Saturday, February 21, 2009

FSU's Mag Lab Has High Hopes For BigLight

This news report describes the effort to build a facility called "BigLight" at Florida State University's National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.

Unfortunately, this news piece is big on fluff, but totally devoid of substance. I kept wanting to know what is this "BigLight" facility. But the best that I can come up with from the article is this:

Boebinger, the lab’s director, described BigLight as a 40-meter by 10-meter loop of electrons. It would add a valuable tool to be used in concert with the magnetic fields as scientists study any range of materials, he said.

The article is full of accolades for the yet-to-be-built facility, but has no description of what it is. A "..... 40-meter by 10-meter loop of electrons.... " is the best it can do?

So after doing some investigating, I discover that this is a free-electron laser (FEL) facility. One can view a Powerpoint presentation of the proposal for the facility here. An FEL facility isn't unique. The LCLS being built at SLAC is one such facility that should break a whole bunch of records when it is being built. What is probably unique for the BigLight facility is the frequency range (IR?) that it will be dedicated to operating.

I know the public can't understand such a thing, but I certainly didn't expect a news report to be THIS superficial in reporting news. One should look at the news article on science coming out of the NY Times and see how science reporting should be done as far as including relevant details that almost anyone can understand.


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