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Seth Zenz | Imperial College London | UK

View Blog | Read Bio

Getting Ready

I’m usually fairly reserved about my enthusiasm, but I have to admit that now even I am getting excited about first beam.

The ATLAS pixel detector is up and running in the pit, and I’ve been working hard this week on looking at the data from calibration scans. Since I wrote a lot of the tools for looking at large quantities of pixel calibration data in a systematic way, I’m the most up-to-speed on using them; and since we have to be calibrated and ready to run very soon, there’s a lot of demand for those skills. Being useful, and having a lot to do, makes me happy. I get up early in the morning ready to come to work, and leave only reluctantly in the evening when I’m too tired to get anything done.

I’ve also been trying hard to get all the training I need to run pixel detector shifts, and it looks like my efforts have borne fruit. I have “training shifts” on Friday and Monday, and hopefully after that I’ll be able to do things on my own. The only downside is that the day shifts now start at 7 AM—it’s a good thing I’ve been getting up early ready to come to work!


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  • Peter

    I’m no physicist, but this seems like a very bad idea.

    I know the ‘cosmic ray’ arguement is that this happens all the time, but even I get that a ‘tiny’ black hole moving so incredibly fast might not have ‘time’ to interact in a significant way with the small chunk of matter on which we live. Whereas, a tiny black hole sitting in the same spot might be incredibly ‘bad’.

    If I focus an intense laser on one spot, ‘bad’ things happen to that spot. If I wave it around, hitting that same spot very briefly, no significant effect. Same behavior can occur at much smaller scales.

    Seems to me that the children (humans) have built themselves a thing smasher (LHC) and are about to start smashing things to see what happens without any real idea what to expect. Very very cool, but also extremely dangerous. Would you let your 5-year old play with an industrial hydraulic press and the contents of your garage? It’d be far safer than this irresponsible project.

    Safety first. Pick another solar system to give this one a try. Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

  • stephen schaubach

    I am jealous you’re there and I’m behind a desk. I’m into entanglement so as you can imagine, I’m looking forward to the results. If you can talk about the total amount of data per second and processing time before results, it would be great. I have literally been sending out emails to
    my friends, every time a sector was cool. Best of luck and try and forget about the relegious zealots’ comments 🙂



  • Peter, the safety of the LHC has been considered in quite a lot of detail:


    That page has general summaries of why the LHC is safe, and also links to the detailed calculations used by folks who are physicists to be sure that everything will be fine.

    Regarding your focused laser argument… A laser can do damage because of the energy it focuses on a point. The LHC, despite being the most powerful particle accelerator ever built, only stores about the energy of a high-speed train in its beams—a lot, but nothing unprecedented. And as hard as the LHC engineers will work to focus the beam, there will never be any collisions involving more than two protons. So the bottom line is that, since two protons colliding at LHC energies is safe (see above), bringing the beams together is safe too.

  • Stephen, thanks for your encouragement! Regarding the amount of data per second, the ATLAS website says:

    If all the data from ATLAS would be recorded, this would fill 100,000 CDs per second. This would create a stack of CDs 450 feet high every second, which would reach to the moon and back twice each year. The data rate is also equivalent to 50 billion telephone calls at the same time. ATLAS actually only records a fraction of the data (those that may show signs of new physics) and that rate is equivalent to 27 CDs per minute.

    Of course, once that data is stored, it’ll take a few days to process it all, and then probably a while longer to distribute it so that all the physicists on the experiment can have access. After that, the time it takes to publish depends on what one is searching for and how much data is needed.

  • Is there a site we can get live up dates on the first stream? a live webcast or something of that sort?

  • Hi Mike, there’s some information about the Circulation Day events and webcast at this web page.