One of the perks of working in our field is the opportunities we get to go to exotic places for conferences. I always felt the HEP-MAD conference in Madagascar would top this list, but the one some of us went to in Vietnam can't be too far behind. The Rencontres du Vietnam conference series has been organised in the coastal town of Quy Nhon since 2011, covering different physics topics. This year, one of them was titled Physics at the LHC and Beyond, where I had the privilege of presenting ATLAS soft QCD results.
Having spent many hours working on the simulation software in ATLAS, I thought this would be a good place to explain what on earth that is (H/T to Al Brooks for the title). Our experiment wouldn’t run without the simulation, and yet there are few people who really understand it.
An obligatory eye scan is required for all ATLAS underground personnel entering the experimental cavern. The iris recognition is performed by the IrisID iCAM7000. Its only point in life is to keep track of who enters and leaves the Zone. It sounds like a simple task for such an advanced technology, but -- like most things in the world of research -- it's never without some hiccups.
I felt like I was returning home as I walked through the gates of Columbia University at 116th Street and Broadway, the day before the LHCP conference began. The scaffolding from the recently completed graduation ceremonies reminded me of my own PhD graduation thirteen years ago. The ubiquitous Columbia-blue signs of "Welcome back Alumni" seemed to be talking just to me.
As someone who comes from a small mountain town, for many years I've linked the word 'summer' to 'seaside' and 'sun'. During my experience as a physicist working in ATLAS, I found myself associating the word 'conferences' to the word 'summer' more often than to the two above.
Previously in Notes from Underground, Dave Robinson wrote in some detail about the work going on inside the ATLAS Detector, and Clara Nellist wrote about the inner detector of ATLAS, discussing the different types of detection units or Sensors (Planars & 3D). I will continue to delve into the exciting world of the inner detector with its brand new Insertable B-Layer (IBL) and its related parts.
In last week’s post for this Notes from Underground series, David talked about the work that goes on in the ATLAS pit. I'm going to take a step back and talk about what happens before a detector is installed. Although the work I want to tell you about didn't technically take place underground, much of it was performed in what is essentially a large airport hangar without natural light, so it certainly feels like you’re 100m down!
We physicists refer to the vast underground cavern that houses the ATLAS experiment as ‘the pit’. That may be a strange term to use for a marvel of civil, mechanical and electrical engineering, but nonetheless there are parallels to what you might imagine a ‘pit’ to be. Working inside the ATLAS detector in the pit can be dark, sometimes hot and not suited to those with claustrophobia. It often involves climbing several sets of makeshift steps and gantries and crawling flat on your stomach through narrow gaps to get to the part of the detector where you need to be. You will be wearing a safety helmet with mounted lamp, steel toe-cap shoes, one or more dosimeters to monitor radiation exposure and even a harness, if working at heights. Not to mention tools, laptop and any equipment you need to do your job. You tend to recognize the experimental physicists, engineers and technicians who have just come up from the pit – they stand blinking in the sunlight with a tired and rather sweaty appearance.
While others are worrying that new physics might be running out of corners (see Eve Le Ménédeu's blog) we should not forget that even within the book of the Standard Model there are completely unread chapters. The Standard Model draws its success from the fascinating fact that its basic energy density formula, called Lagrangian, is uniquely defined by just specifying three fundamental symmetries.
Friday was the last occasion for Moriond participants to see new results on specific physics topics since Saturday is reserved for summary talks. The topic was 'Beyond the Standard Model' -- a very large subject, which covers an incredible number of theoretical models, from Supersymmetry to Two-Higgs-Doublet Models, two of the most discussed topics of the day.