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Jaw Droppingly Beautiful Underground Japanese Observatory
July 3, 2007 10:51 PM   Subscribe

The Super-K is a neutrino observatory in Japan; it is 1000 meters underground, contains a lake of 50,000 tons of pure water & every inch of the the 41 meter high walls are lined with over 11,000 photomultiplier tubes. It is also one of the most amazing man made objects I've ever seen images of. Super high res photos available here. More photos of the construction & recent restoration. Via.
posted by jonson (49 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is one of the most amazing man made posts I've ever seen. Favorited.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:57 PM on July 3, 2007


I've read about these before. They say that water is so pure that one problem is that the scuba divers who work there often get overwhelming feelings of vertigo. It is like diving in "air" so their brains are constantly signalling them that they are falling.
posted by vronsky at 10:57 PM on July 3, 2007 [3 favorites]


2 words: kick. ass.
posted by garethspor at 11:02 PM on July 3, 2007


Cooool!
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 11:02 PM on July 3, 2007


Um, wow.
posted by ORthey at 11:07 PM on July 3, 2007


*Scoff*

The water's not pure enough unless it's being stolen from impoverished Fijian villagers.
posted by Riki tiki at 11:08 PM on July 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


Also, this is Super-Kool.

This image is what I imagine the construction of the Truman Show ecosphere would've looked like.
posted by Riki tiki at 11:12 PM on July 3, 2007


As I recall, the first one of these was built in Canada(?) and filled with cleaning fluid(?).

The basic idea being that neutrinos would very, very rarely react with molecules of cleaning fluid and then produce a by-product gas.

But how does this thing work? It just takes photos of the occasional neutrino crashing into a water molecule?

Help a Humanities major out.....
posted by Avenger at 11:29 PM on July 3, 2007


As Wikipedia puts it,
A neutrino interaction with the electrons or nuclei of water can produce a particle that moves faster than the speed of light in water (although of course slower than the speed of light in vacuum).
This causes Cerenkov radiation which gets help being detected by all the photomultiplier tubes.

A friend of mine is working on the MINOS detector in northern Minnesota. It works on a different principle than Super-Kamiokande, but it's still very cool. He showed me the machine they're making to thread fiberoptics into long tubes which will form the heart of the detector. Nifty!
posted by jiawen at 11:45 PM on July 3, 2007


I think the "guys on a boat in Super-K" picture is by Joe Nishizawa.
(mefi had a post about his book, Deep Inside, earlier)
(He also photographed the G-Cans project, a huge storm drains project)
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:22 AM on July 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


One of the fascinating things about Super K is the story behind the recent reconstruction. A single photomultiplier burst during maintenance, and the shockwave propagated through the water to the rest, destroying nearly 7000 bulbs. The roar of the shock wave ... was picked up by seismometers eight kilometres away. Sometimes, it's good that your glass is half empty.
posted by zamboni at 12:52 AM on July 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


Wow some of the pictures have the quality of an optical illusion - fantastic stuff.
posted by your mildly obsessive average geek at 12:58 AM on July 4, 2007


Those PMTs are the world's biggest. Made by Hamamatsu especially for this project. More info on them. Partly because of the Super-K and resulting publicity, Hamamatsu now has a near death-grip on the photomultiplier tube market, especially for scientific equipment.
posted by metasonix at 1:39 AM on July 4, 2007


This is what Dr. X uses to find the other mutants.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 5:04 AM on July 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Canada's Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) is also on the map. They use a two-shell design, with the water kept separated in an acrylic container. Phototube go boom = no water shockwave. I don't know the implications for the physics. It is a long way underground!

The director of SNO just shared the Franklin medal in Physics for solar neutrino discoveries.
posted by anthill at 6:05 AM on July 4, 2007


It's also not just water in there, it's whats known as 'heavy water', AKA water with deuterium instead of hydrogen, AKA water where the H's have extra neutrons. Fun fact: D2O ice sinks!
posted by Mach5 at 6:07 AM on July 4, 2007


The materials they use to build these machines must be extremely pure, so as not to cause interference. In the past they have used metal from German warships scuttled in deep water off the north coast of Scotland, because everything else has been contaminated by atmospheric nuclear tests equivalent to two Hiroshimas per day for the 36 years between 1945 and 1980.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 6:44 AM on July 4, 2007 [11 favorites]


EXTERMINATE!
posted by grouse at 7:28 AM on July 4, 2007 [3 favorites]


It looks like someone went crazy with a Bedazzler.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:06 AM on July 4, 2007


It's only a model.
posted by rocketman at 8:35 AM on July 4, 2007


Another very cool neutrino detector is IceCube. It is being built in Antarctica by boring holes more than 2 km deep in the ice with hot water and then dropping strings of detectors into the holes. The ice itself replaces the water in a detector like SuperK.
posted by Schismatic at 8:43 AM on July 4, 2007


Okay, I just want to point out that the "amazing man made objects" link blew my mind. Why? Because I'm viewing it on my laptop with it's low res screen, and the picture was so large that I was able to scroll all the way around the edge of the picture, thinking I was seeing the whole thing, without ever seeing the men in the boat. So I had my sense of scale for this thing TOTALLY OUT OF WHACK. I'm sitting there going, "oh check it out, it has this reflecty glass floor and I bet you could get a guy to stand up in there. I bet the view if you stood in there would be kind of weird." Then I see the file name mentioning water and a boat, and I go "huh?" and then I scroll sort of diagonally across the middle, and see the boat. And then my head asploded. awesome.
posted by shmegegge at 9:06 AM on July 4, 2007


oh and also:

You went into the sphere, didn't you!
posted by shmegegge at 9:09 AM on July 4, 2007


AKA water with deuterium instead of hydrogen
I'm sorry to be so picky, but I can't help myself: deuterium is hydrogen. Just not the typical form of it.
posted by Flunkie at 9:17 AM on July 4, 2007


"Jaw Droppingly Beautiful ..."

What is this, boingboing?
posted by davey_darling at 9:20 AM on July 4, 2007


It is being built in Antarctica by boring holes more than 2 km deep in the ice with hot water and then dropping strings of detectors into the holes.

Speak for yourself -- I find holes that deep quite interesting.
posted by mendel at 9:22 AM on July 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


"They're waiting for you Gordon ... in the Test Chamber."
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:25 AM on July 4, 2007 [3 favorites]


"They're waiting for you Gordon ... in the Test Chamber."
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:25 PM on July 4 [1 favorite -] Favorite added! [!]



When the end of the world happens I really hope it's not nukes or some natural disaster; I'll bet it all goes down in a place like this or this.
posted by dazed_one at 9:55 AM on July 4, 2007


davey_darling, I don't even understand your comment.
posted by jonson at 10:06 AM on July 4, 2007




The basic idea being that neutrinos would very, very rarely react with molecules of cleaning fluid and then produce a by-product gas.

But how does this thing work? It just takes photos of the occasional neutrino crashing into a water molecule?

Help a Humanities major out.....


What the Super-K does is give information about particle direction and their energy; with the chlorine detectors the only information generated is the number of particles.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:21 AM on July 4, 2007


TheOnlyCoolTim has forever won my heart.
posted by shmegegge at 10:36 AM on July 4, 2007


Even if this had no purpose it'd still be a great work of Art methinks. But it does have a purpose and one that is more sublime than banal. The Super-K is also looking for evidence of proton decay which, if detected, would help to solidify the case for some of the Grand Unified Theories which are all attempting to explain how our originally asymmetric Universe became an asymmetric one.
posted by vacapinta at 10:43 AM on July 4, 2007


..oops: "how our originally symmetric Universe became asymmetric."
posted by vacapinta at 10:44 AM on July 4, 2007


Remember 2001, when the detectors imploded?
posted by anni at 11:22 AM on July 4, 2007


Help another humanities major out:

Do the neutrinos produce visible flashes in the water?
posted by jason's_planet at 11:54 AM on July 4, 2007


Strange things are afoot at the Super-K
posted by now i'm piste at 11:56 AM on July 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


jasons_planet: neutrinos are nearly massless; billions of them pass through your body every second. These collectors are huge in order to increase the possibility of detection, even then the predicted number of events for SNO is only 60 per day. So think impossibly tiny event in a vast humongous tank of water.

(I'm sure someone who knows far more than I do could explain this properly- we just happen to have been talking about neutrinos in the context of supernovae in my astronomy class this week.)
posted by oneirodynia at 12:34 PM on July 4, 2007


Oh, and Cherenkov radiation is at the high end of the visible spectrum- most of it is gamma radiation, which we can't see. So the energy from neutrinos that we can detect is mostly of a type that is not visible to the human eye. You can see electric blue Cherenkov radiation around nuclear reactors, but they are emitting extremely large amounts of radiation and most of it is in a wavelength that is not visible to us.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:43 PM on July 4, 2007


Do the neutrinos produce visible flashes in the water?

*points to own previous post* It's Cerenkov radiation.
posted by jiawen at 12:45 PM on July 4, 2007


This site gives a good basic introduction to what the Super-K is doing.
posted by vacapinta at 12:55 PM on July 4, 2007


jason's_planet: Some of the light emitted is in the visible range, but it's very very faint, and very infrequent. Those glass tubes in the super-k detector are photomultiplier tubes, which are a particularly sensitive kind of light sensor. They're related to the sensors used in night-vision glasses, IIRC.
posted by hattifattener at 2:55 PM on July 4, 2007


OK . . . so once in a very great while you might see a very faint flash and that's it.

Thank you!
posted by jason's_planet at 6:41 PM on July 4, 2007


everything else has been contaminated by atmospheric nuclear tests equivalent to two Hiroshimas per day for the 36 years between 1945 and 1980

That is so going to bite us in the ass in the end. Damn we are a stupid, stupid species.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:00 PM on July 4, 2007


Monkeys with pants.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:48 PM on July 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


A funny type of fungus.
posted by parallax7d at 12:22 AM on July 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Life in the Super-K... is about to change.
posted by Kikkoman at 3:45 AM on July 5, 2007


My new wallpaper.
posted by klangklangston at 2:12 PM on July 5, 2007


My new neutrino cell phone just rocks, I get coverage everywhere. The transmitter is Zoolander small but the reciever is like Heathkit big.
posted by MapGuy at 7:04 AM on July 9, 2007


The materials they use to build these machines must be extremely pure, so as not to cause interference. In the past they have used metal from German warships scuttled in deep water off the north coast of Scotland, because everything else has been contaminated by atmospheric nuclear tests equivalent to two Hiroshimas per day for the 36 years between 1945 and 1980.

weapons-grade,

I found this little tidbit very interesting, but have been unable to find any more information about this (either references to the use of scuttled ships to build detectors or general info about bomb tests making everything else radioactive). Do you have any further references for the curious?
posted by straight at 5:04 PM on July 13, 2007


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