Sci­ence up­grade

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - EDITORIAL PAGE -

Some of the most im­por­tant re­search in the world — and we’re not ex­ag­ger­at­ing here — qui­etly takes place just down the road at the Jef­fer­son Lab in New­port News. It’s of­fi­cially known as the Thomas Jef­fer­son Na­tional Ac­cel­er­a­tor Fa­cil­ity. The ac­cel­er­a­tor pro­duces a stream of charged elec­trons that al­low sci­en­tists to probe the nu­cleus of the atom. Re­search doesn’t get much more ba­sic than that.

By help­ing us to bet­ter un­der­stand the fun­da­men­tal build­ing blocks of, well, ev­ery­thing, and the forces that bind them, Jef­fer­son Lab not only en­riches hu­man knowl­edge, it also lays the foun­da­tion for prac­ti­cal ad­vance­ments, such as pro­ton ther­apy for can­cer or com­puted to­mog­ra­phy for med­i­cal imag­ing. The Vir­ginia fa­cil­ity is a world leader in in­ves­ti­gat­ing the quark struc­ture of the nu­cleus. (Look it up — it will be good for you. And fun.)

Jef­fer­son Lab, which is funded by the U.S. Depart­ment of En­ergy, with as­sis­tance from New­port News and the Com­mon­wealth of Vir­ginia, just com­pleted a $338 million up­grade that, ac­cord­ing to Physics World magazine, will help sci­en­tists ex­plore even smaller as­pects of the tini­est el­e­ments in the uni­verse: David Ire­land, head of nu­clear physics at the Univer­sity of Glas­gow, who reg­u­larly uses the fa­cil­ity, told the magazine that the lab’s up­grade “will now al­low us to look at scales smaller than the pro­ton and in a lot fur­ther de­tail.” Nu­clear physi­cist Daniel Watts from Ed­in­burgh Univer­sity, another reg­u­lar user of the fa­cil­ity, said the com­ple­tion of the up­grade “is a big mile­stone for the in­ter­na­tional nu­clear-physics com­mu­nity.”

The up­grade was a wise in­vest­ment by all in­volved. Vir­ginia can be quite proud of its nu­clear am­bi­tions, and the very smart peo­ple who fuel them.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.