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Posts Tagged ‘travel’

A Change of Pace

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Some physicists and engineers from Purdue and DESY, and me, at the beamline we used to test new pixel designs

Every so often, a physicist needs a vacation from doing data analysis for the Higgs boson search. A working vacation, something that gets you a little closer to the actual detector you work on. So last week, I was at the DESY laboratory in Hamburg, Germany, helping a group of physicists and engineers study possible changes to the design of individual pixels in the CMS Pixel Detector. (I’ve written before about how a pixel detector works.) We were at DESY because they had an electron beam we could use, and we wanted to study how the new designs performed with actual particles passing through them. Of course, the new designs can’t be produced in large scale for a few years — but we do plan to run CMS for many, many years to come, and eventually we will need to upgrade and replace its pixel detector.

What do you actually do at a testbeam? You sit there as close to 24 hours a day as you can — in shifts, of course. You take data. You change which new design is in the beam, or you change the angle, or you change the conditions under which it’s running. Then you take more data. And you repeat for the entire week.

So do any of the new designs work better? We don’t know yet. It’s my job to install the software to analyze the data we took, and to help study the results, and I haven’t finished yet. And yes, even “working on the detector” involves analyzing data — so maybe it wasn’t so much of a vacation after all!



Friday, October 5th, 2012

Seth talking at the VERTEX2012 conferenceNever mind my complaints about travel, VERTEX 2012 was a very nice conference. There were a lot of interesting people there, mostly much more expert than me on the subject of vertex detectors. (I’ve written before about how tracking works and how a pixel detector works. In general, a vertex detector is a high-precision tracker designed to measure exactly where tracks come from; a pixel detector is one type of vertex detector.) My talk was about the current operations of the CMS pixel detector; you can see me giving the talk at right, and the (very technical) slides are here. Other talks were about future development in on-detector chip and sensor technology; this work is likely to affect the next detectors we build, and the upgrades of our current detectors as well.

VERTEX 2012 Conference attendees at Sunrise Peak, JejuThe location of the conference — Jeju, Korea — was also very nice, and we got an afternoon off to see some of the island. The whole island is volcanic. The central mountain dominates the landscape, and there are lots of grass-covered craters. Sunrise peak, at left, erupted as recently as 5,000 years ago, but it seemed pretty quiet when we were there.

Overall, the conference was a great opportunity to meet people from all over the world and learn from them. And that’s really why we have to travel so far for these things, because good people work everywhere.


I don’t really like flying, but…

Saturday, September 15th, 2012

An airplane wing over Jeju, Korea You wouldn’t think so, given how much time I spend on airplanes, but I don’t like flying at all. I like seeing new places, but I think I’d be just as happy exploring every stop on the New York Subway as flying to new countries and exotic locales. But then it turned out that the science I wanted to do, and also the love of my life, happened to be on another continent. (Luckily, the same one!) Being a physicist is a travel-intensive business. So here I am, on my first trip to Asia, about to be run over by a typhoon.

Look forward to an entry from me sometime this week on the VERTEX 2012 conference. The conference doesn’t have a hash tag, but I might tweet about it anyway, if you’re terribly curious how it’s going.


Summer is a productive time for us and tends to involve lots of traveling.


Fig. 1: My 2010 PDG booklet and my Japan Rail pass. I am not sure which is more important.

Hi All,

As fellow QDer Aidan posted this morning, it is conference season, again! Lots and lots of conferences for all the different sub-sub-fields in physics. Two big ones on my plate are Neutrino 2012, which is about ALL things that begin with the letters n-e-u-t-r-i-n-o and end in the letter -s; and ICHEP 2012, which is the mother-of-all high energy physics conferences. (Much more on ICHEP in a few weeks seeing that I have been invited to be a panelist on the “Social Media in Science Communication” session. Trust me, it will be good.)

Neutrinos are all the rage these days: from #FTLneutrinos to θ13, we are determined to know precisely how neutrinos work. Fortunate for us, there is a huge international conference, imaginatively called “Neutrino,” next week in the gorgeous, ancient city of Kyoto, Japan, and you can definitely count on there be a Quantum Diaries presence. QDer Zeynep Isvan will be around, and, with the suggestion from my chief editor, Daisy, I will be live-blogging the plenary sessions when I can. The programme is also already online, so feel free to check out the topics.

After the conference, however, is when things get kicked into high gear for me. A few months ago I won a NSF summer fellowship to research dark matter in Japan. It is now summer, so for the next three months I will be a visitor at University of Tokyo’s prestigious Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe, or IPMU for short. I still have plots to make for a meeting today and my first flight is (literally) 24 hours from now. At least I have my trusty messenger bag already packed with two of the more important things: a Japan Rail pass and my 2010 PDG booklet!

See you in Kyoto!


Happy Colliding

– richard (@bravelittlemuon)

PS While adding links and sources to the post, I found my IPMU host on Twitter.

PPS More than 3.6 fb-1 worth of data has already been collected by the collider experiments.


Fig. X: Conference Poster for Neutrino 2012 in Kyoto, Japan (http://neu2012.kek.jp/)

Fig. 2: Conference Poster for Neutrino 2012 in Kyoto, Japan (http://neu2012.kek.jp/)


Why India is a Modern Country

Friday, April 20th, 2012

–by Nigel S. Lockyer, Director

I am back in India to attend the first International Advisory Committee meeting for the ANURIB project at VECC. It is hard to ignore how rapidly India is changing. But to have some fun with them, I came up with the Top Ten reasons India is a Modern Country.

  1. It is Saturday, April 15th, Nabobarsho, the Bengali new year. Poila Baisakh is the first day of the new year and is cause for celebrations and speeches by politicians. A sign of the times was the message was sent out in West Bengal by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to millions of cell-phone users.
  2. Katy Perry opened the India Premier League’s opening cricket game….OK, not a reason.
  3. Kolkata has just launched its first online radio station
  4. Attention squirrel lovers: The India forest department is using satellites to track down giant squirrels. What the heck are giant squirrels? Apparently they look like cats with long tails (2 feet) and weigh about 4-5 pounds. They are famous for jumping 20 feet between branches. The head and body of this scary animal is up to sixteen inches in length, compared to the ten of the Eastern Gray found in the US.  Relax, it is herbivorous!
  5. MS Dhoni, the cricket star, just signed a contract worth 200 crore or about $40M. With his TV contracts etc. he pulls in about 700 crore or $140M. Still waiting for his team to win a championship!
  6. The AC power adapter in my hotel room is universal. No need to carry around an adapter. Time to return the one CERN DG Rolf Heuer gave me several years ago that was useful about 50% of the time.
  7. Recently famous Bengali native Shah Rukh Khan (locally referred to as SRK) was detained in a NY airport because of his name. King Khan, the Bollywood superstar just laughed it off. However we hear the U.S. envoy was called to New Delhi for explanation. The U.S. said they have now invented and are ready to release an automatic South Asian apology machine for such cases—and the software was written by Indians!
  8. I couldn’t get a beer in the Mumbai hotel bar after 1:30 AM. Last call!
  9. Next evening I ordered a Kingfisher (a national Indian beer and quite good) and all they had was Heineken.
  10. Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre (VECC) in Kolkata is starting Phase I of a major new “green field” initiative in Rare Isotope Beam physics called ANURIB in Rajarhat, near the Kolkata airport. ANURIB is building off their present cyclotron driven RIB program. It involves a 100 kW, 50 MeV electron linac driver, a post accelerator, a cyclotron to raise the energy to over 100 MeV per nucleon and then a fragment separator. A very ambitious vision for India and it is getting strong support from the Government of India. Congratulations, VECC!



–by T. “Isaac” Meyer, Head of Strategic Planning & Communication

I am on location in Kolkata, India, at the Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre (VECC). It took me 36 hours travel time to get here from Vancouver, including two red-eye plane flights. It feels like 42 deg C outside and the computer firewalls are configured so that I cannot send or receive e-mail from my laptop. And the tap water is not potable.

Why did I come?

To have breakfast with scientific peers from around the world (RIKEN in Japan, ESS in Sweden, Cockcroft Institute in the UK, VECC and IUAC and BARC here in India, and so on). Okay, not just breakfast. Also a few lunches and dinners.

Of course, we actually came together to participate in the International Advisory Committee meeting for VECC and its proposed ANURIB project and the subsequent VECC/TRIUMF semiannual collaboration meeting. It still sounds like a cliché, but the reason we attend these meetings in person is because of the sidebar conversations.

At a single breakfast meeting with three colleagues, I got updated on the budget situation for UK science, learned why Higgs spectroscopy is so intrinsically compelling that its worth several billion dollars, reviewed Japanese recovery from the earthquake & tsunami, debated “coal smuggling” in West Bengal, speculated on the international flow of in-demand talented workers in accelerator physics & engineering, and re-learned the rules for scoring in cricket. I also drank four cups of masala tea.

In global computing and networking, the experts still say, “Never underestimate the bandwidth of an overnight package stuffed full of DVDs.”

In global science, I’d say, “Never underestimate the amount of collaboration & partnership that is supported by flying people 10,000 miles to share a coffee break.”

25-acre Rajarhat site of VECC...soon to contain a world-leading electron accelerator and isotope laboratory


Location, Location, Location

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

If I had to pick one thing that’s definitely better on my old experiment, ATLAS, than on my new experiment, CMS — and especially if I had to pick something I could write publicly without getting into trouble — it would be this: the ATLAS detector is across the street from the rest of CERN. I’m not sure how that was decided, but once you know that, you know where CMS has to be: on the other side of the ring, 5 or 6 miles away. That’s because the detectors have the same goals and need the same beam conditions; two opposite points on the LHC are where a duplicate performance is easiest. The pre-existing caverns from the LEP collider, whose tunnel the LHC now uses, probably also helped determine where the detectors are.

In any case, it used to be that when I wanted to work on my detector, I had only to go across the street. Now I have to drive out of Switzerland and several miles into France. Except, I don’t like driving. So I’ve been working on alternate means of transportation. A few months ago I walked. Last night I had to go to downtown Geneva, so I took the bus. It’s actually pretty good, although the bus stop is a mile away from CMS. There’s also the shift shuttle, which runs from the main CERN site to CMS every 8 hours via a rather roundabout route. And I can bike, once the weather gets better and I get myself a little more road-worthy. To be honest, every option for getting here is much slower than driving, but I enjoy figuring out ways to get places enough that I’m going to keep trying for a while.

I have plenty of chances to try, because I’ll be here in the CMS control room a lot of the time over the next few weeks. Right now, I’m learning and helping with the pixel detector calibration effort. (We’re changing the operating temperature, so all the settings have to be checked.) Soon I’ll be learning to take on-call shifts. So the more I stay here, the more I learn. I got here this morning, and I won’t leave tonight until about 11 pm. I could take the shift shuttle back — or maybe I’ll just get a ride.


Walking Across the LHC

Monday, November 28th, 2011

About a month ago, I walked back to Saint-Genis-Pouilly, France from the CMS experiment site after my last meeting of the day, which basically amounts to walking the width of the LHC ring: about 6 miles. Here are a few pictures from the walk:

More pictures, and commentary, on Google+…


Bloggers, face to face

Monday, May 9th, 2011

While I certainly enjoy exchanging email with my LHC colleagues (in limited quantities, of course), I don’t get to see many people from the LHC community in person on a regular basis. We’re just a little group of particle physicists here in Lincoln, NE. To see more colleagues face to face, I typically have to take a trip to CERN (I go maybe two or three times a year) or to Fermilab, a big hub for US CMS activity (I go there more often than to CERN).

So, it was a great pleasure to get to see two of my fellow US LHC bloggers within one week, and I didn’t have to go to either Fermilab or CERN! First, I was able to convince my old friend Michael to come to UNL to give a colloquium about electroweak physics at the LHC. Michael is currently co-leader of CMS’s electroweak physics group, and has worked on that slice of particle physics for a long time. I enjoyed the talk (of course); it gave me some perspective on where we are in electroweak physics in general, and where it is at the LHC. The W and Z bosons, the key particles of the electroweak theory, were discovered in the 1980’s — a long time ago, already — and have been characterized in great detail. Just saying that we have observed them at the LHC isn’t really interesting in these times. What is interesting is how we are putting the W and Z to use as probes of other particles. Just as we have long used particles such as electrons and neutrinos to understand the structure of the proton (by scattering them off protons), we are now using the production properties of W’s and Z’s to understand the contents of the protons that were used to create them. Or, as one of my colleagues asked during question time at the end, “Why wasn’t the title of this talk ‘QCD at the LHC’?” I can always count on MIchael to teach me something new.

And then, just one week later, I was at the annual US CMS collaboration meeting, hosted by our colleagues at Notre Dame. I had never been to Notre Dame before, and was impressed by their facilities. I’d have to say that these meetings are a bit more about “business” than “physics”, in that we’re not talking about specific measurements as much as the broader picture of where we are and where we are going with the LHC, and how the US component of the CMS collaboration can best take advantage of our strengths for the benefit of the entire experiment. In the year since the last US CMS meeting, everything has changed — last May, we were just beginning to record collision data, and now we have something like a thousand times more data than we did then (with perhaps another factor of ten to come this year, if we’re lucky.) That gives us a lot to be happy about, but of course we can also see where the challenges are. As collision rates increase, it will be a struggle to keep our trigger rates down to something manageable. Processing all of the data we record will be a strain, in part because of the sheer volume of data, but also because of the increased complexity of individual events. Already we need to start thinking about how we will upgrade the detector to handle collision rates that are anticipated to be a factor of ten to a hundred higher within a few years.

This meeting is always a good chance to catch up with US friends whom I haven’t seen for a while. It’s been ages since I’ve seen fellow US LHC blogger Robin, for instance. Of course the meeting was so busy that I barely had a chance to say hello. But ha, I managed to blog about the meeting before her!

And if all of this wasn’t enough — in between these two events, we also had an event for the Nebraska HEP group. We made the US CMS meeting an excuse to bring just about every member of our group home to Lincoln for a visit. It is extremely rare for all of us to get together, but it is almost always a valuable experience. We spent two and a half days going through everything that’s happening in our group (it’s a lot!), trying to figure out how we can work together more creatively, and just hanging out a bit. I really enjoyed seeing everyone.

I’m looking forward to seeing all of these people again soon…but I’m probably going to have to travel further afield to do so.


Breakfast in India, with Cricket

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

–By Nigel S. Lockyer, Director

[Ed. Note: This is the first of a three-part series penned by Nigel on his trip to India in early March 2011.]

I don’t start everyday reading the Hindustantimes sitting in a restaurant in Delhi having breakfast. It is not a bad paper. I have read the India Times for a few years online and I am going to switch now. Here, all the talk is the about the Cricket World Cup. Today, 2:00PM, England versus India. I hadn’t been here for more than two hours before the name Sachin Tendulkar came up. He is the top cricket player in the world, or so they say here. When Sachin is combined with his teammate Virender Sehwag, the Indians said they felt sorry for the English.   History has moved on in India I guess. You can feel the swagger. However the expectations cannot be met in all likelihood. Mahendra Singh Dhoni,  the captain, is clearly in a pressure cooker situation. The local paper says ” Mahendra Singh Dhoni,….holds the second-most high-pressure job after the Prime Minister in the country…”…I think that pretty much sums it up.

Oh, yes, I must have missed the tickets mess, that was a national disaster by the sounds of it. Police lathi-charged fans waiting to get tickets. Lathi is a stick introduced to India by the English for crowd control in the old days. It is highly ironic they are now being used to control crowds awaiting the England-India cricket match fans. Given the crazy world of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and everything else painful going on, I fully appreciate and am thankful to countries where priorities are recognized and appropriately set…think  Canada and Stanley Cup playoffs…the world news stops for the important stuff.

I was looking in the newspaper for anything to do with science. After all, India is big on technology and has a rich history in physics. Found one….electromagnetic radiations (newspaper provided the “s”, yes radiations) from mobile towers, particularly near your home, can be hazardous. The article was factual and said scientific evidence was not there yet so Delhi was being cautious and ruled that cell phone towers are not allowed near schools, hospitals, or homes. That is more progressive than Vancouver or Toronto. Oh, and the 700 million cell phone users in India is an amazing number along with 5.4 lakh towers (units in 100,000). That is to be compared with about 1000 cell phone towers in Toronto….TO residents are fighting them from being in their back yards. India plus one!

I am now going to pray like mad to Pavanputra Hanuman that I can get my talk finished for tomorrow in Kolkata.