It was the 5th of July 2004 when I first set my foot at CERN to attend its Summer School programme. I was near the end of my physics studies without any plans of what to do next. Two months later, after having worked with the amazing people at the CAST experiment and having learnt loads of stuff, I found myself leaving the lab hoping that I would manage to return somehow.
Coming summer 2007, July again. A young, care-free PhD student from the physics department of the University of Wisconsin-Madison steps through CERN’s Entrance B (yes, that would me). Had someone told me back then, that I would end up spending the next decade of my life at the world’s top research facility I would definitely call them nuts.
But I did. And it was amazing.
We put the world’s largest particle smasher into operation. We collided gazillions of protons, discovered new particles and eventually this research led to a Nobel prize. For my part, I spent my time doing physics analyses, worked on helping the CMS experiment take data, contributed into studies for future experiments and spend loads and loads of time guiding visitors at CERN and producing material to share what we do here with the world. In August 2008, on an afternoon that I was too lazy to do any real work because of the heat, I created the CMS Facebook page – it has currently reached over 16000 likes!
People came and left. I made friends at CERN who are now scattered all over the world and too many to mention, which is probably a most welcome problem for someone to have to deal with.
But you all know who you are, right? I owe a gargantuan thank you to all of you for making my stay here special and memorable. It’s not goodbye between us; à bientôt!
From now on you will be able to find me in the Eindhoven region in the Netherlands, working for ASML, making sure everyone can get better, faster, smaller microprocessors for our gadgets. And it will be awesome!
I got to know Terry Pratchett through his books while I was in the US. It was a used book store that I saw a paperback titled Small Gods. I liked the cover, the description was quite interesting and that’s how it all began… Now, I am at the moment one third of the way having read the Discworld series books. I always thought that at the rate Terry was writing books I could not keep up with reading all of them. Sadly, one of his favorite characters, Death, decided he liked him a bit too much. Now at least I can catch up.
Many congratulations to Odysseus’ Comrades the Greek school team from Varvakios Pilot School in Athens, for being one of the two winning teams of CERN’s beam line for schools competition!
Odysseus’ Comrades are a team of 12. Their proposal is to look at the decay of charged pions (particles containing a quark and an antiquark) to investigate the weak force, one of the four fundamental forces of nature.
An extract from their proposal A Nature’s Preference:
Weak force keeps the Sun and the other stars glowing and gives life to life. Studying the history of particle physics we found out that weak force was the motive power for major discoveries in CERN: pion decay to electron, neutral currents, W and Z and recently Higgs boson. So in relation to 60th anniversary of CERN we decided to propose an experiment related to a peculiar property of weak force, namely its preference to left-handed particles and right-handed antiparticles.
Their presentation video:
Today’s CERN Press Release
Enjoy the journey people! Πολλά μπράβο!
Physicists here at CERN love acronyms! Some of them are complete tongue-twisters (try pronouncing MWRG!), others sound not awfully bad (like CRUZET or CRAFT). Learning these fast is a big challenge for newcomers 🙂
This not-so-great photo shows the path the protons follow before they collide at the very center of the CMS detector (which is just a couple of meters from where this photo was taken). In a few weeks, the so-called Beam Pipe will be placed here and radially outwards the CMS Silicon Tracker will take its rightful place as the CMS detector is preparing for the startup of the Large Hadron Collider.
Now, why do I write all this? Well, while sitting in a meeting I heard these three coming up in the discussion and felt a bit nostalgic. Last time I had heard them was in 2009 when we were again preparing for an LHC start up. Interesting times.
MWRG : Mid-Week Global Run (preparatory test runs performed weekly as detectors are being commissioned)
CRUZET : Cosmic RUn at ZEro Tesla (full CMS-wide test run with the magnet off, without beam, but looking at particles offered to us for free by cosmic radiation)
CRAFT : Cosmic Run At Four Tesla (full CMS-wide test run with the magnet ON, again using cosmic radiation particles)
…is not taken lightly. This is from a cupboard installed 100m underground, near the CMS detector…
Come near if you dare 🙂
A spectacular discovery was announced a couple of days ago by the BICEP2 (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization) telescope which is located at the South Pole with an aim to measure the polarisation of the cosmic microwave background (CMB).
They announced the observation of evidence for cosmic inflation to a statistical certainty of 3σ. Inflation is a period of extremely rapid expansion of the very early universe during which its volume increased by a factor of up to 1080 in a small fraction of a second. The way to understand what happened back then is to measure the remnants of that period, what we call today the CMB. The CMB was discovers by radio astronomers Penzias and Wilson (1978 Nobel Prize) and in the words of Dr. Torsten Enßlin:
The CMB is a snapshot of the oldest light in our Universe, imprinted on the sky when the Universe was just 380,000 years old. It shows tiny temperature fluctuations that correspond to regions of slightly different densities, representing the seeds of all future structure: the stars and galaxies of today.
BICEP2 finds first direct evidence of cosmic inflation [physicsworld]
Space Ripples Reveal Big Bang’s Smoking Gun [nytimes]
Here’s the reaction of Stanford Professor Andrei Linde, a theorist who is one of the main authors of the inflationary universe theory when he hears about the news:
In a few days, CERN opens its doors to everyone!
On Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th of September from 9 in the morning until 8 in the evening you can meet people working here, visit CERN installations and descend 100 meters underground to the experimental caverns!
On both days in the morning I will be a guide underground at Point 4 of the Large Hadron Collider ring where LHC’s accelerating RF cavities are located.
The visits are available to everyone and are free. There are 35 sites on surface which you can visit anytime, but you will need a (free) ticket to get to the underground sites. You can reserve one here: https://opendays-tickets.cern.ch/ and make sure you’ve read the safety information: https://opendays2013.web.cern.ch/safety !