Saturday, October 24, 2009

A tribute to my Great Uncle - one of the smartest people ever!

This is reprinted from the memorandum article from UCLA. Kenneth MacKenzie was my great Uncle and one of the world's greatest scientists. He came from very humble beginnings and taught himself a lot of what he knew. I plan to write a punk rock song about him as he was far more punk that Blink 182 ever will be.

Kenneth Ross MacKenzie
Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Emeritus
Los Angeles

Kenneth Ross MacKenzie, who made contributions to nuclear physics, particle accelerators and plasma physics, died July 3, 2002 at age 90, following complications resulting from a series of small strokes, at his home in Los Angeles, California.

Ken was born in Portland, Oregon. The family moved to Victoria, British Columbia when he was 10 years old. He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of British Columbia, and began further graduate study at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1937.

The longstanding vacancy in the periodic table at element 85 ended in 1940. Carson, MacKenzie and Segre, in the Physical Review, reported "Artificially Radioactive Element 85". They bombarded Bismuth-209 with alpha particles to produce what was suspected to be element 85-211. Physical, chemical and even physiological evidence confirmed the assignment. After a reminder to do so, in a 1947 Nature article, they named the element "Astatine", which means unstable in Greek. All 31 of the isotopes of Astatine are unstable.

When Ken began working in the Radiation Laboratory, the 60-inch cyclotron was nearing completion. He became involved with the radiofrequency (RF) system which produces the D-voltage. With this beginning he became an authority on RF systems. He made a major contribution to the design of the system for the 184-inch cyclotron which was completed in 1947. It was the first machine capable of producing mesons. He also made significant contributions to the system for TRIUMF, the meson factory which was completed in 1974. RF systems can be temperamental. Ken had an uncanny knack in getting them to perform properly.

Ken contributed to the development of cyclotrons from day one. He was in Berkeley when the first tests of large-current Uranium mass spectrometry were made in late 1941. He participated in the full scale tests which were made in the recently completed 184-inch magnet, beginning in mid-1942. An accelerating voltage had to be held constant with great precision. The system developed, involving RF signals, is described in a chapter which he contributed to a book in the National Nuclear Energy Series, Manhattan Project. Ken also went to Oak Ridge where he participated in the process of getting the production plant into operation.

In 1964 Ken wrote a paper titled "Space Charge Effects and Cyclotron Beam Enhancement." Cyclotrons had been in operation some thirty years and this effect had been overlooked. Near the center of a cyclotron there can be appreciable loss of particles which are near the surface of the circulating current due to repulsion by those particles within the body of the beam. Once the effect was recognized, steps could be taken to reduce it. As a result, several large synchrocyclotron laboratories were able to increase their research output.

McMillan and Veksler, during World War II, predicted means of increasing the upper energy limit of cyclotrons. The first test of the proposal was made in Berkeley in 1946. The 37-inch magnet was modified for the test. Ken participated, not surprisingly, in the design of the RF system, which now involved frequency modulation. The prediction was confirmed.

After World War II, UCLA was interested in establishing a program in nuclear physics. It was decided to move the 37-inch frequency-modulated cyclotron to UCLA to begin the new program. After a year at the University of British Columbia, Ken joined the UCLA faculty in 1947. Over the next 10 years he and his students performed positron-electron scattering experiments, stopping power measurements, precision range-energy relationships and a final increase of the "37-inch" energy to 20 Mev protons.

In about 1960, Ken initiated the UCLA Department of Physics program in experimental plasma physics. Over the next 15 years, with various colleagues, he published some 20 papers in this field, many involving various aspects of large quiescent plasmas. Early on, Ken and his students lined the walls of a vacuum chamber with permanent magnets of alternating polarity to suppress plasma electron losses. "MacKenzie buckets" are now universally used as plasma sources. He initiated an introductory undergraduate course in plasma physics and an accompanying laboratory (which used a restaurant size cooking pot as an ion bucket). He invented simple physical pictures for a number of plasma wave phenomena usually described in complex mathematical terms.

Ken can be given much credit for the impressive status of experimental plasma physics at UCLA today. Studies of plasmas in the ionosphere (Alfred Wong); the physically largest Electric Tokomak (directed by one of Ken's students, Robert Taylor); and physically large plasmas for wave studies (Reiner Stenzel and Walter Gekelman) are examples of important work in progress.

For a period of about two years Ken was the president of a small company, Meva Corp, which was formed to build cyclotrons. After producing one for an undergraduate laboratory at Pomona College, the company was sold to Hughes Aircraft.

After retirement, Ken continued a long standing interest in Special and General Relativity. Some results are described in an unpublished monograph titled Einstein's General Relativity in Three Dimensions. He also wrestled with the dark matter enigma.

Ken made very significant contributions to the Department. In a broad sense, being one of eight new faculty appointments following World War II, he participated actively and fully in every aspect of the Department's development. Over the years he saw to it that the electricity and magnetism laboratories were kept up to date. He introduced the plasma physics curriculum. He took the course in “Physics for Non-Science Majors” seriously, devoting a great effort to make special relativity understandable. In the mid-70s he served as chairman.

What kind of a physicist was he? He could of course use mathematics to formulate and solve problems. Beyond that, he could see through the most complex situations to their conceptualization and solution. As a person, he was gentle, kind, understanding, pleasant and modest to a fault. He rarely, if ever, raised his voice. He had a considerable range of interests outside of physics, both physical and intellectual. Verna, his second wife whom he married in 1981, gave him great care during his decline. Other survivors are his children, Robert, Maryann and Wallace. They miss him dearly as do all who knew him well.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

New Video - Blitzkrieg live by 22nd Century

Thank you to Jason Alby for sending this one in!

San Jose Parking ticket scam?

I get the feeling that there are some crooked public servants policing the streets of San Jose, CA issuing parking tickets. Now don't get me all wrong before you judge. I have received parking tickets in the past. Plenty of them. I paid every single one of them because I deserved them. I have only fought 2 tickets that I can remember and both successfully (one was in error, another relied on a public servant judging my car too short for a "tall vehicle only" stall). I'm not the guy to cry over a simple ticket, except in this case.

What happened in San Jose, CA in July 2009 is an illustration of how flawed parts of the US justice system are. After a recent business trip, I was surprised to get a letter from Hertz in the mail claiming that I had received a parking ticket. My surprise came as the car had been driven from San Francisco to San Jose directly to the Fairmont valet stand and parked until the day I left. The day I left, I picked up the car and drove to return the car (after refueling) to the airport. The car was NEVER parked for even a second on any city street while in my possession. The valets also attest that it was parked underground the entire time.

My first impulse was to suspect that the valets had taken the car out but when I examined the time, it turns out that was not possible. Rather than repeating the facts, here is the letter I wrote to the City of San Jose:

"Re: Citation Number 90018947

Dear Sir/Madam:

I am writing to dispute a parking citation apparently issued to a car I had rented. This alleged violation was stated to have occurred on July 23, 2009 on or around 9:49 AM at or nearby South 125 Market Street. The vehicle in question was rented to me by Hertz and was in both my possession as well as the possession of the Fairmont Hotel Valet staff. It was never parked where the incident allegedly took place and I am writing to ask you to formally review this ticket and to formally dispute this matter.

I first saw the violation notice upon my return from a trip to Germany the week of September 14, 2009. I have enclosed a photocopy of my return flight boarding pass as per our conversation.

On the morning the alleged violation took place, here are the chronological sequence of events:

9:25 (Approximately) – I called the valet service to request the car be ready for me. They informed me it would be available in the underground parking lot of the hotel (NOT on the street level).

9:36 AM – I check out of the hotel via the front desk. I have attached a copy of the email verifying this from the hotel manager. I immediately walked out the south door to grab breakfast.

9:38 AM – I paid for my breakfast after ordering a toasted bagel. The clerk put the bagel into the toaster. I have attached the receipt for your perusal. The original is on file with Adobe systems as part of my expense reports.

9:44 (Approximately) I received my order and started to eat it.

9:47 (Approximately) I finished breakfast and walked to the valet station and took possession of the rental vehicle. You can verify this by requesting the video footage from the Fairmont Hotel.

After taking possession of my car, I drove directly out of the hotel parking lot, stopped at the red light to turn towards the Park Avenue, then proceeded to the 101 freeway via Guadalupe. I drove directly to Burlingame where my next stop was recorded before returning the vehicle to Hertz at San Francisco Airport. At no time did I stop or park this car. At no time did anyone put a parking ticket on the car. I was in the car the entire time. You can verify this by requesting video footage form the front facing cameras from the Fairmont hotel.

9:49 is the time of the alleged parking violation. The car was never parked.

10:27 (Approximately) I had stopped at the Burlingame gas station (34.7 miles from the hotel) to refill my rental car before returning it. I arrived, walked inside, provided $40 cash to the attendant, went back outside, fueled the vehicle, then returned inside to pay. To cover the distance between the Fairmont Hotel and the Gas station, the calculations reveal a person averaging 45-50 MPH would take approximately 45 minutes to cover the distance. At 60 MPH, a person would cover 45 miles in the same time. Keep in mind the time – post rush hour on a weekday on the 101 and the fact there were traffic lights at each end. 45 minutes is probably a BEST CASE scenario. It is highly unlikely anyone could make the trip faster, which is what would have been required should parking a car be included.

10:33 I paid for the gas AFTER refueling. The receipt (enclosed) shows a time stamp of 10:33 AM July 23. It took approximately 5 minutes to refill and the fact this was in post morning rush hour traffic.

~10:50 The car was then returned to Hertz at SFO.
I never stopped anywhere during this trip as I was focused on making my flight to return home to my family.

I also took the time to contact the hotel to see if perhaps one of their staff temporarily parked the car outside on the street. They reviewed their security tapes and have verified the car was only in the hotel basement. In any event, they store the cars underground in the valet parking area so it would not have been on the street.

You can see why a prudent individual might question the validity of this ticket. I wish to ask you to please investigate this matter further and let me know what you can find out.

I also hereby swear and will swear under oath that I did not park the car anywhere on my trip to the airport, other than to stop at red lights. I certainly would not have picked up the car only to park it somewhere on the same block I had just walked past. It does not make any sense.


Duane Nickull"

Please note that copies of all of the receipts with the time stamps were sent back to verify the times. The result? I got a letter saying "We are unable to verify your claims the alleged infraction never occurred". Idiots!! First off, according to most law books, is the onus not on the accuser to prove the allegation? How can someone logically defend themselves from something they did not do? If I was not there, what possible evidence can exist to allow me to clear my name (other than receipts at the same time showing that I was in different areas, which I had sent)? It only shows that the city of San Jose parking enforcement division is staffed with simians who fail to comprehend basic logic. I really hope someone grasps this concept and can turn things around. How can the people of San Jose let their public servants drop to such a low standard???

If I had to try again to defend this, I guess I could start with the basic items that come to mind. First, there was NO PARKING TICKET placed on the car. Yes - this is true and was admitted to me by the city of San Jose. Apparently the person issuing the ticket was not able to place the ticket on the car. Hmmm - could this be a strong indicator that the car was never parked and was in fact in motion??

Second, perhaps we should examine this from a "what if" point of view. If I had forgotten something at the hotel and wanted to go back, what option would I take?

1. leave my car on parked on the street outside the hotel where it risks getting a ticket; or....

2. Give it back to the valets, who would look after it and not charge me anything for such a service as I had just paid them? I am a President's Club member at the Fairmont too.

My bets would be on number 2. Since the car was never parked, this is all moot anyways.

Third, would it be conceivable that some public servant in San Jose is issuing bogus tickets to rental cars as they drive out of the hotel driveway so they can fulfill their daily quota then simply lay around in the sun the rest of the day and not work, thus wasting taxpayers' money? Would that be a likely scenario?

I leave it for you to judge. In the mean time, I have a bitter taste in my mouth after realizing the effort and expense to fight this is not worth it and I have to pay.

It's the perfect system:

- Guilty until you can prove conclusively you are innocent (logically impossible).
- The cost of exposing the truth is far too expensive compared to the cost of admitting to do something you never did. (inconvenient at least).
- The truth will never be exposed since no one is likely to look into it.

Land of the free? I hope someone from the city of San Jose reads this and decides to investigate the person who issued the ticket.

I was not even allowed to discuss it with them. I have no rights in the United States of America. After all - I am a Canadian.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

RIA Radio, Live at Adobe MAX - Duane Nickull - InsideRIA

Here is an interview I did with the InsideRIA guys (Garth, Zach, Leif et al). This is probably the best and funnest interview I have done lately. I hope you enjoy it. RIA Radio, Live at Adobe MAX - Duane Nickull - InsideRIA