Thursday, September 6, 2012

MicroBooNE Construction

After much hard work by too many people to even possibly hope to mention, MicroBooNE detector assembly has begun to roll out some of the first tangible construction in this last month. I have had the good fortune of getting to take part in a lot of the assembly activity and detector construction in the last week and thought it would be fun to share some of the work with the Quantum Diaries community. The first thing I should say is that any of the work I am showing here is by no means my own. I am only one of many hands getting to take part in the plan to build the Liquid Argon neutrino detector known as MicroBooNE. While I am trying my best to take on leadership roles in some of these tasks (e.g. be a person that knows what is going on and can get yelled at if things aren't going smoothly), there are many people who are planning and leading the charge and I am just one of many helping hands.
Wires being mounted on the electronics board
The first of the tasks I got to do much earlier in the spring was to take part in the fabrication of part of the wires that will be at the heart of the MicroBooNE detector. From February till May of this year I aided and helped lead the effort to complete the Y-plane wires that will serve as the collection plane for the MicroBooNE detector. This was a very interesting, yet incredibly tedious, task of using a special made machine (made at Brookhaven Labs) to measure and wind > 3840 individual wires and place them on an electronics board (also designed and fabricated at Brookhaven...see I told you I was only a small cog in the wheel) before storing them and shipping them to Fermilab where they await to be mounted in the detector. Along the way we performed various strength and strain tests all in preparation for their final use in the detector.
All the Y-Plane wires awaiting transport to Fermilab
After landing back at Fermilab in the early summer (with a brief layover in Japan for Neutrino 2012 conference) I began to take part in the massive efforts that were going on to sort / clean / and prep all the various large and small parts that were starting to arrive from the various machine shops and industrial companies that will eventually make up the MicroBooNE detector. These efforts were being lead by Jen Raaf (a Fermilab Scientist) along with an army of undergraduates, graduates, and post-docs. An article was even written in Fermilab today (see link here) highlighting some of the work.
However, don't let the fancy picture fool you...this was a lot of hard work. From scrubbing massive pieces of steel to remove grime and particles to cleaning and coating thousands of individual bolts, this massive effort required MANY man hours and lots of dirty clothes and long days. I, along with many other people, aided in a good part of the cleaning efforts as well as some of the sorting and transporting, but a lot of credit has to go to Thomas Strauss from Bern who really threw himself into the task of getting these parts cleaned, labelled and transported .
Finally, with a all the parts needed to begin the full scale construction, MicroBooNE began to come together last week at large scale. The first part of the detector that was to be assembled is what is known as the "anode frame" and is one of the back parts of what makes up the large rectangular TPC detector.
This too was no small undertaking and took the hard work of technicians from Lab F at Fermilab, scientists from Brookhaven Labs, graduate students and post-docs (myself included) and even the spokespeople of the MicroBooNE collaboration in order to get all the various parts to fit together and have any hope of being square and parallel.
Freshly cleaned large steel parts for the TPC
Like most things in life, the judicious application of banging mallets, pulling of chains, and the screwing of allen wrenches eventually got the anode frame assembled and in place in the construction tent currently living in the D0 collision hall at Fermilab.
While the construction work is far from being done, I thought it would be fun to share a flavor of all the exciting things that are taking place as I get the chance to share in my first large scale construction of a particle detector. You can follow all the excitement, thanks to Fermilab visual media services there is a live streaming webcam of the construction tent which can be viewed here:
1000's of bolts freshly cleaned and awaiting moly-coating

All the people hard at work getting the frame together (when all else fails, swing the hammer harder!)
The (nearly) completed anode frame

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Alex Honnold Free Soloing

While I am not a big fan of the idea of "free-soloing" (climbing tall distances without a rope) I have to recognize talent when talent is there, and without a doubt Alex Honnold is a talented climber.

There is a great piece on 60 minutes about his climbing and some spectacular footage of Alex "no big deal".

While I am getting settled into the great freeze that is a midwest winter this time of year stuff like this makes me want to hit the climbing gym to remember that feeling of doing what doesn't look possible.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Secret Application on Smart Phones

A really important article and corresponding YouTube video exposing what could be some very disturbing news about a seemingly secret and ever present application on Blackberry, Android, and Nokia phones.

This application seems to log every key you press, every website you visit (regardless of https or not) and every call and SMS message you send and receive as well as every place you physically go. This information is reported to a program that you can't detect easily, can not remove, and will send this information to a company you never heard of.

The article from the register is found here:

The youtube video is here:

I'll be following this issue closer...I've been considering moving into the 21st century and getting a smart phone, but this makes me much less eager.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Who Killed President Kennedy? A Review of Evidence

On November 22nd I had the pleasure to attend a lecture at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs with my brother Robert Asaadi who is a PhD student in the political science.

The reason I drove all the way to Minneapolis to see this lecture was simple, the former Governor Jesse Ventura was coming to discuss the evidence supporting the conspiracy theory around the killing of President Kennedy.

Now he didn't appear alone, with him was Judge John R. Tunheim who served for more than 11 years as a United States District Judge since taking his oath of office on December 29, 1995. Tunheim served as chairman of the U.S. Assassination Records Review Board, an independent federal agency responsible for reviewing and facilitating public disclosure of previously classified government records related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Anyone who has ever seen an interview with Governor Ventura knows that he is not a man to speak lightly on such a subject nor does he pull punches. However, unlike what comes across when in a hostile setting (say like fox news) he is a very respectful man and whether you agree or disagree he speaks plainly and directly while still respecting the opposite opinion.

The University of Minnesota has made the audio available (which you can listen to here).

Of course no single issue was resolved here...but it was exciting to hear from two people who have studied this issue in a scholarly way (one from the judicial aspect the other from dedicating reading and publicly available information) that this issue is far from settled and the things that at one time were considered outrageous (such as the presence of more then one shooter) is now becoming more generally accepted!

I would encourage anyone if given the opportunity to see Governor Ventura speak they should defiantly seize upon it.

Friday, November 18, 2011

New measurement by OPERA...same strange result?!?!

So the BBC is reporting that the results of the neutrino run done most recently by the OPERA experiment is confirming their previous result and continuing to find superluminal neutrino speeds.

In this iteration of the experiment OPERA attempted to address, amongst many points, one of their largest sources of uncertainty. Namely, the bunch length of the protons that were being sent from CERN and were producing the neutrinos that they were measuring.

By shortening the bunch widths you have a greater certainty about where the neutrinos are being created and thus you know your initial time to a much higher degree of accuracy.

Needless to say this is a big deal if it is true.

They have updated their paper to include this systematic "fix" as well as complete discussion of various other effects taken into account can be found here on the arxiv.

This is a very exciting find in physics and with the reported plan to submit this paper for review to a journal a final vetting is in due course.

Now we must wait for this experiment to be repeated by the many other long baseline experiments, such as MINOS here at Fermilab and T2K in Japan!

Friday, October 28, 2011

So if your days have been anything like mine in recent weeks anytime I talk to anyone with even a vague semblance of what particle physics is and that I am an experimentalist (in training of course) the question comes....
"So what about CERN proving Einstein wrong with those things going faster than light?"

To which I respond politely, "Crazy stuff...but anytime someone says they see something going faster than light I put my hand on my wallet because something is fishy".

If the person is nice/interested enough to want a further explanation I try to explain what the OPERA measurement is along with loads of caveats that I don't work on this experiment,  as scientists they did hundreds of cross-checks, and that they wouldn't release this result if they weren't convinced something is strange here...etc...etc...

If someone is daring enough to push and ask what I think about it my response has been simple: "Science is about repeatability and accuracy so I'll wait till the next group of experimentalists weighs in".

Today on the BBC I saw the news announcement that "Faster-than-light neutrino experiment to run again". Aside from the obvious things wrong with the title of the argument (this wasn't an experiment to search for faster-than-light neutrinos) the article explains that during this next run they are going to attempt to remove on of the largest possible sources of systematic errors in the OPERA measurment, namely the length of the length of the proton bunch widths being sent towards Gran Sasso from 10 microseconds to ~ 1 nanosecond  with ~ 500 nanoseconds between pulses.

While you still can't measure exactly which neutrino is from which proton the way you would like to in a perfect measurement, this should allow them to be more accurate on average than before and take away a source of error many people I would consider experts have said is of greatest concern.
While I'm sure this is only one  of many improvements that will be made to this measurement to address all the...shall we say..."constructive criticism" the OPERA experiment has received since their result. The bad news is that if they end up with a null measurement and find that neutrinos don't in fact go faster than the speed of light the news and fan fare will be much less...because while for scientists a null result is still a result...for the rest of the world a null result is not news.

So I think we have some interesting times in experimental physics coming in the very near future!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Quantum Man: Richard Feynman

There was an exceptional lecture about Richard Feynman given at CERN a few days ago that was shared by a colleague and wanted to repost here.

From the CERN document server:

Lawrence Krauss gives a very nice overview of some of the things that I think made Feynmann exceptional both in his physics and in being a human in a field of giants (physics).

Like most people coming up after this exceptional man I too was influenced by his writings and his legend and as I make the transition from graduate student to Post-doc I can only hope to have my path as rich as Feynman's was!