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Paul Jackson | CERN | Switzerland

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The last few weeks

Well, it has been an awfully long time since I posted anything whatsoever here on QD and for that I must apologise. In fact I have been rather increasingly missing my opportunities to post good interesting blogs for a sweet while. So I’ll give you a brief run down of some of the things filling my last few weeks. Let’s start with…..

…travel:
Yes we physicists love to travel. A couple of weeks ago I flew from Geneva all the way down to Australia for a whistle-stop tour of the antipodes. It was indeed a flying visit of only 5 days in total where I was afforded the opportunity (I should really say privilege) to interact and discuss physics for a few days with members of the ATLAS group in Melbourne initially. I presented a seminar talk there and met with some colleagues before flying on to Adelaide to discuss high energy physics with many members of their faculty, representing various physics disciplines, presented a colloquium on ATLAS and the LHC and showed some first results from searches for Stable Massive Particles using the ATLAS detector (a beautiful paper that you can read all about in this arXiv posting. It was a break from my everyday responsibilities but a real treat to interact with colleagues, meet new interesting people and discover a fun and vibrant part of the world for the first time (I’d been to Australia before but never Adelaide). The other remarkable thing of this is that through ATLAS I now have a good friend to visit in Melbourne and could combine a little relaxation time with my work ‘duties’.
This week I’ll be off to Rome for a few days to finish off what looks like being another week of meetings. Along with a colleague at “La Sapienza”, the main city University of Rome, I have organized a short workshop to study the potential synergies of some of ATLAS’s effort on Exotics and Supersymmetry searches. In a collaboration of so many people it can often be difficult to see the wood for the trees and so a few days of concentrated work and discussion away from the spotlight of CERN can be remarkably beneficial for productivity and inspiration. A smaller subset of us met up in Copenhagen last year to great effect, leading to some very informative work. Why have the meeting away from CERN? Why blag yourself a free couple of days in Rome you ask? Well, at CERN it is very difficult to get this atmosphere of everyone focused on a particular set of points, working in a team for a short period. We have the tendency to wander off, go back to our offices, work on other things, or more seriously, be on-call where we could be called away at any moment. These short workshops are like taking a little bit of research “me time”, and more often than not you learn a lot more in an informal setting chatting to people about their efforts than you do listening to talks or reading papers (“What exactly do you mean?”, “I’ve never understood that, could you tell me what it is?”, “Why does that work anyway?”………questions you would *never* ask in a public meeting but far easier to ask in a more informal remote setting).
After Rome it’s back to lovely CERN where springtime is starting to bloom if only we didn’t have to………

…….work:
Yup, the other thing taking up my time. Not so bad, the winter conference rush is over (something I’ll hopefully mention briefly in an upcoming post) but physics never sleeps. Just as we’ve polished off the last of the champagne and smoked the last of our celebratory conference deadline meeting cigars the LHC is ready to roll into action again, and like any good action movie sequel, this time, it’s serious!
2011 promises to be a watershed year for the LHC. All of the experiments have demonstrated their impressive turn around to publish results at breakneck speed from when the data is available and the quality of those results is very good indeed. But this year, well, let’s try and put it in perspective. In a few good runs of the machine (a couple of days basically) the LHC has delivered around half of the data it did in the entirety of the 2010 running. She’s having a technical stop now (an oil change, but we’re buying her some rims and a sweet new sounds system to boot) and will be back in business colliding beams very soon. The perspective I mentioned, the size of last years dataset will be increased by greater than a factor of 10 in time for the big summer conferences (starting in July), and we may have that data even earlier for conferences coming up in June! That dataset increase alone could be enough statistical power to see an excess of events in some of the search channels for new physics. That’s 3 months from now. The future is now! By the end of the year, last years dataset could have been increased by almost a factor of 100. With that type of data there is possibility of even some precision measurements.
My work has not only been kept busy working on analyses to exploit this summers dataset (while still finishing up one from the past years data) but also in coordinating the use of a new type of ATLAS data storage type which until now had not been used very extensively but which we will rely on more so this year. In order to save disk space for the upcoming data deluge,
and to give us resources to analyse it, the decision was made to dispense with a detailed data format from ATLAS and we were charged to store this information for interested users, but only use 1% of the data volume that had previously been taken up. Quite a challenge, but an important one to meet, and we’re going at it head-on.

The only other things I had time for this weekend was……

……oysters:
I am lucky enough to have become friends with an elderly gent from Beaujolais who sells his wines (which he harvests and makes all on his own) in the locals markets on Saturday and Sunday. He stays over in one of the spare rooms I have on Saturday night in exchange for a few bottles of his delicious wine. He’s a jovial character and this Saturday he arrived at my place with a couple of dozen oysters and some chilled white wine to share. A great way to start a Saturday afternoon, then pop down to lake Geneva to hang out with some friends, back over to France for an afternoon/evening barbeque before dashing back into Switzerland for a few hours of band practice before the night unfolds.

So all-in-all it’s been a busy time, but we’re all busy, aren’t we?

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