Archive for August, 2006

My New Wallet

Black and orange J Fold walletI should really write something about my trip last week to Brookhaven National Lab and New York City. But for the moment I will keep my comments to one brief update: I now have a new wallet. I was thinking about getting one and the MoMA store offered me a nice opportunity to consider some possibilities. I settled on the black and orange J-Fold. It’s thinner and certainly more interesting than my previous wallet, which served me well since as long ago as elementary school. I can only hope this one lasts as long.

Other items of interest in the MoMA store:

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Return from Fermilab

HCP Summer School logoA week ago Friday I returned from 10 days at Fermilab for the HCP Summer School. I had some misgivings before my departure. Being stranded in the distant outskirts of Chicago for lectures consuming 11 hour days sounded potentially very painful. To my relief it turns out the lectures were broken up with significant coffee breaks and epic lunches. In addition, the coffee break snacks were usually quite plentiful and tasty (all except the fried cheesecake squares, ick!).  Even on Saturday we had a nearly full day of lectures and discussion, but the beautiful day ended with a barbeque.  Monica arrived to spend the next day and a half with me at the barbeque and then in Chicago on our Sunday off.  In Chicago Monica and I visited the Shedd Aquarium and did some walking along the waterfront and Michigan Avenue. I took many photos and so Chicago gets its own gallery.  All the days we spent significant time outside, the two barbeques, the Sunday in Chicago, and the tours around Fermilab, all had great weather.

Oh, and the physics was very interesting. We didn’t actually have continuous lectures. Usually twice each day we met for smaller discussion sections (the group of 150 split into four groups) that were focused on answering questions. Sometimes these were very informative.  I really felt the influence of my analysis experience and the particle physics class last semester; there was almost no time when I felt totally lost, and yet I learned a lot. (They ended up getting so much interest in the school that they had to be selective and I hear having some high energy physics experience was the major criterion for acceptance.)  I think the only time when I certainly got a little lost was when were were talking with Chris Hill, the head of the theory department at Fermilab, over dinner; but still that discussion was very interesting.  Most of the lecturers were very good speakers and I expect I will refer back to their slides many times in the future.  All the lecturers were taped and are supposed to be available from the daily program in the next week or so.
Fermilab turned out to be quite a nice place, the main building is certainly impressive (much more so than anything at CERN) and the natural features are pleasant.  My one complaint, after eating lunch and dinner there for nine nearly consecutive days, is the food.  It was never as good as what you find at CERN, and sometimes pretty miserable.  A notable exception to the dinner deficiencies was the final night. I got the impression it was mostly home cooked. There was a tomato and buffalo mozzarella dish made from tomatoes grown in the user’s garden right in Fermilab (but, no word on whether the Fermilab “buffalo” (i.e. bison) were involved in the mozzarella).  Also, I ended up with a lively hoge-poe of people at my table; there was a pair of Italians, Chinese, and Bangladeshies in addition to me, the ugly American, though none of these “pairs” came together. We also came from many different experiments and the discussion in and out of physics was fun.  I observed many other tables indulging in the merrimaking of the open bar so I expect good times were had by all that night.

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Useless keys

I whole heartedly agree with the Capsoff movement. The caps lock key is entirely useless to me and I assume to the vast majority of people. Does anyone have a legitimate use for it in it’s default mode? Yet, it’s meer existance is not a problem at all for me; the problem really just its prominent location on the keyboard. It would sit just fine on a wee little square next to it’s kin, the num lock. As it is, it gets a position even more prominent than the return key! Of course you can remap it, but why should we have to?

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Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Beauvais

Supposedly the Cathedral in Beauvais, France [more] is the inspiration for Wilson Hall at Fermilab.

Wilson Hall at FermilabSt. Pierre at Beauvais

It’s a stretch.

Update: As is usual when I realize I’ve been a little stupid, I just discovered that a simple search on Google that I didn’t ever do gives some nice info on this topic. What someone needs to do is write a meta-search engine that does all the searches that you really wanted to do when you hit Google.

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Fermilab Tours

We spent over three hours before lunch today touring seven sites around Fermilab. They included the DO and CDF assembly halls and control rooms, as well as a few random places like

  • the helium compressor station, it takes 5 megawatts of power to keep the liquid helium cooling the superconducting ring a few degrees above absolute zero,
  • the linear accelerators that do the initial acceleration of the protons
  • the accelerator control room
  • the views from the 15th floor of the main (and by far the highest) building, Wilson Hall,
  • and the silicon pixel detector assembly building, with millions of channels these are used for exteremely precise tracking of particles very close to the interaction point.

I uploaded many photos to my Fermilab folder in the gallery.

Setting up for neutron therapy at FermilabIt was interesting to pass the neutron therapy room along the linear accelerator. You walk down a hallway with gauges, big red lights, waveguides and a generally very industrial feel and all of a sudden you come to people wearing scrubs in a controll room and, just past them, a little waiting room. They use the accelerated helium ions to produce fast neutrons that are collimated and pointed very carefully at a patient’s tumor. While we walked by we could hear the physician speaking to patient on an intercom, telling them that the treatment was almost done. You don’t actually see the patient; they are strapped in very carefully and the small room is lowered to the level of the beam underground. I’d imagine it is a very scary process for the patient (though the patients have probably been through many other types of radiation treatments by this point, neutrons are mainly used on very resistant tumors.)

I’m really enjoying the summer school here. I’m learing a lot and the 9am-8pm days are not nearly as bad as I worried they might be. We get breaks between every lecture and lunch is especially long. As long as you show up rested you really don’t get worn out too much. Wilson Hall is very dramatic and so far I am enjoying hanging out there. The one clear deficency (compared to CERN) is the food and beverage. The coffee is standard American fare, and today I had some terribly dry turkey for dinner.

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TevaDonuts

I’m at Fermilab for ten days for the 2006 Hadron Collider Physics Summer School and so far I’m most impressed by the Xlerator hand dryers in the “washrooms” (it seems like everyone here very deliberately avoids the term “bathroom”), those fans don’t mess around: give it 21 microseconds and they’ll slap 2 jelly donuts worth of drying power on those damp hands of yours.

Shall I not be so flippant for once?  Probably unlikely.  But let me just say the lecture are going well, I’m learing a lot, and I think the Fermilab site is quite nice, really.  It’s no Switzerland, but a good effort for middlish America.  There’s some lakey sort of bits, a some grazing animals, and one very dramatic building.

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