Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Babysitting a detector

Many experiments need to be monitored around the clock, and so does our dark matter detector. I'm "on shift" this week, which means that I have to adjust my schedule to watch the status of the detector and the flow of data. We take data in batches called "runs" (lingo inherited from accelerator experiments), and especially when a run starts and ends I need to watch closely so that things go right. We also have a data taking plan, and sometimes change the temperature between the runs.

Of course all of this is done remotely. Actually, the whole lab is closed for summer break ("shutdown") and we have no physical access. It means that I sometimes need to be at the computer in the middle of the night, but it's much more comfortable to do it from home than to sit in a control room.

Ideally it should be a minimal amount of work, but knowing experiments you can be sure that there will always be something that does not turn out exactly right. It's only in the movies physicist can make everything work smoothly at the first try. Therefore: sleep deprivation. I also this morning tried to change some parameters and start a run while dressing and feeding our daughter. It was complicated (especially before her father got out of bed and could help us), and I would not recommend it. I will try to avoid combining these two activities in the future, but there is no guarantee.

I will write more about the detector in the future, and explain how it works.

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