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Posts Tagged ‘DOE’

Snowmass Came and Passed. What have we learned from it?


Skyline of Minneapolis, home of the University of Minnesota and host city of the Community Summer Study 2013: Snowmass on the Mississippi.

Hi All,

Science is big. It is the systematic study of nature, so it has to be big. In another way, science is about asking questions, questions that expands our knowledge of nature just a bit more. Innocuous questions like, “Why do apples fall to the ground?”, “How do magnets work?”, or “How does an electron get its mass?” have lead to understanding much more about the universe than expected. Our jobs as scientists come down to three duties: inventing questions, proposing answers (called hypotheses), and testing these proposals.

As particle physicists, we ask “What is the universe made of?” and “What holds the universe together?”  Finding out that planets and stars only make up 5% of the universe really makes one pause and wonder, well, what about everything else?

From neutrino masses, to the Higgs boson, to the cosmic microwave background, we have learned  much about the origin of mass in the Universe as well as the origin of the Universe itself in the past 10 years. Building on recent discoveries, particle physicists from around the world have been working together for over a year to push our questions further. Progress in science is incremental, and after 10 days at the Community Summer Study 2013: Snowmass on the Mississippi Conference, hosted by the University of Minnesota, we have a collection of questions that will drive and define particle physic for the next 20 years. Each question is an incremental step, but each answer will allow us to expand our knowledge of nature.

I had a chance to speak with SLAC‘s Michael Peskin, a convener for the Snowmass Energy Frontier study group and author of the definitive textbook on Quantum Field Theory, on how he sees the high energy physics community proceeding after Snowmass. “The community did a lot of listening at Snowmass. High energy physics is pursuing a very broad array of questions.  I think that we now appreciate better how important all of these questions are, and that there are real strategies for answering them.”  An important theme of Snowmass, Peskin said, was “the need for long-term, global planning”.  He pointed to the continuing success of the Large Hadron Collider, which is the result of the efforts of thousands of scientists around the world.  This success would not have happened without such a large-scale, global  effort.  “This is how high energy physics will have to be, in all of its subfields, to answer our big questions.”

Summary presentations of all the work done for Snowmass are linked below in pdf form and are divided into two categories: how to approach questions (Frontiers) and what will enable us to answer these questions. These two categories represent the mission of the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science. A summary of the summaries is at the bottom.

What is the absolute neutrino mass scale? What is the neutrino mass ordering? Is CP violated in the neutrino sector? What new knowledge will neutrinos from astrophysical sources bring?

What is dark matter? What is dark energy? Why more matter than anti-matter? What is the physics of the Universe at the highest energies?

Where are the new particles that modify the Higgs, t, W couplings? What particles comprise the dark matter? Why is the Higgs boson so light?

The growth in data drives need for continued R&D investment in data management, data access methods, networking. Challenging resource needs require efficient and flexible use of all resources HEP needs both Distributed High-Throughput computing (experiment program) and High-Performance computing (mostly theory/simulation/modeling)

Encourage and enable physicists to be involved in and support local, national and world-wide efforts that offer long–term professional development and training opportunities for educators (including pre-service educators), using best practice and approaches supported by physics education research. and Create learning opportunities for students of all ages, including classroom, out-of-school and online activities that allow students to explore particle physics

Our vision is for the US to have an instrumentation program for particle physics that enables the US to maintain a scientific leadership position in a broad, global, experimental program; and develops new detection capabilities that provides for cutting edge contributions to a world program

Is dark energy a cosmological constant? Is it a vacuum energy? From where do ultra high energy cosmic rays originate? From where do ultra high energy neutrinos originate?

How would one build a 100 TeV scale hadron collider? How would one build a lepton collider at >1 TeV? Can multi-MW targets survive? If so, for how long?

To provide a conduit for untenured (young) particle physicists to participate in the Community Summer Study. To facilitate and encourage young people to get involved.
Become a long term asset to the field and a place where young peoples voices can be heard

Several great posts from QD (Family, Young, Frontierland), Symmetry Magazine (Push, Q&A, IceSlam, Decade), and even real-time updates from QD’s Ken Bloom (@kenbloomunl) and myself (@bravelittlemuon) via #Snowmass are available. All presentations can be found at the Snowmass Indico page.

Until next time, happy colliding.

– Richard (@bravelittlemuon)

Community Summer Study: Snowmass 2013 Poster

Community Summer Study: Snowmass 2013 Poster


Around the US in 17 labs

Monday, July 1st, 2013

This article originally appeared in symmetry on June 25, 2013.

Chart a course to knowledge with symmetry's interactive map of all 17 US Department of Energy national laboratories. Illustration: Sandbox Studio, Chicago

Chart a course to knowledge with symmetry’s interactive map of all 17 US Department of Energy national laboratories. Illustration: Sandbox Studio, Chicago

The US Department of Energy has nurtured hubs of innovation in the United States for more than eight decades.

Discoveries made at the national laboratories have saved lives, solved mysteries of nature, improved products, transformed industries and served as a training ground for students who go on to pursue careers in science and technology.

Use symmetry’s interactive map to learn more about what goes on at the national laboratories, including the 10 institutions under the purview of the DOE Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States.

Or print the map in poster form (11″x17″ works best) to hang on your wall—or bring along on a cross-country national laboratory road trip.

Launch the interactive map


This article first appeared in Fermilab Today on June 6.

Sam Zeller won a DOE Early Career Research Award to support her work on liquid argon neutrino dectectors. Photo: Reidar Hahn

Neutrinos are known for escaping capture. They fly through matter and their different types continuously morph into one another. That elusive, shifting behavior challenges nearly every available tool and capability scientists have to sketch their portraits.

With better tools come more detailed portraits. Last month, Fermilab scientist Geralyn “Sam” Zeller received a 2012 DOE Early Career Research Award to advance a detector technology that will capture neutrinos’ attributes with unprecedented detail. The $2.5 million award, spread over five years, will support a proof-of-principle study towards the construction of multi-kiloton liquid-argon neutrino detectors.

“There are some really important questions we want to answer about how neutrinos behave,” Zeller said. “The best chance for answering them is to study neutrinos with this exquisite detector.”

Liquid-argon detectors are practically photographic in their ability to show what happens when a neutrino hits an argon nucleus. Tracks that the resultant particles leave behind are shown in high resolution, and it’s easy to distinguish the various particle types that arise from the interaction.

But information on how neutrinos behave in liquid-argon detectors is sparse. Most of what is known is based on simulations rather than experiment. Also, researchers have typically gathered what they need to know from event displays – pretty pictures of events that, while useful, are relatively light on quantified information.

Zeller, who has been at Fermilab since December 2009, plans to fill the gap with an abundance of new data. The DOE award will support the analysis of neutrino data recently collected by a small (less than 1 ton) liquid-argon detector prototype called ArgoNeuT. In the next few years, Zeller’s team will also generate and analyze neutrino data using Fermilab’s new MicroBooNE detector, a 170-ton liquid-argon detector. Their findings will tell them whether they can get the expected performance out of a detector of much larger scale. They’ll also characterize exactly how neutrinos behave when interacting in argon.

“There’s a big gap in our knowledge of how neutrinos interact,” Zeller said. “We want better information to inform the design of future detectors.”

Zeller’s project leverages the current ongoing U.S. neutrino program with the idea that the community could build, in manageable stages, a liquid-argon detector weighing tens of thousands of tons. Its prodigious size increases scientists’ chance of capturing a neutrino that has changed forms. Combined with its characteristic high precision, the detector would prove invaluable for the proposed Long-Baseline Neutrino Experiment, which will allow scientists to observe neutrino oscillations, as their form-changing is called. It would also be of use for the short-baseline program in looking for a fourth neutrino to add to the family of the known three.

If future neutrino experiments go well, scientists may finally have answers to basic questions surrounding the ghostly particle: which neutrino types are the lightest and heaviest, and do they behave the same as their antiparticles?

The DOE award will fund two postdocs and a dedicated team for the long-baseline program, as well as supporting technical and engineering work.

“There’s an opportunity here because we have these two detectors and the best neutrino beams in the world,” Zeller said. “Now we’re going to try to get as much information out of them as we can.”

Leah Hesla


This article first appeared in Fermilab Today on May 29.

Brendan Casey was awarded a DOE Early Career Research Award to support his work developing detector technology for the Muon g-2 experiment. Photo: Reidar Hahn

Four years ago, Fermilab physicist Brendan Casey began looking for a new research project. Should he join the thousands of physicists working on particle collider experiments at the Large Hadron Collider in Europe? Or should he collaborate with a relatively small group of scientists who wanted to build a new physics experiment at Fermilab to search for hidden subatomic forces?

This month, Casey was rewarded for his decision to work on the smaller experiment. The Department of Energy’s Office of Science named Casey a recipient of the 2012 DOE Early Career Research Award. It will support his research on the detector technology for the Muon g-2 experiment with a total of $2.5 million over five years.

“To be chosen is a great honor,” said Casey. “It also is an affirmation that the choice of pursuing the Muon g-2 experiment paid off.”

For this year’s awards, DOE selected 68 researchers from a pool of about 850 applicants based at universities and national laboratories in the United States. Three Fermilab scientists received the award this year: Casey, Tengming Shen and Geralyn “Sam” Zeller.

Casey is one of about 50 people working on the Muon g-2 experiment. The collaboration expects to add scientists from new institutions this June.

“We are recruiting collaborators,” said Casey, who worked on Fermilab’s DZero collider experiment before joining Muon g-2. “With this award, we’ll be able to expand our research efforts.”

The DOE grant will pay for part of Casey’s research efforts, fund a postdoctoral associate, support engineering and technical work and contribute to purchasing equipment for the experiment.

The Muon g-2 collaboration aims to settle a perplexing question that has haunted the particle physics community for more than a decade. Do muons behave as predicted by the highly successful theory known as the Standard Model, or are these particles subject to a mysterious force that changes the particles behavior when exposed to a magnetic field?

Results obtained by a previous muon experiment at Brookhaven National Laboratory provided an unexpected but non-conclusive glimpse at the hidden force that might be tugging at the muon, a heavy relative of the electron. But the accelerator at Brookhaven cannot produce enough muons for scientists to make a more precise measurement. Hence scientists turned to Fermilab and its Main Injector accelerator.

Casey, who received a Wilson Fellowship in 2007 and became a Fermilab staff scientist in 2011, focuses on the development of the special particle detector that scientists will use to measure the behavior of the muons in a magnetic field.

“While we will reuse some of the equipment used in the Brookhaven experiment, we will build the particle detectors from scratch,” said Casey.

Casey is collaborating with scientists and students from Boston University, Northwestern University and the Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute on developing the experiment’s straw tracking detector, which uses charged wires in long, narrow drift tubes to identify the trajectories of particles.

Kurt Riesselmann


This article first appeared in Fermilab Today on May 22.

Tengming Shen was awarded a DOE Early Career Award to develop a high-performance superconducting material for accelerator technology. <em>Photo: Reidar Hahn</em>


Over the years, engineers have found ways to cram more and more transistors onto a single integrated circuit. As a result of these improvements, they have been able to pack more computing power into smaller machines.

In much the same way, the key to developing better high-energy particle accelerators has been building increasingly powerful magnets to put inside them.

The Department of Energy recently presented an Early Career Research Award to Fermilab scientist Tengming Shen, a 2010 Peoples Fellow working to spur the next magnet revolution.

DOE awarded Shen $500,000 per year for five years for his research into engineering high-field superconducting materials for advanced accelerator technology. If his team succeeds, the work could pave the way for the construction of high-field superconducting magnets for future accelerators such as Fermilab’s proposed muon collider, for energy upgrades of the Large Hadron Collider and for the development of new medical imaging devices.

Shen’s strategy is to search for a better magnet-making material. Scientists currently use two niobium-based materials, NbTi and Nb3Sn.

“You have to go into a territory that’s new,” he said.

Shen works with superconducting magnets, which conduct electricity without resistance when cooled below a certain temperature. This reduces the amount of energy required to power them and allows them to achieve higher magnetic fields.

To reach this point in his research, Shen has collaborated with other scientists in the Very High Field Superconducting Magnet Collaboration, a partnership among U.S. national laboratories, universities and members of superconductor industry.

Fermilab’s Tevatron was the first particle accelerator to use niobium-titanium superconducting magnets. Before superconducting magnets, scientists had used iron or copper magnets, which required large amounts of electricity and, when used with insufficient cooling, tended to melt.

Fermilab founder Bob Wilson purchased as much niobium-titanium as he could, and Fermilab scientists developed a process for building large superconducting magnets. Members of industry eventually adopted the technology to mass-produce magnets used in MRI machines, now found in most hospitals. The major particle accelerators that have followed – the LHC at CERN, HERA at DESY and RHIC at Brookhaven National Laboratory – all depend on this technology.

Scientists cooled magnets in the Tevatron with liquid helium to 4.2 Kelvin; they reached a magnetic field strength of 4.3 Tesla. The scientists who built the Large Hadron Collider cooled their magnets with superfluid liquid helium to an even colder 1.9 Kelvin and almost doubled that performance to 8.3 Tesla. Fermilab and other U.S. laboratories have recently developed new technology using niobium-tin, Nb3Sn, which scientists hope will help them make the jump to 12- to 13-Tesla magnets.

The next step, according to Shen, is to push the limit of superconducting magnet technology by exploring new materials beyond the niobium family. This would allow scientists to more than double the energy reach of the LHC without increasing the size of the accelerator, he said.

Shen plans to study a group of high-field superconductors, in particular Bi2Sr2CaCu2Ox. He expects he could use this material to build magnets with a reach of up to 50 Tesla.

Even better, the new material could be used to construct 1- to 5-Tesla magnets that operate at higher temperatures. Whereas current superconducting magnets must be cooled with liquid helium, Shen’s magnets could potentially be cooled with a simpler refrigeration unit.

“Helium is very expensive,” Shen said. “There are many places like Africa, India and China that would like to develop cryogen-free devices.”

The development of high-temperature superconductors could eventually lead to better power lines, faster computers and more energy-efficient transportation, Shen said.

“There are many superconducting materials and many more to be discovered,” he said. “The whole world could be superconducting.”

—Kathryn Grim


Happy 5th of July, everyone! For my inaugural post here on Quantum Diaries I thought it would be fun and somewhat fitting to write about one of my favorite parts of being a scientist: public outreach. The terms “public outreach,” “science outreach,” or just “outreach” are all used interchangeably by researchers and our funders, e.g.,  The National Science Foundation and The U.S. Department of Energy, to mean when scientists hold public lectures or demonstrations in order to tell people all about their present work or field of science. One example of outreach familiar to everyone reading this blog is Quantum Diaries itself. The innovations made in social media (think Twitter) have made it possible for physicists around the world to share with everyone, including other scientists, the exciting, ground-breaking research we do. On top of that, it can all happen with just a few key strokes and track pad taps.

Department of Energy, DOE, Office of Science LogoNational Science Foundation, NSF, Logo






To list all the reasons why outreach is beneficial and useful would make this post much, much longer than I intend. Though, there is one reason for reaching out to the public I feel worth mentioning: it’s a unique way of saying “thank you.” Equipment like CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, Fermilab’s Tevatron, and NASA’s Hubble Telescope are all examples of publicly financed science experiments, each with the goal of helping understand how the Universe came to be. Economically speaking, such projects can only be constructed with federal assistance. However, these so-called “high risk, high reward” projects have given us, as unintended consequences, new methods of cancer treatment and even the World Wide Web. The Large Hadron Collider alone has pushed computing technology to an impressive new standard. Without the public’s help many of our greatest scientific achievements may not have ever been actualized; this is why scientists are always hesitant and worried when budget discussions pertaining to science funding become politicized.

A neat fact of life is that there are so many different ways of saying “thank you” that are entirely institution- and regionally dependent. For instance the physics lab Fermilab, which is located in a suburb of Chicago and actually doubles as a nature preserve, has a hugely successful program called Saturday Morning Physics where local high school students, regardless of scientific background, can learn all about modern physics. The University of Chicago and The University of Wisconsin, as well as many other universities, hold annual shows featuring hours of physics demonstrations that can be literally explosive. MIT uniquely has its Splash Program where advanced undergraduates are invited to tell participating high school students all about their favorite topics, like the Science of Cooking, and often includes demonstrations (or tasty samples!). A grand example is CERN’s gigantic wooden dome named The Globe. This 30-meter tall, perpetually pine-smelling, building provides the surrounding French and Swiss communities (CERN is on the French-Swiss boarder just outside of Geneva, Switzerland) continuously updated exhibits on the history of the Universe and on the works of famous physicists like Einstein. The Globe also acts a venue for public lectures where everyone is invited to hear from scientists from various fields, not just physics. Just pull up a web browser and search your favorite university along with the words “science outreach,” or even just “biology outreach.” I promise you will immediately find tons of fantastic information.
CERN's Globe

Well, I hope you enjoyed my first post. Future ones will mostly be about really neat particle physics updates but there will definitely be the occasional awesome-application-of-science-but-not-necessarily-physics post. Here is a sneak peak of an update-in-progress that I hope will be a big hit. Until then though you can find me on my personal outreach Twitter account @bravelittlemuon. Send me a message or post a comment below; I would love to hear about your outreach experiences!