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Posts Tagged ‘running’

Running to..or from…what?

Monday, April 18th, 2011

–by T. Isaac Meyer, Head, Strategic Planning & Communications

I ran.

I ran some more.

I looked over my shoulder. JH was there, right at my shoulder.

I ran some more.

That’s what physics research is like. Companions, partners, all on the road to truth and sometimes you train together and run together and hope to win together.

This past Sunday, Vancouver held its annual Sun Run, a 10 km race for about 49,000 people. A little bit less than the record number and a little bit more than last year. What was I doing there? Well, I purport to be a runner. Not a good runner. That’s my brother T.O., who has run backwoods races in upstate New York and regularly competes to kick a** in the NY and Boston Marathons.

But working at a physics laboratory, a global laboratory, does breed a certain camaraderie and competitiveness.

RW, the guy at TRIUMF who helped me secure and set up my laptop, ran the 10 km for a PR, that’s short for Personal Record, of less than 40 minutes. JH and I beat the clock at 1:04 and 1:06 respectively. The mitigating factor is that JH is about 25 years my senior; he’s a good training partner.

So what’s my point? That as NSL pointed out earlier, science is an unusual team sport. Its more like a family sport. We want to beat the other relatives, but if you threaten or challenge our kin, we will unite and demand to see your scientific, peer-reviewed publication documenting your challenge. Its charming and cute and bloodthirsty in a way. We’re hell bent for leather to reveal—and share—the secrets of Nature for everyone to know and cherish. And the single point of glory is to be part of the team that did it first—and wrote about it. It’s like being part of a team called Glen Cunningham. We would’ve got there first.

The Sun Run itself…fanatical and amazing and impossible. JH and I did not beat our record time from last year, but we cruised and we felt good. We passed a fire in a third-floor apartment building that fire & rescue crews had tamed moments before we passed. And we passed about 10,000 people as our pace surpassed our peers in the six stages of release. With nearly 50,000 people running the same race, the organizers wisely let about 10,000 go at a time. With Canadian-born Byran Adams cheering us on with the “Summer of ‘69” we charged across the starting line about an hour after the elite “blue bib” runners did. The overall winner, a Canadian who completed the race in 29:06. A true hero, and a man fleet of feet.

So what is the moral of this disconnected prose? That we all race, some on foot, some in science, some in music, some in performance art, some in poetry. And a race well run, a race well executed, no matter the outcome, is something to be appreciated and cherished.

On to the BMO Half-Marathon in 2 weeks!

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It was hectic week, though only four days long (we had family visiting up until very early Tuesday morning). Every day I had a meeting of some sort. I had a couple of slides to prepare. A relay race to run in and “train” for (see Monica’s post – BTW that is me second from the left, in the womens’ team with matching black shirts – which definitely improved our running 😉 ), and late Thursday until 10:00 pm doing a study (see this post about a previous one).

This week we spend another short spell running our detector for five days, like I described here. I am grateful I have no shifts (especially the 11pm-7am) and that the whole thing ends on Saturday afternoon. Just in time to join my husband for a two-day late anniversary dinner in downtown Geneva. Three years and counting (though I have known him much longer – since 1996).

So there is more hardware to prepare tomorrow morning and to check out. By the way that stands for Cosmic Run at Zero Tesla. Pronounced Crew-zay, due to the French influence around here.

On top of it all, EURO 2008 (soccer/football) has started. This time it is in Switzerland & Austria. I have never seen so many national flags on display, nor as much energy emanating from a crowd, than I did on Saturday while I was out shopping at a Geneva area mall. So, since I have almost all my paternal-side family in the Netherlands, now I head home to watch them play Italy. If they do well, I might finally buy the orange (eek) jersey for myself. You can see Dutch fans for miles…

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Time’s up and this time it’s serious ! All big experiments at the LHC are gearing up for collisions within the next month, and for ALICE the numbers are staggering. Assuming we are running about six months of proton-proton collisions and one month of heavy ion collisions per year (i.e. 30 weeks of continuous operation) , the commitment it takes from each and every member of the collaboration is substantial.

The ALICE experiment consists of 18 detectors and 6 so-called general systems (experiment control, detector control, central trigger processor, high level trigger, data acquisition and offline monitoring). In the start-up phase, which is scheduled to last at least the remainder of 2008 and maybe most of the 2009 run, the experiment requires not only a steady 24/7 shift crew but also a substantial number of on-call experts. At this moment the conservative estimates are that at any given time 24 persons need to be on shift and 41 persons need to be on-call experts. In 2009 the on-site shift crew is supposed to reduce to 17 persons with the goal of reaching steady-state operation with a 10 person shift crew by 2010. The counting house is laid out accordingly, but at least for 2008 and most of 2009 it will get very crowded.

Now ALICE is a big collaboration with more than a 1000 Ph.D.’s at this moment, so these resource requirements should be easy to distribute across the whole collaboration, right ? Well, even with so many people the number of eight hour shifts for each individual Ph.D. are still daunting. My institute, Wayne State University, is one of the larger U.S. participants in ALICE, but even with four Ph.D.’s our responsibility comes up to only 0.882% of the total shifts. Still with a total shift allotment of 17,490 shifts in 2008 and 16,185 in 2009, each of our four Ph.D. needs to take around 40 shifts per year, and assuming we take one shift per day we will be at ALICE at least around 1.5 months per year.

Graduate students will carry a big load of these shifts in the coming years, but the early startup phase will likely have to be covered by the existing Ph.D.’s. This is a major commitment which requires substantial travel funds and time allotments for university folks like myself. It is definitely not cheap to do physics abroad. Besides the bad exchange course of the American dollar, the housing situation in and around Geneva is a major headache for many of us. A whole trek of people will steadily have to commute between the U.S. and Geneva from now on. The total commitment of the U.S. institutions to the ALICE shift total is presently around 5%, which is equivalent to about 850 shifts in 2008. But I would assume the shift load for the U.S. in ATLAS and CMS is considerably higher.

For many students this is a great opportunity to see the world and learn about different cultures besides just doing science within an international community. But all of it needs to be well planned. Apartments need to be rented, transportation needs to be provided etc. etc. So it takes a BIG effort to do BIG science, and if you do it from abroad it might even take a little more.

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Running!

Friday, March 14th, 2008

Well, not that kind. When I was at CDF, I was a member of the Run Too running club, which started as some CDFers running around the “Ring Road” above the Tevatron ring during lunch, as a way to train for the Chicago Marathon, and eventually expanded to other races, other experiments/divisions, other activities (Dragonboating, biking, etc). On the page you’ll see I am the “Ambassador to Cheeseland and Beantown”. Anyway, I haven’t run much, but recently ran a 1:50:18 in the Hyannis Half Marathon following the “Greg Feild training program” (Greg is a buddy who has a habit of running races with very little training). Here’s me, finishing strong:

Hyannis Half Marathon

Both feet in the air! It’s a two-fer! Just to say that we don’t only do physics.

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