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Remember how I said I spent my summer in 2014 chained to a radioactive block of concrete for three weeks? Well, I exaggerated... I wasn't actually physically chained... I spent every waking moment there of my own free volition (most of it really exited to be doing something so amazing) to help see that the project we were working on (PDF) gave us the data we needed. It was months of intensive preparation to get there, and what was supposed to have been a part-time consulting role for me turned into a key role with the data acquisition setup for the project. For all that it was certainly a highlight of my career so far as a physicist (and pretty much one of coolest things I have ever done in any capacity), I was seriously over-committed during that project and spent months afterward trying to get back into a groove (which never really happened). But... and here's a big but... I will soon have my name on an article in a peer-reviewed journal (Nuclear Instrument and Methods in Physics Research A) for the effort. I have been published in conference proceedings and have given presentations to some pretty amazing groups, which certainly gets some credit, but being published in a major journal is the full meal deal. Given my place in the grander scheme of things, this is a huge accomplishment for me, and hopefully presages wondrous things to come! A pre-press version of the paper was just released on if you want to take a look at how I spend my summer vacations these days (a PDF will open in a new tab):

Performance of a Full-Size Small-Strip Thin Gap Chamber Prototype for the ATLAS New Small Wheel Muon Upgrade

When it is formally published in NIM, I will definitely be having a major personal celebration!
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As reported previously, I was pretty much chained to my desk while I was at Fermilab. While that's something of an exaggeration, it is not as much of an exaggeration as I would have liked. Besides working, and sleeping and eating in my room (which was quite nice for the most part, fyi), we did go out to eat a few times. Of particular note (which I would recommend quite strongly if you're ever in the Batavia, Illinois area or environs) is the Two Brothers restaurant (okay, it's actually in Warrenville, Illinois abutting Batavia and Fermilab). I find food in the United States to be more utilitarian than culinary for the most part, and Two Brothers threw me for a loop... it is one of the singularly best restaurants I've ever been to in the US for food! Add on that they are an award winning micro-brewery (and the awards are highly deserved... I've had other "award winning" beers that makes me wonder what the judging criteria was), and the experience was pure win. We went the first weekend we were there, and made it a goal to get there once a week until we left (which we did, much to my appreciation). Not only did we have the micro-brewery restaurant, but the grocery store just outside of Fermilab (on the Warrenville side) had the largest selection of micro-brewery beer I have ever been in the presence of!!! Literally hundreds of types... it was... awesome...

I had hoped to visit Chicago one of the weekends I was there (there were a few guided tours that looked really interesting, for instance the architecture tours), but I was not afforded any time off while I was working the test beam. I would have been pretty pissed if I had done all that and not had a chance to go, so me and the other two students that were there from Carleton climbed into my car and drove to the southern outskirts of Chicago on our way back to Canada (we were driving back to Sarnia, Ontario to stay the night before the rest of the drive back to Ottawa), bought a day pass for the Chicago transit system, and headed downtown for the afternoon. I think if we had not managed to do this, I would have been downright bitter about my trip rather than just somewhat disgruntled (too much gruntledness makes you weak, so there's that to consider as well, heh). First stop (well, from a photographic standpoint) was the big downtown park and the bandshell, and "the bean" (no processing was done to the photo, what you see is what you'd see if you were standing where I was)... also, you can click on the small photos (under the cut) to open up a full-size version of it in a new tab if your eye is caught by anything in particular.

The rest of the Chicago pics (including pizza) are under the cut... )

And finally, waiting for the above-ground sub-way to head back to the car and start the grueling trip back to Sarnia... I really liked this photo (I thought it turned out well). The trains really did pass by the walls of residential buildings with only a foot or two to spare... I realize that the scene in The Blues Brothers with the trains going by his apartment was only the slightest of exaggerations now, if an exaggeration at all.

And that concludes the blog entries about my trip to Fermilab and Chicago last May that I've been trying to get to (unsuccessfully) since then. Next up... my trip at the end of June/start of July to the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron in Hamburg, Germany. Stay tuned... hopefully I can get to it before December ;).
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I decided to go ahead and post a selection of the photos I took while at Fermilab. I went out for a few minutes one afternoon (while some work was being done on the detectors that I didn't need to be part of, and because I think someone had finally managed to piss me off and I figured a break was in order) to take some pictures of the Fermilab Test Beam Facility building and environs. That was on May 21st. I got out again on the 22nd, after the test beam campaign was over and took some photos around the Fermilab campus. In particular, I walked around the Tevatron Accelerator Ring (about 4 miles / 6.4km or so), a lovely nature walk? Go figure. Surreality was the order of the day that day. Here, I have had to shrink the pictures drastically to fit them two by two (I took these with my cheapo digital camera rather than my crappy phone camera), so if you want to see larger versions of them, you can click on the image and the full version will open in a new tab.

First up is a view of the Fermilab Test Beam Facility (FBTB) buildings. I call this one "The Rainbow Connection". The entrance I showed in my previous post is on the right hand side of the building in this picture (behind the buildings and central test beam concrete shielding that runs off the left of the photo). I thought the rusting buildings in the foreground made for an interesting shot. The part of the building on the left hand side of the central test beam housed both the ILCTA Horizontal Test Stand (for the proposed International Linear Collider, or ILC, which might be built in Japan if it ever does end up getting built) and the High Intensity Neutrino Source R&D Lab (yes, Fermilab generates shit tons of neutrinos and sends them through the Earth to detectors on the other side of the continent, and they have plans to generate much higher quantities in the future... heh, "high intensity neutrino flux" sounds like something from Star Trek). The thing straight up the road and to the left of the buildings (behind the red construction fencing) is the Muon g-2 Ring (pronounced "gee minus two"), but more on that later. If you turned to the left from that picture, you had a view of the main accelerator beamline. They bled a small quantity of the particles from the main beamline to the test beam areas for 4 seconds every 60 seconds, but the bulk of the 120GeV protons produced in the accelerator ring were sent straight down the vacuum pipe shielded under the berm you see. You can see an access door (locked and interlocked) going into the berm and a barn behind the berm (this is where the bison are cared for, amongst other things). The windvane on the barn is, in my opinion, a nice touch here (for a heaping dose of surreality).


Tons of lovely pictures of Fermilab under the cut... )

And finally, to wrap up, the inside of Wilson Hall is just as cool as the outside...

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I had planned to post as I went when I was at Fermilab in May. I even started by posting a lovely and relaxing picture of the dinner I made on May 5th, before stuff really got going. I have barely had a minute since then, but certainly not a single moment from the time the stuff showed up until I was long gone from Fermilab. I estimate that in the three weeks I was there, I worked over 250 hours, most of which was under insanely stressful deadlines — it was some of the roughest weeks I've ever spent. I have since been told that I'm a grown-up physicist now since I have been to, and nominally survived, a test beam. I maintain that I am still a larval physicist, but maybe now I'm a larva who has ... seen ... things. When you add to that I had decided to take a course on information technology and society (yes, both in the same course... TSES4005 if you care to look it up) via remote learning (video on demand) while I was down there (a compressed 6 week course in one summer semester), and things went pretty quickly from wtf to holy fuck my anus is bleeding (a metaphor, my insides stayed inside pretty well... except for the massive head wound, but that was late in the test beam, and a welcome distraction by that time). Overall, it was a terrible experience, but the team succeeded in getting the data we needed (on the last day running, of course, apparently that's just the ways these things tend to work... some are not so lucky and end up having completely wasted their test beam time). The experiment was a success and we got the first real particle data from the very first pre-prototype of the small-strip Thin Gap Chamber (sTGC) design that will be built at facilities all over the world (including Carleton University where I am), and used to build the New Small Wheel (NSW) muon detectors of the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider in CERN during their 2018 upgrade window. Being involved with that effort was fucking amazing!!! Weighed against the brutality of working as hard as I did, darned if the balance still doesn't fall on the "I am so glad I got the amazing honour to participate as an important team member" side of the equation. Not that I haven't been a complete wreck since then trying to wrap up all the research I was doing last year and finishing my second semester (6 week) summer course (which wrapped up last Friday at 11:52PM when I turned in my final essay). I needed to get a deferral on my take home exam for TSES4005 because I was such a disaster by the time I got back and could attend classes physically, but I ultimately landed an "A" in that course, which I am extremely proud of given how things had been going for me. Oh, and the "small" detectors called the New Small Wheels are actually 10 metres (about 30 feet) in diameter and each weigh 112,000kg (about a quarter million pounds). Small only in name, when you're this big, they call you NSW!

So... this is actually more of a photo essay than a lot of gabble from me, but I'll try to explain each image very briefly. For those of you easily disturbed by images of ultra cool physics equipment and physicists, I have put most of it behind a cut. The images are also smallish, but clicking on them (at least the ones under the cut) usually leads to a larger version of it (opened in another tab for your viewing pleasure). I will start by mentioning that Fermilab is in Illinois, and as such does see tornadoes from time to time. There were warning placards all over the place and emergency warning systems in every room and hut on the entire 27.5km2 campus. In the test beam facility (the "Fermilab Test Beam Facility" or "FTBF"), the tornado shelters were... the toilets. But, for some reason, there was a bizarre gendered component to these potentially lifesaving architectural features that left us pondering whether men and women needed separate rooms in which to prepare for doom, or whether tornadoes came in two types... the gentle reader is invited to ponder along with me.

We were experiment T-1049 and this was where we were going to be for three weeks starting May 7th (we showed up a few days early to get ready before things got going officially). The bold squares you can see on the drawing are huge concrete blocks that formed the test beam room that we were going to set up in and which acted as radiation shielding while the accelerator beam was on (we were obviously not in the room when the beam was operating). Heady times were ahead!

Shocking images of amazing physics stuff behind cut... )

And here is the team picture we took on the last day before we tore everything down and packed it away... I'm the guy at the back in the black CKCU t-shirt who looks like Dr. Bunsen Honeydew. If you really want to see the preliminary results from the test (a PDF format poster put together by Estel Perez Codina), I think it is publicly viewable on the CERN TWiki here (let me know if you try and you can't access it).

And to finish off with an entirely unrelated music video... Reggie Watts, Lara Stone, Malcolm McDowell, and the band Hot Chip in one of the more bizarre creations I have seen (and that's saying something!). Ends with one of the best pouts I've seen (the only other entrant to the field of music video pouts that I know of is Amanda Palmer's glorious pout at the end of her video for "Leeds United"... which also contains one of the best brawl scenes in a music video too).

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Happy Cinco de Mayo from Fermilab, and huevos rancheros for one (with plenty of leftovers of beans and rice)!

PF's Huevos Rancheros

Tomorrow, the packed detector parts are supposed to show up in a shipping truck. Once they are here, it will be a long time before I get a moment's peace again. Fun times are going to be here soon.
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I find myself typing this as I sit in a room for visiting scientists in an old Victorian farm house just up the road from a herd of bison at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Batavia, Illinois. It was a long drive from Ottawa, but split over two days it was quite tolerable and kind of nice to be doing long hauls (slept in Sarnia, Ontario last night and crossed into the USA in the morning). The detector components should arrive Tuesday and, if all goes well (after all the training and safety approvals and re-assembling and testing the equipment we shipped), we should get the 32GeV pion beam turned on Thursday or Friday at the latest. I will try to blog and post photos as I go... we shall see as it's going to be crazy, crazy busy for much of the 3 weeks I will be here. I am exhausted now (and have been for weeks with exams and wrapping up the preparations for all this) and have a busy morning tomorrow (although I can probably nap afterward), so I can't write much now, but suffice it to say that I grew up reading about all the amazing things happening at Fermilab and all the ways the experiments here have changed our understanding of the universe and has provided so many technologies that make our human condition a better one (here's the propaganda if you so desire, I think it's pretty darned cool). Further suffice to say that I've been squeeeeing inside ever since I got here :).


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