Sunday, September 24, 2006

Hidden Cathedrals

I have a faithful reader that has quite an interesting job. My friend Paul (who is married to my friend Vera, father of Eliot and Adrienne) is a physicist. Now, often, when people ask him what he does for a living, he's kind of apprehensive about responding because it seems that when he tells them what he does, they get that glazed look on their faces and generally have no intelligent response in return. Well, at least that was my response anyway. That is, until I read Dan Brown's book Angels and Demons. That was my book choice for my book club and we were all too happy to have Paul come to our meeting and tell us all about what he does at a facility called CERN.

As you may read on their web site, it's the world's largest particle physics laboratory located in Geneva, Switzerland, well it's partially in Geneva, partially in France. Paul is there right now. I recently got an email from him explaining what his project is at this time.

Here's a picture of Paul and an exerpt from his email, because there is just no way I could possibly paraphrase what it is he's saying.

"Enclosed is a picture of a colleague from Duke and me standing at the location where the two beams of protons will collide once the ATLAS detector and the accelerator are finished and running.Behind us is the barrel portion of the "inner detector", the outer part of which the Transition Radiation Tracker, the part I have been working on for 12 years now. The barrel will be moved towards the camera so that the center of it will be where we are standing. The two other pieces of the inner detector will slide in on either side of the barrel. We are standing the bore of a very large electromagnet that is used with the inner detector to measure the momentum of charged particles leaving the interaction point. The yellow thing we are standing on is just a platform that will be removed once the barrel is hooked up.

You can watch the webcams in the cavern at:

Eventhough I don't fully understand all this, it's still pretty cool, and is certainly a project that when completed will be quite satisfying I would imagine. Paul, we still think you're a spy. ;P


Jim said...

looks like one of the spray-tan booths, odd he would bring a friend :)

MarkD60 said...

I used to work on atomic clocks. There was a physicist who helped improve then tube inside that made it work. THe thing about him was that he could talk in a language you could understand.
But he was Einstein-smart!

michaelm said...

Very cool.
Physicist, huh? Way cool.
The email lost me a bit as well...8-)


InterstellarLass said...

I still don't have a clue as to what he's doing, but damn! That's cool!

Bone said...

*glazed look*