See Eric's movies of South Pole Station at:
Since moving to Seattle in August 2000, I've worked with the WALTA group at the University of Washington. WALTA, the Washington Area Large Time-coincidence Array, will eventually network 50 to 100 individual cosmic ray detectors placed on school rooftops throughout Puget Sound. The large geographic "net" cast by this network will allow the detection of very high energy cosmic rays, which interact with air molecules to create showers of secondary parcticles, like the break in a game of billiards. These high energy events are poorly understood and therefore scientifically interesting.
In the summers of 2001 and 2002, our WALTA group, in conjunction with QuarkNet, a collaboration of high-energy physicists and high school teachers, organized workshops for 20 Seattle-area teachers who will host rooftop detectors at their schools. Students & I also built a simple time-coincidence detector which I'm taking to the pole to run some student-designed experiments, and I'm working on multimedia materials to bring cosmic ray curriculum into science classes.
During the previous 2 summers, I've worked at SCIPP, the Santa Cruz Institute for Parcticle Physics, a research group within the University of California at Santa Cruz. I was involved in transistor testing for GLAST, the Gamma-Ray Large Area Space Telescope, to be launched in 2006. I also prepared 3 multimedia CDs on educational topics in physics while with this group. We also developed a traveling demonstration show for local schools based around a million volt Tesla Coil and a suit of "armor". A teacher can don the suit of armor (steel ducting and screen), and be safely struck by 4-foot lightning bolts!
I teach physics at Roosevelt High School in the Seattle Public Schools. A physics teacher for 10 years, I've developed a unique hands-on curriculum involving students in exciting projects, like building trebuchets (a type of gravity-powered medieval siege engine), or musical instruments. I've also taken on co-mentoring Roosevelt's SWAT (Students Working Against Time) robotics team (see http://126.96.36.199/index.html). Some robotics students will help design specialized kite aerial photography equipment for my trip south, with consulting and financial help from the Drachen Foundation in Seattle.
Additionally, I hope to extend my work with 3D and panoramic photography. I do web design and have published a number of multimedia CDs, including one using QuickTimeVR, which produces 360 degree spinning panoramic scenes. The Antarctic experience will be a wonderful subject for this type of high-bandwidth travelogue.
I have 2 boys. When I'm in Antarctica, one will be in 3rd grade, the other in kindergarten, and I hope to connect into their classrooms frequently. One more thing: I'm an accomplished musician and gadgeteer. I have a number of CDs out, play guitar and bass, and have performed in public more than 200 times, including radio and TV appearances. When performing solo, I use a unique 4-track tape loop system of my own design. With Metal Men, I use a lot of homemade instruments, some of which are motorized and play themselves. The most recent instrument addition was a theremin I assembled from a kit. I expect to come away from Antarctica with some local environmental sound recordings...
Check out Eric's server: http://www.invisiblemoose.org/
TEA Eric Muhs has created several powerpoint presentations on Anarctica for classroom and community use, using NSF and public domain graphics. These presentations are downloadable at the site listed below :
a) General presentation on Antarctica (geography, US stations, types of research)
b) Life at the South Pole (specifically about the South Pole : getting there, living there, wintering there, research)
c) AMANDA (antarctic muon and neutrino detector) the specific project I'll be working on. Probably only of interest to physics teachers.
d) Atmospheric Refraction: Rainbows, Sundogs, and Mirages. This is not strictly about Antarctica, but has good info about light in the atmosphere, including phenomena caused by ice crystals.
"The hope is that the parcticle that is almost nothing will tell us almost everything about the universe."
I'll be working on some phase of a giant neutrino detector under construction in the deep ice at the South Pole.
The Antarctic Muon and Neutrino Detector Array, fondly known as AMANDA, was created to detect high-energy neutrinos. These hard-to-find parcticles may be very tiny, but they can tell us immense things about the creation of matter and the universe. For more information, check out the Amanda Web site.
The detector consists of several strings of "optical modules," basketball-sized sensors that can pick up very small flashes of light. The strings hang almost two miles under the surface of the South Pole, and take advantage of the extraordinary clarity of the ice to capture light released when a high-energy neutrino hits it.
The strings are installed by an elaborate procedure that involves drilling a column, using hot water to melt the ice, and then quickly putting the sensors down the hole before it freezes up. There's no way to remove AMANDA's modules from the ice; it will stay there until the continent warms up and the ice sheet melts, millions of years from now.
AMANDA was built as a "proof-of-concept". Over the next several years, AMANDA will become part of IceCube, a one-cubic-kilometer international high-energy neutrino observatory being built and installed in the clear deep ice below the South Pole Station.
IceCube will open unexplored bands for astronomy, including the PeV (1015 eV) energy region, where the Universe is opaque to high energy gamma rays originating from beyond the edge of our own galaxy, and where cosmic rays do not carry directional information because of their deflection by magnetic fields. The instrument may, for example, answer the question of whether the fascinating multi-TeV photons originating in the Crab supernova remnant and near the supermassive black holes of active galaxies are of hadronic or electromagnetic origin. IceCube will provide a totally novel viewpoint on the multi-messenger astronomy of gamma ray bursts, which have been identified as a possible source of the highest energy parcticles in nature.
IceCube also occupies a unique place in the multi-prong attack on the parcticle nature of dark matter, with unmatched sensitivity to cold dark matter parcticles approaching TeV masses. As a parcticle physics experiment with the capability to detect neutrinos with energies far beyond those produced at accelerators, IceCube will join the race to discover supersymmetric parcticles and the topological defects created in grand unified phase transitions in the early universe. The detection of cosmic neutrino beams would open the opportunity to study neutrino oscillations over Megaparsec baselines.
These exciting capabilities notwithstanding, there should be no doubt, that the true potential of IceCube is discovery. Recall of Galileo's observations of Jupiter's moons, demonstrating that the Earth was not the absolute center of every heavenly motion. History has not previously disappointed us: the opening of each new astronomical window has led to unexpected discoveries.
Be sure to check out the images in the journal entries!