This week has been incredibly productive and we are only half way through the week. We had a typical college student dilemma the other night. We have been staying at CERN untl 9 pm the past few nights, primarily to talk with Caltech people with the time difference. Turns out we hadn’t gone grocery shopping for a while and stores close here around 8 pm so we scrounged together a fantastic meal of a cup of rice, three eggs and a hand ful of tortellini to share among the three of us. We also had nutella which is really what got us through the night.
We also have a new car. It’s a 2007 Fiat Punto and is actually really nice. It is quite a bit more powerful than the other car that we had for the weekend, though I don’t like how loose the steering wheel feels and we are having problems with child locks. There are no physical locks so you really can’t do anything if you sit in the back seat. It’s a nice car though and it’s nice to have a manual again. I do somewhat miss the Nissan though.
I’ve found the summer student lectures particularly interesting this week since a few of them specialize in Medical Physics. It’s quite interesting to see the applications of particle physics in other fields and particle therapy seems like an area that I could see myself working in in the future. I’m also interested in the lectures in flavour physics that are starting up tomorrow. This is the fun things about the summer student program here, you can sit in on lectures and presentations for all fields of particle and nuclear physics and then go down and chat with the physicists from all over the world.
I also had a tour of the LEIR and LINAC facilities on tuesday. We got to go down and see LINAC I which is the original proton accelerator that fed into the LEP and LHC. Basically the idea of it is to take Hydrogen gas and ripping out the protons through an electric field, then organizing the beam and accelerating it down the beam line. There are newer versions of the LINAC but this one that I’m standing in front of is the original and still operational.
You can note the age of this detector and the surrounding technology by the original rotary dial emergency phone. I just hope that nobody ever really needs to use it.
In the same facility houses LEIR, the Low Energy Ion Ring where they accelerate lead ions from LINAC 3 for the LHC. Yes, the LHC is not just a proton collider but in fact a hadron collider, so there are other things in there.
It was quite a bit of fun going around some of the more "historical" yet still operational parts of CERN. I didn’t get as much of an opportunity to ask about all of the physics behind the machines like on the other tours since I volunteered to move over to the technical student tour since they didn’t have enough spots for all of the physicists. It was still fun to see the machines and the lecture slides are good resources for learning about the accelerators. Plus it just means I’ll need to visit again…
The final part of our tour went to the computing facilitiy. It was quite impressive and incredibly hot. The building was made so long ago that it is out of date in terms of cooling for the technology that is in there now. I believe they mentioned that a new computing facility will be established in the near future in Hungary. The CERN computing facility stores around 30 petabytes of data with around 15 petabytes of data being produced annually. That’s just the data after being processed. They have to have layers of filtering systems to sort out all of the other uninterested events that come in through the detectors. After visiting this facility and taking part in the networking workshop last week I have gained a whole new respect for the computing achievements at CERN. I also didn’t realize that CERN as an international organization keeps itself independent of any nation for computing and many other resources, and actually acts as the access point for France and Switzerland to the internet. The servers for Swiss Telecom for instance are located here at the computing facility and instead of CERN needing to go through Switzerland and France to get to the internet, the countries have to go through CERN and actually pay for this service. It’s quite impressive in my opinion.
I am really looking forward to what all is in store for the rest of the week and those afterwards. It’s hard to imagine that I’m already half way done with my time here at CERN this summer. There is still so much to do, so many presentations to prepare and papers to write.