The Global Community of Particle Physics

This account brings you hot items from public particle physics news sources, including CERN,, and

  • Week 35 at the Pole

    2019-09-13T16:27:50Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Week 35 at the Pole"

    The sky is beginning to take on different colors at the Pole, depending on which direction you’re looking. There’s a hazy band of orange along the horizon, but facing away toward the station the sky appears blue.

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  • Studying human health at 5100 meters, and playing hide and seek with rats

    2019-09-12T19:27:47Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Studying human health at 5100 meters, and playing hide and seek with rats"

    In La Rinconada, Peru, a town 5100 meters up in the Peruvian Andes, residents get by breathing air with 50% less oxygen than at sea level. International News Editor Martin Enserink visited the site with researchers studying chronic mountain sickness—when the body makes excess red blood cells in an effort to cope with oxygen deprivation—in these extreme conditions. Martin talks with host Sarah Crespi about how understanding why this illness occurs in some people and not others could help the residents of La Rinconada and the 140 million people worldwide living above 2500 meters. Sarah also talks with Annika Stefanie Reinhold about her work at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience in Berlin training rats to play hide and seek. Surprisingly, rats learned the game easily and were even able to switch roles—sometimes playing as the seeker, other times the hider. Annika talks with Sarah about why studying play behavior in animals is important for understanding the connections between play and learning in both rats and humans. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Ads on this week’s show: MOVA Globes; Kroger’s Zero Hunger, Zero Waste campaign Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Tambako The Jaguar/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

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  • Q&A: Becky Thompson

    2019-09-12T17:27:49Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Q&A: Becky Thompson"

    Meet the comic-creating, triathlete, Hufflepuff physicist who’s also the new head of Fermilab’s Office of Education and Public Outreach.

    An illustration of Becky Thompson skydiving next to Spectra

    Fermilab’s current suite of education and outreach is broad, reaching students and the public both locally and around the globe. At the lab itself, opportunities include a science education center, public tours, K-12 visits, and the lab's famous bison. There are programs such as Ask-A-Scientist, the Fermilab Arts and Lecture Series, and events including the annual STEM Career Expo and Family Open House. Fermilab also reaches beyond the boundaries of the site to local fairs and festivals, talks at organizations and schools, the QuarkNet program, and much more.

    This is all now the purview of Becky Thompson, Fermilab’s new head of the Office of Education and Public Outreach. Previously the head of public outreach for the American Physical Society, her work has ranged from writing books about the science of Game of Thrones to building beds of nails for science expos. She sat down with Symmetry writer Lauren Biron to discuss physics, outreach, and life beyond the lab.

    We hear your recent wedding had science experiments as the centerpieces.


    We did a DIY wedding and I went a little overboard. The reception was in a brewery. There were big tables and each had a different experiment. One had drinking birds, one had fake snow, one had a Chinese spouting bowl, one had density beads. I wanted something that people could interact with so that it wasn’t awkward, because receptions can be awkward! I brought in a smoke cannon trash can and put it aside with the fog machine. My friends from APS used it – until my aunt got confused that there was a fire and unplugged the smoke machine, so we stopped that. We had a really good time interacting with the experiments and with each other.

    Can you take us on a quick journey of how you got into physics outreach?


    When I was in grad school, my advisor one day walked into my office and said, “What are you doing? I’m teaching professional development and I need the least intimidating physicist I can find.” I said, “I can do that.” He pushed me to do more education things, and teachers asked me to do demo shows. I started working more with the UTeach program at [the University of Texas] Austin, which gets undergrads teaching right away. When I was getting ready to graduate, my advisor and I talked about what I should do. He said, “You could go on in physics, but the skillset you have with the ability to connect with the audience and the public, not everyone has that.” From there I went to the American Physical Society and, over 11 years, expanded what they were doing. As part of that I started writing the Spectra comic book series.

    Tell us more about Spectra, the superhero with the powers of a laser. Why did you decide to make a comic? Is she based on you?


    PhysicsQuest was a program where we made a kit with experiments and sent it out around the country. It was originally based on a physicist’s life, and you learned a bit about them as you worked through the kit. We made a comic book for it about Nikola Tesla, and people liked it. The next year was LaserFest, and we wanted to do something related to lasers. We did the obvious thing and invented a superhero. 

    I sent a character sheet to our artist laying out how I envisioned her, and her powers – but let him design everything else. I used to wear red Converse high tops to work all the time, and when I got the first draft of Spectra I realized instantly what he had done: she had red Converse on. As for her personality, the story has been fun because it’s based on my middle school experience – but I get to rewrite it with the ending I wanted. It was neat to have something to pull on and make it very centered in middle school and what that felt like. This was all great until I went to my high school reunion. A bunch of the people I based characters on had kids that read Spectra.

    Do you have a favorite outreach project that you’ve worked on?


    There are so many. One of my favorite things we’ve done with APS was the USA Science and Engineering festival. We had a 20-by-40-foot booth – it was huge! I built a bed of nails, and watching people be impressed and then understand why it works was really rewarding.

    Obviously, I’ve also loved making the comic books, and going to San Diego Comic Con was wonderful. I learned that one kid dressed up as Spectra for Halloween and it was the greatest thing ever.

    What are the most challenging – and rewarding – things about doing physics outreach?


    If I’m on a plane or a bar and chatting with someone, they’ll usually ask me what I do. If I want to keep talking, I’ll tell them that I’m a comic book author, but if I want them to go away, I’ll say I’m a physicist. My career goal is to change that reaction.

    One of the most challenging things is that people have already decided that they don’t understand it. But they can understand it. The first step is breaking down that barrier. They think all physicists are like on The Big Bang Theory, and so smart, and that they could never get there. But I like to teach them that they already understand certain things that are based in physics – so they can learn to understand new things.

    One of the most rewarding things is seeing someone who was afraid of science or physics to start asking amazing detailed questions that make me really think. I got to teach at a girls’ STEM camp this summer and they asked questions that I never would have thought of. That moment of understanding when they get it is great, but that step forward of getting it enough to ask incredible questions is awesome.

    What are your first impressions of Fermilab, and what’s your vision for Fermilab education and outreach?


    Everyone has been so welcoming. You go down to the cafeteria and everyone says “hi” to everyone. Everything Fermilab has done to make me part of the team so quickly has been incredible. I really am impressed with how focused the lab is on making sure everyone can be the best they can. I’m still learning everything EPO is doing – there’s so much and I’m excited about that. 

    I want to make sure that we’re really highlighting where the lab is going, the science of the next 20 years at Fermilab, the experiments that are coming online, and what we’re doing now. Everybody outside needs to know that it’s cutting-edge science and cutting-edge high energy physics. I want to make sure that diversity and inclusion are reflected in everything we do. And I want to make sure that we’re aligned with the lab’s goals – and also the goals that Wilson set out when he started the place.

    Can you share a few facts that your new colleagues might not know about you?


    There’s a lot of weird stuff. I make amazing brownies. In high school, I was the youngest person (in Delaware, at least) to get my skydiving license. When Felix Baumgartner did his jump for Red Bull, I got to talk to a lot of reporters about the physics of skydiving, because I could talk about it from both perspectives. Once, for Gizmodo, I got to calculate how many laser pointers it would take to kill someone. I love calculations like that. I did more of them for my Game of Thrones book.

    I also do triathlons. I’ve done eight Iron Mans. I took a break this year but did the Chicago Triple Challenge. It was fun. I’ve been eating a lot since then; I had three lunches yesterday. I love riding my bike, I was a swimmer in college, and I hate running – but it gets me to the finish line. I’ll do anything for a free t-shirt. And I knit.

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  • Finding happiness in hardware

    2019-09-10T16:28:02Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Finding happiness in hardware"

    Working on hardware doesn’t come easily to all physicists, but Francesca Ricci-Tam has learned that what matters most is a willingness to put in the practice.

    Illustration of Francesca Ricci-Tam holding wires with detector equipment in background

    Francesca Ricci-Tam remembers an organic chemistry lab she took during her undergraduate studies, before she became a physicist.

    “The professor told us that the vacuum tubes were very expensive and delicate and that we shouldn’t destroy them,” she recalls. 

    Five minutes later, her tube exploded. 

    “I never considered myself very good at lab work,” she says. “I was very awkward.”

    The student who bashfully cleaned shards of glass from her lab bench is now a hardware specialist building electronics for one of the largest scientific experiments in the world. Over time, she has learned that this work is a skill to be learned through practice and that early mistakes like hers with the vacuum tube are an essential part of the process.

    Facing a fear of failure

    Ricci-Tam entered the University of California, Davis in 2006 as a premed student with a double major in biochemistry and physics. She was home-schooled for most of her education and had very little experience working with her hands. 

    She describes herself as a perfectionist, a trait she struggled with while adjusting to the laboratory. “I was always worried about adding one too many drops of solution or breaking something,” she says. 

    After being rejected from several medical schools, she was faced with two choices: Take a year to gain more experience through a clinical internship and then try again, or change course and apply to graduate school in physics. She chose the latter.

    Being a physicist requires learning the basic principles and equations that describe matter, and then performing experiments to test and possibly push beyond them. The transition from the classroom into the laboratory is where the next generation of physicists learns what being an experimentalist is all about—and that possessing a high level of intelligence means very little if you don’t cultivate an accompanying amount of persistence and just plain do the hard work.

    A few years into her PhD, Ricci-Tam’s advisor asked her to help the UC Davis team build components for the 14,000-ton CMS detector, which a collaboration of about 4000 scientists use to study the collisions generated by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. 

    Ricci-Tam had never done anything like it. She closely watched her colleagues as they unscrewed electronics and attached cables to the CMS pixel detector. 

    She remembers flipping into a completely different mindset when it was her turn to work with the electronics. “I would be completely focused—and panic later,” she says.

    One day, a colleague told her that she worked like a surgeon. Ricci-Tam says the comment changed her perception of herself. “I thought, I can do this,” she says. 

    “I’ve been doing hardware work on and off ever since.”

    The more Ricci-Tam worked on hardware, the more she discovered her own capabilities. As she gained experience and confidence, she began to find a balance between being completely focused and relaxed while working on tasks. She gradually let go of her perfectionist mindset and learned to give herself more space and time to work through problems.

    “You cannot afford to be a perfectionist,” she says. “Working on hardware teaches you patience.”

    Illustration of Grace Cummings wearing a hard hat with hands holding a piece of a detector
    Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Corinne Mucha

    Gaining an ally

    Ricci-Tam is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Maryland working on upgrades to the Hadronic Calorimeter, a part of the CMS detector that records the energy and trajectory of fundamental particles called quarks. 

    Scientists are preparing CMS for the High-Luminosity LHC, an upgrade to the LHC that will increase the collision rate by a factor of 10 and provide scientists with the huge amount of data they need to look for and study rare subatomic processes. The upgrades will make the CMS detector both more robust and more sensitive to the tiny particles produced in the collisions.

    Last winter, Ricci-Tam started working with University of Virginia graduate student Grace Cummings on assembling and testing new electronics for the calorimeter called ngCCMs: “Next Generation Clock Control Module.” Cummings was the resident expert on the project, and Ricci-Tam was impressed with her organization and self-assurance. The two soon became friends.

    “I’m not a very confident person, so I look to other people to learn how to be more confident,” Ricci-Tam says. “Grace is one of them.”

    Unlike Ricci-Tam, Cummings started her pursuit of experimental physics with a strong desire to work on hardware. Cummings connects it to the satisfaction she found building massive towers out of blocks and creating three-dimensional sculptures during her art classes as a kid. “I’ve always liked working with my hands,” Cummings says. “It makes me feel connected to my work.”

    She applied to colleges as a physics major and early on knew she wanted to go to graduate school. “I knew I wouldn’t be happy if I wasn’t asking questions and answering them,” she says.

    During a summer internship at the US Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, she was introduced to particle physics hardware and how a detector actually works. “I learned what scintillators are and how wavelength shifters work,” she says. “I got really excited. I wrote about how I wanted to do hardware in my graduate school applications.”

    Working on hardware showed Cummings that part of being an experimentalist is looking to answer questions she never realized she would need to ask—including “What’s that smudge?” 

    In summer 2018 Cummings was tasked with inspecting freshly arrived electronics for the CMS calorimeter at Fermilab. She and her colleagues found an entire shipment of circuit boards, each with a strange blotch on one side.

    “It wouldn’t come off, so we thought it might be something intrinsic to the printed circuit board,” Cummings says. “These are going to be in detector for the rest of the lifetime of CMS, so we want to make sure that everything is as perfect as it possibly can be and think about all the ways it could fail. Even if you don’t think something’s a big deal, it could become a big deal later.”

    They ran through a series of tests and inspections, and the cards all seemed to be functioning as expected. She and her colleagues were scratching their heads when one of them thought to ask how the electronics had been packaged. 

    “It turns out that the Fermilab logo hadn’t been completely dry when they were packaged,” Cummings says. “Those were our white smudges: the imprint of the screen-printing ink.”

    Cummings and her colleagues laugh about the situation today, but they know the work they do has serious implications for the experiments they’re building and repairing. 

    Cummings says every time she goes underground to install electronics in the four-story CMS detector, she is amazed at just how important every little piece becomes. “Working on hardware for me has been the biggest thing that shows why CMS signs all its papers as ‘CMS collaboration,’” she says. “I’m flabbergasted it works. It’s really a wonder. 

    “At the same time, I know how much time, effort and love I put into my work. If everyone cares half as much as I care, we’ll be fine.”

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  • Week 34 at the Pole

    2019-09-09T18:28:11Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Week 34 at the Pole"

    It was a quiet week at the Pole. And with some bad weather, it was a good time to roam around and take some indoor photos.

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  • How to deal with “dust” in the Antarctic ice

    2019-09-06T17:28:18Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "How to deal with “dust” in the Antarctic ice"

    The IceCube Neutrino Observatory is an array of over 5,000 optical sensors embedded in a cubic kilometer of ice at the South Pole. Optical impurities in the ice affect how light travels through the IceCube detector and thus how the neutrino interactions appear. In a technical paper submitted to the Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics, the IceCube Collaboration presents a new method to understand the optical properties of the ice, called the SnowStorm method.

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  • GERDA segna un nuovo record nella ricerca del neutrino di Majorana

    2019-09-06T07:28:40Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "GERDA segna un nuovo record nella ricerca del neutrino di Majorana"

    L’esperimento ai Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso dell’INFN raggiunge la più alta sensibilità nella ricerca di uno dei decadimenti più rari, ancora mai osservato.

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  • Searching for a lost Maya city, and measuring the information density of language

    2019-09-05T19:28:37Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Searching for a lost Maya city, and measuring the information density of language"

    This week’s show starts with Contributing Correspondent Lizzie Wade, who spent 12 days with archaeologists searching for a lost Maya city in the Chiapas wilderness in Mexico. She talks with host Sarah Crespi about how you lose a city—and how you might go about finding one. And Sarah talks with Christophe Coupé, an associate professor in the department of linguistics at the University of Hong Kong in China, about the information density of different languages. His work, published this week in Science Advances, suggests very different languages—from Chinese to Japanese to English and French—are all equally efficient at conveying information. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Ads on this week’s show: Kroger’s Zero Hunger, Zero Waste campaign; KiwiCo Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Lizzie Wade/Science; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

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  • Q&A with nuclear scientist Maria Żurek

    2019-09-05T16:29:30Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Q&A with nuclear scientist Maria Żurek"

     Żurek shares her experiences from the 2019 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting.

    Maria Zurek, right, speaks during a discussion panel at the Linda Nobel Laureates Meeting.

    Maria Żurek, a postdoctoral researcher in the Nuclear Science Division at the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, was invited to attend the 2019 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau, Germany, in early July. The annual event offers networking opportunities for students, postdoctoral researchers and Nobel laureates from around the world. A total of 580 researchers and 39 Nobel laureates from 89 countries attended this year’s meeting.

    Originally from Poland, Żurek obtained her master’s degree in physics at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, which is one of the oldest universities in Europe. From there she joined the Juelich Research Center in Germany and received her PhD from the University of Cologne. She is now serving in a three-year postdoctoral appointment in Berkeley Lab’s Nuclear Science Division.

    Żurek shares her experiences at the conference in this Q&A—from a blimp flight with Ada E. Yonath, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2009, to a panel discussion she participated in with three Nobel laureates about navigating a career path in science.

    A blog post that you contributed for the Lindau Meeting explored your experiences with “imposter syndrome”—feelings of inadequacy that many people struggle with in their work. How have you coped with this in your career?


    I’m still dealing with imposter syndrome and try to openly speak up when I doubt in my accomplishments. When I was there among young scientists at the meeting, I think the best moments were when people would say, “Thank you so much (for sharing this)—it really resonates with me.” It is a tough road and you have to be aware of it.

    One thing that has helped me on this road are good mentors. One should build a mosaic of mentors inside and outside of your lab or group. These are the people who push you forward if you have moments of burnout and don’t know how to proceed. My role models also have moments of doubting in their accomplishments, and this showed me that I’m not alone in all of this. I know from my own experience that organized mentorship programs can also be very useful.

    Of course, everyone has their own methods of dealing with imposter feelings. You learn to expect these moments when you are, for example, starting new projects or when presenting your talk at an important conference. It was a bit challenging to start talking openly about my feelings, but it simply helps to be open about it. And then when you see how many people are also facing the same problem it’s easier to deal with it.

    The feedback about my blog post as well as the panel I participated in was extremely positive. What I really liked, too, is the discussion that happened afterward with other young scientists.

    Maria Zurek (middle, in right row of seats) participates in a blimp flight with Nobel Laureate Ada E. Yonath (bottom right).

    Maria Zurek (middle, in right row of seats) participates in a blimp flight with Nobel Laureate Ada E. Yonath (bottom right).

    Photo by Jolanda Schwarz

    What were other memorable highlights from the meeting?


    There was something called “open exchange” that was an hour-and-a-half-long session in which you could choose a Nobel laureate and ask any questions you wanted. It was really nice—very casual.

    Then there were more discussion sessions and panel sessions. There was a direct sign-up for taking part in various activities with Nobel laureates, such as science walks and science lunches. I had a chance to sign up for a zeppelin [blimp] flight. One of the scientific partners of the meeting was using zeppelins for measurements in ocean science, since they are very quiet and can fly at lower altitudes more easily than planes. We were over the Rhine. It was amazing.

    It was great to chat with Ada Yonath. Her story is really amazing. Born in Jerusalem in a poor family, she lost her father when she was 11. To support her mother, she had to work odd jobs. She said that she was just curious about what was happening around her. And she stressed the importance of curiosity—being curious and following what you’re curious about.

    There was a lecture by David Gross talking about the future of particle physics. He was giving an inspirational talk about the Standard Model of particle physics: This is what we know and what we don’t know, and this is how beautiful and simple this theory is, and it is open for extensions. In some ways it is really like magic, so beautiful and symmetric.

    Nobel Laureate Donna Strickland speaks during a session at the 2019 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. Maria Żurek is seated in the

    Nobel Laureate Donna Strickland speaks during a session at the 2019 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. Maria Żurek is seated in the first row, fourth from right.

    Photo by Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

    What would you say to others who would like to apply to attend the Lindau Meeting?


    When you are at a typical conference, you tend to cluster with people you already know. But at this meeting there were so many people from so many different backgrounds—every area of physics you can imagine. The whole spectrum of people—it was great.

    This is really the place where you have a unique opportunity to advocate for things that are extremely important in the scientific environment, and your voice can be heard because of the people who are there.

    People who are influential in our field are in some ways on a pedestal. I think this meeting is an incredible opportunity because if an attendee advocates for something, there is a huge chance that their voice will be heard and things will actually change. Lots of topics were covered that were purely scientific, but there were also discussions about the importance of open science, of sharing freely, of science without borders—sharing knowledge between groups and working in big collaborations.

    The discussion panel I participated in together with three Nobel laureates in physics—Donna Strickland, Bill D. Phillips and Wolfgang Ketterle—covered the topic of aiming for a career in science. We discussed the importance of networking and mentoring, life-work balance in academia, and aiming for nonacademic career paths. Science needs its soldiers in every area, from science communication to industry. These are all crucial. I think that this has somehow motivated me to do one step more, to participate more actively.

    The meeting convinced me even more that science is international. The only way we can push the boundaries of our knowledge as a society, and as humankind, is to work beyond our borders and strengthen and facilitate international collaborations, making every possible effort to ensure that our environment is diverse and inclusive.

    Discussion panel

    Żurek participated in a discussion panel with Nobel laureates Donna Strickland, Bill D. Phillips and Wolfgang Ketterle.

    Photo by Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

    What brought you to Berkeley Lab and what do you enjoy about your work here?


    What attracted me to Berkeley is the multinational environment of scientists, and the top quality of the science that is done here. I love working in national labs. I worked almost one year at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. I knew I would also be collaborating with Brookhaven National Laboratory while working here.

    I study the structure of the proton and the origin of proton spin: the fundamental structure of matter we are made of. We know very well what the internal structure of protons looks like. They have quarks and gluons interacting with each other. But the question that’s still open is how, exactly, the spin arises out of this mess.

    I always wanted to study either something that was extremely small, like particle physics, or something that was extremely large, like astrophysics, because these are things that are so mind-blowing and counterintuitive. I would like to see in my life the extension of the Standard Model. I’m pretty sure it will not be the work of a single person, but of huge collaborations. I wish to see this beautiful theory being completed in some sense.

    The most important thing is to be driven by curiosity and fascinated by what you do, and to work in collaboration with professional, nice people in a healthy environment.

    Editor's Note: This Q&A was originally published by Berkeley Lab.

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  • Artificial intelligence: the only way is ethics

    2019-09-04T13:28:33Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Artificial intelligence: the only way is ethics"

    Artificial intelligence: the only way is ethics

    achintya Fri, 08/30/2019 - 15:05
    Vivek Nallur speaking at CERN about ethics in AI
    Vivek Nallur is an assistant professor at University College Dublin (Image: CERN)

    CERN has an ambitious upgrade programme for its flagship accelerator complex over the next two decades. This is vital to continue pushing back the frontiers of knowledge in fundamental physics, but it also poses some gargantuan computing challenges.

    One of the potential ways to address some of these challenges is to make use of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. Such technologies could, for example, play a role in filtering through hundreds of millions of particle collision events each second to select interesting ones for further study. Or they could be used to help spot patterns in monitoring data from industrial control systems and prevent faults before they even arise. Already today, machine-learning approaches are being applied to these areas.

    It was in view of the potential for further important developments in this area that Vivek Nallur was invited to give a talk last week at CERN entitled ‘Intelligence and Ethics in Machines – Utopia or Dystopia?’.

    Nallur is an assistant professor at the School of Computer Science at University College Dublin in Ireland. He gave an overview of how AI technologies are being used in wider society today and highlighted many of the limitations of current systems. In particular, Nallur discussed challenges related to the verification and validation of decisions made, the problems surrounding implicit bias, and the difficulties of actually encoding ethical principles.

    During his talk, Nallur provided an overview of the main efforts undertaken to date to create AI systems with a universal sense of ethics. In particular, he discussed systems based on consequentialist ethics, virtue ethics and deontological ethics — highlighting how these can throw up wildly different behaviours. Therefore, instead of aiming for universal ethics, Nallur champions an approach based on domain-specific ethics, with the goal of achieving an AI system that can act ethically in a specific field. He believes the best way to achieve this is by using games to represent certain multi-agent situations, thus allowing ethics to emerge through agreement based on socio-evolutionary mechanisms — as in human societies. Essentially, he wants AI agents to play games together again and again until they can agree on what actions should or shouldn’t be taken in given circumstances.

    “We shouldn’t try to jump from no ethics in AI to universal ethics; let’s take it step by step,” says Nallur. “To start, we should aim to have systems that work and can have liberty within specific domains. To achieve this, we will need intense and fundamental collaboration between computer scientists, domain experts and legal professionals.”

    Nallur was invited to speak at CERN by CERN openlab, which is running a number of R&D projects related to AI technologies with its industry and research collaborators. “Naturally, CERN doesn’t have to deal with the kind of ethical quandaries that those using AI in a medical or law-enforcement context face,” says Alberto Di Meglio, head of CERN openlab. “However, it would be a mistake to dismiss this as simply an interesting philosophical exercise in the context of particle physics. Here at CERN, we are proud that tools and techniques we develop are often adopted for use by other communities — within both research and industry. As such, it is important to think about ethical considerations related to AI technologies from a very early stage.” He continues: “I hope that this fascinating talk will serve to ignite further discussion within our community.”

    Nallur’s talk is available to watch in full:

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  • La haute luminosité s’installe dans le tunnel

    2019-09-04T09:28:32Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "La haute luminosité s’installe dans le tunnel"

    Installing high luminosity in the tunnel

    cmenard Wed, 09/04/2019 - 10:51

    The component concerned, known as a TANB, is the first definitive component of the High-Luminosity LHC to be installed in the Large Hadron Collider tunnel. An inauguration ceremony on Friday, 30 August, marked the arrival of this piece of equipment for the future collider.

    The High-Luminosity LHC, which will be commissioned in 2026, will boost the performance of the current accelerator by substantially increasing the number of collisions in the experiments. Luminosity, which corresponds to the number of potential collisions per second per surface unit, is a crucial indicator of an accelerator’s performance. The higher the luminosity, the higher the probability of new discoveries.

    Increasing the number of collisions, and therefore the number of particles in circulation, requires the protection of the LHC’s equipment to be reinforced, as particles that diverge from the trajectory can collide with sensitive components such as superconducting magnets and interfere with their operation. Protection is particularly important near the experiments. The billions of collisions occurring every second inside the detectors create the particles that are studied by the physicists. While almost all of these particles shoot off into the detector that surrounds the collision point, a miniscule number of them are emitted towards the tube where the beam circulates and can therefore reach the accelerator equipment.    

    The aim of the TANB absorber is thus to protect the accelerator equipment by stopping the particles near the LHCb experiment. During the current second long technical shutdown that will continue until 2021, the LHCb experiment will undergo major upgrades to enable it to record five times as many collisions from 2021 onwards. This collision rate will be kept at the same level for the LHCb when the High-Luminosity LHC comes into service. 

    “Two of the same type of absorbers are already used on either side of the ATLAS and CMS experiments,” explains project leader Francisco Sanchez Galan.  “However, we had to come up with a new design for LHCb, notably owing to a lack of space inside the accelerator.” Space is at a premium in the LHC, especially around the experiments. Therefore, it was necessary to design the simplest and most compact absorber possible.

    Simplifying things can sometimes turn out to be very complicated. After a detailed design study and numerous simulations, engineers proved that it was possible to design an absorber that was more compact yet just as effective by positioning the equipment further away. Several models were proposed and the optimal absorber was finalised on paper before being manufactured in Germany.  It measures only 65 centimetres in depth, as opposed to 5 metres for previous models.

    An innovative positioning table was developed at the same time. “All its actuators are positioned on the side with easy access. We had to develop this model because the lack of space makes difficult the adjustment of traditional tables on all four sides, and in addition we needed to limit intervention time,” says Francisco.

    Finally, the TANB’s integration was complicated by the lack of space. “Moving components and modifying the beam line allowed us to proceed millimetre by millimetre,” underlines Francisco. Mission accomplished, “thanks to the collaboration between numerous teams”, he smiles.  Two TANB models have now been installed on both sides of the LHCb, ready for the next collision run and high luminosity.


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  • LS2 Report: ATLAS upgrades are in full swing

    2019-09-04T08:28:21Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "LS2 Report: ATLAS upgrades are in full swing"

    LS2 Report: ATLAS upgrades are in full swing

    anschaef Tue, 09/03/2019 - 10:03

    A few months ago, the ATLAS Collaboration presented its schedule for the second long shutdown 2 (LS2) concerning the detector’s repair, consolidation and upgrade activities. Since then, the experiment’s LS2 programme has been refined to best meet needs and constraints.

    Although ATLAS was originally supposed to install two new muon detectors in the forward regions (new small wheels) – measuring 9.3 metres in diameter and developed to trigger and measure muons precisely despite the increased rate of collisions expected at the High-Luminosity LHC (HL-LHC) – only one will be installed during LS2. “While considerable progress has been made on the assembly, the second wheel will not be ready before the end of LS2. So we decided to aim for installing that one in the next year-end technical stop (YETS, at the end of 2021),” says Ludovico Pontecorvo, ATLAS Technical Coordinator. A replacement of the first small wheel (on side A of the detector) is foreseen for August 2020.

    Another major component of the Phase-1 upgrade for ATLAS is the improvement of the trigger selection for the operation at the future HL-LHC, which requires new electronics to achieve a higher resolution of the electromagnetic calorimeter’s trigger. It also involves upgrading the level-1 trigger processors, and installing new electronic cards for the trigger and data-acquisition (TDAQ) system. “The installation of new electronics for the liquid-argon calorimeter is proceeding smoothly and we are advancing through the different stages of production for the TDAQ deliverables. The upgrade of the infrastructure and the necessary maintenance work is almost completed. The first phase of our HL-LHC upgrade programme has started,” says Ludovico Pontecorvo.

    In parallel, the consolidation of the detector system is progressing according to schedule. “We have replaced cooling connectors connecting the modules of the tile calorimeter to the overall cooling infrastructure in almost all 256 modules of the calorimeter and the standard maintenance of the read-out electronics is ongoing. In addition, the scintillators located between the central barrel and the extended barrels of the tile calorimeter are currently being installed,” adds Ludovico Pontecorvo. 

    ATLAS teams are also preparing for the following long shutdown (LS3, starting in 2024), which will see the installation of an all-new inner tracker. Located at the centre of the ATLAS detector, the role of the inner tracker is to measure the direction, momentum and charge of electrically charged particles produced in each proton–proton collision. During LS3, an all-silicon inner tracker will replace the current one, using state-of-the-art silicon technologies to keep pace with the HL-LHC rate of collisions. The manoeuvre to lower and insert this new element (2 m in diameter, 7 m long) looks arduous, so, in March, the team in charge of its installation took advantage of the shutdown to practice the procedure in the cavern with a mock-up of the tracker. The two lowering options tested required a great meticulousness, given that, at the worst moment, the margin was only a few centimetres.

    * Don’t miss the ATLAS new muon small wheel at Building 191 during the CERN Open Days on 14 and 15 September!

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  • A new way to study high-energy gamma rays

    2019-09-03T16:28:25Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "A new way to study high-energy gamma rays"

    The Cherenkov Telescope Array will combine experimental and observatory-style approaches to investigate the universe’s highest energies

    The Cherenkov Telescope Array

    They permeate the cosmos, whizzing through galaxies and solar systems at energies far higher than what even our most powerful particle accelerators can achieve. Emitted by sources such as far-distant quasars, or, closer to Earth, occasionally ejected from the remnants of supernovae, high-energy cosmic rays are believed to play a role in the evolution of galaxies and the growth of black holes. 

    Exactly how cosmic rays originate remains a mystery. Now, an ambitious project—part observatory, part experiment—is preparing to investigate them by studying the gamma rays they produce at sensitivities never achieved before.

    The Cherenkov Telescope Array being built in Chile and Spain’s Canary Islands is the newest generation of ground-based gamma-ray detectors. CTA involves collaborators from 31 countries and comprises more than 100 telescopes of varying sizes. Its detectors will be 10 times more sensitive to gamma rays than existing instruments, which will allow scientists to investigate their properties at a breathtaking range of energy levels—from about 20 billion electronvolts up to 300 trillion electronvolts. This is far above current capabilities: Existing gamma-ray observatories’ energy ranges top out at about 50 trillion electronvolts. 

    Rene Ong, an astrophysicist at UCLA and the co-spokesperson for the project, says that CTA is unique in that it will function as both an experiment—zeroing in to investigate specific points and topics of interest—and an observatory—creating an overall record of a portion of the night sky over time. 

    It will be the first ground-based gamma-ray observatory, and users will be granted observatory access time for their own projects in a proposal-driven program. “CTA will operate like an astronomical facility with a mix of guest-observer time, dedicated time for major observation projects, and time reserved for the CTA observatory director,” he says. 

    Part of what makes CTA an astronomical observatory is that it will make its data freely available, explains Ulisses Barres, an astrophysicist at the Brazilian Center for Physical Research who is leading part of that country’s contribution to CTA’s design and construction. 

    Until now, very-high-energy gamma-ray band astronomy research has been conducted by “closed” research groups, which have reserved most or all of their data for their own use. CTA will not only make its data public; just like a typical observatory, it will also structure its data to make it accessible even to nonspecialists and people in other scientific fields.

    “That’s because CTA wants to kind of kick-start astronomy in the [high-energy gamma-ray] band in a new way,” Barres says. “People from other fields can request data from CTA in a competitive way and analyze it, pretty much like what an experimental telescope does.” 

    Elisabete de Gouveia Dal Pino, an astrophysicist at the University of São Paulo and also one of the leaders of the CTA Consortium in Brazil, says the project’s design will allow scientists to investigate some of the most energetic events that occur anywhere in the universe. These events are theorized to come mostly from compact sources like supermassive black holes and  supernovae explosions.

    “There is a whole slew of processes and particles that we can decipher [by] observing the universe in gamma rays,” Dal Pino says. Other wavelengths have already been probed and are well-developed fields of study, she explains. “This is the last energy band window that we are currently able to open on the universe right now.”

    CTA may also test physics beyond the Standard Model, Ong says. In particular, it will search for dark matter, which scientists think makes up 85% of the known matter in the universe but has yet to be detected, let alone fully understood. It’s possible that gamma rays are produced when dark matter particles bump into one another and self-annihilate. 

    CTA’s dark matter program will attempt to discover the nature of this phenomenon by observing the galactic halo, a roughly spherical, thinly populated area that surrounds the visible galaxy and is believed to be home to these particles. 

    For now, the project is still in its design and construction phase. Barres says he expects a “critical mass” of telescopes—enough to begin taking useable data—in the northern hemisphere by 2022. “We expect that by the middle of the next decade, CTA may already be fully operational,” he says. “For now, there is a lot of coordination to be done among the partner institutions.”

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  • IceCube looks for extremely energetic gamma rays from the Milky Way

    2019-09-03T13:28:39Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "IceCube looks for extremely energetic gamma rays from the Milky Way"

    While the IceCube Neutrino Observatory is mostly known for detecting neutrinos, it is also the experiment most sensitive to PeV-scale gamma rays in the Southern Hemisphere. In a recent paper by the IceCube Collaboration submitted to The Astrophysical Journal, they discuss the results of a recent search for PeV gamma rays. No evidence of PeV gamma rays were found, but they established the most stringent constraints on PeV gamma-ray emission to date.

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  • CERN Open Days: come and explore the future

    2019-09-02T13:28:36Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "CERN Open Days: come and explore the future"

    CERN Open Days: come and explore the future melissa Mon, 09/02/2019 - 11:50

    Open Days 2019 logo
    Logo of the CERN Open Days 2019 (Image: CERN)

    On Saturday, 14 and Sunday, 15 September, CERN will open its doors to the public. Taking advantage of the second long shutdown of the Large Hadron Collider, the Laboratory will be offering visitors of all ages the exceptional opportunity to visit its facilities, discover its groundbreaking technologies, have fun with physics and meet the people who work at the cutting edge of science and technology.

    Some 150 activities are planned across nine of the Laboratory’s sites. During the two days, you will have the chance to operate a mini accelerator, learn about the medical applications stemming from research at CERN, drive a crane, discover the gigantic detectors and interact with scientists and invited guests. Places will be limited for the underground visits to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and its experiments, but there are many other things to discover on the surface. The full list of activities is available on the Open Days website.

    The CERN accelerator complex is currently in shutdown. Work is ongoing to improve the performance of the accelerators and detectors through several upgrades. This technical stop provides an opportunity to visit CERN’s underground facilities, along with many other areas that will be open to visitors for these two days only.

    “We look forward to welcoming our neighbours, as well as visitors from further afield, to the Open Days, where they will discover the fascinating research we do at CERN and the instruments we use. We are glad to have the opportunity to share with the public our passion for science and the impact of the technologies we develop. Visitors will be welcomed and guided  by scientists from all over the world and other CERN personnel,” says CERN’s Director-General, Fabiola Gianotti.

    To mark the beginning of this weekend of discovery, CERN’s Director-General will officially open the Laboratory’s doors at 8.30 a.m. on 14 September, at a ceremony attended by representatives of the local authorities.

    Between 30 000 and 40 000 visitors are expected each day. CERN strongly recommends using sustainable transport and all the sites will be accessible on foot or by bike. It will not be possible to drive onto or park on the visit sites. If you need to come by car, consider car-sharing. Car parks will be available near CERN and shuttles and bus services will take visitors to the visit sites. For people with disabilities, dedicated car parks and shuttles will be available.

    Practical information:

    Register at and plan your visit using the Open Days app:

    For safety reasons, the following roads will be closed to traffic on 14 and 15 September:

    • Route de l’Europe (France)
    • Route de la Vie Chenaille in Echenevex (France), between the D984C and the corner of Route François Estier
    • Route de Meyrin, between the Porte de France roundabout and Route du Mandement (France and Switzerland)
    • Route de Meyrin in Ferney-Voltaire (France) and Avenue Auguste-François-Dubois (Switzerland) in the France-Switzerland direction.

    The Open Days will take place from 9.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m.

    Journalists are invited to register for the event using the following link:

    Open Days website:


    Press release of 19 June 2019:

    Photos from previous Open Days:


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  • Week 33 at the Pole

    2019-08-30T16:28:29Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Week 33 at the Pole"

    It’s a slow sunrise at the South Pole, with light creeping up from the horizon little by little each day. But even as the twilight approaches and the sky brightens, it’s still dark enough to discern some auroras here and there.

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  • Sensor used at CERN could help gravitational-wave hunters

    2019-08-30T14:28:24Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Sensor used at CERN could help gravitational-wave hunters"

    Sensor used at CERN could help gravitational-wave hunters

    achintya Fri, 08/30/2019 - 15:16
    Images for article on seismic sensors
    Aerial view of the Advanced Virgo detector, where a precision laser interferometer used at CERN was installed and is being tested (Image: Virgo collaboration) (Image: CERN)

    It started with a relatively simple goal: create a prototype for a new kind of device to monitor the motion of underground structures at CERN. But the project – the result of a collaboration between CERN and the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) in Dubna, Russia – quickly evolved. The prototype turned into several full-blown devices that can potentially serve as early warning systems for earthquakes and can be used to monitor other seismic vibrations. What’s more, the devices, called precision laser inclinometers, can be used at CERN and beyond. The researchers behind the project are now testing one device at the Advanced Virgo detector, which recently detected gravitational waves – tiny ripples in the fabric of space-time that were predicted by Einstein a century ago. If all goes to plan, this device could help gravitational-wave hunters minimize the noise that seismic events have on the waves’ signal.

    Unlike traditional seismometers, which detect ground motions through their effect on weights hanging from springs, the precision laser inclinometer (PLI) measures their effect on the surface of a liquid. The measurement is done by pointing laser light at a liquid and seeing how it is reflected. Compared to weight–spring seismometers, the PLI can detect angular motion in addition to translational motion (up-and-down and side-to-side), and it can pick up low-frequency motion with a very high precision.

    “The PLI is extremely sensitive, it can even detect the waves on Lake Geneva on windy days,” says principal investigator Beniamino Di Girolamo from CERN. “It can pick up seismic motion that has a frequency between 1 mHz and 12.4 Hz with a sensitivity of 2.4 × 10−5 μrad/Hz½,” explains co-principal investigator Julian Budagov from JINR. “This is equivalent to measuring a vertical displacement of 24 picometres (24 trillionth of a metre) over a distance of 1 metre,” adds co-principal investigator Mikhail Lyablin, also from JINR.

    The team assembled and tested the PLI prototype at JINR and at CERN’s TT1 tunnel. It performed so well that it showed potential to be a helpful early warning seismic system for the High-Luminosity Large Hadron Collider (HL-LHC) and other machines and experiments. The Large Hadron Collider and its proton beams are extremely robust to seismic activity, but the HL-LHC will use narrower beams to increase the number of proton–proton collisions and as a result the potential for particle-physics discoveries. This means beams are more likely to go off centre in the event of a high-magnitude earthquake with an epicentre relatively close to CERN. PLIs located at several points along the machine could serve as early warning systems for such events.,Industry and Technology
    The PLI (bottom two plots) picked up the same signals as devices already installed at Virgo (top two plots) for an earthquake in Northern Italy on 17 August (Image: Beniamino Di Girolamo/CERN)

    Given the PLI’s potential, the HL-LHC project has supported the team to construct several new PLIs. One PLI is already installed at the Garni Seismic Observatory in Armenia and another has been deployed with the support of CERN’s Knowledge Transfer group and Italy’s INFN institute to the European Gravitational Observatory, Italy, where Advanced Virgo is located. The Virgo PLI is the result of a collaboration that started after the APPEC conference in November 2018, triggered by the JINR Director-General and encouraged by CERN management. The collaboration went so smoothly that, less than a year after, the Virgo PLI was tested.

    The results from the first tests are encouraging. With just 15 minutes of data taken on 6 August, the PLI picked up the same signals as devices already installed at Virgo, and from that day onwards it started running continuously and detected several small-magnitude earthquakes. The Virgo and PLI teams are now setting up the flow of data from the PLI to the Virgo data system. This will make it easier to compare data from different seismic devices and to assess the PLI’s potential impact on Virgo’s operation and detection of gravitational waves. “Virgo and the two LIGO detectors in the US have recently began another search for gravitational waves, one that will reach deeper into the universe than previous searches,” says former Virgo spokesperson Fulvio Ricci from La Sapienza University, Rome. “We’re confident that the PLI can play a part in this important search,” he added.

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  • Where our microbiome came from, and how our farming and hunting ancestors transformed the world

    2019-08-29T19:28:16Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Where our microbiome came from, and how our farming and hunting ancestors transformed the world"

    Micro-organisms live inside everything from the human gut to coral—but where do they come from? Host Meagan Cantwell talks to Staff Writer Elizabeth Pennisi about the first comprehensive survey of microbes in Hawaii’s Waimea Valley, which revealed that plants and animals get their unique microbiomes from organisms below them in the food chain or the wider environment. Going global, Meagan then speaks with Erle Ellis, professor of geography and environmental science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, about a project that aggregated the expertise of more than 250 archaeologists to map human land use over the past 10,000 years. This detailed map will help fine-tune climate models. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Ads on this show: Science Sessions Podcast; Kroger Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast [Image: Chris Couderc/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

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  • Upcycled instrument tied to auspicious accelerator

    2019-08-29T17:28:13Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Upcycled instrument tied to auspicious accelerator"

    A composer has given new life to an amplifier used within a historically significant particle accelerator.

    A close up view of the amplifier controls

    In May 2019, a Berlin-based, classically-trained symphony composer with a fondness for converting old scientific gear into musical instruments posted to a discussion forum: “Any nuclear scientists here? 184[-inch] cyclotron question.” 

    In a single photo, he presented a mystery: His latest find was a ’70s-era piece of equipment labeled a “LOCK-IN AMPLIFIER” featuring analogue displays, four dials of varying sizes, and a neat blue sticker label reading “184” CLYCLOTRON, BLDG. 80, RM. 121, EXT. 5467.” Could anyone help him find the story behind it?

    Stefan Paul Goetsch, who uses the name Hainbach when creating electronic music, posted the plea hoping the equipment might be traceable via the label. He had no idea that blue sticker would provide a clear connection to a major piece of scientific history. 

    A cyclotron is a particle accelerator that uses a circular magnet to accelerate charged particles in a spiral from its center. And, it turns out, there was just one 184-inch cyclotron: a masterpiece that cyclotron-inventor E.O. Lawrence built in the afterglow of his 1939 Nobel Prize in honor of the technology. 

    During World War II, research at this cyclotron was essential to the Manhattan Project. After the war, it was converted into a synchrotron—an accelerator in which particles travel in a fixed loop instead of a spiral—that was key to early research into pions and mesons.

    Goetsch picked up the unit in an eBay auction from a user called Tminus7, who frequently sells scavenged test equipment like the amplifier. Tminus7 says he picked it up at a surplus auction from University of California, Berkeley. 

    “There might be oscilloscopes, power supplies, all kinds of oddball equipment and buyers bid on the pallet,” he explains in an email. “Frankly it’s pretty neat acquiring all this equipment with stickers all over it that shows it has a real history.”

    The front panel of the amplifier

    Lock-in amplifiers are used to find signals that are buried in noise, isolating and amplifying them. After running across Goetsch’s photo of the lock-in amplifier online, nuclear engineering graduate student Kathy Shield led a brainstorming session with her peers at UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to try to figure out how, exactly, the equipment could have been used at the cyclotron. 

    Their most plausible theory was that the unit, called a PAR 220, may have been monitoring  extremely minute oscillations of the magnetic field inside magnets that accelerated charged particles. Even an early-generation lock-in amplifier may have been able to monitor those oscillations down to the nanovolt.

    But when was this equipment used? And what was the cyclotron doing at the time? Internet detectives began to narrow down the possibilities. 

    Construction of the cyclotron began in 1940, and its last run took place on December 29, 1987, so the PAR 220 must have been used sometime within that window. Reddit user /u/CakeLie42 noted that the earliest it could have been used was in 1962, when the first commercial lock-in amplifiers were manufactured, and that the latest was in 1977, when Princeton Applied Research (the “PAR” in PAR 220) was acquired by another company.

    Richard Burdett, product specialist at AMETEK SIGNAL RECOVERY, the company now responsible for the amplifier’s descendants, offered further clues. He pointed out that the LED overload indicator on the PAR 220 was only part of the modules manufactured between 1973 and 1975.

    By that time, the 184-inch cyclotron had started its third career: accelerating particles for medical treatment and research. In 1973 the cyclotron was upgraded with a unit where patients could be situated for particle therapy. 

    That year the cyclotron also saw upgrades to help stretch and focus the particle beam, along with the creation of additional experimental bays, which may have necessitated the installation of the then-new PAR 220. In 1974 and 1975, scientists further upgraded the cyclotron’s medical capacities to include helium ion radiography, another possible reason to install the PAR 220. Room 121 has since been renovated into a high bay, but current building occupants believe it used to be a cyclotron control room.

    The mystery of the PAR 220’s historical purpose was mostly solved. But Goetsch had new plans for the amplifier: He wanted to use it to make music. 

    “Every lock-in amplifier has its own sound,” Goetsch says. “The sound of these machines was just out of this world because they were designed for the absolute maximum. They were designed to shoot rockets in the sky or to listen to particles.” 

    “All the materials that are in there such as coils and vacuum tubes are carefully selected and fine-tuned. The range that these instruments offer both in the frequency that they put out and the volume is unheard of in musical equipment.”

    In a video, Goetsch gives the PAR 220 a short ping as a trigger-signal that sets the whole machine resonating in a hypnotic, driving beat. “It’s a great audio processor, because that is what it was meant to do!” he laughs. He describes the PAR 220 as “The Beast of Princeton” and “the gnarliest and most interesting sounding module I’ve found.”

    Adjusting the four knobs—meant to control the phase, sensitivity, time constant and reference signal—now allows the module to be played from a resonating bass buzz that could drive a dance floor into a frenzy up to a stuttering high-pitched chirp. 

    “It will give me so much back,” he says. “It has a texture that’s absolutely unique.”

    Using scientific equipment as a musical instrument is not without its hazards. “I’ve had a few things go up in smoke,” Goetsch admits. He makes a point of outlining safety concerns when he makes videos about transforming test equipment like the amplifier into musical instruments. 

    But even the failures can be fascinating, he says. “Some units break so beautifully that their swan song is just amazing because it unlocks hidden layers of distortion that sing with overtones.”

    Despite the difficulties in acquiring new equipment, figuring out how to play it, and occasionally losing it in a catastrophic failure, Goetsch says he loves this work. 

    “It’s very much zeitgeist,” he says, “as it’s the repurposing of abandoned equipment that would be thrown away.”

    His PAR 220 unit was destined for the landfill until Goetsch found a new use for it. “All these machines, they get lost unless someone comes along and does something beautiful with them again.”

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  • From capturing collisions to avoiding them

    2019-08-29T13:28:12Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "From capturing collisions to avoiding them"

    From capturing collisions to avoiding them

    achintya Wed, 08/28/2019 - 13:47
    Collisions recorded by the CMS detector on 14 Oct 2016 during the high pile-up fill
    These proton-proton collisions at a center-of-mass energy of 13 TeV were recorded during the high pile-up fill of Run 2. The events are from isolated bunches with average pileup roughly around 100. (Image: CERN)

    With about one billion proton–proton collisions per second at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the LHC experiments need to sift quickly through the wealth of data to choose which collisions to analyse. To cope with an even higher number of collisions per second in the future, scientists are investigating computing methods such as machine-learning techniques. A new collaboration is now looking at how these techniques deployed on chips known as field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) could apply to autonomous driving, so that the fast decision-making used for particle collisions could help prevent collisions on the road.

    FPGAs have been used at CERN for many years and for many applications. Unlike the central processing unit of a laptop, these chips follow simple instructions and process many parallel tasks at once. With up to 100 high-speed serial links, they are able to support high-bandwidth inputs and outputs. Their parallel processing and re-programmability make them suitable for machine-learning applications.

    An FPGA-based readout card for the CMS tracker (Image: John Coughlan/CMS/CERN)

    The challenge, however, has been to fit complex deep-learning algorithms – a particular class of machine-learning algorithms – in chips of limited capacity. This required software developed for the CERN-based experiments, called “hls4ml”, which reduces the algorithms and produces FPGA-ready code without loss of accuracy or performance, allowing the chips to execute decision-making algorithms in micro-seconds.

    A new collaboration between CERN and Zenuity, the autonomous driving software company headquartered in Sweden, plans to use the techniques and software developed for the experiments at CERN to research their use in deploying deep learning on FPGAs, a particular class of machine-learning algorithms, for autonomous driving. Instead of particle-physics data, the FPGAs will be used to interpret huge quantities of data generated by normal driving conditions, using readouts from car sensors to identify pedestrians and vehicles. The technology should enable automated drive cars to make faster and better decisions and predictions, thus avoiding traffic collisions.

    To find out more about CERN technologies and their potential applications, visit

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