Archive for September, 2008

Ten of Clubs: Still Point Five

This is to be sung to the tune of ‘Still Alive‘ by Jonathan Coulton. I will post a recording, and probably a video, some time in the next few days.

This isn’t TRIUMF
We’re sending a beam through CMS.
Can’t wait to see some novel interactions.

Popular Science
will call up their troubadour(k)y man
To sing in praise of all of us
and he’ll sound better than this.

But there’s no sense cheering over every beam
they’ll just keep appearing till you have an umpteen
when the celebration’s done,
do your calibration run.
Tell the crackpots they’re all still alive.

We’re not yet colliding.
But soon we’ll be lighting up the barrel
with 14 TeV of former protons
We’ll smash them to pieces
and slam every piece into a wire
except the LSP because
it will go all the way through.
Now our points of data come from crystals of lead tungstate,
and we’re out of beta we’re releasing a few years late
but the science gets done,
and more funding will come
now you’ve seen that you’re all still alive.

We’ll find the Higgs boson.
We’ll find that the answer’s forty-two.
Maybe we can even find the question.
We’ll blow up the planet.
That was a joke. ha ha, fat chance.
Anyway, this spaceplane’s great,
let’s try to make it collide.
Look at me still talking when there’s science to do
when I look up there I think I see a mu-mu.
But we need to repair
see you in the new year,
In the meantime the DAQ’s still online.

And believe me we are still online.
We’re taking cosmics and we’re still online
And when there’s beam we will be still online
And ISOLDE will be still online
Because those show-offs had beam all the time.
All the time
still online

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Hearts Word Cloud

Here is the Wordle word cloud for the hearts:

I forgot to post it earlier. I’ve made a new ‘Wordle’ category so you can easily get to the previous word cloud. 

There will be a Thing coming up in just under an hour. It’s already finished, but I’m hoping to finish the multimedia extravaganza that goes with it before midnight. I don’t think I will, but I’m going to try to at least give you a taste of it, because it’s the part I’ve spend the most time on, and frankly, the main thing that will make this Thing cool. Look at me still typing when there’s multimedia extravaganzing to do…

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Valet of Clubs: Discours inférieur

I find the words to make a distant friend,
and check them twenty times before I send,
an error-checking code in every byte.

We find a space in meatspace we can meet.
I shuffle past and only see my feet,
for you I know by words and not by sight.

I linger and pretend that I’m not there,
you find me in the end but I’ll not dare
to speak the words I only know to write.

No sooner are they loud enough to hear,
I go back in my shell for one more year.

We meet again, I recognise your face
but still can’t find the words to match your pace.
They’re crushed in scattered pauses far too tight.

I watch your wordfights, watch you shoot the breeze
I savour each riposte at each reprise
but when they’re aimed at me I flee in fright.

But battles one by one’ll turn to chances,
I creep along the tunnel by advances
And start to see a distant shaft of light

but with the light I see my train appear,
and go back to my home for one more year.

When next we meet I’m not so far behind,
I speak whenever something comes to mind,
I know your mouth just speaks, it doesn’t bite.

I speak before I’ve checked it twenty times
I post before I’ve found some better rhymes,
It doesn’t matter if it isn’t right.

For ten mistakes I say a dozen things,
so why not flap my tongue and flap my wings?
I take the plunge and try to take a flight,

and whack into a wall. It’s very clear
I’ll still be in this cage for one more year.

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Queen of Clubs: A History of the Large Hadron Collider, part I: Conception

Between March 21 and 27, 1984, theorists, experimentalists, accelerator physicists, and experts in superconducting magnets gathered for a workshop in Lausanne and Geneva. They were not there to discuss the Large Electron Positron collider, for which excavation of a 27km near-circular tunnel would soon begin at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. They had come to discuss a possible playmate for the LEP, a collider of protons and perhaps antiprotons to be installed alongside the LEP in the same tunnel. Some nicknamed it the Juratron, after the Jura mountains under which part of it would pass. Officially, it was known as the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC.

The LHC would accelerate protons to an energy of up to 9 TeV, more than nine million times the energy of a proton at rest. To keep such high energy particles on course in a ring as small as the LEP, the LHC would need superconducting magnets with a magnetic field of 10 Tesla, about 2000 times the strength of a refrigerator magnet (pictured.) The superconductor technology available at the time could theoretically be extended to create magnetic fields of up to 6 or 7 Tesla, but substantial new developments would be necessary to reach the required 10 Tesla.

Carlo Rubbia concluded the workshop with the statement, “Perhaps the time has come for us to pause, at least until the magnet, accelerator, and detector issues have made some significant progress.” There would be no playmate for LEP just yet, but it would come.

The LEP tunnel was made big enough to fit two accelerators. By the end of 1986, only half a kilometre of it remained to be dug. A preliminary technical study on the possibility of building the LHC on top of the LEP was carried out, and it seemed like a better deal than the alternative proposition of a 1 TeV linear electron-positron collider. With the LHC and LEP together, electron-positron collisions, electron-proton and proton-proton collisions would all be possible, with protons injected by CERN’s existing proton accelerators. Nobody had managed to make strong enough superconducting magnets yet, but there was optimism that it was possible.

In 1987, the first LEP magnet was installed in the newly-completed tunnel, and the first model of an LHC dipole magnet was made. To save space and money, the two opposing proton beams would pass through separate channels within the same magnet. Studies were underway of the possibilty of using either niobium-titanium or niobium-tin for the magnets, or perhaps the recently developed ‘high temperature’ superconductors. The next year, a niobium-titanium superconducting magnet was made which could provide a magnetic field of more than 9 Tesla. It was hoped that the LHC would be able to reach an energy comparable to the 20 TeV of the Superconducting Super Collider being built in Texas.

In the early afternoon of Bastille day 1989, physicists were jublilant to see the evidence of the first beam of positrons sent around the LEP: an unassuming white oval on a blue screen. But for all the eyes fixed on the LEP, more than ever were looking forward to its companion, the LHC.

Many studies were carried out on the feasibility of the superconducting magnets, cryogenics, and civil engineering that would be required. All confirmed that such a machine could indeed be constructed. Two models of LHC dipole magnets in niobium titanium, and one in niobium-tin, both produced fields of around 9.4 Tesla. A cost estimation and construction schedule for the LHC were established: it could be put into service by 1998, while only slightly disturbing the functioning of the LEP.

In 1990, more detailed plans of the LHC were prepared, and delegates from CERN member states proposed the idea to their respective states, expecting a decision by 1992. A timely decision would mean that the LHC could start operations in 1998, as predicted, for a cost comparable to that of the LEP. With 9 metre magnets creating a field of 10 Tesla, it would collide two beams of protons with an energy of up to 7.7 TeV each. Four prototype 1 metre long 10 Tesla dipole magnets were ordered from four different companies. A life-sized prototype was constructed, with a field strength of 7.5 Tesla.

On 20 December, 1991, the CERN council unanimously approved the LHC project. By that time, thousands of hours of on supercomputers had been spent simulating the interactions that would occur in the LHC. The council asked that all technical and financial details be worked out by 1993.

Preparations picked up momentum in 1992. A conference in March on the LHC attracted 600 scientists. In October, the LHC Experiments Committee received letters of intent for three possible LHC experiments: ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC Apparatus), CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) and L3P (Lepton and Photon Precision Physics.)

Although the required 10 Tesla field had already been achieved, it was considered too difficult to maintain. Therefore the decision was taken to elongate the dipole magnets to 13.5 metres by deplacing other elements. This would increase the time that the protons were exposed to the field, lowering the necessary field strength to 9.5 Tesla.

In 1993, two of the proposed experiments, CMS and ATLAS were approved, along with a new proposition, ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment.) In December 1993, exactly two years after the council’s approval of the LHC, the requested information was presented. Construction could soon begin.

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King of Clubs: Not TOP

Sorry, I didn’t get time to write a Thing this week, because I was secretly somehow involved in the anonymous collaboration which created this video, a song based on Don’t Stop by Sarah Bettens with assorted advice for people working at CERN. Luckily, it features a king of clubs, so guess what… since I’m past the middle of the project, I’m counting down from kings to aces from now on.

You can download the video in Quicktime format, an mp3 of the song, the slideshow used to make the video, and the lyrics here.

So now you know why I was taking photos of a rubber duck back in April. I took the photo of it with the king of clubs, in the hope that it would earn me a week off.

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