Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Have a safe day!

Tuesday, July 24
Undergraduate Lecture Series - One West
Speaker: Amitoj Singh, Fermilab
Title: High-Performance Computing at Fermilab

3:30 p.m.

4 p.m.
Accelerator Physics and Technology Seminar - One West
Speaker: Aleksandr Romanov, Budker Institute of Nuclear Physics
Title: Lattice and Closed Orbit Correction at VEPP-2000 and its Possible Applications to IOTA

Wednesday, July 25
3:30 p.m.


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Tuesday, July 25

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From symmetry breaking

Precious cargo: Dark matter experiment set to move underground

The COUPP bubble chamber. Photo: Fermilab

For the past two years, COUPP-4, a 4-kilogram bubble chamber experiment, has searched for signs of dark matter a mile underground at SNOLAB in Sudbury, Ontario. Now that experiment is about to get company – its big brother is moving in.

COUPP-60, a bubble chamber 10 times the size of the current COUPP, was developed at Fermilab and is currently being transported for assembly at SNOLAB. Since it is a larger detector, it is expected to detect particles at a better sensitivity than its predecessor.

Getting a device as large as COUPP-60 underground is difficult, and it's a long trek to enter SNOLAB. Scientists working there take a mile-long elevator ride down, get out, walk a mile through an old mine, take a shower to remove any uranium or thorium dust from the rocks underground and dress in gowns and hairnets. Only then can they can finally enter SNOLAB.

"It looks like science fiction," said Hugh Lippincott, the operations manager for COUPP-60.

Almost all of the parts of COUPP-60 have been designed to fit into the elevator car, but some will need creative transportation measures. Like the scientists, the parts will need to be cleaned before they enter the lab. For the most part, this process doesn't give Lippincott pause, until you mention the bubble chamber's inner vessel.

The inner vessel is the most fragile part of the COUPP-60 apparatus. Made of radioclean quartz, the transparent tank took a year to manufacture.

"If that broke, we'd be in trouble," Lippincott said.

The inner vessel is the crucial component of COUPP-60, or any other bubble chamber. As bubble chambers, the COUPP experiments contain superheated fluid that will not boil until there is a particle interaction. Manipulating the pressure of the fluid leaves a single bubble that indicates a single interaction. Particles of dark matter, like neutrinos, rarely interact with the matter they pass through, but when they hit a molecule in a bubble chamber, the recoil of that molecule creates a bubble.

As difficult as that sounds, the real sticking point in finding dark matter particles is distinguishing between collisions caused by dark matter and those caused by background radiation. Most particle detectors will pick up signals from all particles flying around. By nature, bubble chambers don't pick up a great deal of the background radiation present.

"The big advantage of COUPP as a dark matter detector is that we're completely insensitive to beta decays or Compton scatters from gamma rays," common types of background in dark matter experiments, said COUPP-4 operations manager Eric Dahl.

Read more

Joseph Piergrossi

Photos of the Day

Purple, rain

A silhouette of the Proton Pagoda stands starkly against the violet, lightning-illuminated sky. Photo Steve Krave, TD
Rain poured down over the Fermilab Test Beam Facility last week. Photo: Steve Krave, TD
In the News

Who is Enrico Fermi?

From physics buzz blog, July 18, 2012

Today's new podcast is titled "Who is Enrico Fermi?"

In my short career writing about physics, I've run across the name "Fermi" quite a few times. There's Fermilab, fermions, fermium, the Fermi Gamma Ray Space telescope. This Fermi gentleman has quite a legacy.

For a long time, I didn't give Enrico Fermi too much thought. I knew he was a physicist, probably an important one, who lived during the first half of the 20th century and belonged to the honored group of people who pioneered many subjects in modern physics. When I finally read a physics history book that featured Fermi, I got a bit of a shock: the author painted Fermi in a rather negative light. He portrayed Fermi as an attention hog, a control freak, and kind of a poseur. The author suggested that Fermi wasn't a true creative genius like many his contemporaries, such as Werner Heisenberg and Paul Dirac.

This confused me because, if this portrayal was accurate, then why the heck did this guy have so many things named after him? And suddenly I felt a little embarrassed that I didn't know more about this man.

Read more
Director's Corner

Zero defects

Fermilab Director
Pier Oddone

On Tuesday, I took part in a meeting that included DOE Office of Science leaders and laboratory directors. Discussion topics ranged from the remarkable programs that the Office of Science supports, including scientific research and facilities, to non-scientific subjects such as safety. Certain lab directors shared particular concerns because some close calls have happened across the laboratory complex. Office of Science Director Brinkman suggested that, rather than emphasizing the concept of "zero accidents," we should instead emphasize "zero defects."

I like this emphasis for our laboratory because it can be embedded in a larger framework. "Zero defects" can become the single motto that sustains a culture that supports the construction of an apparatus that works the first time it is turned on, performs analyses without mistakes and detects flaws in safety procedures before accidents occur. A goal of zero accidents speaks only to outcomes and does not necessarily provide the focus on how to get there. A zero-defect goal, on the other hand, focuses attention on all our activities to prevent all manner of defects, including those that could compromise safety.

With a zero-defect focus we can also leverage the laboratory's growing body of knowledge and tools related to human performance. The fundamentals of human performance improvement (HPI) demonstrate that people are fallible and errors do occur, but that in the vast majority of cases, error-likely situations are predictable, manageable and preventable.

One of the participants at the meeting provided an example of an accident that could have been prevented with a zero-defect mindset. An employee at a laboratory had recently fallen from 15 feet up a ladder. The individual was in the hospital for a week and could have sustained even more serious injuries. On analysis it was discovered that workers using the ladder had been afraid of climbing it for some time, but had never brought the issue forward. A zero-accident mindset may have kept the employee from using the ladder and avoided injury, but a zero-defect mindset could have led them to address what made the ladder dangerous to begin with. As we build our new projects and continue the excellent progress on shutdown work, let's focus on zero defects to keep our colleagues safe and our accelerators and detectors starting up and performing perfectly.

Construction Update

Conduits in the NOvA near-detector hall

Contractors remove conduits from the east wall of the NOvA near-detector hall. Photo: Cindy Arnold

Last week in the underground NOvA near-detector hall, Kiewit construction workers removed conduits from the east wall where the NOvA cavern will be located. The variety of conduits move water, electricity and signals for the fire and accelerator systems, among other utilities.

A three-day outage allowed the workers to disconnect the old systems and connect the new systems, which workers have been installing on the west wall over the past few months.

In the News

Two Argonne physicists win Presidential Early Career Awards

From Argonne National Laboratory, July 23, 2012

Editor's note: Presidential Early Career Award recipient Mayly Sanchez is a Fermilab user. She participates in the LBNE, MINOS and NOvA collaborations.

ARGONNE, Ill. — Two scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory have received the 2011 Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the nation's highest honor for researchers in the beginning stages of their independent research careers.

Argonne low-energy physicist Peter Mueller and particle physicist Mayly Sanchez were selected by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for their contributions to meeting America's scientific and technological missions and the country's economic, energy, health and security needs.

Read more

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