When we were first told to consider writing a blog entry for the US LHC Blog, none of us really thought much of the idea. However, after having discussed it together a little more seriously, we figured that if we could all contribute our fair share, it would not only be rewarding but also further the cause of helping people understand what it is that makes these massive physics experiments (like the Compact Muon Solenoid) tick.
So what exactly is a normal day for us at work? First off, each of us have different duties and responsibilities. In general, James, Robert, Jafet and Diego are more inclined to dealing with software. This means spending most of the day in front of a computer screen, remotely connected to offline servers that allow everyone at CERN access to essential computing tools and databases, but also allow us to enter a digital mainframe that all CERN workers share. Robert, for instance, has been working on a crafty bit of code that will warn us if something is going wrong in the internal circuitry of the Tracker detector (such as unexpected temperature changes) once the detector is running, and Diego has been working on reconstructing how the W bosons generated in certain proton – antiproton collisions decay into other particles. These tasks require a combination of understanding the subsystems of the detector on the one hand and the ability to interact with the virtual interface of these subsystems, which is why people like Robert (with his years of experience in the private sector) can be crucial components of the experiment.
Patrick (a.k.a. Tico) and Amram also interact with the CMS software to a certain extent, but they spend most of their time in “the cavern”, or the enormous underground hole where the monster particle detector lives. They get to install temperature detectors, or help out the technicians before the cavern is sealed (which should be happening very soon if all goes well). Being down there is truly an experience none of us will soon forget. The sheer size of CMS is breathtaking; but even more surprising is the endless intricacy and detail of it all. At first glance, it resembles more a piece of modern art than it does scientific equipment.
Stay tuned for more updates about how things go with us!