Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A new rap from Alpinekat

... on black holes! Brought to you by the famed rapper of the Large Hadron Rap, which now has over 5 million views on YouTube.

My favorite part is the end:
The last issue that I
feel the need to address
is this idea that CERN physicists
are wholly obsessed
with finding answers -- so much
that they'd gamble the planet,
their lives, friends, families
and all else that's on it.
They're all people!
And despite what you may fear
they've got reasons of their own
to want to keep the world here.

 True dat. Happy new year everyone! Looking forward to more data-taking in February.

A bientôt!

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!