Monday, January 30, 2006

Plasma Accelerators

The first exciting experimental results of our research field are reported in an elegant article by Chen Joshi in this month's Scientific American. The article is clear, concise and inspiring, and it is a definite guide if you want to get an idea on what plasma accelerators are all about. Tom Katsouleas' name (My advisor) is all over the place too, including nice descriptions of our experiments. Enjoy reading!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


In an unprecedented move, Stanford University is collaborating with Apple Computer to allow public access a wide range of lectures, speeches, debates and other university content through iTunes. No need to pay the $31,200 tuition. No need to live on campus. No need even to be a student. The nearly 500 tracks that constitute “Stanford on iTunes” are available to anyone willing to spend the few minutes it takes to download them from the Internet.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Xmas 2005: Lamia & Others....

My home town Lamia is a typical average greek town. The people are calm and nice, the air and water are clean, there isn't much stress, and at the same time the town is big enough to have specialized shops and satisfy most of people's needs. This is the panoramic view from our 5th floor apartment:

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I took these pictures in the first days when I was still jetlagged and I woke just before sunrise.

Despite the great food in Lamia, the most interesting things of this vacation happened in Athens. The first interesting item in the list was the reunion of some of my former friends from college (and their friends and girlfriends). The first reunion was a small one, took place in Elli's house before the new year.

Cenzy, Mixalis, Elli, Mourtz, Dimitris (from left to right). Unlike the old times, everyone had to leave by 11pm(!), which left just me and Elli behind. So what we did was to walk around Acropolis, we tried to catch up as much as posssible with eachother's news and actions, until we split up around 12:30am.

But on the next year, January 6th, we had an even bigger reunion:

From left to right: Marina, Manousis, Marina, Dimitris, Themos, Mixalis, Aleksandra, Andriani, Natasa, Elli, Karabelas, Mourtzoukos, Aliki.

We discussed various things, and started betting who is going to get married first. We quickly realized that soon the time will start when we will start going to eachothers weddings... It's so scary and it never crosses your mind until you actually start going to these things.

This is Andrianou's Gate, a famous landmark at the heart of Athens and only seconds away from Elli's place where we met.

Enough about reunions. The most interesting experience of these Xmas was this though:

If there is one thing that is unique in Greece and cannot be found anywhere else in the world in the same way is bouzoukia. Well known performers sing live almost every night at the same place. In our case it was Athens Arena, probably the largest venue of its size: 2000 people times $50 each minimum times 4 days a week.

The feeling, that cannot be put into words, was from the first moment astonishment. The whole show was much more exciting and interesting than what I ever scorned or expected. The singers, the people, the arena, the program they performed, the whole thing was a unique experience unlike anything else in the world. To put it straight, no other bar, club, pub or anything similar to that has been better than Arena. I now realized why all these Greeks want to come back to Greece for a couple of weeks of vacation and go to bouzoukia.

I will finish with 3 beautiful photos. The center of Athens during the Xmas period:

Dora's sister, Gina, in a beautifully light face shot:

And finally, on the last day before I leave from Greece, I happenend to drive by my favorite street in Athens, up a hill that has the following great view of the Acropolis:

Για την Πόρσε ρε γμτ

Ήταν ένα μυρμήγκι και περπατούσε στην ζούγκλα. Περνώντας δίπλα από μια λακκούβα ακούει μια φωνή να καλεί σε βοήθεια. Κοιτάει κάτω και βλέπει έναν ελέφαντα. Ρωτάει το μυρμήγκι τον ελέφαντα:
- Πώς έπεσες μέσα ρε ελέφαντα;
- Γλίστρησα και έπεσα μέσα... θα με βγάλεις;
- Φυσικά, λέει το μυρμήγκι. Μισό να φέρω την ΠΟΡΣΕ!!
Τη φέρνει λοιπόν, τον δένει και τον τραβάει πάνω. Την επόμενη βδομάδα περνάει ο ελέφαντας από την λακούβα. Ακούει κι αυτός φωνές για βοήθεια. Κοιτάει και βλέπει το μυρμήγκι.
- Τι έγινε, ρε μυρμήγκι; Πως έπεσες μέσα;
- Γλίστρησα, θα με βγάλεις;
- Φυσικά, λέει ο ελέφαντας. Απλώνει την προβοσκίδα του και το τραβάει έξω!

Ηθικό δίδαγμα της ιστορίας:

Όποιος την έχει μεγάλη, ΔΕ χρειάζεται ΠΟΡΣΕ!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Matlab rent calculator

Finally, I built a program for calculating the checks we have to write to eachother to pay the rent each month! Matlab, of course.

% Calculates rent for 3 peoples

clear all;
close all;

rents = 750; % Andrew pays that to the landlady
gas = input('How much was gas this time?'); % Rajay pays that
comcast = input('How much was Comcast this time?'); % Themo pays that
power = input('How much was power and water this time?'); % Rajay pays that

andrew_from_themo = rents;
andrew_from_rajay = rents;
rajay_from_andrew = (power+gas)/3;
rajay_from_themo = (power+gas)/3;
themo_from_andrew = comcast/3;
themo_from_rajay = comcast/3;

andrew_from_themo2 = andrew_from_themo - themo_from_andrew;
rajay_from_themo2 = rajay_from_themo - themo_from_rajay;
andrew_from_rajay2 = andrew_from_rajay - rajay_from_andrew;

andrew_from_themo3 = andrew_from_themo2 + rajay_from_themo2;
andrew_from_rajay3 = andrew_from_rajay2 - rajay_from_themo2;

disp(['Rajay, you pay $',num2str(andrew_from_rajay3),' to Andrew. Sucker!']);
disp(['Themo, you pay $',num2str(andrew_from_themo3),' to Andrew.']);

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Ο Βομβιστής των Ναών

Ο Βομβιστής των Ναών

Αν εσείς έρχεστε από τα μαγαζιά, όπου κάνατε τα Χριστουγεννιάτικα ψώνια σας, εγώ έρχομαι από άλλη χώρα. Όπου δεν υπάρχουν μαγαζιά, μήτε δώρα.

Αν εσείς ετοιμάζεστε να υμνήσετε την Γέννηση του Θεανθρώπου, εγώ έρχομαι από άλλο τόπο. Όπου τίποτα δεν τεκμηριώνει την ύπαρξη Θεού, ούτε Ανθρώπου.

Γιατί ποιος Θεός (Πανάγαθος, Παντοδύναμος) αφήνει αθώα βρέφη να πεθαίνουν μέσα σε μέγα μαρτύριο; (Και ποιος άνθρωπος, αν είναι Άνθρωπος;)

Πανάγαθος - Παντοδύναμος. Το παλαιό δίλημμα μπροστά στον πόνο των αθώων. Αν μπορεί (να σταματήσει τον πόνο) και δεν θέλει, δεν είναι Πανάγαθος. Αν θέλει και δεν μπορεί, δεν είναι Παντοδύναμος.

Κι ας μην έρθει τώρα ο γλυκερός θεολόγος να εξηγήσει: “ο Θεός μας δοκιμάζει” γιατί υβρίζει τον Ύψιστο. Τι τον θέλει - βασανιστή;

Από εδώ - από τον Πόνο, την Φθορά, τον Θάνατο - ξεκινάνε όλες οι θρησκείες, τα Φιλοσοφικά συστήματα, οι ιδεολογίες. Από εδώ η ιδέα του Θεού και η άρνησή της.

Αν αρνηθείς την ύπαρξή του δεν έχεις πια πρόβλημα να τον δικαιολογήσεις. Ένα τυχαίο σύμπαν μπορεί να είναι απάνθρωπο. Αλλά ένα τυχαίο σύμπαν δεν μπορεί να έχει τόσο υψηλό επίπεδο οργάνωσης όσο το δικό μας. Ο εγκέφαλός μας συμπτωματικό άθροισμα κυττάρων; Ο νόμος των πιθανοτήτων έχει αντίρρηση!

Προτιμώ την ιδέα πως υπάρχει Γενικό Πρόγραμμα - που κάπου ξεστράτισε. Μπήκαν στο Σύστημα παράσιτα, θόρυβοι - απρόβλεπτα στοιχεία. Χωρίς πρόγραμμα αποδοχής τους. Ο Πόνος κι ο Θάνατος, κενά του συστήματος;

- Μα είναι κουβέντες αυτές Χριστουγεννιάτικα; Άσε μας άνθρωπέ μου να φαμε μια γαλοπούλα!

Έτσι. Με τη λήθη. Με τη λήθη και το παραμύθι ζούμε όλοι. Τρωμε τη γαλοπούλα και ξεχνάμε. Αυτούς που δεν τρωνε. Που πεινάνε. Που πονάνε. Που πεθαίνουν. Την ίδια στιγμή. Την ίδια ώρα. Όχι μόνο στην Αφρική. Δίπλα - δυο σπίτια πιο κάτω. Ενώ γλεντάμε. Πίνουμε. Ευτυχώς. (Θα’ ρθει η σειρά μας!) Λήθη. Και παραμύθι: Ο Παράδεισος. Ουρί και πιλάφια. Αιώνια ζωή. Νησιά των Μακάρων. Μύθοι. Λήθη και μύθοι.

Πολλοί αγωνίστηκαν να καλύψουν τα κενά στο Πρόγραμμα. Ο πιο ειλικρινής (και πιο σκληρός) ο Βούδας. Ο πιο πονετικός (και γλυκύτερος) ο Ιησούς.

Έχετε σκεφθεί τι έντονη διαμαρτυρία αποτελεί το κήρυγμα του Χριστού εναντίον της τάξης του κόσμου; Σε ένα κόσμο τέλειο, όπου το Πρόγραμμα θα λειτουργούσε θαυμαστά, τι ανάγκη θα είχαμε για την αγάπη, για την συμπόνια, για την αδελφοσύνη; Η διδασκαλία του Χριστού έχει μόνο τότε νόημα, αν προϋποθέσει κανείς την ατέλεια, του κόσμου.

Μη σας μπερδεύουν τα θεολογικά και μεταφυσικά, τα νεοπλατωνικά και δογματικά - που άλλωστε προστέθηκαν πολύ αργότερα. Η ουσία αυτού του κηρύγματος είναι: άμυνα σε έναν απάνθρωπο κόσμο. Αγκαλιαστείτε, κρατηθείτε κοντά-κοντά, να αντέξουμε τον πόνο την δυστυχία και τον θάνατο. Γιατί ο κόσμος όχι μόνο δεν είναι τέλειος, παρά ξεχειλίζει από οδύνη.

Και τι έγινε; Εκκλησίες και ιεραρχίες δεσποτάδες και επίσκοποι, δόγματα και μύθοι, υποσχέσεις και εμπόριο, χρυσοποίκιλτα άμφια και θεολογική μεταφυσική. Κι η αγάπη; Που να χωρέσει σ’ όλα αυτά η αγάπη! Όταν η θρησκεία γίνεται εξουσία – τι δουλειά έχει η αγάπη; Η αγάπη είναι εναντίον της εξουσίας, μια και η εξουσία είναι ένα από τα δεινά που πλήττουν τον άνθρωπο.

Ένα επαναστατικό κήρυγμα έγινε κατεστημένο δόγμα. Μία διαμαρτυρία για την αδικία της Πλάσης έγινε δικαιολόγηση της τάξης του κόσμου. Α – το Πρόγραμμα είναι πιο ραφινάτο από ότι νομίζετε. Εκδικείται τους αμφισβητίες και τους εξουδετερώνει με τον αποτελεσματικότερο τρόπο.

Αν λοιπόν εσείς γιορτάζετε Χριστούγεννα με τη λήθη και το παραμύθι - εγώ προτιμώ να μνημονεύσω τη γέννηση του πραγματικού Χριστού, που πάλεψε να ξεπεράσει την αδικία του κόσμου και την σκληρότητα της μοίρας. Που αντιτάχθηκε στους ισχυρούς και πολέμησε τις ιεραρχίες. Που δεν μίλησε για γαλοπούλες (ούτε για δώρα) αλλά για αγάπη. Την πιο επαναστατική ιδέα στον κόσμο.

Αν ζούσε σήμερα, σίγουρα θα γύριζε κάπου στα Εξάρχεια. (Με το μακρύ μαλλί και τα γένια, θα ταίριαζε πολύ.) Θα είχε βέβαια φάκελο στην Ασφάλεια. Κανένα κόμμα δεν θα τον ανεχόταν στις τάξεις του, λιγότερο από όλα, τα θεοσεβούμενα. Θα ήταν ειρηνιστής, οικολόγος και περιθωριακός.

Θα απεχθανόταν παπάδες και στρατιωτικούς (τις δύο πιο άχρηστες – και επικίνδυνες – επαγγελματικές τάξεις). Θα κήρυττε την αγάπη σε ώτα μη ακουόντων. Τα βράδια, με μία κιθάρα, θα τραγουδούσε τον πόνο των ανθρώπων. Θα έτρεχε στην Αιθιοπία – και όπου αλλού – να καλύψει τα κενά του Προγράμματος.

Κι όταν άκουγε τον καυγά για την εκκλησιαστική περιουσία, ίσως έβαζε καμιά βόμβα σε (άδεια) εκκλησία...

(Χριστούγεννα 1985)

Pixar , Disney, Apple, and Lucas

[Pixar] is set to meet tomorrow to approve the company's $7bn (£3.9bn) takeover by Disney. The all-share deal will make Steve Jobs, the chief executive of Apple, around $3.5bn and the single largest shareholder in Disney. Jobs created Pixar in 1986 when he paid $10m for the computer animations division of Lucasfilm, owned by Star Wars creator George Lucas.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Plasma accelerators rule!

I was extremely happy to find out that on the next issue of Scientific American (February 2006), there will be an article on my research field, Plasma Accelerators! The field is relatively new: although the first ideas for compact particle accelerators were thrown in the early 1970s, the experimental science took off at the 1980s, so the field is really only 25 years old.

It is the first time an article on Plasma Accelerators will be published on SciAm. It is written by Chen Joshi from UCLA, one of the experimental fathers of the field which I know myself too. He will be mentioning several experiments that have been recently very succesful, such as the Nature-published laser wakefield experiments (which I thoroughly presented in my group meeting) and the experiments at SLAC with which our group is heavily involved.

Stay tuned, as I'll be posting more comments when the isssue is finally out.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Xmas 2005: New York City

Thursday night... 6 more days to go until we leave Brookhaven. Maybe with a new discovery, maybe without. The situation is not very good: the place is dead in the night, the apartment is boring, and although me and Patrick can discuss well, it's the 7th time we have come together here (of an average of 6 days at a time) so we have said quite a few things to eachother. I watch my tv shows, I make my HD switch plans, and I blog! It's a good time to start blogging about my Xmas trip to Greece now that we got the wireless router and I can blog from my bed:-)

The story goes like that. I would go to Greece flying with Delta, and the connection was at JFK. I on purpose chose for the time between the flights to be about 10 hours, so that I have enough time to visit Manhattan. It was a first class opportunity to test my new camera Canon S2. Here we go then.

The first thing to do was to buy gloves, as the temperatures were around -7C. Unfortunately I reached Manhattan shortly after 7am, and the stores didn't open until 10! So I had to experience the world famous NY μπηλοζήρια (below zero) first hand. On the other hand the best light to take pictures is the morning light, and Central Park was covered in snow waiting to be photographed.

This is a view from the tower at the center of the park:

This is a similar few just 3 months ago, in September:

Another great thing for the winter visit was the frozen lakes:

Here are the same tower from another point of view, in the summer:

It is clear that NY is hugely different in each season, and central park is the best place to realize that. Also, although my blood was starting to clot from the frozen winds, I managed after terrible pain to get the following panoramic pictures:

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Free Image Hosting at

I have to find a way to print these pictures properly at some point.

After spending a couple of hours there, I headed for a beautiful new mall at Columbus Square. I spend sometime in the bookstore there, and then finally the market was open. Here is a picture of 5th Avenue, the main shopping street in New York. Every shop that wants to be respectable has to have a store somewhere on this street.

Later on, I discovered with pleasure that Top of the Rock was finally open. They opened at the top of the Rockefeller Center at the heart of Midtown an observatory, similar to the one at Empire State Building only a lot better since 1) There are no waiting lines 2) It's only $15 versus the $25 that the Empire State asks for 3) It has no fencing, so you can finally take unobstructed photos of the magnificent backgrounds 4) The views are a lot better, seeing both the Empire State and the Central Park. From nowhere else can you take this picture:

Or this picture:

(I had a haircut 2 days later).

Here are some great panoramic pictures of North and South Manhattan:

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Free Image Hosting at

Finally, the Xmas tree at the Rockefeller Plaza, where the first Ice Skating Arena is. A classic New York picture.

The camera proved to work very well, and the pictures (but mostly the videos!) were awesome. I will continue soon with the actual Xmas in Greece pictures.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A new generation of Macs...

... just started. The first Mac with an Intel processor is reviewed here, and it will hit the market within February. I am very interested to look at the results of this mix.

Megapost coming up

I have several things to post from my 4 weeks in Greece. I am currently at BNL, and we are planning to get a wireless router for our apartment so that both me and Patrick can access the net at the same time. When that happens, I'll just lay down on my bed and start blogging!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The new semester costs $700

I had spent almost $0 from my US bank account since I went to Greece. And now that I am back in the US, in 3 days only I have spent more than $700! How is that? Well:

$50 for overweight luggage at delta; $126 for new semester fees at USC (Lab fees etc); $108 for the monthly internet and tv fees at comcast; $90 at Target for buying various household items (cleaning supplies etc); $90 at Bed, Bath and beyond and IKEA for some other stuff for the house; $130 for a new battery for my Mustang that just ran out; $50 for cell phone bill; and finally $50 for a nice meal at a french restaurant. Plus some minor expenses here an there. That always happens at the beggining of each semester for some reason.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Som interesting things...

2006 came with some interesting news:

HDTV: Greece will start broadcasting digital from this year, and there will be a complete switch by 2012. Finally! There's no word for HD, but several satellite channels are already starting.

New blogs:

- Berners Lee, the creator of the first browser finally published his first blog. Way to go...

- Νίκος Δήμου, one of my favorite greek authors finally stopped updating his website and switched to blogspot. Καλή συνέχεια!