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Posts Tagged ‘Brookhaven National Laboratory’

Heat: Adventures in the World's Fiery Places (Little Brown, 2013). If you haven't already fallen in love with the groundbreaking science that's taking place at RHIC, this book about all things hot is sure to ignite your passion.

Bill Streever, a biologist and best-selling author of Cold: Adventures in the World’s Frozen Places, has just published his second scientific survey, which takes place at the opposite end of the temperature spectrum. Heat: Adventures in the World’s Fiery Places features flames, firewalking, and notably, a journey into the heart of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

I accompanied Streever for a full-day visit in July 2011 with physicist Barbara Jacak of Stony Brook University, then spokesperson of the PHENIX Collaboration at RHIC. The intrepid reporter (who’d already tagged along with woodland firefighters and walked across newly formed, still-hot volcanic lava—among other adventures described in the book) met with RHIC physicists at STAR and PHENIX, descended into the accelerator tunnel, and toured the refrigeration system that keeps RHIC’s magnets supercold. He also interviewed staff at the RHIC/ATLAS Computing Facility—who face the challenge of dissipating unwanted heat while accumulating and processing reams of RHIC data—as well as theorists and even climate scientists, all in a quest for understanding the ultrawarm.

The result is an enormously engaging, entertaining, and informative portrayal of heat in a wide range of settings, including the 7-trillion-degree “perfect” liquid quark-gluon plasma created at RHIC, and physicists’ pursuit of new knowledge about the fundamental forces and interactions of matter. But Streever’s book does more: It presents the compelling story of creating and measuring the world’s hottest temperature within the broader context of the Lab’s history, including its role as an induction center during both World Wars, and the breadth and depth of our current research—from atoms to energy and climate research, and even the Long Island Solar Farm.

“Brookhaven has become an IQ magnet, where smart people congregate to work on things that excite geniuses,” he writes.

Streever’s own passion for science comes across clearly throughout the book. But being at “the top of the thermometer” (the title of his final chapter, dedicated in part to describing RHIC) has its privileges. RHIC’s innermost beam pipes—at the hearts of its detectors, inside which head-on ion collisions create the highest temperature ever measured in a laboratory—have clearly left an impression:

“… I am forever enthralled by Brookhaven’s pipes. At the top of the thermometer, beyond any temperature that I could possibly imagine, those pipes explore conditions near the beginning of the universe … In my day-to-day life, bundled in a thick coat or standing before my woodstove or moving along a snow-covered trail, I find myself thinking of those pipes. And when I think of them, I remember that at the top of the thermometer lies matter with the audacity to behave as though it were absolutely cold, flowing like a perfect liquid…”

There’s more, a wonderful bit more that conveys the pure essence of science. But I don’t want to spoil it. Please read and share this book. The final word is awe.

The book is available for purchase through major online retailers and in stores.

-Karen McNulty Walsh, BNL Media & Communications Office

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Theoretical physicist Raju Venugopalan

We sat down with Brookhaven theoretical physicist Raju Venugopalan for a conversation about “color glass condensate” and the structure of visible matter in the universe.

Q. We’ve heard a lot recently about a “new form of matter” possibly seen at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Europe — a state of saturated gluons called “color glass condensate.” Brookhaven Lab, and you in particular, have a long history with this idea. Can you tell me a bit about that history?

A. The idea for the color glass condensate arose to help us understand heavy ion collisions at our own collider here at Brookhaven, the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC)—even before RHIC turned on in 2000, and long before the LHC was built. These machines are designed to look at the most fundamental constituents of matter and the forces through which they interact—the same kinds of studies that a century ago led to huge advances in our understanding of electrons and magnetism. Only now instead of studying the behavior of the electrons that surround atomic nuclei, we are probing the subatomic particles that make up the nuclei themselves, and studying how they interact via nature’s strongest force to “give shape” to the universe today.

We do that by colliding nuclei at very high energies to recreate the conditions of the early universe so we can study these particles and their interactions under the most extreme conditions. But when you collide two nuclei and produce matter at RHIC, and also at the LHC, you have to think about the matter that makes up the nuclei you are colliding. What is the structure of nuclei before they collide?

We all know the nuclei are made of protons and neutrons, and those are each made of quarks and gluons. There were hints in data from the HERA collider in Germany and other experiments that the number of gluons increases dramatically as you accelerate particles to high energy. Nuclear physics theorists predicted that the ions accelerated to near the speed of light at RHIC (and later at LHC) would reach an upper limit of gluon concentration—a state of gluon saturation we call color glass condensate.* The collision of these super-dense gluon force fields is what produces the matter at RHIC, so learning more about this state would help us understand how the matter is created in the collisions. The theory we developed to describe the color glass condensate also allowed us to make calculations and predictions we could test with experiments. (more…)

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The art of data mining is about searching for the extraordinary within a vast ocean of regularity. This can be a painful process in any field, but especially in particle physics, where the amount of data can be enormous, and ‘extraordinary’ means a new understanding about the fundamental underpinnings of our universe. Now, a tool first conceived in 2005 to manage data from the world’s largest particle accelerator may soon push the boundaries of other disciplines. When repurposed, it could bring the immense power of data mining to a variety of fields, effectively cracking open the possibility for more discoveries to be pulled up from ever-increasing mountains of scientific data.

Advanced data management tools offer scientists a way to cut through the noise by analyzing information across a vast network. The result is a searchable pool that software can sift through and use for a specific purpose. One such hunt was for the Higgs boson, the last remaining elementary particle of the Standard Model that, in theory, endows other particles with mass.

With the help of a system called PanDA, or Production and Distributed Analysis, researchers at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva, Switzerland discovered such a particle by slamming protons together at relativistic speeds hundreds of millions of times per second. The data produced from those trillions of collisions—roughly 13 million gigabytes worth of raw information—was processed by the PanDA system across a worldwide network and made available to thousands of scientists around the globe. From there, they were able to pinpoint an unknown boson containing a mass between 125–127 GeV, a characteristic consistent with the long-sought Higgs.

An ATLAS event with two muons and two electrons - a candidate for a Higgs-like decay. The two muons are picked out as long blue tracks, the two electrons as short blue tracks matching green clusters of energy in the calorimeters. ATLAS Experiment © 2012 CERN.

The sheer amount of data arises from the fact that each particle collision carries unique signatures that compete for attention with the millions of other collisions happening nanoseconds later. These must be recorded, processed, and analyzed as distinct events in a steady stream of information. (more…)

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Today’s public seminar at CERN, where the ATLAS and CMS collaborations presented the preliminary results of their searches for the Standard Model (SM) Higgs boson with the full dataset collected during 2011, is a landmark for high-energy physics!

The Higgs boson is a still-hypothetical particle postulated in the mid-1960s to complete what is considered the SM of particle interactions. Its role within the SM is to provide other particles with mass. Specifically, the mass of elementary particles is the result of their interaction with the Higgs field. The Higgs boson’s properties are defined in the SM, apart from its mass, which is a free parameter of the theory. (more…)

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This post, originally published on 11/18/11 here, was written by Kétévi Adiklè Assamagan, a staff physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory and the ATLAS contact person for the ATLAS-CMS combined Higgs analysis.

Today we witnessed a landmark LHC first: At the HCP conference in Paris, friendly rivals, the ATLAS and CMS collaborations, came together to present a joint result! This ATLAS-CMS combined Higgs search was motivated by the fact that pooling the dataset increases our chances of excluding or finding the Higgs boson over those of a single experiment. This is the first example of this kind of scientific collaboration at the LHC, and the success of the whole endeavor hinged on a whole host of thorny issues being tackled…

Discussions about combining our Higgs search results with CMS’s first started over a year ago, but before we could proceed with any kind of combined analysis, we had first to jointly outline how on earth we were going to go about doing it. This was no small undertaking; although we’re looking for the same physics, the ATLAS and CMS detectors are very different beasts materially, and use completely independent software to define and identify particles. How can we be certain that what passes for an electron in ATLAS would also be picked out as such in CMS? (more…)

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On May 26, 2005, a new supercomputer, a pioneering giant of its time, was unveiled at Brookhaven National Laboratory at a dedication ceremony attended by physicists from around the world. That supercomputer was called QCDOC, for quantum chromodynamics (QCD) on a chip, capable of handling the complex calculations of QCD, the theory that describes the nature and interactions of the basic building blocks of the universe. Now, after a career of state-of-the-art physics calculations, QCDOC has been retired — and will soon be replaced by a new “next generation” machine. (more…)

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“There it is — the world’s most beautiful physics experiment,” says physicist Chris Polly from a metal footbridge that crosses over the 14-meter blue steel ring of Brookhaven National Laboratory’s muon g – 2 experiment, now being disassembled. A haze of dust hangs in the air above Polly and a handful of other physicists and engineers who’ve gathered together to help resurrect the $20-million machine by transporting it hundreds of miles to Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois. (more…)

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This story first appeared on Brookhaven’s website.

They come from the midst of exploding stars beyond our solar system — and possibly, from the nuclei of far distant galaxies. Their name, “galactic cosmic rays,” sounds like something from a science fiction movie. They’re not really rays.

Galactic cosmic rays (GCR) is the term used to describe a wide variety of charged particles traveling through space at high energies and almost the speed of light, from subatomic particles like electrons and positrons to the nuclei of every element on the periodic table. Since they’re created at energies sufficient to propel them on long journeys through space, GCRs are a form of ionizing radiation, or streaming particles and light waves with enough oomph to knock electrons out of their orbits, creating newly charged, unstable atoms in most of the matter they traverse. (more…)

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This story first appeared as a press release on Interactions.org, issued by Brookhaven National Laboratory, the Institute of High Energy Physics, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. For the full version and contact information, go here.

The Daya Bay Reactor Neutrino Experiment has begun its quest to answer some of the most puzzling questions about the elusive elementary particles known as neutrinos. The experiment’s first completed set of twin detectors is now recording interactions of antineutrinos (antipartners of neutrinos) as they travel away from the powerful reactors of the China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group in southern China.

Neutrinos are uncharged particles produced in nuclear reactions, such as in the sun, by cosmic rays, and in nuclear power plants. They come in three types or “flavors” — electron, muon, and tau neutrinos — that morph, or oscillate, from one form to another, interacting hardly at all as they travel through space and matter, including people, buildings, and planets like Earth.

The start-up of the Daya Bay experiment marks the first step in the international effort of the Daya Bay Collaboration to measure a crucial quantity related to the third type of oscillation, in which the electron-flavored neutrinos morph into the other two flavored neutrinos. (more…)

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This story appeared in Fermilab Today July 29.
PHENIX, one of two major experiments located at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) based at Brookhaven National Laboratory, is upgrading again with help from Fermilab’s Slicon Detector Facility (SiDet). Fermilab technicians finished assembling hundreds of forward silicon vertex tracker (FVTX) detector components in early July.

One of the hundreds of forward silicon vertex tracker (FVTX) components assembled at Fermilab's Silicon Detector Facility. Photo: Vassili Papavassiliou, New Mexico State University

The wedge-shaped components will be installed in PHENIX to help scientists study the properties of quark gluon plasma (QGP), which theorists believe made up the universe moments after the Big Bang.

Eric Mannel, a physicist from Columbia University and one of about 450 PHENIX contributors, worked as an electronics project engineer overseeing the final stages of assembly at Fermilab.

“We want to understand how the universe evolved the way it did from the very beginning,” Mannel said. “The FVTX detector will provide a higher resolution for tracking of particles which will allow us to study the properties of QGP.”

QGP is a near-perfect liquid composed of disassociated quarks and gluons suspended in plasma. It is said to be nearly perfect because it contains almost no internal friction—if you were to stir the plasma, it would continue to swirl forever. Physicists create QGP by smashing heavy ions and protons together. SiDet personnel provided a technical capabilities unique to Fermilab, to construct detectors that will allow physicists to study those collisions in more detail than ever before.

“We anticipate that we’ll be able to reconstruct secondary vertices from the decay of charm and beauty quarks with a resolution of 70 microns. The typical decay lengths for those particles are several hundred microns in heavy-ion collisions at RHIC,” Mannel said. The average human hair is about 100 microns thick.

The SiDet team completed the microassembly of FVTX components in mid-July. From left to right: Tammy Hawke, Michelle Jonas, Nina Ronzhina, Bert Gonzalez and Mike Herron. Also part of the group is Hogan Nguyen, not pictured. The FVTX group of PHENIX collaborators are also not pictured: Eric Mannel, Vassili Papavassiliou, Elaine Tennant, AAron Veicht and Dave Winter. Photo: Reidar Hahn.

AAron Veicht, a Ph.D. student at Columbia University, spent nearly 10 months working with the technicians at SiDet and will be part of the team installing the detector in PHENIX this fall.

“I’ll get to see the project from the very early stages all the way through to analyzing the data, so it’s very exciting,” Veicht said. “I gained a lot of experience while working with the technicians at Fermilab. It was a vital part of my education.”

Bert Gonzalez was the Fermilab technical supervisor on the design project. “The process went quite well, as this was the first endeavor where we worked with program collaborators,” Gonzalez said. Gonzalez and his Fermilab team spoke with PHENIX collaborators via conference calls for most of the design and development of the components.

“It was a good run,” Gonzalez said. “The project will be missed at SiDet, because it was a concrete job; you could dig your hands into it.”

Veicht felt that the people at SiDet were helpful and knowledgeable.

“It was my first time at Fermilab, and it was absolutely fantastic,” Veicht said.

PHENIX detector. Photo: Brookhaven National Laboratory

PHENIX collaborators plan to commission the detector in October and begin data collection this January.

- Ashley WennersHerron

Related information:

*PHENIX website

*RHIClets: A collection of Java applet games about the RHIC collider and RHIC physics.

*PHENIX cartoons

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