Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Collisions and more Collisions!

The past two weeks have been thrilling. It's nice to take a moment and reflect, because the LHC and the four experiments (ATLAS, CMS, LHCb, and ALICE) have accomplished so much...

There were collisions at injection energy (900 GeV), including higher intensity / more bunches. There were collisions at higher energy (2.36 TeV), making the LHC the highest energy man-made particle collider ever!

I'm mostly surprised and amazed by how well the ATLAS detector performed. Sure, my collaborators have been preparing for this for years, but I was cynical as anyone about how well we would do under pressure... LHC beams injected, now colliding, now "stable beams", go! I think we surpassed many expectations. And we collected a lot of data!

The fun part now is combing through those runs and cherry picking the best ones. We call this "data quality", and though the term becomes jargon within the collaboration, its meaning is important. We ask basic questions like What were the LHC conditions? Were all of the detectors on and functioning properly? Were we reading out the data? Was the magnetic field on? How about the other one? (on ATLAS we have a solenoid and the famous toroids with the orange stripes...)

I've really been looking forward to this Christmas shutdown. So, it may seem kind of nerdy, but although many of my fellow collaborators will head home for some much-needed vaca with their fams, I will be hanging around my apartment in Saint Genis, analyzing this early data. I'll be looking at indicators of data quality and trying to extract some physics. (Don't worry, I'll take some time off to celebrate Christmas and New Years' with friends.) And I'm really excited to be rid of the meetings and distractions for 2 whole weeks!

Perhaps it's a bit cheesy, but I have this great feeling that I am living the dream right now. As a grad student on BaBar, I desperately wanted to be a postdoc at CERN, on an LHC experiment, for the startup of the new greatest collider in the world. I pushed really hard my last year to finish my thesis and get out in time so I wouldn't miss all of the fun :) Delays aside, here I am! The night we got the first stable collisions I was sitting at Point 1 until 3am, eagerly marking every LHC bunch injection. The beam intensity went up by steps, closely followed by my enthusiasm. The Liquid Argon Calorimeter performed beautifully, calmly collecting data as if it was no big deal; it was built for high energy collisions, not cosmics! This is what I got into physics for, this thrill. It's awesome, and there's a lot more to come next year.

Happy Holidays to you and yours. I leave you with the LHC, signing off:

A bientôt!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Power cuts and Prospects

There was a power outage at CERN yesterday, yes. Welcome to France (no offense France, but it seems to happen a lot more often here than at home). The weird part is that the press is making kind of a big deal about it ... like that bird and baguette thing that seemed completely overblown. Sigh. Yes this power cut caused some problems, especially affecting the computing and web servers (and the LHC, but not the cooling of the magnets). But folks, that's what happens when you pull the plug on a computer. It turns off, and you can't see any webpages it may be hosting when it is off. The Register has a cool pic, so here it is:

Moving on...

We are poised to take real collision data this weekend! Now is the time to be really getting excited :) Granted, the collisions will probably be at injection energy (900 GeV), which is totally known territory, but this feels like the real thing. This is the beginning of making sure the ATLAS detector is stable and we record data efficiently over several shifts. We may even have enough data to start calibrating our detector and start looking at some basic physics. So no supersymmetry yet, but how about some jets?

A bientôt!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Amazing LHC photos

Just in time for the restart. See all of the images at The Big Picture, including some poignant shots of the damage from last year. Fingers and toes are crossed.

Here we go.


The excitement has returned

I think the picture says it all. Circulating beam in the LHC.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

0.32 nanoOhms!

If read the title ala Doc Brown in Back to the Future, you'll have the right idea :)

The latest news from the LHC is very encouraging; the average resistance of the splices in Sector 1-2 is 0.32 nOhms. It's great news because 1) the resistances are within specs for that sector and 2) they are able to measure the resistances that precisely! If you remember from the incident last year, one of these splices with a high resistance (probably around 100 nOhms) caused a massive quench and the release of helium... and our >1 year delay.

So we continue to monitor the cooling progress, especially of Sector 6-7, which will be the last 1/8th of the ring to be "cold":

You can see it still has a way to go before 1.9 K, but it's getting there. Nothing like low resistances to brighten my week :) Let's hope the rest of the sectors follow suit.

A bientôt!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Hawking Education

On Wednesday afternoon, I had the privilege of seeing a lecture by Stephen Hawking on "The Creation of the Universe".

I was up in the cheap seats:

and had to get there almost 90 minutes ahead of time for one of the last seats in the auditorium. But it was worth it :)

I was expecting people to ask questions after, but alas none came. I guess when you're faced with asking him a question:

a little trepidation is normal. I feel like I'm building up a repertoire of stories to bore future generations of students... "I remember when the LHC was just about to start, Stephen Hawking came to give a lecture at CERN..." And the students will think to themselves, ugh, not the Hawking story... at least she isn't going on about Tom Hanks again ;)

A bientôt!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Origin of Mass

One of the hottest topics surrounding the LHC is the Higgs boson. Probably in part because of its catchy name and in part because we give it a great responsibility -- it gives other particles mass.

Along these lines, here is great video highlighting the Higgs that was the winner of the ATLAS/CERN Multimedia Contest:

Nicely done, and a well-deserved winning video.

I'd also like to welcome any Cogito readers! Cogito is a forum for young people who are interested in science to connect with each other and experts. I have been participating in an interview/forum over that way, so head on over and check it out!

A bientôt!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New Countdown

Sorry for the hiatus! It's been a busy, fun summer and I will be sure to update you all on my travels... but for today, I'm back to focusing on the LHC.

For the true groupies, a colleague pointed me to a great website:

that actually gives a brief status update on each of the sectors, along with a "Latest News" tidbit. It currently says:

  • Sector 78 being cooled down for powering

  • Sector 45 cool down started

  • Sector 12 being filled with liquid He

  • Cool-down of sector 6-7 started

This should provide a great source of the newest information on the status of the LHC; they update it about once/week. It's a little jargon-y, but don't forget you have a road map.

Next, ENERGY! I'm sure by now you have heard that the LHC is going to come up at 7 TeV (that would be 7,000,000,000,000 electron Volts; 3.5 TeV per beam) during the 2009-2010 run, about 1/2 the design energy (14 TeV). But no worries, we will anyway need some time to commission ATLAS and CMS, and the LHC operators will get a chance to take this new machine for a real spin at about 1/2 max before ramping up to the maximum possible energy when the machine is ready for it. This might have been a bit of a surprise if you hadn't been paying close attention... but being a little conservative for this run is ok in my book.... and it's still 3.5 times the energy of Fermilab's Tevatron (Booyah! not that it's a competition... ok, maybe a little bit ;) ... but they do have more data than us... for now...). Ok, maybe I feel a bit bad about talking smack to the Tevatron when Fermilab's director is so magnanimous.

And, for the skeptics, perhaps you need a 3 minute reminder what went wrong last year, why the bleeding edge sometimes hurts, and why we're doing this in the first place...

...I got goosebumps at the end. The LHC temperature map is back on my dashboard, and it's time to start a new countdown to collisions.

A bientôt!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Back to School!

For the past week and a half, I attended the 2009 CERN-Fermilab Hadron Collider Physics Summer School. It was very satisfying to be in full-time learning mode for a while... a nice break from coding at my desk all the time :) We had some great speakers -- most of them took their charge very seriously, and you could tell that they put a lot of work and thought into their slides, even if they sometimes couldn't cram in all of the information they wanted to ;)

Here are some of my favorite photos/figures from the lectures (note that these are stolen from the ppt/pdf files at the link below). Hopefully they will give you a taste of the wide range of topics covered, and inspire you to investigate further :)

Visualization of Supersymmetry (Giudice):

We live in the golden region, and would only see the "shadows" from the superspace.

Groove caused by an errant beam in the SPS beam pipe (Wenninger):
The SPS is the ring that accelerates protons up to 450 GeV before they are injected into the LHC.

A healthy busbar, unlike the one that caused the September 19th incident... (Wenninger):

String breaking (Antinori):
The concept of strings is useful for describing pulling apart 2 quarks... eventually it becomes "easier" to pop a new quark-anti-quark pair out of the vacuum than to keep pulling.

Matter glacier (Servant):
Visible matter is the part of the glacier sticking out above the water, dark matter is hidden from view.

The ATLAS Transition Radiation Tracker, lit up with a Sept 2008 splash event (Hoecker):

Do you see the Higgs? Ha ha, j/k.

The entire agenda is posted, including video! if you want to learn more.

A bientôt!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Along the Same Lines...

Apparently Jorge and I are on the same page these days:

This is hilarious, but unfortunately physicists' comments would be way more verbose and argumentative...

A bientôt!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Pop quiz: Life at CERN is (a) more exciting or (b) less exciting than an episode of Gossip Girl. Answer: it depends on the day.

Last September, the answer was (a) on a daily basis. Lately, I would have to answer (b). No data, no news from the LHC, and a bunch of Swiss/French holidays in May have made for a quiet month. But in the calm before the storm we are sometimes (often?) no better than gossiping teenagers...

Spotted, little J. snoring during the LAr meeting.

Is B. leaving ATLAS for CMS?

This just in, N. and S., former collaborators, now collabafoes.

Granted, we are a little less obvious than sending text messages. But instead we use blogs, emails, hypernews, and wikis to do our dirty work. If you don't believe me, check out our rumors website!

Spotted, John Oliver riding the magnet outside R1.

That permanent position at X lab/university? Sorry Lonely Boy, we heard it was offered to Chuck.

Not that I'm advocating a TV show be made about physicists at CERN ... it's not that exciting, and besides there's already one out there.

So, while we lie in wait ready to pounce on the first collisions, snarky side arguments and passive-aggressive turf wars are par for the course. I don't particularly enjoy them, but I figure they are kind of like training for the free-for-all that will come when data arrives and everyone starts their bump-hunting. Don't get me wrong, everyone will be thrilled for a good couple days after first collisions. But with any luck, if things go smoothly we will be scrambling to analyze, analyze, analyze ... because the clock is ticking and the timer goes off when the first papers come out. We will be competing against CMS, but we will also be competing with each other to be in that first batch. Getting your Ph.D., a job, or tenure depends on it.


Friday, April 24, 2009

The Last Little Blue Dipole

Sounds like a great title for a children's book :) The newest CERN Bulletin is out, and of course the first thing I read is "The Latest from the LHC".

This week's update explains that the last blue dipole magnet is all better and finally gets to join his friends in sector 3-4 (the sector had the incident last September). And, as a bonus they linked to a video! I realize that the video is in French ... so think of it as a taste of life at CERN, where language barriers mean you don't always know exactly what's going on, but you get the gist... love the fast forward/reverse and the cheesy music!

Ok, here's a little help by way of a translation of CERN's description:

Since 14 November 2008, there were 54 magnets reinstalled in sector 3-4, 1 magnet in sector 1-2, and 1 magnet in sector 6-7. For the descent of the last superconducting dipole of 16 April 2009, Pascal Brunero, monitoring the work in the EN/HE group in charge of transport and handling, has responded to an interview for the bulletins.

A bientôt!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Lunch with John Oliver

Yes, you read that right. Just a normal day in the CERN cafeteria until we got to have lunch with our favorite Daily Show correspondent, John Oliver! Before you sputter in disbelief, here is the proof:

Adam, Me, John Oliver, Regina, and Jason

He happened to be at CERN, interviewing some awesome physicists (not us -- we will not be on camera), seeing the detectors, etc. and sat with us for lunch! Hilariously, we first caught him riding the large blue magnet outside of the cafeteria like a bronco:

(sorry for the far-away pic ... my phone doesn't zoom) This definitely caused a bit of a buzz among the Americans / Daily Show fans eating lunch. And then we cleared some room so that he, a producer, and their crew could join us at our table.

I don't think we embarrassed ourselves too much, and he's just as cool in person as on TV, except a little more jet-lagged maybe :) I'll definitely keep you all updated when the segment airs (our best guess is probably the week after next).

A bientôt!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Some bling for the universe?

Looks like the night sky has some pretty sweet accessories---some sparkly gamma-ray bursts. This little movie from the NASA website shows gamma rays in the "northern galactic sky" from April through October of 2008 (each frame is 1 day). The data was taken by the Large Area Telescope of the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope (formerly known as Prince, oops, I mean GLAST). It nicely puts in the locations of a few familiar constellations and the path of the sun so you can get your bearings.

Credit: NASA/DOE/Fermi LAT Collaboration

Symmetry breaking has a nice article explaining that the bright flashes are blazars:
Some of the most violent energy sources in the universe, blazars are galaxies that emit jets of particles traveling near the speed of light. In a blazar, one of these jets is oriented directly toward Earth, creating a very strong signal in many wavelengths—including gamma rays.
and the dimmer but constant red dots are pulsars:
The crushed cores left behind when massive stars explode, pulsars spin rapidly and sweep a lighthouse-like beam across the sky. When this beam is oriented so that it shines on Earth, we observe it to blink on and off as the star spins.

It’s funny, but we [the Large Area Telescope collaboration] consider pulsars steady sources,” Digel says. “Unlike blazars, they don’t change in brightness, they only pulse.” Because the slowest gamma-ray pulsars flash a few times per second, their on-and-off nature isn’t visible in the highly compressed time of the movie. But in the telescope’s complete data, the flashes are quite clear; in fact, the Large Area Telescope was the first telescope to discern that one of these sources, LAT PSR J1836+5925 (the one on the left edge of the movie), is in fact a pulsar. Previously, it was known as a steady, unidentified gamma-ray object.

A bientôt!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Load up your crossbows

I was wondering why the #4 Google Trend this morning was "Higgs excitation"...

I hope they'll be passing out crossbows in the CERN cafeteria today.

A bientôt!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Fermilab Celebrates April Fool's Day

Just a quick post to make sure you check out Fermilab Today.

I'm pleased to say that I have met Eric Yurkewicz personally, and I am not surprised that the precocious youth was able to detect that flaw in the LHC. It is only a matter of time before he becomes CERN director-general ;) But I think my favorite story is "Particles attempt lab takeover":

Happy April Fool's Day!

A bientôt!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

John Oliver on Science

On the lighter side, I John Oliver. So I thoroughly enjoyed his "science commentary" on the Daily Show Monday night. Hope you all get a kick out of it too (John Oliver comes on around the 2-minute mark):

Going to listen to some tunes on my magic song brick now :)

A bientôt!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Where the web was born

Happy 20th birthday to the WWW! 20 years ago today the web was "born" here at CERN with the submission of a proposal by Tim Berners-Lee called "Information Management: A Proposal". CERN is also having an event (webcast) to celebrate.

(photo from mackz)

Here is a link to the CERN Press Release, and there's a nice article in SLAC Today with screenshots of the first SLAC webpages.

I know that I can't imagine life/work without those three w's, especially since while I'm at CERN it's my lifeline to family, friends, and news from home.

A bientôt!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Shhh, it's a secret

I came across a link to an old Cosmic Variance blog post from Julianne Dalcanton called "The Cult of Genius", and I was compelled to pass it on. Mostly because it so eloquently reveals physicists' biggest secret:
During high school or college, many aspiring physicists latch onto Feynman or Einstein or Hawking as representing all they hope to become. The problem is, the vast majority of us are just not that smart. Oh sure, we’re plenty clever, and are whizzes at figuring out the tip when the check comes due, but we’re not Feynman-Einstein-Hawking smart. We go through a phase where we hope that we are, and then reality sets in, and we either (1) deal, (2) spend the rest of our career trying to hide the fact that we’re not, or (3) drop out.
Some of us aren't even so great with the mental math ;) I think that this realization hits most physicists sometime mid-grad school, after finishing classes and shortly after one starts doing research full-time, and it's a bit of an identity crisis. Julianne continues:
Well, screw that. Yes, you have to be clever, but if you have good taste in problems, an ability to forge intellectual connections, an eye for untapped opportunities, drive, and yes, a willingness to work hard, you can have major impacts on the field. While my guess is that this is broadly understood to be true by those of us clever-but-not-F-E-H-smart folks who’ve survived the weeding of graduate school, postdoctoral positions, and assistant professorhood, we do a lousy job of communicating this fact to our students. I’ve always suspected that we lose talent from the field because people opt for Door #3 (drop out) when they face up to the fact that physics is frequently hard, even for very clever people.

So now you know the "secret". Are you convinced? The "Cult of Genius" is a difficult concept to overcome, both within physics and in how physicists relate to the rest of society. Especially when we are bombarded by images like this:

(a painting by Ken Currie of Peter Higgs, namesake of the elusive Higgs boson, aka the "God particle" that experiments at Fermilab and CERN are searching for)

A bientôt!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Chamonix Summary -- More about the September Incident

Today I'll continue with some cool photos from the Chamonix summary (as I discussed last week).

The first speaker had another photo from the September 19th incident, describing that of the 595 MJ (595,000,000 Joules) of energy stored in the magnets, half was dissipated in the arc that caused the damage:

(photo from slide 7 of the first summary talk). A typical surge protector in your house might be able to absorb and dissipate on the order of 1000 Joules of energy.

And, along with more info about the damage, we get some more photos of repairs... for example, a "jumper" repair on part of the damaged sector:

And remember the how the soot in the beam pipe needed to be cleaned? Here's a before (left) and after (right):

and a photo of the "Q-tip" (ok, they call it a foam plug) they use to clean the beam pipe...

first dipped in alcohol, then dry.

If this is the kind of thing that floats your boat, you might want to check out the whole video of the Chamonix summary. Beware of the accelerator jargon ... here's some help (and for my own future reference; corrections welcome in the comments):

BIS = beam interlock system
DFB = electrical distribution box
MCI = maximum credible incident
MLI = multilayer insulation
MO = multipole
MPS = machine protection system
MQ = skew quadrupole
QPS = quench protection system
QRL = cryogenic pipeline
SEU = single event upset
SSS = short straight section

A bientôt!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Chamonix Summary -- Dipole Training

I've been talking about the Chamonix workshop for the past few posts, and will spend a few more on it, mostly because I find the accelerator side interesting. Plus, ATLAS kind of depends on those protons eventually colliding ;)

Yesterday afternoon, we got a 3-hour summary of the workshop (agenda and slides), so I thought I would share some of the more interesting items. The information (and accelerator acronyms) flew by pretty quickly, so this comes with the usual disclaimer that any mistakes are mine.

The first topic is "training" the dipole magnets... For magnets, training is accomplished by gradually increasing the current through the magnet (which increases the magnetic field) until the magnet quenches. Then the current is increased again, hopefully past the previous quench point, until the magnet quenches again at a higher current and magnetic field. The magnet "remembers" how high the current got, so the next time you turn it on (days or weeks later), it should be happy with any current below the highest quench point. And by the way, the currents that we are talking about are ~10000 A (compared to your wall plug of 15-20 A).

The LHC accelerator physicists talk in terms of "number of quenches"—how many times they have to repeat this current increase to quench cycle in order to reach a given magnetic field and therefore energy. The design energy of the LHC is proton collisions at 14 TeV, which means that every magnet in the ring must be trained up to 1/2 of that energy, or 7 TeV. This fall, we are going to run at 10 TeV, so the magnets must be trained up to 5 TeV (which they are, except for the repaired magnets in the sector that had the incident last September). They would like to reach the LHC's design energy for the run in 2011.

At Chamonix, they tried to estimate how many quenches it would take to reach given energies in the magnets... keep in mind that they can train magnets in the 8 sectors in parallel, but can only do ~3 quenches per day. Their estimates are that it would take 11 quenches to reach the equivalent current for 6 TeV in each magnet, 84 quenches to reach 6.5 TeV, and nearly 1000 quenches to reach 7 TeV (design energy). 1000 quenches means training magnets for 2 months!

So you can see, it gets a lot harder to make that last step from 13 TeV to 14 TeV. Which is why 13 TeV might be the maximum center-of-mass energy reached by the LHC. But I have 2 conclusions: 1) I wouldn't be disappointed with 13 TeV and 2) I'm not going to count these accelerator physicists out just yet...

A bientôt!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Latest details about the ongoing LHC repairs

We've heard the big news about the LHC schedule that was decided in Chamonix a few weeks ago, so I was not expecting anything too exciting from a talk this morning at our ATLAS collaboration meeting. What did strike me (again) was the size and scale of the task facing the physicists and engineers getting the accelerator back up and ready to go.

For example, they had to take basically a giant Q-tip dipped in alcohol to clean the soot from the inside of nearly 2 miles of beam pipe (the soot being from the incident last September). Another number is 150 miles -- the additional length of cable that needs to be installed for the enhanced quench protection system. And how about $10 million? Compared to the stimulus package it might be peanuts, but it's the additional cost of electricity for running the LHC through next winter (electricity is more expensive in winter than summer here, which is why we would usually shut down in winter). And finally, 104 -- the number of places around the ring where they will reinforce those red blocks that anchor the magnets to the concrete tunnel floor (see the CERN bulletin).

I'm trying to keep these numbers in mind, because otherwise it can be pretty discouraging to scan back through my blog posts to see how the schedule has slipped from September 08 to April 09 to May to June to ... September? October? All because of some missing solder:

(The bad magnet connection. As I understand it, the connection on the left is "bad" because the half-circle is copper-colored, rather than coated with the silver-colored solder that you can see on the connection on the right.)

The bottom line is that I need to be patient, because they still have a ton to do to fix the machine and we have months to go before there are protons in the LHC. Good thing there are plenty of photos from fashion week to keep me occupied ;)

A bientôt!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Tom Hanks at CERN!

So, you may have seen in Symmetry Breaking that Entertainment Tonight is broadcasting from CERN, highlighting the upcoming movie release of Angels and Demons. I read the book (CERN has an FAQ page about it) and found it pretty entertaining, even though it's definitely fiction.

Well, we were at the CERN store after lunch today and noticed a large group of reporters gathering across the street at the Globe...

and guess who came out?! Tom Hanks, Ayelet Zurer, and Ron Howard!!!

How cool is that! Ayelet Zurer looked really pretty, Ron Howard was wearing a CERN hat, and I just got to see Tom Hanks!

A bientôt!

Monday, February 9, 2009

LHC Schedule, Part 2

Hot off the presses, here's the promised update:

Expected beams in the LHC at the end of September, collisions late October. This is a 6-week delay compared to the previous schedule...
The cause of this delay is due to several factors such as implementation of a new enhanced protection system for the busbar and magnet splices, installation of new pressure relief valves to reduce the collateral damage in case of a repeat incident, application of more stringent safety constraints, and scheduling constraints associated with helium transfer and storage.

In Chamonix there was consensus among all the technical specialists that the new schedule is tight but realistic.

The new pressure relief valves will be installed in the 4 warmed-up sectors this year, and they will be installed in the cold sectors in 2010.

A bientôt!

LHC Schedule, Part 1

As soon as DG Heuer (DG = Director General of CERN) got back from a workshop in Chamonix (see map) last week,

View Larger Map

he sent CERN users and staff an email along with a Press Release. The contents: a recommendation for running the LHC through the winter of 2009-10 all the way to autumn of 2010, at an energy of 10 TeV (compare this to the "design" energy of 14 TeV, and the proton-antiproton energy of 1.96 TeV at Fermilab's Tevatron). This should give the experiments enough data to get our physics on :)

At this workshop (which was mostly for the Accelerator division, as I understand it only a few representatives from the experiments were invited) they also discussed the cause of September 19th incident and what they've done to detect similar potential problem spots in the machine:

Among the topics discussed in Chamonix was the underlying cause of the incident that brought the LHC to a standstill on 19 September last year. The incident was traced to a faulty electrical connection between segments of the LHC's superconducting cable. Since the incident, enormous progress has been made in developing techniques to detect any small anomaly. These will be used in order to get a complete picture of the resistance in the splices of all magnets installed in the machine. This will allow improved early warning of any additional suspicious splices during operation. The early warning systems will be in place and fully tested before restarting the LHC.

Following the incident, a further two suspect connections have been identified. One of these has now been investigated, revealing that the splice between cables had not been correctly carried out. As a result the magnet containing the second will also be removed from the tunnel for repair. Since resistance tests can only be conducted in cold magnets, three of the LHC's eight sectors remain to be tested: sector 3-4 where the original incident occurred and the sectors on either side. Within sector 3-4, the 53 magnets that are being replaced in the tunnel will all be tested before cool down, and the sectors either side will be cooled down early enough to intervene if necessary with no impact on the schedule. This leaves around 100 dipole magnets that cannot be tested until September, and a correspondingly small chance that repairs may run into currently scheduled running time.

So there's the latest dish on the machine. The "Part 1" in the title of this post refers to the caveat that the schedule recommendation needs to be approved by CERN management in a meeting today. I'll post again when we get word on the decisions that were made in that meeting, which I hope will give us a more detailed restart schedule for this year.

A bientôt!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Super Bowling

I guess I finally miss the US a bit. I don't think it was just a coincidence that this weekend turned into an homage to the US of A. So far, I've been really trying to embrace the pace, culture, and way of life in France/Switzerland. But you start to miss some things, like being able to stop by and pick up food on the way home without it turning into a 2-hour (and $$$) experience. And being able to pay $1 for a pitcher of beer while wearing rented shoes ... aka bowling ;) And watching football. So it's good to inject some bits of home here and there when you can...

On Friday we called and ordered Domino's pizza. Delivery wasn't possible to France, but we went and picked it up, saving 40% on delivery charges! It still wasn't cheap compared to Domino's in the US, but hey, we were in the mood to splurge. And later that evening, we went bowling! Granted there were no $1 (or even 1€) pitchers, but it felt like the real deal:

And on Sunday night we gathered with a bunch of other football fans to watch the Super Bowl at Pickwick's in Geneva, complete with Madden commentary (although no US commercials). The game started around midnight, and we didn't get home until 5am, but man am I glad we stayed until the end. What a game!

To finish it off with some physics, there was also an LHC update this weekend. It's pretty jargon-y, but the basic gist is that they can now identify the problem that caused the incident in September, and they found and are going to fix another magnet with the same problem (in Sector 6-7). They've also made more progress replacing the damaged magnets in Sector 3-4 (where the incident occurred).

A bientôt!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Geek Chic Boogie

Everyone at CERN seemed to be glued to the footage of the Obama inauguration on Tuesday. It was covered fully on French TV, and I personally streamed it live from my laptop in my office. It seems like everyone is putting their own spin on how the Obama administration will affect them, so of course I had to point you all to an article in the NY Times science section called "In ‘Geek Chic’ and Obama, New Hope for Lifting Women in Science". How cool is that?! The article makes some interesting points:
In a new survey of 19,000 doctoral students at the University of California, Dr. Mason and her colleagues found that while two-thirds of the respondents either had or planned to have children, 84 percent of the women and 74 percent of the men expressed worry about the family-unfriendliness of their intended profession, and many had changed their plans accordingly.
It makes me wonder why scientists do this to themselves. If most men and women worry about the family-unfriendliness of scientific careers, why don't we do something to change it? People assume that this is a women's issue, but I would argue that in the modern family, it's a men's issue too. It seems to me that by improving the situation, we would not only attract more women to scientific careers, but also help retain men and make everyone happier. So I was pleased to read this part as well:
Dr. Mason and other legal experts suggest that President Obama might be able to change things significantly for young women in science — and young men — by signing an executive order that would provide added family leave and parental benefits to the recipients of federal grants, a huge pool of people that includes many research scientists.
The rest of the article talks about the importance of making 'Geek Chic', and I'm all for it! In a recent Google blog post about involving young girls in a robotics competition, a girl named Tal said that she originally thought technology was "just for geeks", but given the chance to tinker around, she got hooked. So thanks to Tal for doing her part to make geek chic. Between Tal and a scientist blogger named Dr. Isis who continually posts pictures of fabulous shoes, I'm convinced that Geek Chic will be the new trend :)

So put on your dancing shoes and get your boogie on (Nick, this one's for you!):

A bientôt!

Friday, January 16, 2009

"The latest from the LHC"

I will just copy and paste from the CERN Bulletin ...

As promised by the Director-General, we will start a series of regular updates detailing the status of the LHC repairs, consolidation and commissioning.

As of last week all magnets in the damaged area of sector 3-4 have been removed and raised to the surface. In total 39 dipoles and 14 short straight sections are now on the surface. Four replacement magnets have been lowered and installed, and by the end of this week this figure should total seven. Cold testing replacement magnets in SM18 has resumed after the Christmas shutdown. The civil engineering work to repair the slight damage to the concrete has been completed. Outside the damaged area the Vacuum Group are cleaning some of the beam screens in situ.

Both sector 1-2 and sector 5-6 are also now at room temperature and accessible. As well as routine maintenance in these sectors, one magnet from sector 1-2 which was found to have high resistance (approximately 100 nano-ohms, two orders of magnitude higher than the specified resistance) has been removed and is on the surface ready to be opened and investigated.

Already, I am much happier about the information flow.

There is also a really cool set of photos documenting the transport of one of these magnets from the tunnel to the surface to be repaired. If you go to this CERN Document Server page and click on the first photo, you can see a nice slideshow. Sorry you only get a teaser pic here:

A bientôt!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Happy 2009!

I hope you all had a nice break for the holidays. I went back to the US (I spent a week at BNL, and then went home to Chicago) and enjoyed some much-needed down time, and even managed to disconnect completely for a few days in there. I didn't manage to see everyone I wanted to, so sorry to the people I missed!

I'm back at CERN, and it's cold and snowy here. Perfect hot chocolate weather. There's a nice thick layer of ice on the streets and sidewalks, so it's rather treacherous, but it looks pretty. Here's the view from my office window:

So, we have a new year, a new CERN Director-General Rolf Heuer, and hopefully the first LHC collisions this summer*! (*caveat: this is my tempered optimism, and summer continues until Sept 22nd...)

A bientôt!