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Gavin Hesketh | CERN | Switzerland

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Last shift

Wednesday evening I took my last D0 shift. I’m sure shifts have been covered here before, but we basically need people here 24 hours a day to make sure the detector is recording data, and fix any problems that come up. At D0, we have 4 people in the control room: 2 detector experts, 1 person making sure the collisions are being recorded properly, and 1 “captain” (the shifts I take) to make sure the good ship D0 stays on course. Or at least doesn’t stray too far off course.

My shift was 4pm to midnight, and frankly it was a little dull. But this is good – it means there were no problems, and we took lots of data. So at least I didn’t go out with a bang… Once a collision has been recorded, it is saved on tape at the Feynman Computing Centre here at Fermilab. Then, it gets moved to a computing farm to be “reconstructed”: turning all the 1s and 0s from the readout into more meaningful quantities, like the signal of a high energy particle. After reconstruction, it is ready to be analysed: I think the record for shortest time between a collision being recorded to appearing in an physics analysis that went public is just under 1 month. Occasionally we come across something unexpected when analysing a data sample, and have to trace it back to what was happening with the detector a few months or even years ago.

So we have to stay alert on shifts – not always easy at 4am on an overnight! If things really go wrong, we get the experts in: this is a picture from a much more exciting shift I had a few months ago.D0 Control Room

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3 Responses to “Last shift”

  1. Tracy Thomas says:

    Wow – the D0 control room hasn’t changed all that much since I was taking shifts in the 90’s! (my last shift would have been in 1997). Just flat panels instead of CRTs, but otherwise the same layout.

  2. gavin says:

    I wonder if some of the same people are there too!

  3. John Womersley says:

    Glad to see my “D ZERO” license plate is still on the wall! :-)

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