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Archive for October, 2011

Piling up!

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

At long last, the LHC today ran a rather interesting test of “high pileup” conditions. A quick reminder about pileup: the beam at the LHC (and all particle-physics accelerators) is bunched rather than continuous. Each time a bunch in one beam passes by a bunch in the other, multiple protons can interact with each other. It’s rare for more than one of these interactions to be a “hard scatter” and thus be likely to produce interesting particles. The other interactions still happen, though, and you’ll have some number of new particles produced from each of those. That’s what we refer to as the pileup. (I never liked the term, as “pileup” is also something that can happen in the electronics that we use for the detectors and the overloaded definition is confusing. I think “multiple interactions” describes it much better.) Of course, remember that our ultimate goal is to maximize the number of interesting collisions, and one way to do that is to maximize the number of particles per bunch and thus the number of interactions per crossing…but that that means more pileup, too.

As the LHC has been running lately, the typical number of interactions per crossing at the start of a fill (when the beam intensities are highest) is about 15. But in 2012, the LHC will probably run with even more particles per bunch, resulting in more interactions. Can the detectors, triggers and software handle these bigger and busier events? Today we had a test; the LHC ran with fewer bunches than usual, but with many more protons per bunch. Here is the number of interactions per beam crossing as measured by the CMS online monitoring system:

Pileup distribution from high-pileup fill

Pileup vs. time for today's high-pileup fill

As can be seen, the fill started at 32 interactions per crossing — about twice as much as we have during regular LHC running now. (There were a couple of intervals in which the LHC separated the beams at CMS, as a test, and the pileup number drops then.) At the end of the (short) fill, we still had 25. We’ll be using this data to help understand how to best optimize our operations for next year. Next year isn’t far away — the proton-proton run ends this weekend!

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Wild West Week at CERN

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

"The Buffalo Head is back in R1, that is all." -- John PenwellFrom time to time, the company that runs the CERN restaurants sets up a theme week. This week they are hosting one of their most elaborate: the Wild West. As you can see at left, they have wheeled a buffalo head into the restaurant. A few more decorations are below.

For Europeans, the Wild West seems to be one of the commonly referenced themes from American culture. Perhaps they think that it reflects our national character even in the present day, or perhaps it’s just a very striking setting. I can’t quite imagine the Fermilab cafeteria putting up the equivalent — French Revolution Week, perhaps, complete with guillotine — but it’s all in good fun.

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Le temps de la réflexion

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Notre domaine de physique vit une période de grande ébullition, riche et passionnante. L’attribution récente du prix Nobel de physique à nos collègues Perlmutter, Schmidt et Riess que je veux féliciter ici, est d’ailleurs pour moi le reflet de ce grand mouvement  de réflexion auquel est associé l’ensemble de notre communauté. Leur découverte il y a une douzaine d’années de l’accélération de l’expansion de l’Univers a proprement sidéré le monde de la cosmologie, et l’énergie noire qui pourrait expliquer cette évidence est devenue un nouveau graal pour les physiciens et pour notre Institut en particulier, qui participe depuis l’origine à ces travaux.

Au même moment, le monde entier porte son regard vers le LHC (Grand collisionneur de hadrons), le plus grand accélérateur de particules au monde, dans l’attente de nouvelles révélations sur les lois les plus intimes de la matière. Nos chercheurs sont ainsi engagés dans une chasse effrénée au boson de Higgs, ce chainon manquant du modèle standard de la physique des particules. Du côté de la physique nucléaire, le chantier du futur accélérateur linéaire Spiral2 démarre officiellement et offrira bientôt à notre communauté une infrastructure internationale de premier plan, permettant d’étudier plus en détail la structure du noyau atomique. L’étau se resserre également dans notre quête de la matière noire, tandis que de manière inattendue, les neutrinos viennent quant à eux jeter le trouble en mettant en doute certains fondements de nos théories.

Bien sûr, il est beaucoup trop tôt pour parler de découverte et le résultat de l’expérience Opera devra être reproduit ou mis en défaut. Le scepticisme quant à cette incompréhensible mesure de la vitesse des neutrinos est d’ailleurs parfaitement sain. Mais il est d’ores et déjà extraordinaire de constater la très grande mobilisation de notre communauté à étudier cette question, aussi bien d’un point de vue expérimental que théorique, dans un fabuleux effort de réflexion collective.

Ainsi, quelles que soient les surprises que nous réserve la Nature, les mois qui viennent seront sans nul doute décisifs pour notre recherche. C’est également pour cette raison qu’il est temps de rassembler notre communauté et de l’inviter à participer à une autre forme de réflexion collective, dans un exercice de prospective pour l’ensemble de nos disciplines. En cette période charnière où d’importantes réflexions stratégiques sont menées en Europe et dans le monde pour imaginer notre recherche de demain, il est important que nous nous rassemblions, chercheurs de l’IN2P3 et du CEA/Irfu pour prendre ensemble le temps de cette réflexion, qui devra permettre à la France de continuer d’être un partenaire majeur dans cette grande quête pour la connaissance dans laquelle nous sommes engagés.

— Jacques Martino, Directeur de l’Institut national de physique nucléaire et de physique des particules du CNRS

Les journées de prospective de l’IN2P3 et de l’Irfu se dérouleront à Giens, du 2 au 5 avril 2012. Les personnels des instituts peuvent participer aux groupes de travail : http://www.in2p3.fr/actualites/media/journees_prospective2012.pdf

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The 25 ns pumpkin teeth

Monday, October 24th, 2011

If you looked at LHC page 1 in the last days, you may have noticed something interesting. They have been doing machine development (MD) for 25 nanosecond (ns) operation. In the lower left it says “25 ns MD Injecting 72 b trains”. This is an important development for the LHC and an important step toward operation at design. The “b” stands for “bunch” as explained below. The word “trains” refers to several such groups of 72 bunches hooked together.

Let us examine what 25 ns with 72 bunch trains means. Here is the layout of the CERN accelerator complex. The three main components that I am going to discuss here are the synchrotrons: the “proton synchrotron” (PS), the”super proton synchrotron” (SPS) and the LHC. A synchrotron is an accelerator with a circular ring of magnets that has some capability of accelerating the particles (in this case protons) and at the same time increasing the magnetic field in “sync” with the acceleration such that the bending radius stays fixed, i.e., the protons stay in the ring.

 

The relative sizes of the 3 synchrotrons are key to the injection scheme. The circumference of the SPS is 11 times that of the PS and the LHC is 27/7 that of the SPS. Now think of putting N proton bunches (with N an integer) into the PS with equal spacing. Then 11N bunches would fit into the SPS and (11N)(27/7) would fit into the LHC. If we want  things to come out even, then N must be divisible by 7. The value of N has been chosen to be 84 and the machine people refer to this as “harmonic 84”. By choosing harmonic 84, we have divided the LHC orbit into

(84) (11) (27/7) = 3564

parts. Since the orbit time for protons in the LHC is 88924 ns (26659 meters divided by the speed of the protons, very nearly the speed of light), and we have divided this orbit into 3564 pieces, each “bucket” as it is referred to corresponds to

(88924 ns) / 3564 = 24.95 ns .

Experimenters often speak of this number as 25 ns, after all what’s 50 picoseconds amongst friends?, but its precise value is important for the operation of the electronics.  So 25 ns is the time between collisions when the LHC is running at design. (Note: as of late the LHC has been running at 50 ns.) This inverse of this number is the collision frequency:

1 / (24.95 ns) = 40.079 MHz .

This is the clock frequency for LHC electronics. Note that MHz means million times per second, so the proton beams hit each other 40 million times per second. The protons pass through each other in a couple of ns and then nothing happens until the 25 ns later when the next bunches come along. Thus collisions occur every 25 ns. But wait! The beam structure is much, much richer than that!

When protons are injected into each of the synchrotrons, there is an injection kicker rise time. This is the time needed for the magnets that transport the protons between synchrotron rings to turn on. So of the 84 time slots in the PS, only the first 72 are filled and the last 12 are purposely left empty. Then fills of protons from the PS are injected into the SPS leaving an 8 bucket gap between them. This eight bucket gap is needed to “kick” the protons into the SPS. We do this 3 times after which we need to leave a larger gap of 38 buckets to kick the protons into the LHC. So far we have injected 3 groups of 72 bunches of protons from the PS into the SPS and into the LHC with the pattern:

72b  8e  72b  8e  72b 38e

where b stands for bunches of protons and e stands for buckets where there are no protons. Now let’s keep going with this to fill up the 3564 time slots. Notice that (11) (27/7) is about 42. We could fit 42 of these groups of protons into the LHC. But we want to leave a gap at the end as explained later, so we will only put in 39, in the form of 3 groups of 10 plus 9. To achieve this, first we do the same thing twice and then on the 3rd time we add a 4th bunch from the PS plus one extra empty bucket at the end. So now we have

72b  8e  72b  8e  72b 38e 72b  8e  72b  8e  72b 38e 72b  8e  72b  8e  72b 8e  72b 39e .

This is 10 trains. Now we repeat this 3 times. So far we have 30 trains

72b  8e  72b  8e  72b 38e 72b  8e  72b  8e  72b 38e 72b  8e  72b  8e  72b 8e  72b 39e 72b  8e  72b  8e  72b 38e 72b  8e  72b  8e  72b 38e 72b  8e  72b  8e  72b 8e  72b 39e 72b  8e  72b  8e  72b 38e 72b  8e  72b  8e  72b 38e 72b  8e  72b  8e  72b 8e  72b 39e .

For the last step we add 3 more shots from the SPS each containing 3 PS shots and at the end leave 119 missing buckets to add the last 9 trains (making 39 trains)

72b  8e  72b  8e  72b 38e 72b  8e  72b  8e  72b 38e 72b  8e  72b  8e  72b 8e  72b 39e 72b  8e  72b  8e  72b 38e 72b  8e  72b  8e  72b 38e 72b  8e  72b  8e  72b 8e  72b 39e 72b  8e  72b  8e  72b 38e 72b  8e  72b  8e  72b 38e 72b  8e  72b  8e  72b 8e  72b 39e 72b  8e  72b  8e  72b 38e 72b  8e  72b  8e  72b 38e 72b  8e  72b  8e  72b 119e .

Whew! We have filled up the 3564 time slots; 2808 (39 times 72) of them have protons and the rest are empty. But VERY important for the experimenters, the empty buckets occur in a known pattern. This pattern is used to synchronize the electronics. We can only get collisions in the 2808 buckets that contain protons and we know which buckets have the protons. The LHC bunch structure is like a “pumpkin tooth” pattern. For each part of the detector we line up these pumpkin teeth to adjust our clocks to the LHC machine.

Harmonic 84 injection scheme figure thanks to P. Collier.

The long string of 119 empty buckets adds up to 3 microseconds. This is referred to as the “abort gap” and it corresponds to the time needed to turn on the kicker magnets to dump the proton beams. This also turns out to be a blessing for the experiments because this time is used to do many things such as reset certain electronics and take calibration events.

 

 

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Breathe

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Planning the week in a nice setting: The IEEE NSS conference booklet, at the beach. It promises to be an interesting conference!

Fall is here, and with it the annual cold and flu season. This year, I got a good taste of that: A rather nasty cold, and, to make it perfect, in a week where I had to give a two hour lecture on Monday in Munich, attend the CLIC CDR Review in Manchester and give a one hour talk Tuesday and Wednesday, and teach a whole-day short course on calorimetry at the IEEE Nuclear Science Symposium in Valencia in Saturday (that last one together with two other speakers).

But with a bit of chemical help, and by consuming of what feels like a ton of those well-known Swiss herbal drops, I got through it all, without completely losing my voice or feeling close to asphyxiation half of the time. And there is that universal law that such things take 7 days no matter what you do anyway, so an end was in sight right from the beginning. Yesterday, with a day off in Valencia before the start of the main conference, I got the chance to go to the beach for a few hours, again able to smell the salt air, and with some vocal trance from the iPod, to just breathe…

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Trapped on shift!

Monday, October 24th, 2011

There are few things more terrifying than being forced to sit for hours in front of computers and stare at plot after plot after plot. I’m pretty sure that there is a circle of hell dedicated to those people who fabricate data or tweak their datasets to try to get a controversial result. Those people are condemned to spend eternity at a desk monitoring histograms as they fly by. And their on-call experts never answer the phone. And yet the ATLAS management hail this kind of behavior as laudable and give it the grandiose title of a “shift”. They even go as far as to set quotas on how many “shifts” a person should take. Some of us are even stupid enough to sign up to them.

Well last night was different. After slaving away for eight hours I had expected to be given my freedom and see the outside world. My replacement was supposed to show up at 6:45. By 7:05 he still wasn’t there. I was forced to shift against my will, staying at the same desk for 500 minutes, with no early release for good behavior. At some point this must become a crime against humanity, a form of illegal imprisonment. The Shift Leader (or should I say Warden) even came over and told me that I couldn’t leave, and he wasn’t allowed to let me leave.

The big house

The big house

Eventually, after 20 agonizing minutes of waiting, my replacement arrives! I’m free at last! I stumble out through the automatic rotating door, expecting to see sunshine and hear birds singing, perhaps see my mother waiting for me with some balloons and a tear rolling down her cheek. But no. It’s 7:00am (sorry, 7:10am) in October. It’s dark, and cold, and my mother is 500 miles away. So I head to the small gate that separates me from the rest of the world, wave my access card the scanner and wait a second. The reader gives me the green light, beeps, and the magnetic gate clicks. I grab the handle and push, waiting to be on the outside again, where I can see trees and eat fresh bread. Except the gate won’t let me. It’s stuck. And then it clicks shut again.

Strange. Perhaps I didn’t do it right. I wave my card again. Perhaps last time it didn’t read it properly. But no, it’s giving the green light, it’s beeping and the gate is clicking. But it still won’t budge. So I reach all the way around and wave my card over the scanner on the other side of the gate. Same story. I’m starting to get quite cold now, so I consider going in to get some help. Or at least a glass of water while I think it over. It’s been a long shift and I’m not thinking clearly. If I go in and ask for help, and it turns out I’m just too stupid to use a gate then they’ll laugh at me. And everyone else managed to escape without a problem. So finish my water and go out once more. I crack my knuckles, my eyes narrow, I reach down and grab my access card from it’s holster, I mean, lanyard, and let loose the fastest swipe in the West! Green light. Beep. Click. Push. Nothing. Click. Swipe. Green light. Beep. Click. Pull. Nothing. Click. What does it want from me? Why does it toy with me?! I just want to go home and sleep! I try once more, this time leaning almost all my weight on the gate. At this point I don’t care how much damage I’ll cause. Swipe. Green light. Beep. Click. Push. Push. PUSH. The gate opens! I’m on the other side! Sweet freedom! I can get in my car and go home!

Click. It’s closed again. Waiting for its next victim. The only person that sees me leave is the security guard. Perhaps he’s there to make sure the convicts don’t leave.

Perhaps my escape could have been worse...

Perhaps my escape could have been worse...

After spending so long on the inside I’m not the same man as I was. Instead of going home I come to Restaurant 1 for hot chocolate and a pain au chocolat. This morning, before I leave CERN, I will go to the CERN Hostel and try to find some accommodation for my grad student when she comes out next month. Being on the inside has softened me. But it won’t be the last time I see the big house. Something tells me I’ll serve another sentence at 11:00pm tonight…. (Possibly the automatic shift reminder that just E-mailed me.)

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Does the anti-matter from Angels and Daemons movie really exists?’‘, ”Can we create small black holes with particles accelerators?” or, for the most surprising ones “Did you considered the secondary vertexes during your analysis?”

These are some questions pupils and students from Chicago asked us during the first French-American Science Festival organized by the French Embassy on 14 October 2011.

We were four people from the CEA IRFU/SPP to go in the Northwestern University to talk about science, physics and especially for us, particle physics. It was really a success because a lot of people came to understand what could be the job of a particle physicist, and the organizing team was pretty enthusiastic too.

But the story began pretty bad actually. I arrived the previous day during the night in Chicago O’Hare with my colleague Christophe Royon. We were exhausted when arriving at the hotel. Nevertheless, the next day we went, or planed to go, to downtown Chicago, but the fact is we didn’t take the highway and it took almost two hours to find the Northwestern University.

The Fermilab/CERN stand we were working on.

Hopefully for us, Fabrice Couderc, Emilien Chapon and Verena were really efficient and professional – at the arrival of the pupils and students (which was actually our arrival too), experiments, computers, movies were set up and available for the audience.

Christophe and Emilien were responsible most of the time for the talks given in the conference room next to the stand. It was an occasion to gather all interested pupils and explain to them how all of the particle stuff works. The conference room was also linked live to the CERN in Geneva. Young people were able to ask questions from one thousand kilometers from there and better understand what they could have heard from us in the building hall.

For Fabrice (who did an amazing job of vulgarization since the early morning), Verena, Emilien and I were located in the big hall of the building, where all other people showed their experiments and talked about their field of research (such as chemistry and biology).

The pupils came with their teacher most of the time by group of 15 people. Of course, the most difficult part is to begin your explanation to start with. We were helped with posters of LHC which showed pretty awesome pictures from the movie Angels and Demons, pictures of the accelerators LHC and Tevatron, pictures of quarks which could sounds weird but was really useful to explain of what the matter is composed on.

During the explanation of how difficult it could be to found the "black" particle between a lot of background or yellow balls.

As far as I am concerned, it was really nice and interesting to get back to vulgarization for a day. My QD readers already know that I was involved in vulgarization work during my pre-Ph.D. studies in France, so I recover quite easily my ”teacher’s skills”. Pupils seemed to be interested and, for those who were not, it was easy for me to let them focus on – in that case, the best thing to do is to directly ask them questions about what you are saying and showing them that they have the basis of understanding these complicated ideas in particle physics. They focused again and enjoyed what they learn after that.

In the afternoon, it was the time for talks for all of us. Mrs. Martial-Gros started with the inaugural talk for this first French-American French festival to introduce the next speakers such as Pierre Léna from the french Académie des Sciences, who made a really interesting talk on the way of learning the science in school for young children.

The day was concluded with a cocktail party given by the French dmbassy to thank all the participants of this great day which symbolize, more than a friendly science vulgarization session, but the great French-American friendship that we were really happy to be part of.

We would like to thank the french Ambassy in Chicago and their staff to make this day possible and the CEA of Saclay.

The CEA Saclay IRFU/SPP team and Verena from Fermilab.

Alexandre

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The CLIC Physics and Detectors CDR

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

At the moment, LHC is setting the pace of particle physics. OK, there are intriguing, unexpected things about neutrinos, which might or might not be real, hints for possible direct signs for Dark Matter, just to give two examples. But clearly, we are all watching the LHC, and with each additional collected inverse femtobarn, hopes are rising higher for hints for New Physics, and we expect to finally get more insight into the mechanism of electroweak symmetry breaking by the discovery or non-discovery of the Higgs particle over the next year or so.

Amid the flood of papers coming out of the LHC experiments at the moment, it is important to remember that the spectacular results build on a quarter of a century of intense efforts, with first ideas for LHC in the eighties, detector concepts and technology development in the nineties and beyond, and construction over the last decade. Given these long time scales for large experiments (which are getting even substantially longer today!), the particle physics community has to plan for new accelerators and new experiments already before results from the present generation comes in. One such project is CLIC, the Compact Linear Collider, an accelerator that is, by design, capable of colliding electrons and positrons at energies up to 3 TeV. The accelerator concept is currently being developed into maturity, and over the last two years, detector designs for experiments at such a machine have been developed from the already well established proposals for the International Linear Collider ILC.

For this project, a Conceptual Design Report (CDR) is currently being written, providing a complete overview over the accelerator technology as well as over the physics case and the detectors. The second volume, summarizing physics and detectors, has been recently released and was reviewed earlier this week by an internal committee in an intense three day meeting in Manchester, UK. This draft of the report is available on the web, and the team is inviting signatures from particle physicists who “wish to express support to the physics case and the study of a multi-TeV Linear Collider based on the CLIC technology, and its detector concepts”.

Over the next few posts, I will try to discuss some of the ideas and results presented in the report, so stay tuned for a glimpse at a possible future of collider-based particle physics at the energy frontier!

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On the Nature of Science

Friday, October 21st, 2011

There are two very peculiar things about the scientific method: first, how late in the development of civilization it became mainstream, and second, that is there is no generally accepted definition of what it actually is, certainly not within the philosophical community.

Hints of the scientific method date back to the astronomy of ancient Babylon (c. 1000BCE), to the philosophy of  Thales (624BCE – 546BCE) of Miletus in ancient Greece, and to the experimentation of Frederick II  (1194 – 1250) and Roger Bacon (c. 1214–1294) in Medieval Europe. But it was only when Galileo (1564 – 1642) turned his telescope on the heavens in 1609 that it “took”. It was only then that the scientific method was finally on the road to becoming a dominant part of everyday culture. When Kepler (1571 – 1639), and especially Newton (1643 – 1727), consolidated Galileo’s work, there was no turning back. As they say, the rest is history.

There have been various ideas put forth in the past for what science is: induction, verification, falsification, and various other ‘tions’. There have also been monstrosities like methodological naturalism; dogma masquerading as method. But all these have their critics and justly so. In the end, the current consensus in the philosophical community—to the extent there is a consensus—is that the scientific method, as a unified concept, does not exist. Strange as it may seem, there is this general idea that there is no such thing as the scientific method but that different fields of science use different unrelated methods.

The problem is that the scientific method is not what people, especially the philosophical community, expected. The philosophical community has concentrated on things like knowledge, explanations, truth, facts, naturalism, realism, and other such abstruse metaphysical concepts. Yet, they have missed the obvious—that science is something simpler, much simpler, namely model building[1] . This view of science allows us to understand the scientific method in a simple, unified manner valid across the whole spectrum of scientific endeavours and to see the shortcomings of other views of science. This model-building approach also allows us to minimize the metaphysics required. Unfortunately, it can never be completely eliminated.

Model building is not enough to specify the scientific method. You need two additional concepts: observations and parsimony. The models of science are constrained by observation, and judge by their ability to make correct predictions about future observations. Like a model boat, scientific models cannot be proved right or wrong—what sense does it make to claim a model boat is right? But we can certainly say which of two model boats is a more accurate representation of the original. Similarly with scientific models: we can say which of two models is more accurate at making correct predictions for observations. We do not have induction, verification, or falsification, but rather comparison. As Sir Karl Popper (1902 – 1994) pointed out, we have replaced certainty with progress: models are becoming more accurate over time.

Now, observations by themselves are not able to uniquely determine a model. An infinite set of models make the same set of predictions, the same way an infinite number of mathematical curves may be drawn through any finite set of points. But, once it is accepted that science is about model building and making predictions for observables, it becomes clear that adding frills—that don’t change the predictions—is counter productive. Thus we use parsimony or simplicity to make our observationally constrained models unique. It is the combination of simplicity and observations that fully constrain scientific models.

Models do more than allow one to make predictions; they provide structure and meaning to the observations. This is the point missed by the logical positivists who wanted to go straight from the observations to the meaning. Thomas Kuhn (1922 – 1996) pointed out the folly of this with his idea of paradigms: the structures need to give order to any field of endevour. Thus we have the essence of the scientific method: Observational constrained model building, with the meaning in the model.

This is the first post to Quantum Diaries since I have been given a personal blog here. In this set of posts, I will be fleshing out these ideas based on the metaphor of science as model building. I have already put a number of posts on TRIUMF’s Quantum Diaries blog and they have been moved to my new area.  I would like to thank Quantum Diaries and TRIUMF for giving me this platform for my views on the nature of science and my distorted sense of humour. Also thanks to J. Gagné for editing the posts and turning my mishmash into something readable.

[1] Either that or they are still annoyed they earned less as philosophy graduate students than the science graduate students


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À l’occasion de ses 40 ans célébrés cette année, l’Institut National de Physique Nucléaire et de physique des Particules du CNRS est heureux de lancer son blog sur la plateforme Quantum Diaries, rejoignant ceux des grandes institutions de recherche dans le domaine de la physique des hautes énergies.

Ce blog de l’IN2P3 est un nouveau canal par lequel nous diffuserons actualités, éclairages et nouvelles sur la vie de notre Institut. Il donnera nous l’espérons un moyen de comprendre comment se construit au quotidien nos recherches.

Animé par la cellule communication de l’IN2P3, il est également appelé à être ouvert à l’ensemble de la communauté des laboratoires de l’IN2P3 qui souhaiteraient faire partager leur passion pour la recherche.

L’IN2P3 est aussi présent sur Twitter. Rejoignez-nous @in2p3_cnrs !

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