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Zoe Louise Matthews | ASY-EOS | UK

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Firm words, work, wine and washing

It’s been a rather long time since I was here! The reason you haven’t seen a blog from me for a while is quite simple – I have been too busy. It is the most exciting time for me at work right now… Only a few months away from first p-p collisions at the LHC, we will be starting to take data from cosmic rays at the start of August. By then, there are many preparations that need to be finalised and I am part of the team helping to do so!

For me, last year, when the same hype was building around the 10th of September, it was exciting in a different kind of way – a bit like meeting a celebrity or being on T.V. This year, the hype feels so much more real for me – I have become part of the ALICE team, a cog in the big machine. I have jobs I need to finish for the group, I am investigating things that we will need to understand once the data comes piling in…I have responsibility and it feels amazing. And in a few months time, if all goes well, I will be one of the lucky ones who get to analyse what comes out – glimpse at something that has never been seen before, and try to understand it. I can’t wait.

In fact, I really can’t wait – I don’t have time! There is so much to do! I have wanted to write about the wonderful things I am learning, but it is coming thick and fast. The CERN/FNAL summer school taught me many things, but in particular I came away with a deeper understanding of the challenges that face the different experiments at the LHC – their design, the detectors and tools each uses, their capabilities and goals are quite different. Each decision, each design or analysis choice is a carefully made compromise.

A diffractive workshop at CERN recently taught me that we can learn from the different choices other experiments have made – theorists helped the ALICE group to understand certain types of underlying event (diffractive events, they involve the exchange of a Pomeron! If you want to know more just ask…) and described interesting physics that could be done with them, and the ways in which they could appear. Other experiments showed us their ways of being sensitive to these events, their capabilities and so on. We learned about our weaknesses and strengths, and how to make the best of them. As we get closer to real data I am learning more about the real picture – what our detector can do and how important it is.

As I say, it is a very exciting time. Meetings are becoming less like dull accounts of people’s status and are being filled with real, passionate discussion. Things can get very heated but people bounce off each-other and learn more because of it. We are not afraid to say what we think, and we are equally not afraid of being mistaken. I worry that I may come off as rude sometimes, but I do think that this sort of discussion is healthy. Challenging things might be a little etiquette-unfriendly but it reaffirms what is right, and that which is shaky is rightfully shaken up a bit!

Now, I have a question for the matter-physicists out there. As you can see I have been very busy, I think admitting to buying a bottle of wine last night to have with my boyfriend with our fajitas is OK. A nice relaxing evening, we thought. And then something disasterously unusual happened. It was so unexpected we were motionless and laughing for a good few minutes before actually reacting. He had picked up the wine, and started twisting the screw-top open, when suddenly the wine burst from the side and base of the bottle and emtpied all over his tortillas. And his clothes. And the floor. It looked like a horror movie. I spared him any photos – that would be mean.

However, on inspection we could see that the bottle – still in one piece thanks to the position of the sticky labels – had cracked down one side and split at the bottom. No glass actually came off the bottle, and we got it all the way from the supermarket to the house in one piece. We didn’t hit anything with it. Our theory is that the crack – along the seam of the bottle – had been there all along as a kind-of hairline fracture but a slight negative pressure within the bottle held it in (we aren’t sure about this part). Then, when Phil let the air into the bottle the weight of the wine collapsed the crack. Can someone supply any suggestions as to how feasible this is?dsc01988

On the same topic, I would also like to know if anyone can identify the chemical in my surface-spray (not bleach!) that turned the wine black when I used it to wash off the wine stains from the wooden table and the floor. It worked brilliantly! And a word for anyone regarding stains on clothes, baking powder is good. It did the trick for the curry I spilled down my white trousers earlier in the week too (Phil and I must sound like the perfect couple for stain-removal adverts!) but can anyone tell me why baking soda works on greasy stains? 🙂


2 responses to “Firm words, work, wine and washing”

  1. Kimball says:


    How about this site? 🙂
    ( Food and baking soda )

    May the LHC and your effort change the world!! 🙂

  2. Zoe Louise Matthews says:

    Hmm, thanks for this. I think possibly the alkaline aspect helped with the wine…maybe this protein-dissolving thing helped with the curry stain. 🙂 Thanks for reading!