Archive for category CERN

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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Queen of Hearts: Why?


Why are there poodles?
Why are there cats?
Why are there Bellan wrasse?

Cross-breeding of oodles
For eating of rats
To boost ocean biomass

Why are there leatherbacks?
Why is there beer?
Why is there Notre Dame?

We’ve banned aphrodisiacs
To free us from fear
In an effort to sauver nos âmes.

Is there a god who says, “It’s ’cause I say”?
Is it for people who like it that way?
Is it ’cause particles followed some law?
Is it just random events, nothing more?

Why corythosaurus?
Why Holsteiner horse?
Why are there Cooper pairs?

To kill time before us
To show feats of force
They send thirteen thousand amperes

Why are there wood hedgehogs?
Why are there clothes?
Why are there queens of hearts?

For Lumpi to teach French dogs
To hide what God loathes
So the kings can enjoy their parts

Is there a god who says, “It’s ’cause I say”?
Is it for people who like it that way?
Is it ’cause particles followed some law?
Is it just random events, nothing more?

Why Malahide Castle?
Why’s there Lake Sils?
Why are there tundra swans?

To use a land parcel
It rains, the hole fills
Now there’s no room for mastodons

Why are there butterflies?
Why are there birds?
Why did they bridge the Arve?

It’s so we don’t shut our eyes
To free falling turds
For the sake of appearing suave

Is there a god who says, “It’s ’cause I say”?
Is it for people who like it that way?
Is it ’cause particles followed some law?
Is it just random events, nothing more?

Why Maison du Mayet?
Why are there hares?
Why cruise in Georgian Bay?

It’s a raison de payer
For chic furry wares
‘Cause it’s ever so trendy that way

Why the Venice regattas?
Why the Rhine falls?
Why are there crested grebes?

Dear historical matters
For souvenir stalls
To eat the spare dough in Thebes

Yes to the god who says, “it’s ’cause I say!”
Yes for the people who like it that way.
Yes to the particles following laws
Yes to the random, its wonderful flaws.

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Nine of Hearts: Broken Symmetry


The mirror did not seem to be operating properly

Nines of hearts featuring CP violation at LHCb: The mirror did not seem to be operating properly. Click to see a guardian Angela.

The following is a story I wrote in 1996, unaltered except for one word. This week’s Thing is below it.

Mirror Image

It was not until my twelfth birthday that I realised the face I saw in the mirror was not mine.

I had always assumed it was me – with the long brown hair, hazel eyes, and the line of freckles joining two rosy cheeks. Indeed, that corresponded to the way others hazily described me. The image perfectly mimicked my actions, wore my clothes in the way I imagined they looked on me. I had no reason to doubt that it was my reflection that I could see, as she looked convincingly like photographs of myself.

Ironically, it was my kitten, Angel, who led me to discover what I am sure I was better off not knowing. She was given to me on the birthday which I have mentioned, a cat such a pure white that the name Angel immediately sprang to mind, and stayed there, when I first saw her. The kitten did not seem to have such an angelic temperament, however. As soon as I released her from the box she had been brought to me in, the distressed kitty leapt at my face, giving my cheek a scratch which would have been very painful, had it been caused by a fullgrown cat. Quickly I rushed to the bathroom to inspect the damage in the mirror. I was relieved, though a little puzzled, to see that the scratch had not even marked my face, and went back to my friends in the lounge.

“Ooh, that’s a nasty scratch, Hannah – we should put some Savlon on that,” said my mother.

I thought she was joking, and said, “Oh, of course, it probably needs stitches as well!”

“It’s not that bad, Hannah, it’s just bleeding a little. But we don’t want you getting an infection from the cat.”

“But… there isn’t even a mark! Don’t be silly, Mum.”

“I think you’re the one being silly, Hannah. That scratch sticks out like a sore… like a sore cheek. I’ll get the Savlon.”

By this time even my friends were beginning to look at me strangely, so I didn’t say anything more. Before I went to bed that night I looked in the mirror again, but still no scratch had appeared on the image.

The next day – Sunday – I spent in front of my mirror, examining the image and comparing it to photos. I noticed several subtle differences – her eyes were a slightly different shade, she had a few extra freckles. While I wasn’t looking at the mirror my mind was occupied solely with trying to figure out who she was. Did I have a twin who had died at birth, and now watched me through the mirror? My mother assured me that no, I had never had a twin sister, and wondered why I had asked. I dared not tell her.
So who was it? Soon I became very uncomfortable around mirrors – I did not like the thought of her watching me. By the time I was fifteen my thoughts were permanently filled with dread, the awful feeling of being watched. I started to plan shopping trips so that I could pass as few reflective surfaces as possible – my friends thought I was weird, and soon they were not my friends. I was relieved at this – no longer would I have to think of excuses not to go out.

I covered my bedroom mirror with a blanket – my brothers teased me that I could not stand seeing my own ugly reflection. If only they knew. I was becoming ugly, I knew that – it’s hard to maintain a good appearance without mirrors for makeup, and even harder to look happy when you’re being watched by the devil,

I managed to completely avoid seeing the image for eight months. At times I managed to seem normal. but I was always scheming to avoid her seeing me. My mother sent me to a psychiatrist, but I ran away from there when I saw the reflective silver stars on her walls – meant to be cheerful but instead terrifying. They were only peep-holes for her to watch me through.

Then one day, when I was seventeen, I came home to see my mother had done spring-cleaning. The windows sparkled with a near-transparent image of the spy. Even the netball cups I had won before discovering her were displayed on the mantelpiece, their newly-cleaned silver proudly reflecting what I used to think was me. I ran to the sanctuary of my mirrorless bedroom.

She looked straight at me, taunting me with a replica of my own paranoid face. My mother had cleaned my mirror for me.

I threw a sneaker at the mirror to smash it. She continued to watch me, the face more disfigured by cracks in the glass. I grabbed a sliver of it and thrust it into my chest, preferring death to this life tormented by the devil’s spy. As I slipped into unconsciousness I heard her speak to me.
“You needn’t be afraid… I’m only your guardian angel.”

(now comes the Thing A Week part.)

Mirror Image II

It was not until my twelfth birthday that I realised the face I saw in the mirror was not mine.

I had always assumed it was me – with the long brown hair, hazel eyes, and the line of freckles joining two rosy cheeks. Indeed, that corresponded to the way others hazily described me. The image perfectly mimicked my actions, wore my clothes in the way I imagined they looked on me. I had no reason to doubt that it was my reflection that I could see, as she looked sufficiently like photographs of myself.

It started with a gift. My birthday had been going perfectly, until I opened the last box, a box which been jiggling in anticipation all by itself. Inside was a kitten… perfect, white, and dead.

Our faces went as white as the cat. “Oh Hannah, I’m so sorry!” gasped my mother. “There mustn’t have been enough air in the box… it’s all my fault… I should have…”

I rushed to the bathroom to cover my imminent sobs. But my shock was met by a second shockwave when I saw myself in the mirror. I had a scratch on my cheek, which was bleeding. I went back to the lounge to show my mother.

“Hey, why didn’t you tell me my cheek was scratched? Where’s the Sav?”

My mother’s nervous expression collapsed into a blank stare, too fatigued to complete the transformation to confusion. “Scratched?”

“Yeah, I don’t know how it happened.”

My parents exchanged worried looks, and I wondered if they’d thought I’d hurt myself while doing something naughty.

“I know you’re upset about the cat, but you don’t have to pretend you’re hurt. We promise we’ll get you a new kitten.”

“But I’m not pretending,” I protested, moving my hand to the affected cheek. “I…” I stopped speaking when I felt the smooth, unbroken skin.

“Look, how about we all have birthday cake and try to forget about it for now?” said my dad.

So I pretended to forget. It was easy to let my family think I was upset about the cat, and not the phantom scratch. Before I went to bed that night I looked in the mirror again. The scratch was still there, but already starting to heal over.

I spent all the next day in front of my mirror, examining the image and comparing it to photos. I noticed several subtle differences – her eyes were a slightly different shade, she had fewer freckles. And she had that scratch. I wondered what had happened to her. I hoped that it did not hurt her too much. I hoped that she wasn’t my own future.

So where did she come from? I asked my mother if I’d ever had a twin sister. She looked at me the same way she had when I’d asked about the scratch, and said no. I knew better than to continue and risk being sent to a nuthouse. I told her not to worry about getting a new cat.

After that, my reflection always looked a little scared, and maybe I did as well. It sure felt weird to look in a mirror and know that there was somebody else looking into my world. I wished I could ask her who she was, what was troubling her.

A few times I thought I saw a white cat in the background. Had my kitty escaped into her dimension, or was I subconsciously so upset about her that I saw her everywhere?

As time went on, I began feeling increasingly uneasy, even when I wasn’t looking in a mirror. I kept having the feeling that something wasn’t quite right, something in my peripheral vision that escaped my attention. It was my little brother Bob who first realised what it was, as we walked past some shop windows one Saturday.

“Hey, Han, you’re a vampire!”

“And you’re a tasty little troll!” I retorted, leaping toward him in mock menace.

He bolted with a shriek of true terror, bawling and screaming until he was out of sight.

“Geez, I was only joking!” I said to my parents. “You’d think at ten, he wouldn’t be scared so easily!”

It took us fifteen minutes to find Bob again, and another half an hour to coax him out of his hiding place. When we got home, he raced to his room.

“Bobby,” I called through the door. “You know I was only joking, why’d you run away like that?”

“Go away!”

After much pleading, he eventually let me in. He was wearing two sets of rosary beads and clinging to a Bible. I couldn’t help laughing, and he almost joined me with a slight smile. I sat as close to him as he would allow. The fear returned to his face, and he pointed to his mirror.

When I saw his pale face in the mirror, I felt my own face go white. I felt it, but did not see it; in the reflection, Bob was scared and alone. I had no reflection.

“I swear I’m not a vampire,” I said. I explained what had happened. I’m sure I was even more relieved than he was that the truth was finally out. He seemed especially happy to hear that my doppelgänger had the cat.

“Can I tell you a secret?” asked Bob.

“Sure… if you can trust your secrets to a vampire,” I grinned reassuringly.

“When I was a little kid, I used to think my reflection was my guardian angel. I tried moving really fast to see if he would keep up with me. I swear sometimes he didn’t. And we played rock paper scissors against each other. But when I grew up, I thought I had just made it up when Dad read to me about Peter Pan’s shadow.”

I stared at him, wide-eyed.

“Maybe you’re right. Maybe our reflections are all guardian angels. But what happened to mine?”

It was a scary black hole of a question, which got deeper as reflections kept disappearing. Soon my bedroom mirror showed only darkness. I was afraid to touch it, lest I be drawn into a dark mirror-world.

I longed to see her again, to reassure both of us that we were not alone. I grew much closer to my brother, who would tell me whether I’d combed my hair straight, and let me sit with him and his own reflection when I missed my own. The secret stayed between us. I stayed away from mirrors in public, and found that most people did not notice the missing reflections in other shiny surfaces.

One day, when I was seventeen, I came home to see my mother had done some spring-cleaning. And it was more than just a clean. The windows, my trophies, everything was so clean that I could see my reflection in it. I rushed to my room to at last get a good view of my angel, afraid that she would soon disappear again.

There she was, looking so scared that I tried to reach out and comfort her. She responded by throwing a sneaker at me.

The mirror remained intact, but the image broke into shards, reflecting pieces of her strangely unfamiliar bedroom. I tried to make sense of the images speeding across one shard, until I saw the end of it reflecting what was unmistakably blood. I watched as the blood took over the rest of the shard, and sprayed onto the others. I watched her beating heart approaching me from the mirror. Too late, I realised who needed to protect whom. Too late, I told her what we both needed to hear.

“You needn’t be afraid… I’m only your guardian angel.”

And for one last time, the mirror was accurate. As her heart stopped beating, my heart broke.

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Four of Hearts: Alice and Bob


I gave a note to Isaac meant for you,
but Marvin changed my message to a curse,
and though the barb that reached you wasn’t true,
you shivered at the harshness of my verse.

The next time I made sure to use a code,
So such a change would never fit the rhythm.
But Eve was smart, and understood my ode,
Her friends took part, and took our secret with ’em.

Embarrassed by such semaphore of hearts,
I used entangled light to write my note on.
But Eve still looked, and such a look imparts
an altered quantum state upon the photon.

To heχ with fears of stickybeaks or malice
Dear Bob, I’ll shout, I love you, signed, your Alice.

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Three of Hearts: Chpamnorbosg Eiurnyngillyng


Three of hearts showing the ALICE TPC, with tentacle monster and the word \'Prévisible\'. A spectacular view of the interior of the ALICE Time Projection Chamber (TPC) - the world\'s largest. It measures the trajectories of the thousands of particles emitted in heavy ion collisions with sub-millimetre precision.A lad at a fair who was lacking directions,
found a booth which was offering temp’ral projections.
“We’ll show you the future, we’ll show you the past,
you’ll gape at the first and you’ll gasp at the last.”
Being fond of projections, and not short of time,
he sat in the chamber and paid in the dime.
There were buttons for films of both pre- and post-diction
in all sorts of genres; he chose science fiction.

Way out behind the shroud of night,
beyond the Milky Way
the sothnax live in perfect time,
not slaves of night or day.

They see the world through two stalked eyes
one each of time and space.
What humans see as future time
is just a further place.

In such a world it’s rather hard
to pull off any capers,
a fresh-made scheme is by that time
already in the papers.

But one mad sothnax killed and fled
without the slightest plan
without the slightest thought that time
flew faster than he ran.

For since a lengthy moment he
was blinded in one eye,
the police approached, and just in time,
the killer found out why.

For all the speed a photon has,
it’s far outpaced by souls.
For all their pow’rs to see through time,
they can’t see through black holes.

And so the killer’s soul escaped
and made its way toward Earth,
to steal a dying egg in time
to steer it back toward birth.

Their unforeseen collision forced
the dying human soul
to think it was not yet its time.
They fused to make a whole.

But enough with this fiction of tempo-transmography,
Our fact-hungry viewer went next to biography.

Chpamnorbosg Eiurnyngillyng
Lived a life of greed and killing
then he got in a mother
and started another.

And with that our young lad was left thirsting for more
so he pressed on the button that said ‘film d’amour’.

roses are red,
sothnax xanthose.
One soul mates a sothnax,
two soulmates arose.

Such soulful emotion was too strong a homily,
So to lighten things up he selected a comedy

An alien thought he was winning
till he got into trouble for sinning
So he came down to Earth
underwent a new birth
and completely forgot his beginning.

Just for fun our lad moved to the edge of his chair
then selected a horror and braced for a scare.

She screamed bloody murder
as the monster interred her
and without an escape route
she was juiced like a grapefruit
but the killer’s black soul
sped to make a black hole
to escape being observed
an escape undeserved.

And he grew as a boy
with no thoughts of the ploy
till the day he was found
by a bloodless bloodhound

And our hero could see that in fact it was he,

and they came in the stall
and forced his downfall
he screamed a waul
lost the brawl
lost all
gall

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King of Spades: My Favourite Strings


King of Spades featuring The LHC Control Centre, and magnets saying \'théorie M\'The following is to be sung to the tune of ‘My Favourite Things’ from The Sound of Music. For those of you who either don’t know the tune, or prefer to listen to something being sung badly than to imagine it being sung well, here is a hastily recorded demo.

Leptons and sleptons and quarks and gluinos,
positrons, Higgs bosons, muon neutrinos.
Some folks will tell you that all of these things
are just vibrations in closed loops of string.

D-branes and p-branes and strings heterotic,
worldsheets and nerd feats and mesons exotic,
Scores of false vacuums and questions they bring,
many more concepts that I can not sing

All existence
from Planck distance
strings can well explain,
and if you don’t think that 1D is enough,
then gen’ralise to membrane.

Don’t tie your strings into everyday chatter.
Don’t tell the truth when they ask what’s the matter.
Ordin’ry people just ask on which fing-
er they should put your new synchrotron ring.

Start off by getting all Klein-and-Kaluzy.
Add more dimensions and then you’ve got SUSY.
Have fun with spinors and Lie groups and rings,
call it a theory of everything.

When they mention
your dimension
doesn’t seem to show,
you simply remind them they’re all curled up small,
and that we will never know.

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Six of Spades: Three perspectives on CERN Open Days


 Five of Spades showing Calorimeters for ATLASStrong: Did you miss the CERN Open Day? I did, in 2004. It wasn’t my last chance.

I planned my visit to CERN far in advance, and found out on my arrival that an open day was planned for a few weeks after my departure.

Thanks to an Englishman arranging a lift, I did manage to get to CERN’s 50th birthday party in Crozet. The speeches were enlightening… I had never realised that humans could make such bizarre sounds. What they were saying in French, I could only guess. My English companion had learnt enough French at school to understand some of it. From him I learnt one of my first words of French: Cernois, a person who works at CERN.

I wrote in my travel log:

After I’d looked at everything, I bought too much stuff at the souvenir shop, just like I did at the Apple Campus. The reason is the same — ‘when am I ever going to be here again?’ and so is the answer to that rhetorical question… when I work there.

A month before writing that, I had found out that my application for a CERN junior fellowship had been rejected. While still in Geneva, I found out that I had not been accepted into CERN’s Marie Curie fellowship programme either. So when I got home, I applied again.

My Marie Curie fellowship began in April 2005 and ended two years later. Before the end of the fellowship, I had been offered a position at ETH Zurich, based at CERN, so I continued going to work as usual, inasmuch as working at the world’s largest scientific facility can be considered usual.

 

That September, I got wind that CERN would be having open days the following April. I sent the news to everybody I knew, hoping that with enough notice, nobody with the slightest chance of making it to Geneva would miss out as narrowly as I had. I realised that as a Cernoise, I had the once-in-a-lifetime chance of not only going to a CERN open day, but being part of it. So I signed up as a volunteer for the Cernois-only open day on the Saturday.

 

Weak: I arrived at CERN at 8a.m, and was given a lift to the CMS pit in Cessy by a colleague and fellow volunteer. We all had our official T-shirts, windbreakers, and polar fleeces, several sizes too large. Guides had their hard hats, the people at the info point had their souvenirs to sell, physicists had brains brimming with answers, and I… I had tables, paper, coloured pencils, and pictures of CMS for colouring in. Kids’ corner.

After lunch I found myself alone at the art table, with two children approaching. Their mother asked in French if this was where they would be minded while she went underground, and would I like to take down her phone number? Would I? I had no idea. I looked around, only to have some guides confirm that it was indeed me in charge of the kids’ corner.

I mutely took the number, and finally the mother asked me in English whether I spoke French. Oui, oui, bien sûr… I like to pretend that I do. She explained to her kids that I didn’t. By this time the kids had the idea that I was a little odd, and sat there glumly staring. I asked in French if they wanted to draw something. They didn’t. The older one started halfheartedly colouring in. I tried to bribe them with promises of prizes for good drawing. They did not respond. Not sure of what else to do, I sat and dutifully watched them, feeling like some kind of psychopath. I started drawing, in an attempt to look less like one. Anyone who had seen my drawings would not have been convinced.

To my relief, a friend appeared with his young nephews, and I talked to him for a while, occasionally checking that my charges hadn’t exploded.

When the mother finally came to rescue her children from their ill-adapted babysitter, the younger one, who had barely touched his pencils, didn’t want to go. Perhaps, in the end, I am quite interesting to glumly stare at. I probably would have held the Cernois in awe too, if I’d been a member of the public at the 2004 open day.

 

Electric: Sunday was the open day for the general public, and the day when I, too, would be in the general public rather than a volunteer.

The bus to CERN was almost full at its first stop. It was great to see that I wasn’t the only one excited about the open day. At CERN, there were already crowds surrounding the Globe of Science and Innovation, near the entry to visit the ATLAS experiment. I’d already seen ATLAS, thanks to a friend who was trained as an ATLAS guide, so I headed into the rest of the site to see what else there was to see.

The whole place was eerily quiet. I saw a few signs, but no crowds to show me what might be interesting. I went to the café in bulding 40, knowing that there should be some events there, or at least some coffee. There were more volunteers than visitors, and no food yet. Still five minutes until the official start of the open day.

The restaurant was not crowded. I bumped into the friend from the day before, with his nephews and the rest of the family. Was it another day for the Cernois, after all? I checked the volunteers’ interface on the web. There was a few hours wait to visit ATLAS. The amateur radio club was still waiting for visitors. Shuttles supposed to take people from the Meyrin site to visit the ALICE experiment had still not arrived. At 9:30, I heard that some friends of mine who had come from Lausanne early that morning had already been underground to see CMS. What was going on?

What was going on was that 20 000 people were going underground to see the LHC and the detectors. 20 000 out of a previously stated maximum limit of 15 000. 

The first visitors arrived at CMS at 7a.m. With queues filling the detector assembly hall and stretching hundreds of metres down the street, there was little choice but to start the underground visits half an hour early, at 8:30. The elevators ran at full capacity and full speed. At LHCb, tour sizes were kept smaller in order to allow more foreign language tours, but they still had a huge number of visitors. By 11a.m. the waiting time to see ATLAS was close to four hours.

Meanwhile, the rest of the 53 000 visitors were dispersed around the various sites, watching machines making machines, Nobel prizewinners making revelations, superconducting magnets making people and things fly, superfluids making their way up the walls of their containers, and actors making out they’d lost some protons.

By the end of the day, the forecast cold and rain had finally arrived. My friends drove me the short distance to the bus stop, where a busload of people were already waiting. One had come from London. One from Paris. One was an art student from Lausanne, who was more interested in the logo and other designs used for the event. One was a guide for CMS, who had volunteered to guide people in English and Portuguese, but ended up speaking French all day and getting a sore throat from it. When the bus arrived, the crowd surrounded it like a plague of zombies… but so much more alive.

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Five of Spades: Calorimeter for Atlas (in the key of E)


Five of Spades showing Calorimeters for ATLAS When Titans weren’t successful in a coup,
‘Twas Atlas who was made to hold up Heaven.

Now let’s assume the heavens weighed a tonne,
How much did Atlas burn to hold that weight?
Let’s say he lifts a metre, on genu,
For this way it’s a cinch to calculate.

Now, force times distance travelled’s called work done.
The pull of Gaia’s roughly nine point eight.
One metre times one thousand times her glue,
Is nine eight zero zero, at which rate?

That energy’s to lift it off the floor,
the trick from there on in’s to stay alive,
for if he doesn’t wobble the Divine,
then force times distance is exactly zero.

That’s not quite true, he still must sweat some more,
Beneath his skin he’s into overdrive.
We must consider muscle tension too,
to figure out the total energy.

But this, my simple physics can’t derive.
It’s something we must find empirically
by burning the Titanic sugar fix,
that’s eaten every second by our hero.

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Ace of Spades: Limerick


Ace of Spades showing Adare Co, Limerick

Wild Rose (Rosa acicularis) from Wildflowers of Canada
Miss Day complains she never knows
why her boyfriend called her Wild Rose.
By any other name
she’d smell just the same
as her tissues begin to necrose.
La Tour Eiffel / The Eiffel Tower
Un printemps une grande hirondelle,
sauta de la tour Eiffel,
mais une fois dans l’air,
elle tomba sur terre,
car on lui avait coupé les ailes. 
 
translation:
A swallow decided one spring
Eiffel tower was worth base-jumping.
Soon after the jump
it fell on its rump
for somebody had clipped its wing.
Interlaken mit Jungfrau
A young frau who swam Lake Brienz
was popular past all intents.
For the water was clear,
and without underwear,
she put on quite a show for the gents.
Fahnenschwinger (Flag Thrower)
A two-to-one flag made a fuss
of an equal-sized flag with a plus.
It said, “I’m neutral,
but my diagonal
is your base, which are belong to us.”
The ATLAS Detector for LHC
Some pixels of fifty micrometers
two trackers and two calorimeters.
Eight magnets toroidal
and one solenoidal
surrounded by muon spectrometer.
       
Deep under soil Helvetic
are toroids electromagnetic
to confirm mc squared
makes particles (paired)
Converted from E that’s kinetic.
   
And now for a different detector:
 
If experiments had consciousness,
Just what do you think they’d confess?
“Well here under Cessy,
It’s all very messy.
Smashed hadrons and I CMS.”
jass.jpg
Pour réussir au jeu de Jass,
on met les atouts et les as.
Mais il faut être vite
sur ce putain de site (excuse my French)
avant que les aut’ ne se cassent.
Niagara Falls
The catch with Niagara Falls,
is the cliché that always enthralls.
One must use Viagra,
to rhyme with Niag’ra,
And frankly I haven’t the balls.

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