It is rare when someone comes along whose ideas change science. Nobel Laureate Kenneth Geddes Wilson (1936 –2013) forever changed how we think about physics. Wilson left a legacy of his prize-winning problem solving in theoretical physics, the use of computer simulations and the modeling of physical phenomena, the establishment of supercomputer centers for scientific research, and physics education and science education reform.
Wilson was gifted mathematically at an early age. His grandfather taught him how to do mathematical computations in his mind. When he was 8 years old, he would calculate cube roots in his head while waiting for the school bus. This brilliant and shy young boy went through grade school and high school at an accelerated pace to enroll in Harvard when he was only 16 years old. He obtained his Ph.D. at the California Institute of Technology, did postdoc studies at Harvard as a junior fellow that included a year at CERN, joined the faculty of Cornell University and later Ohio State University’s Departments of Physics. At the age of 46, he became one of the youngest winners of a Noble Prize when he received the 1982 Noble Prize in Physics based on his pioneering work developing a theoretical framework on the nature of phase transitions, such as the moment when metal melts at a certain temperature or when liquid transforms to a gaseous state.
Let’s call it creative destruction, borrowing from a popular term in economics. The idea is that the very essence of capitalism is the destruction of old structures and the building of new ones that inevitably face the same pressures as the structures they replaced. It’s the reason the buggy whip industry fell on hard times. The information management business of the Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) is in constant flux too, where the next big thing can soon become the next big flop.
Aerogels are some of the most fascinating materials on the planet. They were discovered in the 1930s by Stanford University’s Samuel Kistler who proved that he could successfully replace a gel’s liquid with a gas by drying it, thereby creating a substance that was structurally a gel, but without liquid. Since their invention aerogels have primarily been made of silica but can be made of a growing variety of substances including transition metal oxides, organic polymers, biological polymers, semiconductor nanostructures, graphene, carbon, carbon nanotubes and metals as well as aerogel composite materials and the list is growing.
Just seven miles south of our OSTI facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee is a national treasure – the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). ORNL is DOE’s largest multi-program laboratory where remarkable scientific expertise and world-class scientific facilities and equipment are applied to develop scientific and technological solutions that are changing our world. ORNL’s National Center for Computational Sciences is home to two of ORNL’s high-performance computing projects -- the National Climate-Computing Research Center (NCRC), where research is dedicated to climate science, and the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF).
Every day we are bombarded with advertisements in every form and format telling us that our lives will be improved if we buy a particular product because it will save us money, reduce our work effort, save us energy, or benefit the environment. We are justifiably skeptical because we know from experience that if something sounds too good to be true, usually it is. Light-emitting diode (LED) lighting is one of the exceptions. LEDs benefits are so powerful that they seem too good to be true; however, they actually do save us money, reduce our work effort, save us energy and benefit our environment.
Light-emitting diode (LED) lighting is a type of solid-state lighting that uses a semiconductor to convert electricity to light. LED lighting products are beginning to appear in a wide variety of home, business, and industrial products such as holiday lighting, replacement bulbs for incandescent lamps, street lighting, outdoor area lighting and indoor ambient lighting.