Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wind & Tumble Weeds At LIGO

Today there was no chance of running our instrument for Gravitational Wave detection: we had wind.

With steady winds around 40-50 mph (and gusts 10-20mph higher), our buildings were being pushed around and in turn were wiggling our Test Masses (big mirrors) to a point where we could not lock-up our 2k interferometer. I took this opportunity to venture outside, and snap a couple of video clips of tumbleweeds invading our facility (and overtaking our bridge). Enough talk, here are the movies:

Here I get hit in the head with a tumble weed (at about t = 15sec).

It was hard to keep my eyes open for this shot!

This is a shot looking down the X-arm. The tumble weeds look like running animals on the desert floor.

A shot as I was being pushed down the hill.

The Hanford site eventually shut down some of the main roads going into the Hanford site due to high winds. Tomorrow the "tumbleweed baling" begins!

Monday, March 2, 2009

"My Pony Threw Me, And Now She's Dead"

[ Quote from Philbert in Pow Wow Highway]

The Crash Scene

I was in the snowy mountains of the Blue Mountains with my brother, his girlfriend, and my two dogs. We had just finished a nice snow shoeing trip (http://www.yelp.com/bi...). After feeling a bit tuckered from an awesome snow workout, we were all ready to hit Waitsburg and check out some of their cool establishments. We hopped in my truck, and slowly left the Sno-Park.

Johnny Cash's "The Legend Of John Henry's Hammer" was playing on my iPod, and during this track, I took a leftward curve in the road and felt a little slip on the road. For a second or two we slid toward the UP-side of the hill, but the road then curved to the right, and this is when I lost it. We were now sliding full on toward the downside of the hill to the valley creek below. We were going slow, but we just kept sliding toward the edge. I had no control, and the edge of the road approached. The Johnny Cash song was still playing.

My Up-ended Rig

The nose of the vehicle thenwent down first and the butt-end swung forward (rotating us 180deg). Then we rolled 2-3 times down the hill (30-40ft below). The air bags never deployed (we were going slow & we were rolling along the long axis). As the world rolled around me down the hill, I couldn't help thinking of the scene in the movie The Fugitive when Harrison Ford and others rolled down a hill inside of a prison bus. Gunner and Gomez ended up flying from the back of the truck up to where Asia was sitting---acting as air bags! It seemed like it took forever, but the truck eventually came to a rest on the valley floor. We all ended up upside down. Asia and I were able to shake ourselves and take stock of ourselves. Tee appeared to have blacked out, but once I gave him a once over, and unbuckled him, he fell from the seat and then immediately woke up and started gathering all of our stuff from the wreckage.

We were fine, and Asia immediately climbed up the hill to the road and flagged down a couple of vehicles for help. The sheriff and the tow truck arrived fairly quickly. I had a one of Tee's police baseball caps in my truck by chance. He grabbed it, and when the sheriff arrived he jumped into action helping the sheriff handle the accident scene. We were ultimately on the scene for a couple of hours while the tow truck intricately maneuvered my dead truck from out of the valley below.

Pulling It Out

When all is said and done, all the males in the truck emerged no worse for wear. Asia appeared to be unscathed, but she ended up spraining her foot (leaving her crutch/cane bound for a couple of weeks). Still, we were so lucky. It could have been so much worse. I'm amazed and thankful for Nissan's engineering of the Xterra cab--it really held up well and protected us.

Now we have a crazy story to tell everyone we survived. It was very action-movie-like.