Day 2 of my visit to CERN (host laboratory of the Large Hadron Collider [LHC]) was a pretty typical CERN day for me. Here’s a rough sketch of how it panned out:
- 1000: after a few chores, arrived at CERN by tram. Worked on my ongoing research project #1. Answered an email about my ongoing research project #2.
- 1100: attended a one hour talk, much of it historical, by Chris Quigg, one of the famous experts on “quarkonium” (atom-like objects made from a quark or anti-quark, generally referring specifically to charm and bottom quarks). Charmonium (charm quark/antiquark atoms) was discovered 40 years ago this week, in two very different experiments.
- 1200: Started work on the talk that I am giving on the afternoon of Day 3 to some experimentalists who work at ATLAS. [ATLAS and CMS are the two general-purpose experimental detectors at the LHC; they were used to discover the Higgs particle.] It involves some new insights concerning the search for long-lived particles (hypothesized types of new particles that would typically decay only after having traveled a distance of at least a millimeter, and possibly a meter or more, before they decay to other particles.)
- 1230: Working lunch with an experimentalist from ATLAS and another theorist, mainly discussing triggering, and other related issues, concerning long-lived particles. Learned a lot about the new opportunities that ATLAS will have starting in 2015.
- 1400: In an extended discussion with two other theorists, got a partial answer to a subtle question that arose in my research project #2.
- 1415: Sent an email to my collaborators on research project #2.
- 1430: Back to work on my talk for Day 3. Reading some relevant papers, drawing some illustrations, etc.
- 1600: Two-hour conversation over coffee with an experimentalist from CMS, yet again about triggering, regarding long-lived particles, exotic decays of the Higgs particle, and both at once. Learned a lot of important things about CMS’s plans for the near-term and medium-term future, as well as some of the subtle issues with collecting and analyzing data that are likely to arise in 2015, when the LHC begins running again.
[Why triggering, triggering, triggering? Because if you don't collect the data in the first place, you can't analyze it later! We have to be working on triggering in 2014-2015 before the LHC takes data again in 2015-2018]
- 1800: An hour to work on the talk again.
- 1915: Skype conversation with two of my collaborators in research project #1, about a difficult challenge which had been troubling me for over a week. Subtle theoretical issues and heavy duty discussion, but worth it in the end; most of the issues look like they may be resolvable.
- 2100: Noticed the time and that I hadn’t eaten dinner yet. Went to the CERN cafeteria and ate dinner while answering emails.
- 2130: More work on the talk for Day 3.
- 2230: Left CERN. Wrote blog post on the tram to the hotel.
- 2300: Went back to work in my hotel room.
Day 1 was similarly busy and informative, but had the added feature that I hadn’t slept since the previous day. (I never seem to sleep on overnight flights.) Day 3 is likely to be as busy as Day 2. I’ll be leaving Geneva before dawn on Day 4, heading to a conference.
It’s a hectic schedule, but I’m learning many things! And if I can help make these huge and crucial experiments more powerful, and give my colleagues a greater chance of a discovery and a reduced chance of missing one, it will all be worth it.