back to article Enormous 1km ice-cube machine fashioned at South Pole

International boffins have created an enormous particle detector by instrumenting up a kilometre-on-a-side cube of the utterly pure and transparent ice found thousands of metres beneath the surface at the South Pole. Sensibly enough the boffins left the giant ice cube in place rather than trying to move it to somewhere more …

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  1. Titus Technophobe
    Boffin

    Yikes

    Have none of these crazy boffins seen the film Aliens versus Predators? They meddle with forces they just can't understand.

    1. wayward4now
      Linux

      The real deal

      They are looking for the lost civilization down there. No doubt at all. :) Ric

  2. Ian Stephenson Silver badge
    Pint

    Slightly misleading title...

    I was looking forward to a G&T measured in Gigalitres...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Joke

      Re: Slightly misleading title...

      "I was looking forward to a G&T measured in Gigalitres..."

      Maybe that's the end-game of the Barbados researchers.

  3. Nick 10

    Haven't they seen AVP?

    Fools! They've drilled deep into the Antarctic ice? Next thing they'll be finding an ancient pyramid buried down there.

    1. Semaj
      Troll

      AVP?

      Strange, I don't recall there being anything to do with ice or Antarctica in those 2 fantastic games.

      They should really make a film about them some day, I can't see how it could possibly be done badly, especially when the cannon is so easy to stick to.

  4. stucs201
    Dead Vulture

    How did you miss...

    ...the obvious potential for chilled (preferably alcholic) drink jokes?

    1. Annihilator

      Because

      The discrete Futurama reference was by far the better option.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1O34cqerqs if you're missing it

      "Thus solving the problem once and for all... ONCE AND FOR ALL!"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Coat

      re: How did you miss...

      Allow me then....

      Bring me another fleet of those C-130 from Scotland with *ahem* a very special type of cargo. And a couple dozen glass factories from (where? Venice?).

      Would that qualify for the Guiness Records as "largest scotch whisky on the rocks"?

      How about that: instead of the largest scotch on the rocks... Scotland on the rocks....?

      Yes, mine is the thicker one, with a 4.8MW drill in the pocket.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        FAIL

        Heresy

        One does not drink Scotch with ice. A little water maybe, but never ice.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Welcome

    Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!

    Here's hoping they don't find any "dead" aliens..

    1. Mike Richards

      Call Tom Baker now

      Many of my childhood nightmares featured a certain green seed pod discovered by overly curious scientists drilling into the Antarctic ice cap.

    2. Graham Marsden
      Alien

      That is not dead...

      ... which can eternal lie...!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Alien

      re. Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!

      "Here's hoping they don't find any "dead" aliens.."

      Or stray dogs!

  6. Richard IV

    Explanation please

    How come the ice is so transparent? Is it something peculiar to being formed by glaciation?

    1. Annihilator
      Boffin

      Ice

      Ice is normally transparent. The ice you're used to seeing though, is normally translucent due to the little pockets of air that occur naturally in water.

      A good example of clear ice, is that in an icicle, probably to be found hanging from your gutters around now.

    2. Poor Coco

      Ice clarity

      In this location, the ice is exceptionally clear and also very uniform. There is almost no silt deposition there, not surprisingly; it's surely much purer ice than exists in Greenland since there's nowhere much to bring silt from.

      They are using the ice about 1000m deep because air bubbles are compressed out at that depth and the ice allows an unparalleled mass-observation device.

    3. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      The ice is transparent - not pure

      This ice is not particularly pure. It contains a little air, just the rest of Antarctica. Ice looks white because air bubbles scatter the light. This scattering is inconvenient in a particle detector. Did you notice that they drilled down 2km to install detectors in 1km ice cube? The extra km of ice on top provides enough pressure to crush air bubbles out of existence and dissolve them in the ice.

  7. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Welcome

    The Thing!

    Does no-one watch films any more?

    Oh well, just to be on the safe side, I'd like to welcome our deep-frozen and suddenly defrosted alien overlords etc.

  8. Gary F
    Troll

    How much???

    $279m so they can see a tiny blue light flash? Well I hope they thought it was worth the effort. That rocket plan on skis was cool! Surely seeing that take off is more exciting than a tiny blue light?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Alien

      It's just a cover story.

      The neutrino detector is real but its real intent is not as a research tool.

      We have long suspected any significant daemonic incursion into our realm is oft preceded by significant neutrino discharge from the tainted locus. A detector this size will help warn us early and thus allow us to mobilise in time to meet the incoming threat before it establishes a significant foothold.

      It is hoped that any cult summons of any significant power from beyond will be detected and dealt with swiftly anywhere upon the globe.

      The reason the detector has been deployed to the Antartic, aside that of the site giving an unprecented view of the world from the south pole, is also that of it being so conveniently close in proximity to the Antartic subglacial lakes, long suspected of harbouring, and being a reservoir of taint

      And... I would be saying too much, but not all we have been burying in ice down there has been detector gear....

      There is a war... there has always been a war... Only it's been quite hidden for many many years.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    SG1

    Have they found the Stargate yet?

    1. thecakeis(not)alie

      Not just the gate...

      "Thousands of bright yellow - I don't know - They're coming from the surface! I don't know what they are are! They're cutting the enemy fleet to shreds! My God, it's beautiful."

  10. John Savard Silver badge

    Pabodie

    I see someone else was already reminded of Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness" by hearing of drilling beneath the Antarctic ice. But given the other techniques used to build neutrino detectors, one must applaud the ingenuity of scientists who are using a larger one ready-made by nature.

  11. Sven
    Thumb Up

    +1

    for belgium!

    *insert "drink" on the rocks"

  12. Gerhard den Hollander
    Coat

    Cool

    really, title sais it all

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Headmaster

    Arrrgghh, data != plural

    Lewis, you are my favourite writer on the Reg, but data is not a plural noun!

    http://inkyfool.blogspot.com/2009/12/data-singulars-and-plurals.html

    Thanks for the article, though - amazing machine they are building...

    1. Steve X

      yes they are

      The Economist Style Guide, which is close to being the Bible on such issues, puts it very succinctly.

      Data are plural.

      1. Tim #3

        There's

        an Economist Style Guide? An oxymoron surely.

        1. Steve X
          Headmaster

          Oxymoron?

          Tautological, surely... :)

          Yes, it exists. ISBN 1 86197 346-2

          Highly recommended, and not just for grammar nazis.

    2. Steven Knox
      Boffin

      Thanks...

      for that link; it was an interesting piece of opinion on English usage.

      Unfortunately, I think the underlying point of that piece actually undermines your comment. The point was that a noun should be treated as singular or plural on the basis of its etymology, but on the basis of its usage.

      If Lewis had said "The first data _point_ was collected...", we would not argue that the subject was singular. If he had said "The first data _points_ were collected...", again there would be no discrepancy. It's solely the reliance on the ambiguous term "data" which causes the question.

      In the case of the article, Lewis was speaking of data collected "in 2002". Without further clarification, it is reasonable to guess that this would consist of many points of data, likely collected in two or more discrete sets. That would, in my opinion, easily justify the plural. However, he could have been talking only about the very first point or set, which would imply a singular usage. So it comes down to interpretation.

      In the end, we must accept that our language is a hodgepodge, a melange or salmagundi, if you will, of many languages and influences, and writers are continually changing the meaning and structure of the language (inkyfool referred to Shakespeare -- we consider him a genius, but if his writing were judged by the prevailing grammar of his day, he'd be graded a failure.) In my lifetime, I've seen words such as "gay' and "impotent" completely redefined, and rules for punctuation have changed in several ways.

      So any attempt a definitive statement of English grammar is, as I have alluded to twice above, no more than an opinion.

    3. heyrick Silver badge

      Of course data is plural.

      How do you define a unit of data? A bit? A byte? A word? Anything over that, anything useful, will require multiples. Implying a plural. Wiki is full of data. Googler is even fuller. And as I'm downloading, data is being hurled across the house (except for the unfortunate ones that splatter into the wall and dribble down to leave a sticky gunk on the floor) to be literally sucked out of the air by the computer on my lap, to be rearranged, and spat onto the disc.

      It's data. It's all just data. And while I've heard a few people trying "datum", I've never heard "datas". So I figure it's a word like "sheep", one or two billion, it's the same thing.

    4. peter_dtm
      Badgers

      of course its plural

      this point is the datum point

      you may digress from here and collect all your data - as long as you reference my DATUM POINT.

  14. Ugotta B. Kiddingme Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    www.nsf.gov

    Not Safe For Government?!?

    hmmm... Must be pretty useful then.

  15. Pirate Dave Silver badge
    Pirate

    all that's missing

    is to throw Brendan Fraser down that 2400 meter hole and the experiment will be a complete success. Let him have his dinosaurs and such, we'll be done with him.

  16. breakfast
    Coat

    Good work NSF.

    Given this features the work of the NSF, should it not have the NSF-Work warning?

    1. Paranoid Consultant
      Coat

      Not Safe For...

      Seeing as they use the URL www.nsf.gov does this mean it is World Wide Web Not Safe For Governments?

      Mine's the one which is Not Safe For me to wear.

  17. TeeCee Gold badge
    Coat

    Right you are then.

    So we can work out a way of taking off and landing at the South Pole, but can't seem to manage it at Heathrow with a bit of snow on it?

    Just clearing that up (which makes the score: Me 1, BAA 0).

  18. Annihilator
    Go

    Photoshop

    Is it me, or does that picture of a Hercules with rocket packs and skis on it just seem like it's Photoshopped? :-) It's too cool to be real life!

    1. rjmx
      Boffin

      Photoshopped?

      I don't think it's photoshopped; if it is, someone's put a *lot* of thought into it. If you look very carefully, you can see the propellor-tip vortices.

      1. wim

        fat albert

        The USA Air force stunt team also uses a rocket assisted take of C130 nick named fat albert

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97rSobuKBxI

    2. F111F
      Boffin

      LC-130H is the Name...

      flying in the Arctic and Antarctic is the game. The USAF (actually the Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing, out of Schenectady, New York) maintains the LC-130s for both military and NSF missions to the poles. The rocket packs are real and very much used to help overcome the friction of sledging along the snow/ice. They are working on an eight-bladed composite prop to provide enough thrust during takeoff to exclude the need for the rockets, or at least hold the rockets in reserve for the heavier loads.

    3. Ty Cobb
      Pint

      It's Real

      RATO (Rocket Assisted Take-Off) Ski equipped C-130s exist, known as the LC-130

      Multiple pix exist - see

      http://www.google.com/images?hl=en&safe=off&biw=1024&bih=581&gbv=2&tbs=isch%3A1%2Cisz%3Alt%2Cislt%3Avga&sa=1&q=lc-130+skis&aq=f&aqi=&aql=f&oq=&gs_rfai=

      1. The Indomitable Gall

        Pictures? We want video.

        Pics are great, but I want to see that thing move....

    4. Ty Cobb
      Pint

      Sorry - another source cited them as JATO (Jet Assisted)

      The post is required, and must contain letters.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Thats one big hole...

    Would hate to have to fill that one back in....

    Will get my coat.

  20. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    I think you mean the Thing

    The post is required, and must contain letters.

  21. Trollslayer Silver badge
    Troll

    Eek!

    The picture shows a layer of rock - then kilometres of ice!!

  22. Dave 126 Silver badge

    If they do make an AVP movie...

    ...let's hope it features that rocket-assisted Hercules. It would make a good stand-in for the drop-ship in Aliens!

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Headmaster

    Seemingly dumb and sort of pointless things...

    Turn out to be both very important and are also one of the many elements of the great web of life and universe.

    Just think 99.999999999999999999999999999999999999

    9999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999

    9999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999

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    to the power of

    9999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999

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    9999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999

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    of the

    9999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999

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    9999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999

    9999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999

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    9999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999

    of the quarks that pass through every cubic millimeter of earth, every second, never hit anything...

    And now they have finished their lovely detector.....

    Wow.

    1. Daniel Evans

      Your Maths.

      100 (which is 99.9... rounded, for simplicity's sake) to the power of "a lot" is significantly more than "a lot".

      100^100 is more than 100, 100^9999 is more than 9999, 100^123456789 is more than 123456789. Extend to your fairly pointless post, and this still holds.

      So you're saying more quarks interact with the earth than pass through it? Spiffing.

      Oh, by the way, this doesn't detect quarks.

      And to the best of my knowledge, you don't get many free quarks floating around space.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Quarks?

        Ummm no - I only wrote Quarks instead of Neutrinos to see if any of you were paying attention to my magnificent sciense lessun.

        In spite of the incalculableness of it all, it's a rather amazing device and thing to be researching.

        And just think 10,s of thousands of years from now the geophysioarchiogists will be saying "Ohhhhh darling - what lovely chandeliers - Our conclusions are that the poleanders became extinct from being just too fashionably gay".

      2. David 141
        Boffin

        Quarks

        "And to the best of my knowledge, you don't get many free quarks floating around space."

        <Sigh> not since the good old picoseconds.

        Back in the ol' 10^-9 seconds things were different. Back then there weren't none of these fancy new fangled hadrons and leptons and what have you. There was quarks a plenty back then, and a whole mess of gluons too, and it were a darn sight warmer to boot.

  24. Luther Blissett

    > most neutrinos pass right through the Earth without stopping

    most neutrinos have sense

    1. Mr Young
      Pint

      Haa,Haa,funny

      Nice - philosophical and astute! I think you owe me a keyboard? Nah, have a beer!

  25. Luther Blissett

    The Ice Cube was funded by... Barbados...?

    Evidently a strategic investment decision.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    They have to take the risk

    I know Hollywood tells us there's a risk of finding deep frozen space aliens down there.

    But Hollywood also tells us, via the factual docu-drama movie "2012" that neutrinos are going to change their behaviour pretty soon and start warming things up a bit.

    Obviously these scientists have seen the film and are just trying to find a way to save humanity - or at least the best-looking actors - before it's too late.

  27. 100113.1537
    Boffin

    Junket for particle physicists

    I knew one of the NSF grant reviewers in the US who had to go and visit the site when they were asking for extra funds. A 3-4 week round trip just to look at some snow... I was jealous 'cos I never got that kind of trip!

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Next, on Discovery Channel!!

    "Extreme Boffinry!" - oh wait, isn't that MythBusters, then?

  29. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Neutrino, where are you? You never interact with me. Like my girlfriend.

    What was I saying? Oh yes: I propose a new Reg Measure.

    "That's why it was thought worthwhile to spend no less than $279m"

    So 280m USD then?

    That's 17 hours of Afghanistan War.

  30. The Indomitable Gall
    Coat

    An ice cube...?

    Really, I'm stunned.

    In among all that random ice, someone's hidden a massive ice-cube!

    Genius! It's like hiding a house in a pile of bricks!

  31. Poor Coco

    JATO Planes

    ...have been used for a very long time in Antarctica. My dad surveyed part of Victoria's Land in 1962–63, and I have a picture he took of the JATO bottles being affixed to a US Navy C-47 (military DC-3) flown in to take them out at the end of the expedition.

  32. Michael Hoffmann
    Boffin

    Killjoy here

    This is news NOW? (grumble, grumble)

    They've been building AMANDA for almost 10 years and have been doing test runs since at least 2003. I was down there then and felt like a kid in a candy store (or as Pterry once put it, like the monkey with the key to the banana plantation) looking at the Beowulf cluster they put together, thousand of miles in the middle of nowhere. Had to do - of all things - a security C&A for the NSF. Long story......

    I remember the project manager telling me "somebody is going to get a Nobel out of this".

    However, still feel cheated because our flight didn't get to use JATO, as it was mostly empty and they even dumped fuel to top off the South Pole station tanks.

  33. Winkypop Silver badge
    Joke

    most neutrinos pass right through the Earth without stopping...

    I ate a curry like that once....

  34. fch
    Boffin

    cool stuff ...

    Fond memories ... did help a tiny bit with that, as a student intern - 17 years ago, building dark rooms and measuring photodetector noise and sensitivity characteristics, when DESY Zeuthen created the prototypes of what were eventually to become the Amanda / Icecube detector strings. I still have half a glass sphere (from the older Baikal detectors) at home for use as oversized salad bowl (the Baikal spheres are about 20" diameter, the Icecube ones are smaller, I think 14").

    Icecube was a distant dream at the time ...

    http://zms.desy.de/information__services/press/pressreleases/2010/pr_201210/index_eng.html

    Great to see this finally become operative, and congratulations to the Ice^3 team !

  35. 0laf Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Olaf

    I did notice on the link to the Amunsdson base that it's not a great deal colder at the South Pole (-21C)than it is outside my office (-11C) and it in fact considerably warmer at McMurdo Station (+4C)

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Boffin

      But you have to remember

      That its the beginning of Summer down there.

  36. TkH11

    Reduced Thermal noise

    The cold temperatures should help reduce noise and enable the detectors and electronics to be more sensitive.

  37. wayward4now
    Linux

    Is there SOME reason to not just serve the video??

    You guys have bought into the scheme of killing off the cache of the video, like there's something to be gained. Who would bother to pirate it?? With my Satellite feed and others on stinking modem-dialups, I just let the video make it's jerky way to me, and then replay it in order to nicely watch it. But, some butt-munch anal techie decides we don't get to do that, for some extremely STUPID reason. Get wise, and just let the video reside in our cache, so we can view the darn thing. Extremely grumpy at the Register, Ric

  38. Chris Eaton
    Pint

    Dreams of Light Speed

    on a (only) slighter more serious note re: all this talk of aliens ,this truly must be scientific breakthrough as it is science copying fiction and fiction copying science... they are searching for something truly amazing down there.

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