Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Strings in CERN

I'm currently in CERN, in Geneva at the RTN winter school on Strings, Supergravity and Gauge Theories which is proving to be both extremely interesting and exhausting in equal measure. With five hours of lectures a day and several hours spent every evening working with my collaborator, it feels like we've had weeks here already although the whole thing will be over on Friday. Though I hadn't been particularly looking forward to the topics, the lecturers are all excellent and I'm learning more from these courses than I have from a school in some time. Many of the lecture notes are up online and the videos I presume will follow.

Today we were lucky enough to take a trip to one of the two main detectors for the LHC, the 27km circumference proton accelerator to be turned on later this year. The CMS detector had its final segment lowered 100m into the ground yesterday and so the bulk of the machine is now in place, getting ready to start taking data from the particle collisions some time in the summer (data is already being taken in the detectors from cosmic ray events). At 12,500 tonnes, and around 21 by 16 meters, this is in essence a huge piece of electronics which will be a general purpose detector (one of the two, the other being ATLAS) monitoring some of the 40 million collisions per second when the machine is running at full pelt.

I'll get my own photos up online when I'm back in Santiago. Having spent some time working on Babar it was impressive to see the next generation of machine which we hope to give us some of the missing pieces which we know must be out there to complete our understanding of of elementary particle physics.

In the time outside lectures I'm working as quickly as possible with my collaborator on a project which has taken far too long and we are finally trying to get it finished off. Having spent almost all of the time working on this project in different continents we're taking full advantage of our current state. Will update more when I'm back home.

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