Archive for Work

Argonne Workshop

Argonne National Labratory logoLast week I made a trip to Argonne National Laboratory to give a talk at the The North American Standard Model and Higgs Physics Workshop. I gave my presentation on Friday the 28th, but the workshop started on the 27th (and there was a software tutorial on the 26th). Unfortunately, I had an exam on the afternoon of the 27th, so I had to miss at least half of the show. Before my exam I checked out a car from the University motor pool. Then, in the evening, right after the exam Jeremy, Monica, and I cooked a nice dinner before I drove the 4 1/2 hours to Chicago, where Argonne is located.

The trip went fine, though I got a little lost less than a mile away from the Lab. My directions from Google Maps lead me astray. It mentions an incorrect or very misleading turn and I hadn’t looked at the map in enough detail to recover. The route it gives, though not bad, wasn’t the most efficient or robust (it’s better to stay on the freeway longer). Adding slightly to my difficulties was my stop at a gas station to ask for directions. The attendant not only didn’t know anything about Argonne, the giant complex almost a stone’s through away, but he didn’t seem to know English well enough to understand my question “Where am I?” When a guy is looking questioningly at a map and he asks you something do you even need to understand the language to know what he might be asking? I’d think it would be obvious enough, and in response all you need to do is point! It is possible, though baffling to a map-centric person like myself, that he just didn’t know where his gas station was on the map.

I finally arrived in my guest room a little after midnight local time (1am Ann Arbor time; I had left at 8pm). The guest house is quite nice, no different than any mid-level hotel, very new, and my room had huge windows facing a nice patch of woods. You can see pictures in the gallery.

Comparing only the campuses, I’d say Argonne is certainly nicer than CERN (though CERN still wins hands down if you consider the surounding mountains and lake). The buildings are in a couple large groups with a few others scattered around. Between the buildings is a good quantity of trees and a few significant hills. Argonne is surrounded by the nice Waterfall Glen Forest Reserve that I visited on my way out Satuday morning.
At least the part of the conference that I attended seemed to go fine. It went a bit late, as these things always do. My talk went fine, the content and presentation wasn’t anything very groundshaking though. At dinner I was surprised to discover that they use the Guest House much like any other hotel; kids from a Lutheran highschool were arriving in tuxedos and gowns for a dinner and dance. It is surprising because access to the site is somewhat restricted, so there is the slight hassle of registration before you arrive, but maybe it is the only hotel with a ballroom in the area. The first evidence of the event was the DJ unloading his equipment at the door of the hotel. Initially I mistook his lighting equiptment (a ball with colored panels attached to a motor) for some sort of fascinating scientific appuratus.Before going to bed I helped Bing grade the final exams for her class. The problems looked like fun ones, but grading is always a painful thing to do. Bing was nice enough to give me the easier problems to grade.

I accidently set the horribly designed clock radio&emdash;the buttons that set the time should never be the easiest ones to press&emdash;ahead two hours when I groggily groped for the snooze button Saturday morning. I lept out of bed in a panic a few minutes later when I woke, checked the clock, and thought I had just slept for two hours. The result was that I got going earlier than you would expect from a chronologically retarded person such as myself. There were so many people parked around the entrance to Waterfall Glen as I was leaving I thought I had to stop by and check it out. It is a very nice place for a stroll, run, or a bike ride. I even saw a few people with horses. The falls aren’t spectacular, but just walking through the woods or along the river is nice enough.

There are pictures in the gallery.

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ATLAS on BoingBoing

ATLAS partially assembled in cavern
This Friday BoingBoing mentioned ATLAS, the huge particle physics experiment I work on. Things are looking much more impressive down in the pit (where that pictures was taken) now that the barrel torroidal magnets (the striped radiating tubes) are now in place. It will be fun to watch the installation of the muon chambers that cover the torroid, but in a way this is one of the most visually exciting moments because now the cavern is really starting to fill with equipment. You can get more of the context by watching the video on the ATLAS public page. Also, webcams monitor the cavern all the time for your viewing pleasure.

Hopefully this will inspire me to finally get around to posting the photos from my tour of the pit more than a year ago. Keep your eyes peeled for updates. In the mean time, I could give you Jeremy’s closeup photo of the toroidal magnet structure from his tour of the pit this summer.

Also, I notice that CERN, on their public page, are announcing a big video conference event that will happen December 1. Einstein lovers of the world should tune in.

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“God in Einstein’s Universe”

World Year of Physics logo
Wow, even the church-goers can’t escape the World Year of Physics. I noted this among the announcements on the CERN users page today,

A service to mark Einstein Year —
Sunday 13 November, 10:00, St. Peter’s Cathedral, Geneva —
Pastor Henry Babel will speak on the theme ‘God in Einstein’s Universe’ and Dieter Bleschmidt will convey a message on behalf of the scientific community

Culte pour marquer l’année Einstein —
dimanche 13 novembre à 10h00, cathédrale Saint-Pierre, Genève —
Le Pasteur Henry Babel parlera sur le thème « Dieu dans l’univers d’Einstein » et Dieter Bleschmidt apportera un message de la part des scientifiques.

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Wobbly CERN Tables


Joe and Reza around CERN table

This is somewhat cool, and, like the last entry, brings back good memories from my time at CERN. An article on Nature.com discusses some mathematical research focused on the most important of all activities at CERN, coffee break. André Martin claims to have proven that given some reasonable conditions one can always rotate a four legged table such that it is steady on uneven ground. I know exactly where he’s coming from, the tables outside the main restaurant at CERN are notably wobbly. The mediocre quality of the tables is an issue (they are orders of magnitude down the quality scale from the table pictured in the Nature article), but one of minor significance compared to the extremely uneven ground. I must admit that I was rarely industrious enough to spend time rotating the table into it’s ideal orientation, thought it might have been the significant annoyance around, second only to the bold little pomme frite filching birds. Mostly we left the coffee to slosh. It was one of the many little thrills that made up the fullness of life as we whiled away an hour in the afternoon sun gazing off toward the Geneva and western Europe’s pinnacle, Mont Blanc.

You can find the table rotating paper on arXive. This was mentioned on BoingBoing.

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Rome Presentation Online

My presentation at the ATLAS is now online thanks to Jeremy, Mitch, and the WLAP project. Still to be posted is the conlusion talk by Peter Jenni (ATLAS spokesperson) in which he specifically mentions my “enthusiastic” presentation. Hopefully that will appear soon.

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Phase I is now Phase Done

In celebration of the end of the first phase of US muon chamber integration and commissioning there was a barbeque held at the CERN picnic area today (it’s “building 6529″ on the Prevessin site, behind the H-8 test beam building). What a beautiful day it was! We had good turnout, and fun seemed to be had by all. A volleyball was batted around (kicking the volleyball is only allowed after 8:30pm!). Fat was chewed around the grill. Jeremy complained bitterly about the white wine and then drank four more cups of it. Quite possibly there was the suggestion of frolicking, though I couldn’t be bothered to notice with all that watermelon needing to be consumed. I hear there was plenty of meat left over for further grilling, but we took care of the red wine and deserts quite easily; too easily, I’d say. Oh, dessert, how fleeting you are! What ATLAS needs is more Phases to complete. Phase I.1 could be wine and cheese, Phase I.2 could be enchiladas and margaritas, Phase I.3 could be handmade pesto and pasta, Phase I.4 could be roast turkey and pie, and so on, and so on, and so on… I swear I tightened down at least 25 phases worth of screws while working on those chambers in 184 last year.

Note: you can click on the picture for a larger version. I hope to have even more online in the gallery very soon. I know I have been horribly delinquint regarding the web site; but, there is hope. In fact, if it was not for the picnic today (we lingered ’til dark), I would have got a few weeks worth of pictures, including Rome, online tonight. So, be watching for new stuff tomorrow night.

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When Science Calls, Blogging Suffers

Sorry for the long period with no updates. I’ve been so busy I haven’t had much time to update my gallery and blog. With Marco’s wedding filling the weekend before a relatively important presentation I was busy most every day for two weeks straight.

Here is a list of the presentations I have made recently. The later ones are all much the same because I was busy with other things and so wasn’t doing much updating.

14 March UM ATLAS Weekly Meeting (protected)
12 April US ATLAS Muon Software Meeting
19 April Muon Software / Combined Muon Performance Session (Muon Week)
27 April Standard Model Meeting

In addition to the Z -> mu mu studies covered in my presentations, I have also been looking at some other types of events for Bing and Zhengguo. See, for example, Zhengguo’s presentation in the Standard Model Meeting listed above.

I will likely continue to be very busy into early June when a major Atlas meeting takes place in Rome where I am scheduled to give a presentation. By then Jeremy will be in town to film the event and stay on for the summer. I might just end up in the Web Lecture Archive.

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Precious Resources

Strindberg and Helium
Did you ever stop to think that kid’s parties and carnivals are squandering one of our worlds most nonrenueable resources? That’s right, helium is only produced by nuclear decay deep in the Earth and once it is released into the atmosphere it is essentially lost to space. Did you know that until 1960 only the federal goverment was allowed to produce helium in the U.S.? And to this day the U.S. government runs a Fedral helium storage program. If you are in the market for helium then 2005 might be your year.

Here at CERN we will be using helium intensely in coming years as the superconducting magnets in the LHC, ATLAS, CMS, and other experiments are cooled down to a couple degrees above absolute zero with liquid helium, some which is superfluid. But don’t worry, the vast majority of that helium will be used in closed-loop systems which cool and condense the gas back into a liquid with a minimum of loss. The truth is, though, that I’m probably personally responsible for the loss of more helium than the average person. There’s all those 1000 liter muon chambers we filled and refilled with helium to track down leaks. There’s the
helium balloons that I personally filled and bled for during CERN open day last year. Plus, I have good friends that regularly crack open a bottle of liquid helium and let thermodynamics take it’s course.

So inert and yet so precious. Appreciate helium for it’s wonders and uses and never squander it, for if we do future generations will never know comedic genius such as Strindberg and Helium

(Some links found via the UW Physics 110 FAQ and Boing Boing.)

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Brake Popsicles

Reid, John, and I are trapped at home for the moment. It seems as if our parking break froze up during the night. I shouldn’t be surprised, yesterday it snowed and then as evening fell it got very cold. The ground is more iced up than I have seen happen here in one night. Matt is on his way to rescue us, but now that were back in the warm house I wouldn’t mind if he takes his time.

Update: Instead of Matt, Zhengguo came and got us. Now we will need to arrange a ride home…

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Exploratorium on CERN


I recently discovered the Exploratorium site which has a wonderful section on CERN, among a group of other institutions exploring “the origins of matter, the universe, and life itself”. They have many interviews with scientists, slides shows, interactive panoramas, links to actual data, and the usual introductory physics cartoons. I especially liked the “Visiting CERN:” section at the bottom center of the page. It links to a selection of themed Flash slideshows with some great pictures from CERN. Plus, you absolutely must try the Accelerate the Particle game.

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