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Posts Tagged ‘control room’

Simultaneous Work and Play

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

Another weekend of combined ATLAS running.

In the past we would try to exercise the combined system in these big ‘Milestone’ weeks. And those haven’t gone away but now as the beam looms nearer and nearer we have added weekly-weekend combined running as well.

In other words: There goes my summer completely.

ATLAS is just big. In all dimensions. In physical size, in the amount of electronics, in the number of computers, in the number of people. Everything. And so it is no wonder that when we try to get all the little parts of this big system running smoothly together it takes a lot of time.

And getting the system running is exactly what me and several others spent 17 consecutive hours doing last Friday. But! We had things to keep us happy. Initially I was bummed that I was stuck in the control room while the Euro cup quarter-finals were being played.

But hey, this is a high-tech experiment. With a very nice big flat screen, nominally used for displaying the beam parameters. But since there is no beam, why not use it to display… say… Croatia vs. Turkey…

By the end of the night, we had the combined run set-up and the game on the big screen. Here is the video which proves that while we were indeed watching the game, the run was actually going. As the footage was taken from a phone, it is a little hard to see but the zoom in on the computer screen shows a happily running detector. Really.

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Control Room Design

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

I spent the day in the ATLAS control room yesterday. I was on shift at the Liquid Argon Calorimeter desk in the back right corner. The shift wasn’t very exciting. We were taking calibration data all day which is kind of like sitting in a car in the driveway with the motor running instead of driving around. It should have taken an hour or two, but it took about six hours instead due to various glitches. We are still very much in the commissioning phase here, and things aren’t working as well as they eventually will. It is understandable since the detector has just been built and it is tremendously complicated.

Anyway, I took a moment to snap a few photos of what the control room looks like nowadays from where I was sitting.

ATLAS Control room, May 19, 2008

View from my seat in ATLAS control room on May 19, 2008

It is a lot different from the control room where I spent a lot of time on my old experiment, the DZero control room.

Besides the size difference which you would expect since ATLAS is a bigger detector with more people working on it, there is a very different feel to it. The DZero control room was laid out in a circle, while everyone is facing in the same direction in the ATLAS control room. You might not think that the DZero control room was conducive to social interaction since everyone was facing outwards and away from one another. In practice, the middle of the room was where everyone talked and it was very easy to walk over to any other console in the room and chat with the person working there. Since everyone had to pass through the center of the room often, you were forced into seeing everyone and had the chance to see what was going on everywhere in the room. Also, the Shift Captain who was in charge of the room and data taking during a shift was in the center and could turn around and talk to anyone.

From talking to other particle physicists from other experiments, I think most prefer the circular style to the ATLAS style. In ATLAS, I have no idea what is going on in the far side of the room. And while I saw plenty of people walking around yesterday to each other’s consoles, I also saw a lot going on in the far corners of the room that I could only wonder about. The designers must have thought that this layout was better for some reason, but I don’t know what it is.

While I am sure the ATLAS control room will eventually take on a cozier feel for me after I’ve had the chance to pass a few overnight shifts there with my colleagues, it’s too bad our control room isn’t like the CERN control center.

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The Chancellors Visit

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

Never a dull moment at ATLAS. On tuesday, in the midst of our usual action-packed combined detector running and the final last-minute installations, the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel came for a visit and tour.

Now, on a normal day, the control room is immaculate, as I have noted before. But I didn’t realize until Tuesday that there can be another level of clean which is beyond immaculate. The morning before her visit, there were more people cleaning in the control room and the downstairs counting rooms than there are physicists on ATLAS. And hours before she arrived, there were photographers everywhere. I felt almost famous with all the flashing lights.

Just by looking around the control room, you could tell something was up though. (I mean besides the battalion of cleaners and photographers or the fact that the parking lot around the surface building had been completely barricaded off for days beforehand, or that all the furniture in the meeting room adjacent to the control room had been gutted and replaced with very expensive chairs, nice glasses and imported bottles of water, or the podium with microphones constructed outside for any impromptu speeches, or the little red carpet set-up on the stairs leading to the control room). Smaller details were noticeable. Such as the level of dress was just a little higher. Not a lot. Just a little. For example instead of old, torn faded jeans, the jeans were slightly newer on average. Instead of having their cell phones at the ready, most people were equipped with an easily accessible digital camera. And of course the proportion of Germans to the total control room population was much higher than usual.

Her visit to CERN is of specific interest not only because Germany contributes a large amount of funding to CERN but also because she is a physicist by training. So we were all very excited to show off our detector to a fellow enthusiast. And the fact that she is the most powerful political woman in the world was more like a footnote.

When she came into the control room, she was standing right in front of my desk, listening to Peter Jenni (our illustrious ATLAS spokesperson) give an overview of the detector. Unfortunately at that very moment, I was having extreme frustrations configuring Tile Cal for some tests we were doing. I tried my best to keep my frantic hand gestures and exasperated muttering at the computer screen to a minimum. But I suppose the occasional cursing physicist adds to the realism of the tour.

Of course immediately after she left the control room to tour the detector, we all had to sneak outside to check out her motorcade (because who doesn’t love a good motorcade). It was very fun to be able to see her. But then it was back to work as usual.

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The Control Room Life

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

If you were to analyze my daily life based on my posts, you would probably conclude that my average day consists of sitting around in the control room, sitting around in meetings, taking cosmic data, being interrupted by power cuts and cabling things. And today I am certainly 4 for 5 in that list. I spent most of the week in the control room, squeezed in a few meeting, took some cosmic data and was stopped by a full power cut thus ending all attempts at data taking. I have yet to cable anything, but the day is still young.

We are in yet another ‘combined running’ week which is a lot like one of the milestone weeks. But unlike the Milestone weeks which combined all sub-systems in ATLAS, in this week we are only combining the calorimeters: TileCal, Liquid Argon, and the level-one calorimeter trigger. Pretty much from now until beam, we will be having combined running weeks. For example Calo-week this week, or Muon-week, or Inner Detector week or Muon-Calo week, etc.

What we get with the combined running weeks is priceless: the chance to see the sub-systems all running together and to be part of the intensity in the control room as everyone works to get ATLAS ready for beam. But it is not without frustration. When you build any detector, especially something this big, patience is a necessity. Take this week for example, we want to run some tests of our timing but we are delayed several hours because of DAQ problems. Finally we start the tests and the control goes dark due to the power cut. This is life when commissioning a detector. It is a 3-to-1 ratio. What you think will take one hour, always ends up taking three. And it is incredibly frustrating but there is nothing you can do but wait.

That is the control room life. Long periods of nothing, followed by intense periods of frantic activity. Ah! The power is back. The waiting is over, its time to go again!

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