Tuesday, July 13, 2010

CERN: when science involves a lot of waiting and routine maintenance work

Which of course, is less exciting for the particle physicists and also the public at large. Today, the PS (Proton Synchrotron) Booster had a bit of a problem, so they had to trace the entire diameter of it in the tunner to find out what's causing the 'beam leak' during the injection process. While I managed to learn more about how luminosity can be increased by improving the capability of multibunching (which means to enable multiple bunches (a bunch will consists of a few million of packets of protons) to be transfered at the same time. Of course, a lot of delicate maneuverings of the machine would be involved here, even as injection studies are done, as they have to make sure that they know exactly how the beam is moving about through the dipole magnets at all times. However, due to some problems at the Booster (and also some other problems at another sector), they had to ramp down the magnets and shut off the beam just so that the engineers can go down into the tunner to troubleshoot. Frantic calls are made to-and-fro between the tunnels, the different experiments' control rooms and of course, from the LHC control room. The objective of achieving more physics tonight is not going to happen, without the beam. This could not be happening at the worst time than now, with a major bi-annual event about to happen in Paris in the fourth week of July, where data from the LHC, some months into its operation (and occasional shutdowns), were being reconstructed and analyzed for presentation at the ICHEP 2010. In fact, many meetings are taking place talking about that even as I am visiting right now. And it is disappointing that I could not really witness actual collisions and data flowing in during my shift shadowing. However, I certainly learnt a lot about how the different consoles are connected to each other, and to read the figures on the machines, even if they are full of acronyms and huge numbers.

One thing you'll soon learn about huge scientific communities is how they create their own little acronyms that became so plentiful that many of the regular users forget the full name of the thing the acronyms were referring to.

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