We’ve all heard about it. We’ve seen pictures, videos, and articles about it, but what it is really like to work at the Large Hadron Collider? When the glitz and glamor of media coverage die out, what happens? I don’t know about you, but I want to know what happens at CERN on any given tuesday. I don’t care if it’s slow, boring, or mundane. I want to know more about life at the LHC. Well friends, my wish has just been granted. And yours too (assuming we’re wishing for the same thing here).
I’m fortunate enough to have an uncle who is a physicist. He’s spent years working in the field and has been offered what many physicists would consider: The opportunity of a lifetime. A chance to, not only visit, but work at the groundbreaking Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland. The best part is, he’s decided to share his experience with the rest of us. So over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting his stories right here on The Noisecast.
Starting with this one:
Working A Beam Shift
If you are interested in CERN and the experiment I am remotely involved with, here are some links:
http://public.web.cern.ch/public/ Public web site and general information.
http://cms.web.cern.ch/cms/index.html Information about the CMS experiment, which the Princeton group is involved with. One objective is to detect the Higgs Boson.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6aU-wFSqt0 The Large Hadron Rap. Entertaining and somewhat informative. My students enjoyed it when it came out a few years ago.
Right now the Princeton group and other institutions involved in this international collaboration is running some tests on a detector that will be used in the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) in a few years. The idea is to duplicate the conditions in the Large Hadron Collider using a test beam, to test and calibrate the equipment.
The protons that are flying around in the LHC are actually produced in a smaller accelerator, sped up to a certain energy and then injected into the LHC, where they are then further accelerated to very high energies (duplicating the conditions of the early universe, producing the Higgs and other particles, creating black holes, quark-gluon plasma, yada yada etc.). The tests are performed at the CERN Prevesson site, using one of the start up accelerators. (At one time this was THE particle accelerator). Some of the protons are injected into the LHC, and some are diverted for the test beam. So as a “beam shifter” I was “working” at the Prevesson site, helping a group from Turkey test their detector.
So here I am, looking pretty good for 3 am! See all of those wires? I know what every single one is for. Not! And I thought there were a lot of cables laying around when my band plays!
So what happens is that after the protons are accelerated they slam into a target (by the concrete on the right in the picture below) and stop. Other particles are then produced, depending on the target material (some kind of metal). For the first part of the night we used a target that produced muons. After that we used another that produced pions. In each case, the particles come through the bluish tube (You can’t see them, but they are there. That’s why we wear radiation badges).
Will post again soon.