningly toed the line.
“The only way for reform is from the bottom up,” said Küng, 84, who is a priest. “The priests and others in positions of responsibility need to stop being so subservient, to organise themselves and say that there are certain things that they simply will not put up with anymore,” he added.
Küng…said that inspiration for global change was to be found in his native Switzerland and in Austria, where hundreds of Catholic priests have formed movements advocating policies that openly defy current Vatican practices. The revolts have been described as unprecedented by Vatican observers, who say they are likely to cause deep schisms in the church.
“I’ve always said that if one priest in a diocese is roused, that counts for nothing. Five will create a stir. Fifty are pretty much invincible. In Austria, the figure is well over 300, possibly up to 400 priests; in Switzerland it’s about 150 who have stood up and it will increase.”
Good luck to Kung and those brave souls who dare question some of the most backwards and reactionary theology in the world.
The Catholic Church has advantages in maintaining its ideology from a centralized governance. As long as it rejects advances in knowledge, ethics and understanding, that centralization will provide nothing of value to the church’s membership – or to humanity in the much larger world.
This animation was made by people opening and shutting window shutters on the 11-story HESAV (Health High School Vaud) in Switzerland. It was produced by Guillaume Reymond for NOTsoNOISY. The second half of the video shows what making this was like from the other side.
A global super-rich elite has exploited gaps in cross-border tax rules to hide an extraordinary $21 trillion of wealth offshore – as much as the American and Japanese GDPs put together – according to research commissioned by the campaign group Tax Justice Network.
James Henry, former chief economist at consultancy McKinsey and an expert on tax havens, has compiled the most detailed estimates yet of the size of the offshore economy in a new report, The Price of Offshore Revisited, released exclusively to the Observer.
He shows that at least $21 trillion – perhaps up to $32 trillion – has leaked out of scores of countries into secretive jurisdictions such as Switzerland and the Cayman Islands with the help of private banks, which vie to attract the assets of so-called high net-worth individuals. Their wealth is, as Henry puts it, “protected by a highly paid, industrious bevy of professional enablers in the private banking, legal, accounting and investment industries taking advantage of the increasingly borderless, frictionless global economy”. According to Henry’s research, the top 10 private banks, which include UBS and Credit Suisse in Switzerland, as well as the US investment bank Goldman Sachs, managed more than $6.5 trillion in 2010, a sharp rise from $2.5 trillion five years earlier.
The detailed analysis in the report, compiled using data from a range of sources, including the Bank of International Settlements and the International Monetary Fund, suggests that for many developing countries the cumulative value of the capital that has flowed out of their economies since the 1970s would be more than enough to pay off their debts to the rest of the world…
The problem here is that “the assets of these countries are held by a small number of wealthy individuals while the debts are shouldered by the ordinary people of these countries through their governments,” the report says…
Leaders of G20 countries have repeatedly pledged to close down tax havens since the financial crisis of 2008, when the secrecy shrouding parts of the banking system was widely seen as exacerbating instability. But many countries still refuse to make details of individuals’ financial worth available to the tax authorities in their home countries as a matter of course…
And here in the United States, we are told we should kneel and pray in the direction of the Republican Party, vote to elect a leading representative of the tax cheats this report is all about – to be president of the country.