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Jonathan Asaadi | Syracuse University | USA

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New Ubuntu Linux 11.04

Friday, April 29th, 2011

So I promised myself I wouldn’t put the most common blog entry I think there is on the internet by not writing about how I am sorry that I haven’t been blogging frequently and then make (most likely false) promises about blogging more (did I just fail at that?)

Anyways, I thought I would instead talk about the new Linux release of Ubuntu that I just downloaded and finally decided to abandon the dual boot world of Windows/Linux for my laptop and instead just use Linux exclusively.


I had effectively been doing this for the last year, but always had the safety net of being able to boot in windows if necessary. Now, after a glowing experience with Ubuntu Linux I went completely without a net into this new release!

Previously I was using Ubuntu 10.04 and was very pleased. As a member of the high energy physics community I was really pleased to see that the Ubuntu community had included CERN’s program ROOT as part of their software center! For those of you outside the physics world ROOT is THE FUNDAMENTAL PROGRAM used by physicists for just about everything we do. Without ROOT, we would likely be using an abacus and graphing paper.

Needless to say I was disappointed in the new version not to find the same convenience ready to install ROOT with a “click of the mouse”. However, unlike when I was a young grad student, the installation process has become much easier and better documented. Thusly, I was surprised when ROOT complained that I didn’t have a library installed (X11 for those that care) despite me explicitly following the well documented instructions on their page (http://root.cern.ch/drupal/). What I realized is that the libraries did in fact exists just not where ROOT was looking for them. Once I found this I made a series of softlinks (computer jargon for pointed the computer to where to look) and things ran swimmingly!

I thought I’d post the libraries that gave me issues in case there was anyone out there in the physics world considering changing brands of Linux and wanted to give Ubuntu 11.04 a whirl (Because heaven knows we can’t have a machine and NOT have ROOT installed)


jasaadi:/usr/lib$ sudo ln -s /usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libX11.so /usr/lib/libX11.so
jasaadi:/usr/lib$ sudo ln -s /usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libX11.so.6 /usr/lib/libX11.so.6
jasaadi@jasaadi-Inspiron-1420:/usr/lib$ locate libXft.so
jasaadi:/usr/lib$ sudo ln -s /usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libXft.so /usr/lib/libXft.so
jasaadi:/usr/lib$ sudo ln -s /usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libXft.so.2 /usr/lib/libXft.so.2
jasaadi:/usr/lib$ locate libXext.so
jasaadi:/usr/lib$ sudo ln -s /usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libXext.so /usr/lib/libXext.so
jasaadi:/usr/lib$ sudo ln -s /usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libXext.so.6 /usr/lib/libXext.so.6


Talks from Recontres de Moriond

Monday, March 14th, 2011

I thought I would share a good link to find all the current talks being given in the particle physics world from the conference Recontres de Moriond.

As said on the website the purpose of this conference is:

The purpose of the Rencontres de Moriond is to discuss recent findings and new ideas in physics in a pleasant, relaxed and convivial atmosphere. The meeting is intended to promote fruitful collaboration between various communities and institutes by bringing together a small number of scientists in inspiring surroundings.

Of course being in the Italian alps helps the relaxing and convivial atmosphere, I am sure.

While I’m not personally giving any talks at this conference many people I know are and you can expect some big name talks coming from the Tevatron.


Budget Problems Facing the U.S.

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

If it seems that the news lately has been grim coming out of the U.S…it is because it is. In a talk yesterday by the director of Fermilab Pier Oddone laid out some very bleak circumstances for the coming year that Fermilab and many scientific ventures face.

See Pier’s talk here

The short of it is the budget put forward by the Republican congress would slash domestic spending in view of the fact that the U.S would see 1.5 trillion dollar deficit in Fiscal Year 2011. Now that being said, these proposals actually only effect < 20% of the total budget and definitely don’t fix the total problem.

However, the impact would be very real! Since the U.S government has been acting on a continuing resolution (basically saying keep 2010 spending and appropriations since Congress didn’t pass a new budget), getting a 20% cut now actually amounts to a 40% cut for the rest of the year! This fact has DIRE impact on Fermilab as Pier said in his talk.

Impossible to accommodate such cuts without major disruptions:

  1. Stop operation of all accelerators immediately
  2. Slow down projects to barely keep-alive levels
  3. Prepare layoffs of 20% of the staff or 400 employees
  4. Furlough staff for roughly two of the remaining six months

This coming on the heels of the announcement that there would be no extension to the running of the Tevatron in 2011 means that things would slow down in the US High Energy Physics area very quickly with no clear signs of when they will pick up again.

Frankly, for a government that is purporting not wanting to miss “their sputnik moment” the idea of drastically cutting funding to fundamental research seems just plain stupid! Innovation does not happen in a climate where people are worried if the lab they work at is going to be there tomorrow…nor will “job creation” and “a balanced budget” happen by cutting spending to a small fraction of the overall budget that actually generates jobs and opportunities in the United States. The best quote I’ve heard to describe this sort of approach to budgetary problem solving was in an article in the Washington Post.

“Making the government lean by cutting the most defensible (and productive) federal spending is akin to making an overweight aircraft fly by removing the engine!”

So what do we do? Write your congressman/congresswomen and tell them that gutting science is no way to the future! There are instructions on the webpage of how to get this letter written. I encourage all readers to write to help save such great scientific programs such as Fermilab!
Write Congress


Snow-mageddon 2011 (Winter at Fermilab)

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Well, with all the talk of the terrible weather moving through the central united states I thought now would be a good time to chime in about life at Fermilab during the winter.

Winter weather is a fact of life in the midwest and this terrible storm is no different. Even the Tevatron tweeted some comments about it

Tevatron Store 8465 terminated intentionally – 7900 nb^-1 delivered. Store 8466 initial lumi = 352 ub^-1/s. Preparing for blizzard tomorrow.

followed up by the comment:

Tevatron Too bad the accelerator isn’t going to shovel my driveway.
Likewise, as a grad-student now living off site this sort of thing means that it is unlikely I’ll make it to the lab to work over the next few days. Generally, this isn’t  a big deal for me, the component of the detector I help maintain (Electromagnetic Calorimeter Timing or ‘EMTiming‘) has few to no problems and most of them are software related (one of calibrations drift) and can be dealt with remotely. What I do end up missing out on is being physically there to take part in the discussions and get feedback from experts.

Particle physics is an interesting game, especially from where I sit nearing the end of my analysis and hoping to present the results that will go in my thesis in the upcoming weeks. Getting feedback is really important, however presenting results that you haven’t vetted really well is also problematic. You can end up wasting a lot of time because you showed plots that had a “bug in them (bug meaning a problem in your code) or presenting an idea for estimating your background that ends up not working out….then having to explain in another talk why what you initially thought was wrong and how you were just wasting your time.

So, with Snow-mageddon bearing down on me, I will take this time to crawl into my little whole of an apartment and finish vetting my final plots and ideas.

CDF Collision Hall as seen from outside (in the spring)...very pretty orange

The CDF collaboration meeting is coming up in under 2 weeks and I need to have my results ready for presentation!

Time to get my ducks (or in the spirit of Fermilab) geese in a row!


No Run III for the Tevatron

Monday, January 10th, 2011
The Tevatron will shutdown at the end of Fiscal Year 2011

The Tevatron will shutdown at the end of Fiscal Year 2011

As was announced today by the director of Fermilab (see here) there will be no extension to the running of the Tevatron beyond 2011.

As stated:

“The present budgetary climate did not permit DOE to secure the additional funds needed to run the Tevatron for three more years as recommended by the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel.”

This marks a very sad day for me to hear that the experiment I am working on and have grown to love will be ending after this year.

It is especially hard to hear considering that this choice is being made (at least publicly) by budgetary considerations and not by the recommendation of the science that drives field.

I’ll probably have more to say on this in the coming days…but for now I have a PhD to finish and thought it would be worth while to post briefly on this.

See more related articles here:

From the Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/life-and-physics/2011/jan/10/1

From Chicago Buisness: http://beaconnews.suntimes.com/news/3242019-418/tevatron-fermilab-funding-accelerator-energy.html


Super-B accelerator moves forward (does the US move back?)

Monday, December 27th, 2010

As described in the following press release (see here). The Italian government has confirmed that they will be moving forward on the construction of the high intensity electron/positron collider known as SuperB.

Expected to produce 1000’s of B-Mesons and Tau particles every second this will allow physicists to study the very rare decays of these B mesons as well as study CP violation to a much higher degree of accuracy than previously possible.

The U.S. meanwhile is still holding in the background awaiting word if we will even have a say in the future of particle physics. With the awaiting word of the Tevatron extended run (see P5 report recommending the extension of the Tevatron here) and knowing that many of the components for the SuperB will come from the short lived PEP-II experiment at SLAC just reinforces that while the rest of the world is looking forward to the future of science the US is increasingly looking like it playing a “wait and see” game.

At least this physicists may end up having to look for jobs in Europe and add to the potential brain drain (all though in my case a very small drain) facing the US.


FORA.tv (Bringing Intellectual Discussion to my Ears)

Thursday, October 21st, 2010


One of the things that brings me much joy during the often difficult and trying times of finishing a PhD in particle physics is the overwhelming exposure I have to some really great intellectual minds and discussions. Being stationed at Fermilab and taking part in an experiment like CDF (which has a long history and much expertise) makes this even more possible!

Image from talk by Prof Sundrum

Image from talk by Prof Sundrum

In fact just a few weeks ago I got to see a lecture from one of my physics icons Prof Raman Sundrun on Warped Extra Dimensions. (See his talk here). This was really a great talk and the images used were simple but conveyed a really understanding of an incredibly difficult subject (only on this blog would working out the mathematics of 11 dimensions be considered “standard operating procedure”)

Along these same lines I was pleased when I stumbled across the website http://fora.tv. This website complies talks by many different experts and academics from all over the US and puts it all in one place (mostly) for free.

I’ve already watched some great lectures by Prof Steven Levitt (Author of Freakonomics and Prof of Economy and University of Chicago) NASA scientists David Morrison on the end of the world and 2012 myth…and I’m just getting started.

These types of intellectual discussions are great stimulus during those long coding sessions and paper editing nights. Where the intellectual work is already done and now you just need to bear down hard and turn through the work. So I thought this would be a great thing to share with our readers here.

Enjoy the talks!


Duck tape fixes everything!!!

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

As reported today in Symmetry Magazine blog Symmetry Breaking the crew at the Tevatron have been hard at confirming one of the oldest sayings in science/engineering/home repairs:

Duck tape will fix anything!!!

As the story is told, upon noticing the pressure rising in one of the cyrostat vacuum systems a team from the Accelerator Division Mechanical Support determined that a faulty rubber O-ring between two of the superconducting magnets had gone bad. However, having just come out of a summer shutdown and not wanting to add an additional 10 days of down time to the calendar that it would take to warm up the Tevatron and replace the ring other options needed to be explored. I think the article on Symmetry Breaking had a really good quote

“This big machine is four miles in circumference, with a thousand-some superconducting magnets, and one piece of rubber is gonna stop us?” Scott McCormick said. “I don’t think so. Not if we can help it.”

Showing where the faulty O-ring was

Showing where the faulty O-ring was

What amazes me is that an alternative option had already been explored 4 years ago!!! They had determined then that the handyman’s secret weapon (Duck tape) would be a perfect solution for exactly this case! So, low and behold, two days later and a few feet of duck tape and viola!!! You have one of the world premier particle accelerators back online and cranking like it never has before.

It is stories like this that I love about science. Millions of dollars to build, decades of building and engineering to make come to reality, countless man hours spent studying, tuning, and perfecting the operations of one of the most complex machines ever conceived by man kind! And, $2.47 roll of duck tape from the hardware store!

Never leave home / build a particle accelerator without it

Never leave home / build a particle accelerator without it


To Run or Not To Run…that is the question!

Monday, September 13th, 2010
Tevatron Accelerator

Tevatron Accelerator

There has been a great discussion raging at Fermilab surrounding the recent report given by the Physics Advisory Committee on August 31st. In this report the committee considered the impact of extending the life of the Tevatron through 2014 in what is being called around the lab Run III.

Basically what has been outlined is trying to answer the difficult question of whether or not the immediate physics payout of extending the life of the experiments and most likely doubling the data sets out weighs the potential impact on the future experiments at Fermilab. In addition, the performance of the experiments (CDF & D0) in terms of hardware, man power, and analysis reach have to be considered when viewed in light of the draw for many scientists to move onto other interesting experiments happening at Fermilab (NuMI, Project X, etc…) and elsewhere (CMS, ATLAS, and the like…)

What faces the lab, the director of Fermilab (Pier Oddone), and the scientists that work in the world of particle physics is a really difficult one. What they have to do is look into their crystal balls and ask the questions:

1) With the LHC going into a 15 month shutdown at the end of 2011, what will the data the is already on tape look like and what kind of physics reach will it provide us?

2) With the ever improving performance of the Tevatron and the experiments at Fermilab what is the likelihood of having a discovery with a larger data set (read: Find the Higgs or exclude the Standard Model flavor in the low mass ranges)

3) What does the funding question look like for the other interests of the lab in light of the extended running of the Tevatron? Not to mention the timeline / manpower / and resource availability!

These are just some of the big issues….there are clearly 100’s more that me as a lowly graduate student am probably not even aware of! But from my own perspective I see the PAC report as a great sign! Their conclusion was simple:

The Committee strongly endorses the extension of the Tevatron run for three years during 2011–2014 under either funding scenario presented in the charge. The Committee is aware that the development of the future programs might be severely affected and projects delayed by the Collider run. The Committee recommends that efforts be made to mitigate the effects. While the Tevatron run extension would take advantage of a compelling opportunity, the long-term plans of the Laboratory and of the field, as outlined by the P5 report, should be pursued vigorously.

I was really excited to hear this! As a young researcher on the verge of graduating I saw this recommendation as an opportunity to continue my with a post-doc at Fermilab working at a time in particle physics where the chance of a real discovery (Higgs/SUSY/Beyond Standard Model) is a real possibility and to be able to contribute to the American thrust of physics in the global arena during the shutdown/upgrade of the LHC.

There is no question what the future of high energy physics will be, and that is the Large Hadron Collider at CERN for many years. There is also no denying that Fermilab is looking to the future with the intensity frontier in such experiments like NuMI and Project X. However, we are at a time where the physics possibilities are so great, the timing too perfect, and the reach of our experiments so close, that I think it would be a shame not to extend the run and take this chance to make a major discovery!

Higgs Exclusion that could be extender (or discovery made) in the low mass region still to be explored

Higgs Exclusion that could be extended (or discovery made) in the low mass region still to be explored

I encourage everyone to read the PAC Report and get excited for the potential reach of the Tevatron! Coming back out of our summer shutdown we are already colliding with inital luminosities near 250 nb-1 and delivering 5000 nb-1 per store. There are so many exciting hints and clues in the analysis in the pipeline at CDF that adding more of this quickly accumulating data will help shed light on all the great mysteries.

Recent result from D0 showing hints of new physics to still be understood in the asymmetry of matter and anti-matter

Recent result from D0 showing hints of new physics to still be understood in the asymmetry of matter and anti-matter

So, when asked: “To run or not to run?” The answer is TO RUN! At least in this humble blogger’s opinion


2010 Hadron Collider Physics Summer School (Live and Streaming)

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010


The fifth annual CERN / Fermilab Hadron Physics summer school is currently going on right now at Fermilab in the Wilson Hall High Rise.

This annual summer school is a great opportunity for young physicists to listen to lectures about the field of high energy physics both experimental and theory. Furthermore, these  lectures are designed to give someone with limited experimental knowledge some real understanding of how these accelerators, detectors, and analysis computing take place in the real world of particle physics

This summer series is going on August 17th – August 20th and is available streaming online:

As well as the slides from the various speakers are publicly available here:

So even if you aren’t able to be at Fermilab for these lectures you can still enjoy them. Much thanks to the Fermilab visual media services!