19 April 2010

CERN and first collisions at LHCb

The last few months have been very exciting here at CERN. Ravi and me are currently on a long term attachment (LTA) at CERN in Geneva, working on the LHCb experiment. Both of us have been out here for nearly a year now and a lot has been happening during this period. We experienced the entire process of the LHC being repaired, new start up dates getting announced, etc... and of course working with monte carlo simulated data only so far!
But since last year things have changed as I am sure most of the readers of this blog will know. In November we saw the first beam circulating in the LHC after its repair. The LHCb detector was in good shape: Before Christmas LHCb was recording its very first data (it could not detect cosmics before due to its horizontal alignment)! Meanwhile the LHC people were testing their machine extensively in order to be ready for the official date of first 3.5 on 3.5 TeV collisions a few weeks ago (30.3.2010)... And it was a huge success! Since then LHCb has been taking several million events, stored and ready to be analysed (for example by PhD students like Ravi and me). So far we have done a pretty good job :) I want to point out Ravi being the first one to see hints of a D0 peak in the collaboration (and me hunting J/Psi peaks)!
The following picture was taken on 30th March, at 12.59, in the LHCb control room, showing Andrei Golutvin (in the red jumper, LHCb spokesperson and my supervisor) watching the LHCb event display showing first collisions (notice the two green muon tracks, coming from a J/Psi?):

It is a very exciting time to be here at the moment. Being part of this unique science community is truly special. Everyone who has been at CERN knows what I mean - at this place history in particle physics has been written. This becomes obvious every day - for example when walking past the Gargamelle bubble chamber, Tim Berners-Lee's office (where the "web" was born) or Jack Steinberg in person (actually, he is in the office opposite to mine and sometimes asks for help with his computer) - just to mention a few occasions. CERN also organises events and lectures: To celebrate the LHC an incredible number of Nobel Prize winners of the field came together last year and gave highly interesting lectures stretched over two days. Gerard 't Hooft was even so kind to be in a picture with a few IC students (and ones that used to be):

Of course CERN's location between the Swiss/French alps and the Jura offers many opportunities to throw yourself down a mountain on some sort of ski or snowboard. So during the long wait for the turn on date a common activity of the UK PhD students here at CERN was to organise numerous trips to Chamonix and other resorts. It should be mentioned that Ravi won the prestigious CERN ski club downhill race in a new record time (~2.13 minutes)- well done! However, the season is over now, and the summer is about to start here in Geneva. The LHC is running, LHCb is recording data... Everything seems to be working very well, and - touch wood - hopefully it will stay like that! An interesting time lies ahead, and Ravi and me hope to witness signs of new physics here at LHCb!

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