The Global Community of Particle Physics

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  • Stanford, SLAC Experts on LIGO’s Binary Neutron Star Milestone

    2017-10-16T21:29:36Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Stanford, SLAC Experts on LIGO’s Binary Neutron Star Milestone"

    The Advanced LIGO gravitational wave detectors have announced their first observation of a binary neutron star coalescence.

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  • Scientists spot explosive counterpart of LIGO/Virgo’s latest gravitational waves

    2017-10-16T17:29:32Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Scientists spot explosive counterpart of LIGO/Virgo’s latest gravitational waves"

    Scientists spot explosive counterpart of LIGO/Virgo’s latest gravitational wavesPress ReleaseDanielle Mon, 10/16/2017 - 11:173117

    Scientists using the Dark Energy Camera have captured images of the aftermath of a neutron star collision, the source of LIGO/Virgo’s most recent gravitational wave detection

    A team of scientists using the Dark Energy Camera (DECam), the primary observing tool of the Dark Energy Survey, was among the first to observe the fiery aftermath of a recently detected burst of gravitational waves, recording images of the first confirmed explosion from two colliding neutron stars ever seen by astronomers.

    Scientists on the Dark Energy Survey joined forces with a team of astronomers based at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) for this effort, working with observatories around the world to bolster the original data from DECam. Images taken with DECam captured the flaring-up and fading over time of a kilonova – an explosion similar to a supernova, but on a smaller scale – that occurs when collapsed stars (called neutron stars) crash into each other, creating heavy radioactive elements.

    This particular violent merger, which occurred 130 million years ago in a galaxy near our own (NGC 4993), is the source of the gravitational waves detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the Virgo collaborations on Aug. 17. This is the fifth source of gravitational waves to be detected---the first one was discovered in September 2015, for which three founding members of the LIGO collaboration were awarded the Nobel prize in physics two weeks ago.

    This latest event is the first detection of gravitational waves caused by two neutron stars colliding, and thus the first one to have a visible source. The previous gravitational wave detections were traced back to binary black holes, which cannot be seen through telescopes. This neutron star collision occurred relatively close to home, so within a few hours of receiving the notice from LIGO/Virgo, scientists were able to point telescopes in the direction of the event and get a clear picture of the light.

    “This is beyond my wildest dreams,” said Marcelle Soares-Santos, formerly of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and currently of Brandeis University, who led the effort from the Dark Energy Survey side. “With DECam we get a good signal, and we can show how it is evolving over time. The team following these signals is a well-oiled machine, and though we did not expect this to happen so soon, we were ready for it.”

    The Dark Energy Camera is one of the most powerful digital imaging devices in existence. It was built and tested at Fermilab, the lead laboratory on the Dark Energy Survey, and is mounted on the National Science Foundation’s 4-meter Blanco telescope, part of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, a division of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory. The DES images are processed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

    Texas A&M University astronomer Jennifer Marshall was observing for DES at the Blanco telescope during the event, while Fermilab astronomers Douglas Tucker and Sahar Allam were coordinating the observations from Fermilab's Remote Operations Center. “It was truly amazing,” Marshall said. “I felt so fortunate to be in the right place at the right time to help make perhaps one of the most significant observations of my career.” 

    The kilonova was first identified in DECam images by Ohio University astronomer Ryan Chornock, who instantly alerted his colleagues by email. “I was flipping through the raw data and I came across this bright galaxy, and saw a new source that was not in the reference image (taken previously),” he said. “It was very exciting.”

    Once the crystal clear images from DECam were taken, a team led by Professor Edo Berger, from CfA, went to work analyzing the phenomenon using several different resources. Within hours of receiving the location information, the team had booked time with several observatories, including NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory.

    LIGO/Virgo works with dozens of astronomy collaborations around the world, providing sky maps of the area where any detected gravitational waves originated. The team from DES and CfA had been preparing for an event like this for more than two years, forging connections with other astronomy collaborations and putting procedures in place to mobilize as soon as word came down that a new source had been detected. The result is a rich data set that covers “radio waves to X-rays to everything in between,” Berger said.

    “This is the first event, the one everyone will remember,” Berger said. “I’m extremely proud of our entire group, who responded in an amazing way. I kept telling them to savor the moment. How many people can say they were there at the birth of a whole new field of astronomy?”

    Adding to the excitement of this observation, this latest gravitational wave detection correlates to a burst of gamma rays spotted by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. Combining these detections is like hearing thunder and seeing lightning for the very first time, and it opens up a world of new scientific discovery.

    “Each of these – the gravitational waves from merging neutron stars, the gamma ray burst and the optical counterpart – could have been separate ground-breaking discoveries, and each could have taken many years,” said Daniel Holz of the University of Chicago, who works on both the DES and LIGO collaborations.“In less than a day, we did it all. This has required many different communities working together to make it all happen. It’s so gratifying to have it be so successful.”

    This event also provides a completely new and unique way to measure the present expansion rate of the universe, the Hubble constant, something theorized by Holz and others. Just as astrophysicists use supernovae as “standard candles” (objects of the same intrinsic brightness) to measure cosmic expansion, kilonovae can be used as “standard sirens” (objects of known gravitational wave strength).

    LIGO/Virgo can use this to tell the distance to these events, while optical follow-up from DES and others determines the redshift or recession speed; their combination enables scientists to determine the present expansion rate. This new kind of measurement will assist the Dark Energy Survey in its mission to uncover more about dark energy, the mysterious force accelerating the expansion of the universe.

    “The Dark Energy Survey team has been working with LIGO for more than two years, refining their process of following up gravitational wave signals,” said Fermilab Director Nigel Lockyer. “It is immensely gratifying to be on the front lines of a discovery this significant, one that required the combined skills of many supremely talented people in many fields.”

    The Dark Energy Survey recently began the fifth and final year of its quest to map an area of the southern sky in unprecedented detail. Scientists on DES will use this data to learn more about the effect of dark energy over eight billion years of the universe’s history, in the process measuring 300 million galaxies, 100,000 galaxy clusters and 3,000 supernovae.

    Six papers relating to the DECam discovery of the optical counterpart are planned for publication in The Astrophysical Journal. Preprints of all papers are available here:

    “It is tremendously exciting to experience a rare event that transforms our understanding of the workings of the universe,” says France A. Córdova, director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), which funds LIGO and supports the observatory where DECam is housed. “This discovery realizes a long-standing goal many of us have had, that is, to simultaneously observe rare cosmic events using both traditional as well as gravitational-wave observatories. Only through NSF’s four-decade investment in gravitational-wave observatories, coupled with telescopes that observe from radio to gamma-ray wavelengths, are we able to expand our opportunities to detect new cosmic phenomena and piece together a fresh narrative of the physics of stars in their death throes.”

    The Dark Energy Survey is a collaboration of more than 400 scientists from 26 institutions in seven countries. Funding for the DES Projects has been provided by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, U.S. National Science Foundation, Ministry of Science and Education of Spain, Science and Technology Facilities Council of the United Kingdom, Higher Education Funding Council for England, ETH Zurich for Switzerland, National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Kavli Institute of Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago, Center for Cosmology and AstroParticle Physics at Ohio State University, Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy at Texas A&M University, Financiadora de Estudos e Projetos, Fundação Carlos Chagas Filho de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico and Ministério da Ciência e Tecnologia, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, and the collaborating institutions in the Dark Energy Survey, the list of which can be found at

    Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, National Optical Astronomy Observatory, is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation.

    Fermilab is America’s premier national laboratory for particle physics and accelerator research. A U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science laboratory, Fermilab is located near Chicago, Illinois, and operated under contract by the Fermi Research Alliance LLC, a joint partnership between the University of Chicago and the Universities Research Association, Inc. Visit Fermilab’s website at and follow us on Twitter at @Fermilab.

    The DOE Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit

    Science contacts:

    Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory

    Fermilab from the air

    The Fermilab particle accelerator complex provides beam to numerous experiments and test stations. The accelerators can make beams of protons, neutrinos, muons, and other particles. The two-mile Main Injector makes the world's most intense high-energy neutrino beam. (Photographer: Reidar Hahn)

    Fermilab is America's particle physics and accelerator laboratory. Founded in 1967, Fermilab drives discovery by investigating the smallest building blocks of matter using world-leading particle accelerator and detector facilities. We also use the universe as a laboratory, making measurements of the cosmos to the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy. Fermilab is located near Chicago, Illinois, and is managed by Fermi Research Alliance, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science.

    What are we made of? How did the universe begin? What secrets do the smallest, most elemental particles of matter hold, and how can they help us understand the intricacies of space and time?

    Since 1967, Fermilab has worked to answer these and other fundamental questions and enhance our understanding of everything we see around us. As the United States' premier particle physics laboratory, we do science that matters. We work together with our international partners on the world's most advanced particle accelerators and dig down to the smallest building blocks of matter. We also probe the farthest reaches of the universe, seeking out the nature of dark matter and dark energy.

    Fermilab's 6,800-acre site is located in Batavia, Illinois, and is managed by the Fermi Research Alliance LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science. FRA is a partnership of the University of Chicago and Universities Research Association Inc., a consortium of 89 research universities.

    P.O. Box 500
    Batavia, IL60510-0500
    United States

    + 1 630 840 3000


    + 1 630 840 4343 (fax)

    Andre Salles
    Fermilab Office of Communication
    + 1 630 840 3351
    + 1 630 840 8780 (fax)

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  • No neutrino emission from a binary neutron star merger

    2017-10-16T14:29:26Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "No neutrino emission from a binary neutron star merger"

    In a joint effort by the ANTARES, IceCube, Pierre Auger, LIGO, and Virgo collaborations, scientists have searched for neutrino emission from this merger. The search looked for neutrinos in the GeV to EeV energy range and did not find any neutrino in directional coincidence with the host galaxy. The nondetection agrees well with our expectation from short GRB models of observations at a large off-axis angle, which is most likely the case for the GRB detected in conjunction with GW170817. These results are being submitted to The Astrophysical Journal.

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  • Meet ISOLDE: Where did it all begin?

    2017-10-16T01:29:39Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Meet ISOLDE: Where did it all begin?"

    The ISOLDE control room in 1987, before the facility had to move to the new accelerator and site (Image: CERN)

    It turns out no one knows what the DE at the end of CERN’s ISOLDE facility stands for. “Damned expensive?” chuckles Björn Jonson, who has just charmed me with his experiences of serving on the Nobel committee, as I sit in awe opposite him in the CERN canteen.

    Today, ISOLDE celebrates 50 years of physics. On this day, half a century ago, the first beams were run through the ISOLDE experiment, and CERN's longest running experimental facility began its life. To document this achievement, we've made a short documentary series. Watch the first part, on the experiment's history here.(Video: Christoph Madsen/CERN)

    The first four letters of CERN’s longest-running experiment site, ISOLDE, which celebrates 50 years of physics today, stand for Isotope mass Separator On-Line. As one of the first students to work on the project, I assumed that Jonson could reveal the truth about the last two letters of the acronym but, when pushed, he teases: “or it might stand for Danish Engineering, which is, of course, the best.”

    Jonson joined ISOLDE in 1967, when the facility had yet to become a facility and was still just a single experiment. But ISOLDE’s extraordinary history began 17 years earlier, when two physicists in Copenhagen, Otto Kofoed-Hansen and Karl-Ove Nielson, had an idea.

    nuclear spectroscopy,ISOLDE,SC
    Björn Jonson started working at ISOLDE in 1967 as a fellow. Three years later he got a staff position and moved his wife and three daughters to Switzerland from Sweden in his brand new Volvo. This picture was taken five years later, in 1975, just before he became leader of the ISOLDE facility. Jonson is sitting at the console setting up surface barrier detectors for the study of a beta-decay particle emission. Winfried Grüter stands on the right. (Image: CERN)

    The pair wanted to learn more about the atoms that make up every piece of matter in our Universe, by studying the properties of the nucleus at their centre. They wanted to study a type of radioactive decay that some of these nuclei undergo, called Beta decay, but their own equipment was unable to separate out the interesting nuclei from the others fast enough.

    In 1960, a proposal was made to use CERN’s Synchrocyclotron (the SC) accelerator to produce a high-intensity proton beam that could be directed into specially developed targets to yield lots of different atomic fragments. Different devices could then be used to ionise, extract and separate these different nuclei according to their mass, forming a low-energy beam that could then be delivered to various experimental stations. Thus, the idea of “ISOLDE”, the Isotope Separator On-Line DEvice was born.

    Curious legacy

    Each year, ISOLDE scientists use the facility to push the boundaries of the nuclear chart. By discovering and expanding what we know about ever more exotic nuclei, they are answering fundamental questions about our world, while also helping society by applying this knowledge to real life.

    Helge Ravn (right) was put in charge by the then Director-General, Carlo Rubbia, of moving the ISOLDE facility from the SC to the new PSB.(Image: CERN)

    Although CERN’s name is the European Organization for Nuclear Research, it’s now better known for collliding high-energy beams of protons to produce and study sub-atomic particles, like the Higgs boson. But despite the trend across the rest of the Laboratory towards particle physics, at ISOLDE the focus has remained on nuclear physics, where a low-energy proton beam (of 1.4 GeV) isused to produce and study exotic radioactive nuclei.

    “Curie was an inspiration, she drew so many women into a career of nuclear physics and chemistry that now ISOLDE has one of the best ratios of female scientists”
    – Helge Ravn, Technical Group Leader from 1971 to 2000

    “What we do at ISOLDE is directly in line with what Madame Curie did,” says Helge Ravn. As a student in CERN’s nuclear chemistry group before the ISOLDE experiment was built, his fascination with the subject shines through. “Curie was an inspiration, she drew so many women into a career of nuclear physics and chemistry that now ISOLDE has one of the best ratios of female scientists. It’s pioneering diversity at CERN and in science,” explains Ravn.

    ISOLDE,Experiments and Tracks
    In 1991, the Synchrocyclotron was shut down, and ISOLDE had to move to a new location and be connected to the new Proton Synchrotron Booster in order to continue. The new facility was built (you can see the work here) in record time, to prevent disruption to the physics community as much as possible. (Image: CERN)

    The research undertaken, originally by Marie Curie and now continued by the scientists at ISOLDE, is not just helping to redress the gender balance but also contributing to treating cancer with radiation, teaching us about the stars, and even helping to make computers faster.

    Narrow escape

    Despite ISOLDE’s reputation and achievements, it almost came to a sudden death, when the decision was finally made to shut down the ageing, analogue SC, which, having been abandoned by other experiments long before, was only supporting the ISOLDE facility.

    Photowalk 2015
    Fifty years on, the experimental hall at ISOLDE is unrecognisable. (Image: Samuele Evolvi/CERN)

    “Less than two years later, we had beam and could run again. It was an amazing feat that could only be achieved thanks to the infrastructure and competences at CERN. There’s nowhere else like ISOLDE,” smiles Jonson, echoing the sentiments of virtually every scientist I’ve met who works there.

    ISOLDE was relocated and now beams are provided by the Proton Synchrotron Booster and ISOLDE’s physics was able to continue. The humble 1960s experiment grew and grew, and fifty years later the facility now provies beam for roughly 50 experiments per year, supported by more than 500 scientists.


    This is the first part of a series celebrating 50 years of ISOLDE physics. You can continue reading the series here.

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  • Meet ISOLDE: Targeting new discoveries

    2017-10-16T01:29:39Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Meet ISOLDE: Targeting new discoveries"

    The target lab at ISOLDE (Image: Christoph Madsen/CERN)

    For Richard Catherall, the age-old alchemist’s dream of changing one element into another is a simple reality of his working day.

    Targets are vital for any experiment at ISOLDE, as it is within this component that the radioactive isotopes are produced. In part two of our series we look at the backbone of any ISOLDE experiment, the target production.(Video: Christoph Madsen/CERN)

    Thirty-four years ago he began his career at CERN, and today he is one of just a handful of people here capable of building the targets – the crucial components in the production of exotic isotopes that are used in the low and high energy beams necessary for an ISOLDE experiment to run.

    ISOLDE,Experiments and Tracks
    Richard Catherall (seen here on the far left) arrived at CERN in 1983. Now he is one of just a handful of people at ISOLDE capable of producing the targets that give the experiments the ability to change one element into another. (Image: CERN)

    As ISOLDE celebrates 50 years of cutting-edge physics, we delve deeper into what goes into building these vital elements of CERN’s longest-running facility.

    Exploring exotic new realms

    Each target is tailor-made for each of ISOLDE’s experiments. They are each built from different materials, to produce the required isotopes when the high-intensity proton beam from the Proton Synchrotron Booster (PSB) is directed into it. There are more than 100 combinations of materials and ion sources, which can be put together in a variety of ways to build targets that produce the different isotopes. It is here that protons from the bottle of hydrogen at the start of CERN’s accelerator chain produce the 1300 different isotopes being studied at ISOLDE.

    “I’m just there to make sure it works,” Richard says modestly.

    “I do find it challenging,” he explains. “Depending on the approved scientific proposal, we design and build the appropriate target for the requested nuclei. The challenge comes when we have to design a target and ion source combination to produce beams of nuclei that have never been produced before. If we look to the nuclear chart, the new and exciting physics often comes from the nuclei far from stability, where production rates of short-lived isotopes are extremely low and sometimes unknown. The exciting part is being able to produce pure beams of nuclei at the extremity of the nuclear chart.”

    This is a target at ISOLDE for producing tantalum-232, after it has been irradiated. Once a target is irradiated it is handled by robots. (Image: Maximilien Brice/CERN)

    Richard’s enthusiasm for his role is infectious. I find myself captivated as he goes into detail describing a new technique the team have developed, to build a target that produces the rare isotope astatine, which involves reversing the polarity of the entire machine. It’s estimated that less than 30 grams of this unstable element are available on Earth at any one time, and it is incredibly difficult to reproduce in a laboratory as it decays so quickly, so the achievement is clear.

    “We build about thirty targets a year, on demand. Each target has to produce enough isotopes for the experiment to be successful, but this is hard to test before actually bombarding it with protons. We do a quality check with stable beams beforehand, but the quantity of radioactive nuclei is something we can only verify just before the experiment starts,” says Richard.

    But Richard and his colleagues can be proud, since their targets (along with the ion source) are able to produce the largest selection of isotope beams, and the most pure, of any ISOL physics laboratory in the world.

    From car construction to nuclear discovery

    The targets are handled by robots (two of many robots used at CERN for physics research). This is because once the targets are placed on the target station and hit with a beam of protons, they become radioactive. So, for safety reasons, they can only be handled by specially adapted robotic arms.

    The robot arms in ISOLDE’s target area allow the radioactive targets to be handled safely (Image: Maximilien Brice/CERN)

    These robots may look familiar if you’ve ever seen a TV advert of a car being built. They were originally designed to do just that, but in ISOLDE they have been adapted and made radiation-resistant to move the targets without human intervention.

    Increasing intensity, increasing rarity

    The targets, and the team that produce them, are a vital part of what makes ISOLDE such a unique facility at CERN. Soon the team will be pushed to produce more reliable targets, and harder-to-produce isotopes, as the arrival of the new Linac4 will increase the intensity and energy of the beam provided by the PSB.

    For Richard and his team, this just adds to the excitement of their daily work. As we look back over fifty years of physics at ISOLDE, we can also look forward to the bright future ahead. “There’s still lots of opportunity for new isotopes to be discovered,” he concludes.


    Find out more about ISOLDE, read the rest of the Meet ISOLDE series here.

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  • Meet Isolde: Fresh faces bring fresh ideas

    2017-10-16T00:29:35Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Meet Isolde: Fresh faces bring fresh ideas"

    The RILIS experiment at ISOLDE. The laser in the experiment has great selectivity, it’s able to select and ionise just one specific element. (Image: Noemi Caraban/CERN)

    Monika Piersa leans across the coffee table in CERN’s cafeteria like she’s sharing a secret:

    “Anytime someone’s surprised nuclear physics takes place at CERN, I tell them why it makes sense – it helps with astrophysics, nuclear power, etc. It’s just as important as the Higgs!”

    Low-energy physics is at the heart of the ISOLDE facility, and is where the collaboration has built its reputation as the best facility in the world for studying radioactive isotopes. In part three of our series about the ISOLDE facility we learn more about how low-energy physics at ISOLDE has evolved over the past half century. (Video: Christoph Madsen/CERN)

    As a summer student in 2016, Monika worked at CERN’s longest running experimental facility, ISOLDE (Isotope mass Separator On-Line). This week, the facility celebrates fifty years of physics, low-energy nuclear physics to be precise.

    CERN is best known for physics at high energies. Indeed, the same accelerators that feed ISOLDE – originally the Synchrocyclotron (the SC) and now the Proton Synchrotron Booster (PSB) – also provide protons for CERN’s flagship Large Hadron Collider (LHC). But despite being less widely known, up to 60 per cent of all the protons that enter the accelerator chain go to ISOLDE.

    The low-energy facility uses so many of the protons because, by bombarding ISOLDE’s target with as many protons as possible, the facility can produce more exotic nuclear isotopes. These isotopes are then separated and delivered via a dozen low-energy beamlines to many experimental setups.

    Looking down into the ISOLDE experimental hall it’s hard to differentiate between experiments but this isn’t a problem for many of the scientists who enjoy the collaborative nature of the facility. “You can’t be working on your own and say ‘oh look I discovered electricity’ you need to go to conferences, you need to share your work. If you appear out of nowhere people won’t trust your work. Whereas if you know someone who works carefully and hard and they produce a result you trust it because you’ve seen how they work,” explains Razvan Lica. (Image: Maximilien Brice/CERN)

    Everything changes

    ISOLDE is unique not just because it is able to bombard the target with high-energy protons at 1.4 GeV, but also because the experimental hall is in a constant state of flux. Over 50 different physics experiments are performed here each year.

    Some of these experiments are “travelling” systems, which come to ISOLDE shortly before their scheduled beam time, then leave again once their data collection finishes, while several other experiments have chosen ISOLDE as their home base and stay there permanently.

    “Physics is a never-ending story, when you learn something, it leaves you with more questions.”
    - Monika Piersa, summer student at ISOLDE

    “ISOLDE is special for its range of experiments. There are some in solid-state physics looking at superconductors that will lead to faster or more energy-efficient computers, or biophysics and medical physics experiments looking into new cancer treatments, or experiments in nuclear astrophysics that will teach us what’s going on inside a star. Nuclear physics is applied everywhere,” says Thomas Day Goodacre, who worked on the laser set up for the RILIS ion source at ISOLDE.

    Last month, the first African-led experiment took place at CERN, when students and staff from the University of the Western Cape (UWC) investigated the isotope selenium 70 at the ISOLDE facility. “When you’re really working on a project, the other problems, language, etc., fade away. You all have the same goal: physics,” says Marika Piersa on being part of an international community. (Image: Christoph Madsen/CERN)

    “Fundamentally ISOLDE is a user facility and anyone can submit an idea for an experiment. Any countries who are members of the ISOLDE collaboration, whether or not they are members of CERN, can submit proposals to the ISOLDE Programme Advisory Board (called INTC). The ISOLDE INTC is made up of people from other facilities around the world and they’re the ones who decide if a new experiment should happen. It’s set up to avoid bias,” he continues.

    Building communities

    The travelling nature of the multiple experiments at the facility, as well as a high turnover of research groups contributes to a constant state of flux in the ISOLDE experimental hall.

    “It keeps things fresh, because of people coming and going. It’s flexible, you can’t settle into one way of running, we have around 500 users with constant turnover, which leads to new demands and the infrastructure being upgraded. The multiuser component is important to ISOLDE, for creativity and ideas,” says Karl Johnston, ISOLDE’s physics coordinator.

    ISOLDE,Experiments and Tracks
    ISOLDE is the only facility in the world that uses a beam with an energy of 1.4 GeV. Firing this higher energy proton beam at a target produces far more isotopes than if a lower energy beam was used. This is an image of the beamlines at ISOLDE. (Image: Maximilien Brice/CERN)

    “There is a huge community demand on ISOLDE, the demand for beam time is really high; we don’t physically have the time to study more isotopes. So it’s a good thing more facilities are being built around the world,” says Razvan Lica, a PhD student at ISOLDE, adding that the draw for some researchers to work at ISOLDE is helped by the opportunity to live somewhere filled with beautiful nature, Switzerland.

    Knowing there’s always more to find out, and with such diverse applications, ISOLDE researchers are pushing to learn even more with the next step for ISOLDE, an upgrade called High Intensity and Energy Isolde, or HIE-ISOLDE.

    “Physics is a never-ending story,” explains Monika. “When you learn something, it leaves you with more questions. You’re constantly reaching cliffhangers, asking what next?”


    This is part 3 of the series to celebrate fifty years of physics at ISOLDE. Read more about HIE-ISOLDE and the high-energy experiments taking place at CERN’s ISOLDE facility in part four. Or read the rest of the series.

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  • Meet ISOLDE: Future physics with HIE-ISOLDE

    2017-10-16T00:29:35Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Meet ISOLDE: Future physics with HIE-ISOLDE"

    HIE-ISOLDE has innovated many new ideas, particularly in space-saving solutions. One way the engineers kept the system compact was to build cryomodules that each contain five cavities, not just one (Image: Maximilien Brice/ CERN)

    This week, ISOLDE, CERN’s nuclear physics facility, is celebrating 50 years of physics. But after half a century of studying radioactive isotopes, the facility is on the brink of a new phase in its history, as its upgrade, HIE-ISOLDE, nears completion.

    “ISOLDE makes sure that it is always improving,” says Razvan Lica, a CERN PhD student working at the ISOLDE facility.


    Watch the fourth part in our documentary series about ISOLDE to find out more about the HIE-ISOLDE upgrade and the people building it. (Video: Christoph Madsen/CERN)

    The HIE-ISOLDE upgrade, which will allow ISOLDE to collide beams of isotopes into targets at higher energies, is a chance for the facility to reinvent itself. The HIE stands for High Intensity and Energy, and physicists hope that it will guarantee ISOLDE another ten to fifteen years at the forefront of this area of research.

    Currently, to produce radioactive isotopes, ISOLDE takes proton beams from one of CERN’s accelerators, the Proton Synchrotron Booster (PSB) and fires them into a target. The target then sends out many radioactive isotopes, which can be directed down beamlines to various experiments. HIE-ISOLDE uses a new, unique, linear accelerator (linac) to take these beams and accelerate them again, before sending them on to secondary targets, where nuclear reactions occur. 

    ISOLDE,HIE-ISOLDE,Experiments and Tracks
    The new linac had to fit into just 16 m of space. “We had to develop a very compact linac. That’s what makes it unique. In other facilities, every cavity has its own cryostat but if we had to do that it would be far too long, so we had to squeeze all of them into one cryomodule. We had to have the solenoids fitted too, they’re almost the same length as a cavity, so we had to do lots of design, research and development. The biggest challenge was to design in spaces with clearances of just 1 mm,” explains Yacine Kadi, project leader for HIE-ISOLDE. (Image: Maximilien Brice/CERN)

    “When we talk about elements we use their proton number. A heavy element is one with a higher proton number, but you can have many different isotopes of the same element. These have the same proton number but a different number of neutrons,” explains Liam Gaffney, who works on the Miniball set-up, attached to one of the HIE-ISOLDE beamlines.

    Physicists like Liam use these isotopes to research a range of topics, from astrophysics, by recreating reactions that happen in the stars, to the internal structure and shape of exotic nuclei, giving us an insight into the building blocks of the world around us.

    “Previously we couldn’t do as many of the reactions as we wanted to with radioactive isotopes, as the beam energy wasn’t high enough. To study the shape of the nuclei of the heaviest elements we need higher energies to overcome an increase in the nuclei charge. More protons means a higher positive charge, and since two positive nuclei repel each other, it means a higher energy is needed to collide them,” he continues.

    “Higher energy opens a new field. We had a stepping stone with the REX upgrade, when ISOLDE first introduced the possibility of reaccelerating isotopes, in 2001, but with the higher energies from HIE-ISOLDE, it’s a new realm,” says Karl Johnston, ISOLDE’s physics coordinator, who hopes the upgrade will mean even more applications are found for ISOLDE’s research.


    The energy upgrade means that ISOLDE can now collect information about the properties of nuclei that were previously not accessible. Eventually, researchers will also be able to study isotopes with even more or even fewer neutrons, which are less stable and harder to produce in a laboratory. So far these isotopes have been out of the reach of physicists.

    ISOLDE,Experiment,Experiments and Tracks
    There are currently three spaces for experiments to be attached to HIE-ISOLDE, with the hope that seven or more will eventually run each year. There is one permanent station attached to the linac, called Miniball, seen here, which can be set up to run multiple different experiments (Image: Julien Ordan/CERN)

    “Higher energy gives us the chance to study many different things. We focus on fundamental questions concerning the structure of nuclei,” explains Liam. “Studying reactions inside the stars to learn more about how the different elements are produced. Asking questions like: why are there so many heavy elements, like uranium, on the planet?”

    “HIE-ISOLDE is a major breakthrough and is the result of almost eight years of research and development, of prototyping and design. It’s a huge adventure and what makes us most proud isn’t even that we managed to build the machine but that from the start we have seen new physics and new, enthusiastic users,” enthuses Maria Borge, who led the ISOLDE group from 2012 to 2017.

    Challenge accepted

    “Engineers told me it was mission impossible”
    - Yacine Kadi, leader of the HIE-ISOLDE project

    But building a machine of this scope hasn’t been easy. Yacine Kadi, who leads the HIE-ISOLDE project, starts to laugh as he spends minutes listing the challenges the project faced.

    HIE-ISOLDE,superconducting solenoid,cryo-module,Accelerators
    Each cryomodule contains more than 10 000 parts, which need to be carefully cleaned, calibrated and installed. (Image: Maximilien Brice/CERN)

    With scarce resources, the design and development phase of the project relied on early-career researchers to carry out the majority of the work. It was a risk that paid off: “We didn’t have the resources to hire virtually any staff, but we made sure we only took the absolute best – we couldn’t afford not to – and they did a fantastic job. But then they left before the project was finished!” he explains.

    With his fair share of challenges, Yacine had to rethink construction materials when the metal niobium proved too costly, and amend original plans to avoid a building crossing the border between Switzerland and France.

    “Engineers told me it was mission impossible,” exclaims Yacine. “It was a big, complex project and the choices we made weren’t things we had much experience of at CERN. This meant we had to develop novel ideas and at the same time profit from technological breakthroughs made at CERN, for the Lepton Positron Collider (LEP). In the end it was just a question of the imagination of our physicists and technical staff.”

    ISOLDE,Experiment,Experiments and Tracks
    The inflatable T-Rex at HIE-ISOLDE is the mascot of the REX experiment, which was an earlier post-accelerator at ISOLDE. (Image: Julien Ordan/CERN)

    HIE-ISOLDE is unique in its design because it had to fit a lot of accelerating power into a very compact space. Linear accelerators use radiofrequency cavities to accelerate a beam. Normally an accelerator will house each one of these cavities in its own cryostat – a vacuum chamber that supercools the cavity so that the helium needed for the superconductors to work stays liquid – but HIE-ISOLDE didn’t have the room for each cavity to have its own cryostat. Instead, one way the engineers kept the system compact was to build cryomodules that each contain five cavities but require only one cryogenic system.

    “Yes, HIE-ISOLDE was a challenge from a technical point of view, but it was a major human adventure for me. You increase your field of knowledge, and you work in different domains, so you meet many different people. I met people I wouldn’t ever have met even after spending forty years at CERN,” he continues.

    Currently, HIE-ISOLDE is nearing the completion of its energy upgrade and has already had two successful running periods with more than 15 experiments. The last of the four superconducting cryomodules is due to be installed over the winter shutdown in 2018, and will allow the machine to accelerate the radioactive beams to energies of 10MeV/u.

    “Others might get to that energy but no other facility in the world can accelerate very heavy nuclei. We can do that,” says Maria, emphasising the importance of this new upgrade, which cements ISOLDE’s role at the forefront of nuclear physics for the foreseeable future. 


    This week, ISOLDE, CERN’s nuclear facility, is celebrating 50 years of physics with a series of articles and a short documentary series that takes a closer look at the facility and the people that work there. See the rest of the series here.

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  • Meet ISOLDE: What can ISOLDE do for cancer research?

    2017-10-15T23:29:46Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Meet ISOLDE: What can ISOLDE do for cancer research?"

    ISOLDE now has a new facility dedicated to producing radioistopes for medical research (Image:Maximilien Brice/CERN)

    CERN is better known as the birthplace of the World Wide Web than for the role it plays in researching new cancer treatments, but that’s exactly what a new facility at ISOLDE will do.

    This episode of our mini documentary series on ISOLDE, the nuclear physics experimental facility at CERN, looks at what applications radioactive isotopes have for medical research and technologies, and how a new facility called CERN-MEDICIS will improve ISOLDE's links with the medical community (Video: Christoph Madsen/CERN)

    The dedicated facility being built, called CERN-MEDICIS (Medical Isotopes Collected from ISOLDE), will use radioactive isotopes produced at ISOLDE, CERN’s nuclear physics facility, solely for the purpose of researching non-conventional radioisotopes for medical research.

    Radioactive isotopes are already widely used by the medical community, for imaging, diagnostics and radiation therapy. But many of the isotopes currently used are not perfect; they don’t target tumours closely enough, or a different type of radiation might be better suited for the imaging process. MEDICIS hopes to be able to produce isotopes that more accurately meet the needs of medical professionals.

    CERN-MEDICIS is built near to the ISOLDE facility, and a mechanical conveyor belt runs btween the two. (Image: CERN)

    “If you just talk about pure nuclear physics, it could get boring fairly fast,” jokes Karl Johnston, physics coordinator at ISOLDE, CERN’s nuclear physics facility, “but this, MEDICIS, it’s genuinely exciting.”

    “The real advantage for MEDICIS is that you can speak to a medical doctor, and ask them what they would like from an isotope, a shorter physical half-life let’s say, so it stays in the subject for less time, and then we can produce them all: isotopes that emit positrons and gamma rays for imaging, isotopes that emit beta electrons or alpha particles that can be used for attacking cancer itself, anything,” he continues.

    Currently, ISOLDE already produces two types of isotope for medicine that can’t be produced anywhere else. Terbium-152 is used for imaging and terbium-149 produces alpha radiation, which is used in radiotherapy to kill resistant cancerous cells.

    “When we use alpha-emitting isotopes, it is a much more concentrated form of radiation that kills cells only in its immediate surroundings, so the doctors target it into a really specific location. The DNA has no chance to survive. But because it’s specific it means fewer radiation side effects too,” says Thierry Stora, the CERN engineer who leads the CERN MEDICIS project.

    A parasitic experiment

    “This is why ISOLDE is so fantastic: we’re pushing the boundaries of pure physics research and it has a tangible effect, it can touch elements of society”
     Karl Johnston, physics coordinator at ISOLDE

    MEDICIS works by placing a second target behind the ISOLDE one. A beam of protons from CERN’s Proton Synchrotron Booster is fired into the ISOLDE target, where it only loses roughly ten per cent of its intensity, so the particles that pass through can still be used. MEDICIS takes advantage of this left-over beam.

    The target is brought into this room, called the hot cell, by the mechanical conveyor belt. Here, an operator will extract and purify the isotopes, which are then sent in batches to external medical-research laboratories. (Image: Harriet Jarlett/CERN)

    Once the isotopes have been produced in the MEDICIS target by irradiation of the left-over beam, an automated conveyor belt carries them to the MEDICIS facility, where the radioisotopes of interest will be extracted through mass separation and implanted in a metallic foil. Gold foils are used because the metal is very unreactive, and any coating can be dissolved easily once the isotope reaches its destination. It is then shipped, in weekly batches, to medical research facilities, such as PSI, CHUV or HUG, to study and test.

    Once at a hospital or research centre, technicians will dissolve the isotope and attach it to a sugar or something similar. This makes the isotope injectable, and the sugar means it can adhere to the tumour or organ that needs imaging or treating.

    Although ISOLDE already produces isotopes for medical research, since so many experiments are vying for beam time it’s hard to give these isotopes enough resources, and so they are only produced for a few days per year.

    “One of the best and most positive things about MEDICIS is that it’s a parasitic experiment. It uses the same proton beam that goes through the ISOLDE target, but then the MEDICIS target is irradiated behind the ISOLDE one. Whenever ISOLDE is running you can get radioisotopes. You don’t need extra beam time,” explains Yisel Martinez, one of the first PhD students to work on the MEDICIS facility.

    New facility, new challenge

    While the benefits of a dedicated facility to steadily produce these medical isotopes is clear, the researchers at ISOLDE have struggled at times to explain why it’s so important.

    “We have had to be evangelists for this. When doctors hear about the process – a short proposal to CERN, more paperwork, the length of time before it’s possible to get the isotope ready for them to use in their medicine – often it’s really hard to get them interested,” Karl shrugs. “But despite these worries, we have lots of people signed up who can see the benefits, and many doctors are convinced. Although even then, sometimes you don’t get an isotope to the research facility fast enough, and it just decays away. It can be heartbreaking.”

    As in the ISOLDE facility, the targets at MEDICIS have to be handled by robots because they are radioactive. At one point the MEDICIS robot was hijacked by the ISOLDE facility to rescue their physics programme when their own suffered a fault. (Image: Maximilien Brice/CERN)

    The infrastructure too has faced its own share of challenges. At one point, after six weeks of paperwork and many days of transport, the mass separator magnet from KU Leuven, a university in Belgium, was turned away at the Swiss border, around fifty metres from the MEDICIS building, and sent back to Belgium.

    But now the facility is about to start running. And, as of next year, a huge range of innovative isotopes, capable of changing medicine, will be produced weekly.

    “This is why ISOLDE is so fantastic: we’re pushing the boundaries of pure physics research and it has a tangible effect, it can touch elements of society,” concludes Karl.

    This week, ISOLDE, CERN’s nuclear facility, is celebrating 50 years of physics with a series of articles and a short documentary series that takes a closer look at the facility and the people that work there. See the rest of the series here.

    For more information on how CERN has contributed to medical technologies, see the Knowledge Transfer website.

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  • Meet ISOLDE Live: Celebrate 50 years of physics at ISOLDE

    2017-10-15T23:29:46Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Meet ISOLDE Live: Celebrate 50 years of physics at ISOLDE"

    On this day 50 years ago, the beams at ISOLDE were turned on, and the experiment began taking physics data. Today, that experiment has grown into a facility that provides beams for more than 50 experiments and over 500 scientists. The research done at ISOLDE has helped us to build better, faster computers, taught us more about the stars, and is helping medical researchers improve radiation treatment, for cancer. 

    Find out more about ISOLDE in our series, Meet ISOLDE, and join us on Facebook at 14:00 today, Monday 16 October 2017, live from the ISOLDE control centre for a chance to have your questions answered by our scientists. 


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  • Week 40 at the Pole

    2017-10-13T21:28:38Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Week 40 at the Pole"

    The sun sure does make things shiny. The face of the station appears dark and flat, but the “beer can,” the large cylindrical tower on the end that connects the aboveground station to belowground corridors, is glowing in the face of the newly risen sun. So is that interesting snowdrift in the foreground.

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  • Baby MIND born at CERN now moving to Japan

    2017-10-13T16:28:32Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Baby MIND born at CERN now moving to Japan"

    Baby MIND under test on the T9 beamline at the Proton Synchrotron experimental hall in the East Area, summer 2017 (Image: Alain Blondel/University of Geneva)

    A member of the CERN Neutrino Platform family of neutrino detectors, Baby MIND, is now ready to be shipped from CERN to Japan in 4 containers to start the experimental endeavour it has been designed and built for. The containers are being loaded on 17 and 18 October and scheduled to arrive by mid-December.

    Baby MIND is a 75-tonne neutrino detector prototype for a Magnetised Iron Neutrino Detector (MIND).  Its goal is to precisely identify and track positively or negatively charged muons – the product of muon neutrinos from the T2K (Tokai to Kamioka) beam line, interacting with matter in the WAGASCI neutrino detector, in Japan. The more detailed the identification of the muon that crosses the Baby MIND detector, the more we can learn about the original neutrino, in view of contributing to a more precise understanding of the neutrino oscillations phenomenon*.

    The journey of these muon neutrinos starts from the Japan Proton Accelerator Research Complex (J-PARC) in Tokai. They travel all the way to the Super-Kamiokande detector in Kamioka, some 295 km away. On their journey, the neutrinos pass through the near detector complex building, located 280 m downstream from Tokai, where the WAGASCI + Baby MIND suite of detectors are. Baby MIND aims to measure the velocity and charge of muons produced by the neutrino interactions with matter in the WAGASCI detector. Muons precise tracking will help testing our ability to reconstruct important characteristics of their parent neutrinos. This, in turn, is important because in studying muon neutrino oscillations on their journey from Tokai to Kamioka, it is crucial to know how strongly and how often they interact with matter.

    Born from prototyping activities launched within the AIDA project, since its approval in December 2015 by the CERN Research Board, the Baby MIND collaboration – comprising CERN, University of Geneva, the Institute of Nuclear research in Moscow, the Universities of Glasgow, Kyoto, Sofia, Tokyo, Uppsala and Valencia – has been busy designing, prototyping, constructing and testing this detector. The magnet construction phase, which lasted 6 months, was completed in mid-February 2017, two weeks ahead of schedule.

    The fully assembled Baby MIND detector was tested on a beam line at the experimental zone of the Proton Synchrotron in the East Hall during Summer 2017. These tests showed that the detector is working as expected and, therefore, ready to go.

    Baby MIND under test on the T9 beamline at the Proton Synchrotron experimental hall in the East Area, summer 2017 (Image: Alain Blondel/University of Geneva)

    *Neutrino oscillations

    Neutrinos are everywhere. Each second, several billion of these particles coming from the Sun, the Earth and our galaxy, pass through our bodies. And yet, they fly past unnoticed. Indeed, despite their cosmic abundance and ubiquity, neutrinos are extremely difficult to study because they hardly interact with matter. For this reason, they are among the least understood particles in the Standard Model (SM) of particle physics.

    What we know is that they come in three types or ‘flavours’ – electron neutrino, muon neutrino and tau neutrino. Since their first detection in 1956, and until the late 1990s neutrinos were thought to be massless, in line with the SM predictions. However, a few years later, the Super-Kamiokande experiment in Japan and then the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory in Canada independently demonstrated that neutrinos can change (oscillate) from one flavour to another spontaneously. This is only possible if neutrinos have masses, however small, and the probability of changing flavour is proportional to their difference in mass and the distance they travel. This ground-breaking discovery was awarded with the 2015 Physics Nobel Prize.

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  • Evolution of skin color, taming rice thrice, and peering into baby brains

    2017-10-12T21:28:28Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Evolution of skin color, taming rice thrice, and peering into baby brains"

    This week we hear stories about a new brain imaging technique for newborns, recently uncovered evidence on rice domestication on three continents, and why Canada geese might be migrating into cities, with Online News Editor David Grimm.   Sarah Crespi interviews Sarah Tishkoff of University of Pennsylvania about the age and diversity of genes related to skin pigment in African genomes.   Listen to previous podcasts.   [Image: Danny Chapman/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

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  • For one day only LHC collides xenon beams

    2017-10-12T21:28:28Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "For one day only LHC collides xenon beams"

    The team working on the ion run in the CERN control centre as the xenon run begins. (Image: Jules Ordan/CERN)

    Today, the LHC is getting a taste of something unusual. For eight hours, the Large Hadron Collider is accelerating and colliding xenon nuclei, allowing the large LHC experiments, ATLAS, ALICE, CMS and LHCb, to record xenon collisions for the first time.

    Xenon is a noble gas, present in miniscule quantities in the atmosphere. Its atoms consist of 54 protons and between 70 and 80 neutrons, depending on the isotope. The xenon collisions in the LHC (of atoms with 54 protons and 75 neutrons) are therefore similar to the heavy-ion collisions that are regularly carried out at the LHC. Normally, lead nuclei, which have a much greater mass, are used. “But a run with xenon nuclei was planned for the NA61/SHINE fixed-target experiment at the SPS (Super Proton Synchrotron),” explains Reyes Alemany Fernandez, who is in charge of heavy-ion runs. “We are therefore taking the opportunity for a short run with xenon at the LHC.

    It’s a unique opportunity both to explore the LHC’s capabilities with a new type of beam and to obtain new physics results,” says John Jowett, the physicist in charge of heavy-ion beams at the LHC.

    And who knows? Maybe this unprecedented run will lead to some surprising discoveries. “The experiments will conduct the same kind of analyses with xenon ions as they do with lead ions, but, because the xenon nuclei have less mass, the geometry of the collision is different,” explains Jamie Boyd, LHC programme coordinator, who is responsible for liaison between the LHC machine and experiment teams. Heavy-ion collisions allow physicists to study quark-gluon plasma, a state of matter that is thought to have briefly existed just after the Big Bang. In this extremely dense and hot primordial soup, quarks and gluons moved around freely, without being confined by the strong force of protons and neutrons, as they are in our Universe today.


    The LHC screen during the xenon-ion run. (Image: CERN)

    Switching from protons to xenon isn’t a piece of cake, however. A team has been preparing the accelerator complex for the xenon run since the start of the year. Atoms of the gas are accelerated and stripped of their 54 electrons in four successive accelerators before being launched into the LHC. “The number of bunches and the revolution frequency varies a lot between protons and xenon nuclei,” explains Reyes Alemany Fernandez. “One of the difficulties is adjusting and synchronising the accelerators’ radiofrequency systems.”

    After the xenon run in the LHC lasting a few hours, xenon nuclei will continue to circulate in the accelerator complex, but only as far as the SPS. For eight weeks, the SPS will supply xenon ions to the NA61/SHINE experiment, which is also studying quark-gluon plasma, but whose analyses will complement those carried out by the LHC experiments. More specifically, NA61/SHINE is interested in the deconfinement point, a collision-energy threshold above which the creation of quark-gluon plasma would be possible. NA61/SHINE is thus systematically testing many collision energies using ions of different masses. After lead, beryllium and argon, it’s now xenon’s turn to take the stage.

    A chart showing different types of stable nuclei, with their atomic number, i.e. the number of protons, Z, shown on the horizontal axis and the number of neutrons, N, shown on the vertical axis. The three types already accelerated in the LHC, i.e. protons (hydrogen), lead nuclei and xenon nuclei, are shown in red with their mass number, A (N + Z).


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  • Il test di trasporto per l'esperimento SOX

    2017-10-11T14:28:20Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Il test di trasporto per l'esperimento SOX"

    Il 10 ottobre 2017 si è svolto un test di trasporto ai Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso (LNGS) per l’esperimento SOX. Si è trattato di un test di trasporto “in bianco”, cioè senza carico, allo scopo di verificare le procedure di trasferimento e movimentazione del materiale.

    Read More ...

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  • Week 39 at the Pole

    2017-10-10T14:28:13Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Week 39 at the Pole"

    Just because the sun is now up, doesn’t mean you can see everything clearly. Check out the poor visibility in this image of a flag line just outside the station, disappearing into whiteness. The 40-knot storm made outdoor work impossible and therefore restricted.

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  • Beamline for Schools 2017: a successful story continues

    2017-10-10T09:28:14Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Beamline for Schools 2017: a successful story continues"

    The participants in this year’s Beamline for Schools competition sharing their experiences with members of the CERN Management. (On the right: Charlotte Warakaulle, CERN Director for International Relations) (Image: Sophia Bennett/CERN)

    Can high-school students conduct physics experiments just like real scientists? Two teams of students from Italy and Canada proved that they can.

    After winning the 2017 Beamline for Schools (BL4S) competition, “TCO-ASA” from Fermo, Italy, and “Charging Cavaliers” from Cambridge, Canada, came to CERN for two weeks to conduct their own experiments at a fully-equipped CERN beamline. The teams were selected out of 180 applications.

    “Coming up with the ideas and writing a scientific proposal is a lot of work, but also an experience we can profit from when we finish school and start looking for a job,” says Davide Cartuccia from the Italian team.

    The Italian team, consisting of eight students, designed and constructed a simple and low-cost Cherenkov light detector. Cherenkov light is a phenomenon observed when particles pass through a medium with a speed higher than the speed of light in that medium. The students assembled a light-tight plastic box filled with water. A sensitive camera and a silicon photomultiplier placed outside the box were used to detect the flashes of Cherenkov light inside.

    The thirteen Canadian students bravely immersed themselves in the unexplored territories of particle physics, looking for hypothetical exotic particles carrying a fractional charge. It is believed that fractionally charged particles can be created by the collision of ordinary particles with a target. For this reason, the team directed the proton beam from the Proton Synchrotron at a block of iron. The fully charged particles were deflected with a magnet and a specially developed scintillator was used to pick up the faint signals that the fractionally charged particles might leave. In addition, the team found efficient ways to reduce the background noise. The data the students collected will be analysed in detail once they are back in Canada.

    “We feel incredibly privileged to be given this opportunity. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that opens so many doors to knowledge that is otherwise inaccessible to us,” says Denisa Logojan from the Canadian team.

    Besides working on their physics projects, the students had a full day of safety training and visited various CERN facilities. In four shifts per day the students worked in the control room and the T9 beam line in the East Hall, while at the same time several volunteers helped them with data acquisition. For more than 10 days they lived the life of a scientist. “Everyone is so knowledgeable, friendly and open. We talked to scientists and they were all welcoming,” said Marina Robin from the Canadian team.

    Returning to their schools does not bring their experience to an end. Data analysis will continue with the help of the support scientists and teachers, and they are encouraged to write a scientific paper, which can eventually be published in a scientific journal or presented at a conference, as two former winning teams have done already.

    The two winning teams of the 2017 Beamline for Schools competition in the East Hall where they conducted their experiments, accompanied by members of the CERN Management (Image: Sophia Bennett/CERN)

    Beamline for Schools is an education and outreach project funded by the CERN & Society Foundation, supported by individuals, foundations and companies. The project is funded in part by the Alcoa Foundation; and additional contributions are received from the Motorola Solutions Foundation, the Ernest Solvay Fund managed by the King Baudouin Foundation, and National Instruments.

    The 2018 BL4S competition has already been announced and more than 60 teams have already been pre-registered. Proposals will be accepted until 31 March 2018. We are looking forward to another exciting run of Beamline for Schools in the year to come!

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  • Prototype of LZ Dark Matter Experiment Gets More Sensitive ‘Eye’

    2017-10-09T16:28:12Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Prototype of LZ Dark Matter Experiment Gets More Sensitive ‘Eye’"

    System tests at SLAC continue with 32 light sensors - up from a single one - in a small-scale version of the future experiment, which will use nearly 500 of them.

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  • Putting rescue robots to the test, an ancient Scottish village buried in sand, and why costly drugs may have more side effects

    2017-10-05T20:28:31Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Putting rescue robots to the test, an ancient Scottish village buried in sand, and why costly drugs may have more side effects"

    This week we hear stories about putting rescue bots to the test after the Mexico earthquake, why a Scottish village was buried in sand during the Little Ice Age, and efforts by the U.S. military to predict posttraumatic stress disorder with Online News Editor David Grimm. Andrew Wagner interviews Alexandra Tinnermann of the University Medical Center of Hamburg, Germany, about the nocebo effect. Unlike the placebo effect, in which you get positive side effects with no treatment, in the nocebo effect you get negative side effects with no treatment. It turns out both nocebo and placebo effects get stronger with a drug perceived as more expensive. Read the research. Listen to previous podcasts. [Image: Chris Burns/Science; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

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  • The Nobel Prize in Physics 2017

    2017-10-03T10:29:25Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "The Nobel Prize in Physics 2017"

    The Nobel Prize in Physics 2017 was divided, one half awarded to Rainer Weiss, the other half jointly to Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne "for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves".

    Read More ...

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  • Week 38 at the Pole

    2017-10-02T19:29:24Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Week 38 at the Pole"

    Last week we saw that someone had pulled up a chair to watch the sunrise, this week there are two. And these two people are actually watching the sun—it has been climbing higher and higher all week and is now officially up.

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