Thursday, March 19, 2015
Top Links

Labwide calendar

Fermilab at Work

Wilson Hall Cafe menu

Chez Leon menu

Weather at Fermilab

Take Note

Nominations for Employee Advisory Group due April 17

Nominations are now being accepted for new members to serve on the Employee Advisory Group. See article in this issue for details.


Today's New Announcements

2014 FSA deadline is April 30

URA Thesis Award competition deadline - March 20

FermiPoint (including FermiDash), MyPoint, downtime - March 23 and 24

URA Visiting Scholars Program deadline delayed to March 30

Muscle Toning Class registration due March 24

School's Day Out - March 30-April 3

2015 URA Alvin Tollestrup Award application deadline - April 1

Interpersonal Communication Skills course - May 20

Mac OS X security patches

SharePoint online training videos available for on-site users

Monday Golf League

Fermilab Golf League 2015 season is just around the corner

International folk dancing Thursday evenings at Kuhn Barn

Indoor soccer

Changarro restaurant offers Fermilab employee discount


Fermilab Today

Director's Corner

Frontier Science Result

Physics in a Nutshell

Tip of the Week

Related content


Fermilab Today
is online at:

Send comments and suggestions to:

Visit the Fermilab
home page

Unsubscribe from Fermilab Today

From symmetry

Buying into physics

A scientist sets out to augment physics funding through crowdfunding. Image: Sandbox Studio

January 2014 found string cosmologist Mark Jackson approaching a crossroads in his career and in his life.

During the 10 years he spent as a postdoc — first at Fermilab, then in the Netherlands and France, and finally in South Africa — Jackson watched the challenge of finding funding for basic research become more and more difficult.

"I saw my friends leave physics because they couldn't get jobs or because they were discouraged by what was happening in the field," he says.

Meanwhile, Jackson was facing his own doubts. "As I got older, I became more aware of social issues, and my life no longer felt complete just solving equations."

He found a new calling — or perhaps a new calling found him — while at the Paris Center for Cosmological Physics. The PCCP, like the rest of the University of Paris system, began to accept private donations in 2014. But the university system had previously been completely state-funded, and many of his colleagues had little experience with fundraising. George Smoot, PCCP director and Nobel laureate, asked Jackson to help. Having participated in fundraising activities while earning his bachelor's degree and PhD at two private universities — Duke and Columbia — Jackson agreed.

Jackson says cosmologist Ben Wandelt of the Lagrange Institute of Paris noted his skills and made a joke: "He said that I should start my own agency."

The comment was made in jest, but to Jackson, the idea made sense. A physicist raising funds for a physics experiment could convey the merits of the research much more effectively than the typical fundraiser, no matter how professional or well-intentioned.

"Three days later I decided to do it."

The result is Fiat Physica, the first crowdfunding platform dedicated to funding all things physics: outreach projects, awards and especially actual science. It opened for business December 11, 2014.

Read more

Lori Ann White

In Brief

Nominations sought for Employee Advisory Group

If you have insights or suggestions that could help improve Fermilab policies and programs, the Employee Advisory Group needs you.

Nominations are now being accepted for new members to serve on the EAG, which provides Fermilab's senior management with recommendations from an employee perspective. The committee meets once per month and is regularly joined by several members of the senior management team. Fermilab benefits from the EAG's formal recommendations, which come after the EAG studies a topic, as well as the extensive discussions of complex issues.

Nominations are encouraged from all job categories, divisions, sections and centers and from new and long-time employees. Members serve up to three-year terms, attend monthly meetings and are expected to communicate with their fellow employees about issues under consideration. EAG members spend approximately two to three hours per month (including monthly meetings) on committee-related work. Nominations are due by April 17. Employees are welcome to nominate their colleagues or to self-nominate.

Nomination forms are available online or in the Office of Communication on the atrium level of Wilson Hall. More information about the EAG is available on the EAG website.

Photo of the Day

Good morning

The sun rises behind the Industrial Complex, looking across the bison pasture. Photo: Bridget Scerini, TD
In the News

In LHC's shadow, America's collider awakens

From Quanta Magazine, March 6, 2015

America's last major particle collider lies coiled beneath the pine barrens and sparse outbuildings of Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, N.Y. The Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), as it's called, recently came out of hibernation equipped with new gear for spilling the secrets of atoms.

RHIC pales next to Europe's Large Hadron Collider when it comes to the energy with which its particles collide — energy that determines whether collisions will give rise to new, exotic particles. But the machine clings to relevance (and Department of Energy funding) by forgoing the new in favor of a closer look at the mysterious familiar: the quarks and gluons that comprise the cores of atoms, and thus 99 percent of all visible matter, about which several things are not known.

Read more

Physics in a Nutshell

Happy trails

This shows a particle identified in a photograph of a bubble chamber (left) and a computer reconstruction of signals from a silicon tracker (right).

Much of the complexity of particle physics experiments can be boiled down to two basic types of detectors: trackers and calorimeters. They each have strengths and weaknesses, and most modern experiments use both. This and the next Physics in a Nutshell are about trackers and calorimeters, to kick off a series about detectors in general.

The first tracker started out as an experiment to study clouds, not particles. In the early 1900s, Charles Wilson built an enclosed sphere of moist air to study cloud formation. Dust particles were known to seed cloud formation — water vapor condenses on the dust to make clouds of tiny droplets. But no matter how clean Wilson made his chamber, clouds still formed.

Moreover, they formed in streaks, especially near radioactive sources. It turned out that subatomic particles were ionizing the air, and droplets condensed along these trails like dew on a spider web.

This cloud chamber was phenomenally useful to particle physicists — finally, they could see what they were doing! It's much easier to find strange, new particles when you have photos of them acting strangely. In some cases, they were caught in the act of decaying — the kaon was discovered as a V-shaped intersection of two pion tracks, since kaons decay into pairs of pions in flight.

In addition to turning vapor into droplets, ionization trails can cause bubbles to form in a near-boiling liquid. Bubble chambers could be made much larger than cloud chambers, and they produced clear, crisp tracks in photographs. Spark chambers used electric discharges along the ionization trails to collect data digitally. More recently, time projection chambers measure the drift time of ions between the track and a high-voltage plate for more spatial precision, and silicon detectors achieve even higher resolution by collecting ions on microscopic wires printed on silicon microchips. Today, trackers can reconstruct millions of three-dimensional images per second.

The disadvantage of tracking is that neutral particles do not produce ionization trails and hence are invisible. The kaon that decays into two pions is neutral, so you only see the pions. Neutral particles that never or rarely decay are even more of a nuisance. Fortunately, calorimeters fill in this gap, since they are sensitive to any particle that interacts with matter.

Interestingly, the Higgs boson was discovered in two decay modes at once. One of these, Higgs to four muons, uses tracking exclusively, since the muons are all charged and deposit minimal energy in a calorimeter. The other, Higgs to two (neutral) photons, uses calorimetry exclusively, which will be the subject of the next Nutshell.

Jim Pivarski

In Brief

Bright colors at Holi celebration in the Village

Colors everywhere! At the March 14 Holi celebration in the Fermilab Village, participants danced to Indian music and sprinkled each other with colored powder. Photo: Kuldeep Maan
Holi celebrants enjoyed traditional Indian food in Kuhn Barn. Food and colors were provided by the Fermilab Indian Society and the Fermilab Student and Postdoc Association. Photo: Pavan Pandey

More than 40 people turned out for the Indian Holi celebration at Kuhn Barn on March 14. The Fermilab Student and Postdoc Association and the Fermilab Indian Society hosted the gathering.

Holi, also known as the festival of colors, is an annual ancient Hindu festival that has become popular with non-Hindus as well. It is celebrated at the approach of the vernal equinox.

In the News

Why particle physics matters to manufacturers

From Forbes, March 17, 2015

Why should anyone in manufacturing care about what is going on at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Europe? What could experiments in particle physics have to do with manufacturers or citizens in general? Well, it is all about what you have to know to function in the future.

In a previous article I tried to make the point that there will be tremendous advances in science in the 21st century that will affect the lives of every citizen, and everybody (not just students) needs to improve their knowledge of science. One of these science subjects is particle physics. When you look at the big questions that science hopes to answer with particle physics, it's very difficult to see the manufacturing implications.

After World War II, scientists used large, high-powered accelerators to smash the nucleus of an atom and look for new particles. This led to the discovery of a cornucopia of new particles, which eventually led to a quantum field theory called the Standard Model. Most physicists agree with the Standard Model, but many think it is an incomplete description of nature.

Read more