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SDN plays role in dark matter research at Sanford Underground lab


Talk to any workforce and you'll hear complaints of not being informed on the direction of the organization or ultimate goal. Sometimes it all seems a bit fuzzy.

However, as I learned Saturday at the Sanford Science Fair, some of the smartest people in the world face similar dilemmas.

The kick-off lecture included two young scientists deep in the former Homestake mine that is now the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF). They're down there searching for dark matter. But here's the kicker: even if they find it... they won't know what to do with it or what it means to humans in a practical sense.

It's the mystery of our universe. In fact, scientists estimate we've only identified 5 percent of the materials that make up the universe. They think dark matter makes up 25 percent of the universe's mass.

Even though physicists are in the dark about the practical applications for dark matter, they quickly reminded the audience that when Einstein developed his theory of relativity, there was no practical application for it. However, his discovery led to the development of Global Positioning System (GPS), which is credited as the most life-saving app ever developed. Scientists think research in SURF could yield similarly important results over time.

In mid-July Sanford scientists took two days to very gently lower into the old mine the most senstive dark matter detecter ever built. There beneath the bedrock, protected from the "noisy" cosmic radiation that pummels the earth's surface, the machine known as LUX begins its search for dark matter inside a water tank.Sanford scientists deep in the mine shaft visit via live video link, thanks to SDN WAN connectivity

If it is detected, this will be no small discovery. In fact, science observers say it will be an automatic Nobel Prize for Physics. Results could come as soon as 2013. The Wall Street Journal just published a fascinating story about the preparation.

So what does this have to do with SDN's network? Well, the science fair audience was in Sioux Falls but the two young scientists were interacting with us via video link from deep within the old mine. Whether it's that video link or scientists relaying their first findings from those depths, the communication will be traveling on SDN's fiber optic network.

And even though they don't know exactly where they'll find it and what it will mean, it was fascinating to witness the scientists' focus. Their clarity of goal was as clear as the on-screen image of the two scientists - 390 miles west and one mile down.

Vernon Brown
Marketing Director