Author Topic: "She Blinded Me With Science!"  (Read 47179 times)

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Offline RottingCorpse

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"She Blinded Me With Science!"
« on: June 28, 2008, 03:16:35 PM »
Do we have a crazy science thread?

Quote
Scientists: Nothing to fear from atom-smasher

MEYRIN, Switzerland - The most powerful atom-smasher ever built could make some bizarre discoveries, such as invisible matter or extra dimensions in space, after it is switched on in August.

But some critics fear the Large Hadron Collider could exceed physicists' wildest conjectures: Will it spawn a black hole that could swallow Earth? Or spit out particles that could turn the planet into a hot dead clump?

Ridiculous, say scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French initials CERN — some of whom have been working for a generation on the $5.8 billion collider, or LHC.

"Obviously, the world will not end when the LHC switches on," said project leader Lyn Evans.

David Francis, a physicist on the collider's huge ATLAS particle detector, smiled when asked whether he worried about black holes and hypothetical killer particles known as strangelets.

"If I thought that this was going to happen, I would be well away from here," he said.

The collider basically consists of a ring of supercooled magnets 17 miles in circumference attached to huge barrel-shaped detectors. The ring, which straddles the French and Swiss border, is buried 330 feet underground.

The machine, which has been called the largest scientific experiment in history, isn't expected to begin test runs until August, and ramping up to full power could take months. But once it is working, it is expected to produce some startling findings.

Scientists plan to hunt for signs of the invisible "dark matter" and "dark energy" that make up more than 96 percent of the universe, and hope to glimpse the elusive Higgs boson, a so-far undiscovered particle thought to give matter its mass.

The collider could find evidence of extra dimensions, a boon for superstring theory, which holds that quarks, the particles that make up atoms, are infinitesimal vibrating strings.

The theory could resolve many of physics' unanswered questions, but requires about 10 dimensions — far more than the three spatial dimensions our senses experience.

The safety of the collider, which will generate energies seven times higher than its most powerful rival, at Fermilab near Chicago, has been debated for years. The physicist Martin Rees has estimated the chance of an accelerator producing a global catastrophe at one in 50 million — long odds, to be sure, but about the same as winning some lotteries.

By contrast, a CERN team this month issued a report concluding that there is "no conceivable danger" of a cataclysmic event. The report essentially confirmed the findings of a 2003 CERN safety report, and a panel of five prominent scientists not affiliated with CERN, including one Nobel laureate, endorsed its conclusions.

Critics of the LHC filed a lawsuit in a Hawaiian court in March seeking to block its startup, alleging that there was "a significant risk that ... operation of the Collider may have unintended consequences which could ultimately result in the destruction of our planet."

One of the plaintiffs, Walter L. Wagner, a physicist and lawyer, said Wednesday CERN's safety report, released June 20, "has several major flaws," and his views on the risks of using the particle accelerator had not changed.

On Tuesday, U.S. Justice Department lawyers representing the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation filed a motion to dismiss the case.

The two agencies have contributed $531 million to building the collider, and the NSF has agreed to pay $87 million of its annual operating costs. Hundreds of American scientists will participate in the research.

The lawyers called the plaintiffs' allegations "extraordinarily speculative," and said "there is no basis for any conceivable threat" from black holes or other objects the LHC might produce. A hearing on the motion is expected in late July or August.

In rebutting doomsday scenarios, CERN scientists point out that cosmic rays have been bombarding the earth, and triggering collisions similar to those planned for the collider, since the solar system formed 4.5 billion years ago.

And so far, Earth has survived.

"The LHC is only going to reproduce what nature does every second, what it has been doing for billions of years," said John Ellis, a British theoretical physicist at CERN.

Critics like Wagner have said the collisions caused by accelerators could be more hazardous than those of cosmic rays.

Both may produce micro black holes, subatomic versions of cosmic black holes — collapsed stars whose gravity fields are so powerful that they can suck in planets and other stars.

But micro black holes produced by cosmic ray collisions would likely be traveling so fast they would pass harmlessly through the earth.

Micro black holes produced by a collider, the skeptics theorize, would move more slowly and might be trapped inside the earth's gravitational field — and eventually threaten the planet.

Ellis said doomsayers assume that the collider will create micro black holes in the first place, which he called unlikely. And even if they appeared, he said, they would instantly evaporate, as predicted by the British physicist Stephen Hawking.

As for strangelets, CERN scientists point out that they have never been proven to exist. They said that even if these particles formed inside the Collider they would quickly break down.

When the LHC is finally at full power, two beams of protons will race around the huge ring 11,000 times a second in opposite directions. They will travel in two tubes about the width of fire hoses, speeding through a vacuum that is colder and emptier than outer space.

Their trajectory will be curved by supercooled magnets — to guide the beams around the rings and prevent the packets of protons from cutting through the surrounding magnets like a blowtorch.

The paths of these beams will cross, and a few of the protons in them will collide, at a series of cylindrical detectors along the ring. The two largest detectors are essentially huge digital cameras, each weighing thousands of tons, capable of taking millions of snapshots a second.

Each year the detectors will generate 15 petabytes of data, the equivalent of a stack of CDs 12 miles tall. The data will require a high speed global network of computers for analysis.

Wagner and others filed a lawsuit to halt operation of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, or RHIC, at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York state in 1999. The courts dismissed the suit.

The leafy campus of CERN, a short drive from the shores of Lake Geneva, hardly seems like ground zero for doomsday. And locals don't seem overly concerned. Thousands attended an open house here this spring.

"There is a huge army of scientists who know what they are talking about and are sleeping quite soundly as far as concerns the LHC," said project leader Evans.

Offline nacho

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Re: "She Blinded Me With Science!"
« Reply #1 on: June 28, 2008, 03:23:44 PM »
We do not...so thanks for making one!

Offline fajwat

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Re: "She Blinded Me With Science!"
« Reply #2 on: June 28, 2008, 06:37:56 PM »
aye.  and good title!
"If it were up to me I would close Guantánamo not tomorrow but this afternoon... Essentially, we have shaken the belief that the world had in America's justice system... and it's causing us far more damage than any good we get from it."

-Colin Powell

Offline RottingCorpse

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Re: "She Blinded Me With Science!"
« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2008, 02:30:27 PM »
Quote
Diamonds May Have Jumpstarted Life on Earth

One of the greatest mysteries in science is how life began. Now one group of researchers says diamonds may have been life's best friend.

Scientists have long theorized that life on Earth got going in a primordial soup of precursor chemicals. But nobody knows how these simple amino acids, known to be the building blocks of life, were assembled into complex polymers needed as a platform for genesis.

Diamonds are crystallized forms of carbon that predate the oldest known life on the planet. In lab experiments aimed to confirm work done more than three decades ago, researchers found that when treated with hydrogen, natural diamonds formed crystalline layers of water on the surface. Water is essential for life as we know it. Also, the tests found electrical conductivity that could have been key to forcing chemical reactions needed to generate the first birth.

When primitive molecules landed on the surface of these hydrogenated diamonds in the atmosphere of early Earth, a few billion years ago, the resulting reaction may have been sufficient enough to generate more complex organic molecules that eventually gave rise to life, the researchers say.

The research, by German scientists Andrei Sommer, Dan Zhu, and Hans-Joerg Fecht at the University of Ulm, is detailed in the Aug. 6 issue of the American Chemical Society's journal Crystal Growth & Design. Funding was provided by the Landesstiftung Baden-Wurttemberg Bionics Network.

Another theory, called panspermia, holds that life on Earth arrived from space, as organisms rained down inside tiny meteors or giant comets.

The new research does not conclusively determine how life began, but it lends support to one possible way.

"Hydrogenated diamond advances to the best of all possible origin-of-life platforms," the researchers contend.

Offline RottingCorpse

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Re: "She Blinded Me With Science!"
« Reply #4 on: August 14, 2008, 12:43:30 PM »
Quote
Robot Has Biological Brain

Scientists have created a robot controlled by a biological brain made of rat neurons.

The robot, named Gordon, is not exactly an Einstein but represents a remarkable bridging of the gap between biology and technology. Gordon relies a dish with about 60 electrodes to pick up electrical signals generated by the brain cells.

The brain drives the robot's movements.

Every time the robot nears an object, signals are directed to stimulate the brain by means of the electrodes, the researchers explained in a statement released today by the University of Reading in England. In response, the brain's output drives the robot's wheels left and right, so that it moves around in an attempt to avoid hitting objects.

The robot has no additional control from a human or a computer, the scientists state. Its sole means of control is from its own brain.

"This new research is tremendously exciting as firstly the biological brain controls its own moving robot body, and secondly it will enable us to investigate how the brain learns and memorizes its experiences," said the university's Kevin Warwick of the School of Systems Engineering. "This research will move our understanding forward of how brains work, and could have a profound effect on many areas of science and medicine."

The researchers aim to get the robot to learn, by applying different signals as it moves into predefined positions. That might allow them to witness how memories manifest themselves in the brain when the robot revisits familiar territory. They hope the work will eventually lead to a better understanding of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, stroke and brain injuries.

"One of the fundamental questions that scientists are facing today is how we link the activity of individual neurons with the complex behaviors that we see in whole organisms," said Ben Whalley, a pharmacist at the university and member of the team that built Gordon. "This project gives us a really unique opportunity to look at something which may exhibit complex behaviors, but still remain closely tied to the activity of individual neurons. Hopefully we can use that to go some of the way to answer some of these very fundamental questions. "

The project was funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Offline fajwat

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Re: "She Blinded Me With Science!"
« Reply #5 on: August 14, 2008, 01:58:43 PM »
sweet.
"If it were up to me I would close Guantánamo not tomorrow but this afternoon... Essentially, we have shaken the belief that the world had in America's justice system... and it's causing us far more damage than any good we get from it."

-Colin Powell

Offline RottingCorpse

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Re: "She Blinded Me With Science!"
« Reply #6 on: September 02, 2008, 12:17:45 PM »
If they ever commercialize space travel, I'm totally smuggling some weed on board.

Quote
Strange Clouds Spotted at the Edge of Space

A weirdly wonderful sight appeared to astronauts aboard the International Space Station this summer — thin blue clouds hovering at the boundary between Earth's atmosphere and the void.

The noctilucent or "night-shining" clouds are at an altitude of 47 to 53 miles (76 to 85 km), where meteors and bright aurora lights are not uncommon and the atmosphere gives way to the blackness of space. The clouds remain a scientifically baffling phenomenon more than 120 years after their discovery.

"It's lovely," said Gary Thomas, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Colorado after looking at a photo taken from the space station. "And it shows just how high these clouds really are � at the very edge of space."

The clouds form at dizzying heights where the air is one hundred million times drier than the Sahara. By contrast, the common high-altitude cirrus clouds only reach heights of 11 miles (18 km) up.

"We have a fairly good idea that the water vapor from below gets transported upwards," Thomas told SPACE.com. "That is in essence the fuel."

Part of that water vapor comes from rising air in the tropics, where a few parts per million of water escape into farthest reaches of the upper atmosphere. Another likely source of water vapor is methane oxidation. Methane concentrations have more than doubled over the past 100 years, which could explain part of the changes in the high-flying clouds over the past decades.

People first spotted the noctilucent clouds a few years after the 1883 eruption of the Krakatoa super-volcano in Indonesia created spectacular sunsets from ash in the atmosphere. Robert Leslie of Southampton, England saw the clouds one evening in July 1885 and published the first observations in the journal Nature.

The clouds have since spread from the northern latitude regions such as Scandinavia, Scotland and Siberia to areas farther south. Sightings have cropped up in Washington and Oregon in the United States, as well as in Turkey and Iran.

Scientists can observe widespread instances of the clouds throughout the polar summer. Some clouds even formed after the fateful launch of the doomed space shuttle Columbia, when 400 tons of water from the shuttle exhaust drifted toward the South Pole.

The mystery only thickened after the launch of a satellite dubbed Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) in 2007, when AIM spotted a type of "stealth" noctilucent cloud made of smaller ice crystals less than 30 nanometers (a red blood cell is about 10,000 nanometers). Such clouds appear to stay in the upper atmosphere all the time.

"They're just so tiny that they don't scatter light efficiently," Thomas said.

AIM has also found a strong resemblance between the noctilucent clouds and tropospheric clouds that hover near Earth's surface, which suggests that the dynamics of near-space weather may not be incredibly strange after all.

Researchers speculate that the origin and spread of the clouds is linked to patterns of climate change associated with the modern era. But they are not ruling out a host of other possible factors, including methane, carbon dioxide, the number of meteors seeding the upper atmosphere, and even the 11-year sunspot cycle.

"I think the jury's still out on that," Thomas said. "We're just trying to understand now how clouds form and how they vary."

Offline nacho

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Re: "She Blinded Me With Science!"
« Reply #7 on: September 02, 2008, 12:24:28 PM »
You don't want to deal with floating drug sniffing dogs wearing jetpacks, man.

Offline nacho

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Re: "She Blinded Me With Science!"
« Reply #8 on: September 24, 2008, 10:15:08 AM »
This thread is underused... Mainly because American media doesn't cover science news, except for "what color is your ipod."

Anyway, our dying sun... (Or, rather, a perfectly natural "solar minimum" that, with the exception of a spurt last week, seems to be continuing beyond what we expected.)

First off, sunspots. 
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/HealthSci/Sunspot_emerges_on_sun/articleshow/3517660.cms

We've had an unusually quiet year. 

So just when NASA was making stuff up about how this is fine, the solar winds suddenly lessened.

http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/09/solar-wind-gett.html

http://space.newscientist.com/article/dn14797-solar-wind-is-at-a-50year-low.html?feedId=online-news_rss20

« Last Edit: September 24, 2008, 10:17:03 AM by nacho »

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Re: "She Blinded Me With Science!"
« Reply #9 on: September 24, 2008, 04:12:38 PM »
Danny Boyle and Alex Garland were on to something, eh?

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Re: "She Blinded Me With Science!"
« Reply #10 on: September 24, 2008, 07:16:07 PM »
Dude, yesterday is the g-spot for Science News. The NY Times puts out their special science tuesday section; I love it.

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Re: "She Blinded Me With Science!"
« Reply #11 on: October 03, 2008, 04:17:56 PM »
Quote
'Space elevator' would take humans into orbit

LONDON, England (CNN) -- A new space race is officially underway, and this one should have the sci-fi geeks salivating.

The project is a "space elevator," and some experts now believe the concept is well within the bounds of possibility -- maybe even within our lifetimes.

A conference discussing developments in space elevator concepts is being held in Japan in November, and hundreds of engineers and scientists from Asia, Europe and the Americas are working to design the only lift that will take you directly to the one hundred-thousandth floor.

Despite these developments, you could be excused for thinking it all sounds a little far-fetched.

Indeed, if successfully built, the space elevator would be an unprecedented feat of human engineering.

A cable anchored to the Earth's surface, reaching tens of thousands of kilometers into space balanced with a counterweight attached at the other end is the basic design for the elevator.

It is thought that inertia -- the physics theory stating that matter retains its velocity along a straight line so long as it is not acted upon by an external force -- will cause the cable to stay stretched taut, allowing the elevator to sit in geostationary orbit.

The cable would extend into the sky, eventually reaching a satellite docking station orbiting in space.

Engineers hope the elevator will transport people and objects into space, and there have even been suggestions that it could be used to dispose of nuclear waste. Another proposed idea is to use the elevator to place solar panels in space to provide power for homes on Earth.

If it sounds like the stuff of fiction, maybe that's because it once was.

In 1979, Arthur C. Clarke's novel "The Fountains of Paradise" first brought the idea of a space elevator to a mass audience. Charles Sheffield's "The Web Between the Worlds" also featured the building of a space elevator.

But, jump out of the storybooks, fast-forward nearly three decades and Japanese scientists at the Japan Space Elevator Association (JSEA) are working seriously on the space-elevator project.

JSEA spokesman Akira Tsuchida told CNN his organization was working with U.S.-based Spaceward Foundation and a European organization based in Luxembourg, to develop an elevator design.

The Liftport Group in the U.S. is also working on developing a design, and in total it's believed over 300 scientists and engineers are engaged in such work around the globe.

NASA is also holding a $4 million Space Elevator Challenge to encourage designs for a space elevator than can work.

Tsuchida said the technology driving the race to build the first space elevator is the quickly developing material carbon nanotube. It is lightweight and has a tensile strength 180 times stronger than steel cable. Currently, it is the only material with the potential to be strong enough to use to manufacture elevator cable, according to Tsuchida.

"At present we have a tether which is made of carbon nanotube, and has one third or one quarter of the strength required to make a space elevator. We expect that we will have strong enough cable in the 2020s or 2030s," Tsuchida said.

He said the most likely method of powering the elevator would be through the carbon nanotube cable.

So, what are the major logistical issues keeping the space elevator from being anything more than a dream at present?

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Aeronautics and Astronautics Professor, Jeff Hoffman, said designing the carbon nanotube appeared to be the biggest obstacle.

"We are now on the verge of having material that has the strength to span the 30,000 km ... but we don't have the ability to make long cable out of the carbon nanotubes at the moment." he said. "Although I'm confident that within a reasonable amount of time we will be able to do this."

Tsuchida said one of the biggest challenges will be acquiring funding to move the projects forward. At present there is no financial backing for the space elevator project and all of JSEA's 100-plus members maintain other jobs to earn a living.

"Because we don't have a material which has enough strength to construct space elevator yet, it is difficult to change people's mind so they believe that it can be real," he said.

Hoffman feels international dialogue needs to be encouaraged on the issue. He said a number of legal considerations also would have to be taken into account.

"This is not something one nation or one company can do. There needs to be a worldwide approach," he said.

Other difficulties for space-elevator projects include how to build the base for the elevator, how to design it, and where to set up the operation.

Tsuchida said some possible locations for an elevator include the South China Sea, western Australia, and the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean. He said all of those locations usually avoided typhoons, which could pose a threat to the safety of an elevator.

"As the base of space elevator will be located on geosynchronous orbit, [the] space elevator ground station should be located near the Equator," he said.

While JSEA has set a time frame of the 2030s to get a space elevator under construction -- and developments are moving quickly -- Hoffman acknowledges it could be a little further away than that.

"I don't know if it's going to be in our lifetime or if it's 100 or 200 years away, but it's near enough that we can contemplate how it will work."

Building a space elevator is a matter of when, not if, said Hoffman, who believes it will herald a major new period in human history.

"It will be revolutionary for human technology, and not just for space travel. That's why so many people are pursuing it," he said. "This is what it will take to turn humans into a space-bearing species."
8=o tation

Offline monkey!

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Re: "She Blinded Me With Science!"
« Reply #12 on: October 15, 2008, 07:19:18 PM »
Elevators?

Space?

This is a recipe for disaster.
There will come a day for every man when he will relish the prospect of eating his own shit. That day has yet to come for me.

Offline fajwat

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Re: "She Blinded Me With Science!"
« Reply #13 on: October 22, 2008, 05:09:55 PM »
http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2008/10/22/scotch-tape-xray.html

Quote
Ripped Scotch Tape Emits X-Rays
Malcolm Ritter, Associated Press
 

Oct. 22, 2008 -- Just two weeks after a Nobel Prize highlighted theoretical work on subatomic particles, physicists are announcing a startling discovery about a much more familiar form of matter: Scotch tape.

It turns out that if you peel the popular adhesive tape off its roll in a vacuum chamber, it emits X-rays. The researchers even made an X-ray image of one of their fingers.

Who knew? Actually, more than 50 years ago, some Russian scientists reported evidence of X-rays from peeling sticky tape off glass. But the new work demonstrates that you can get a lot of X-rays, a study co-author said.

"We were very surprised," said Juan Escobar. "The power you could get from just peeling tape was enormous."

Escobar, a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, reports the work with UCLA colleagues in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

He suggests that with some refinements, the process might be harnessed for making inexpensive X-ray machines for paramedics or for places where electricity is expensive or hard to get. After all, you could peel tape or do something similar in such machines with just human power, like cranking.

The researchers and UCLA have applied for a patent covering such devices.

In the new work, a machine peeled ordinary Scotch tape off a roll in a vacuum chamber at about 1.2 inches per second. Rapid pulses of X-rays, each about a billionth of a second long, emerged from very close to where the tape was coming off the roll.

That's where electrons jumped from the roll to the sticky underside of the tape that was being pulled away, a journey of about two-thousandths of an inch, Escobar said. When those electrons struck the sticky side they slowed down, and that slowing made them emit X-rays.

So is this a health hazard for unsuspecting tape-peelers?

Escobar noted that no X-rays are produced in the presence of air. You need to work in a vacuum -- not exactly an everyday situation.

"If you're going to peel tape in a vacuum, you should be extra careful," he said. But "I will continue to use Scotch tape during my daily life, and I think it's safe to do it in your office. No guarantees."

James Hevezi, who chairs the American College of Radiology's Commission on Medical Physics, said the notion of developing an X-ray machine from the new finding was "a very interesting idea, and I think it should be carried further in research."
"If it were up to me I would close Guantánamo not tomorrow but this afternoon... Essentially, we have shaken the belief that the world had in America's justice system... and it's causing us far more damage than any good we get from it."

-Colin Powell

Offline RottingCorpse

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Re: "She Blinded Me With Science!"
« Reply #14 on: November 06, 2008, 06:44:37 PM »
Quote
Mysterious Dark Matter Might Actually Glow

Nobody knows what dark matter is, but scientists may now have a clue where to look for it.

The strange stuff makes up about 85 percent of the heft of the universe. It's invisible, but researchers know it's there because there is not enough regular matter -- stars and planets and gas and dust -- to hold galaxies and galaxy clusters together. Some other unseen material, dubbed dark matter, must be gluing things together.

So how to find that which you cannot see?

A new computer simulation of the evolution of a galaxy like our Milky Way suggests it might be possible to observe high-energy gamma-rays given off by dark matter.

"These calculations finally allow us to 'see' what the dark matter distribution should look like near the Sun where we might stand a chance of detecting it," said Simon White, director of the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics.

White is part of the international Virgo Consortium, a team of scientists including cosmologists at Durham University. Their findings are detailed in the Nov. 6 issue of the journal Nature.


Past studies have indicated that dark matter was crucial in the formation of galaxies, and that the mystery material still hangs around in halos that surround galaxies. The new simulation examined how these dark matter halos might evolve and behave.

The virtual galaxy's halo grew through a series of violent collisions and mergers between much smaller clumps of dark matter that emerged from the Big Bang, the theoretical beginning of the universe. The simulation revealed that gamma-rays produced when particles collided in areas of high dark matter density could be most easily detectable in regions of the Milky Way lying close to the sun -- in the general direction of the galaxy's center.

The scientists figure that NASA's Fermi Telescope should search in this part of the galaxy for a signature glow of dark matter.

"The search for dark matter has dominated cosmology for many decades," said Carlos Frenk, director of the Institute for Computational Cosmology at Durham University. "It may soon come to an end."