Tuesday, 2 December 2008
This does reflect the likely scene however and includes a tree, right where I have one...
There are few opportunities for the experience of feeling our place in space. A crowded sky merely presents a big spectacle. Lovely when thousands of stars are visible but difficult to see in this North Eastern, light polluted atmosphere.
With this conjunction, it's possible to align the Earth with these bodies and feel a part of the Solar System. Having seen the red moon as benefiting from Earthshine last night, I am happy to witness it 'Second hand'...
Sunday, 23 November 2008
No such luck. Views of Cheviot revealed snow but a frozen puddle was all that the local countryside said about winter.
A local greenhouse still had bunches of grapes hanging in broken panes. I think the blizzard was localised to this corner of the world.
It is not so often nowadays that I am incensed by items in the news. Today brought a brief piece on the radio that aroused a good deal of in-car ranting..
The Vatican has seen fit to 'forgive' John Lennon for his 1966 remark about The Beatles fame and it's relative importance when compared to that of Jesus Christ. (BBC News).
I have not been a fan of 'Imagine' for many years. I have considered it to be a clumsy, poorly written song suffering from over exposure by the media, wheeled out whenever a plea to the rich West's guilt is felt necessary. I have revised my thinking lately. It is coincidental but fitting that I was considering this as the news piece was aired.
Imagine is far from a clunky dirge. It has the gravity of any great folk song. The grammatical inaccuracy that has pricked my pomposity in the past is laudable and appropriate. The sentiments are increasingly suited to the times.
Lennon was not just right at the time. He wrote an anthem to anti dogmatism that would resonate so long as institutional mythology is supported by those least qualified to forgive..
Benedict may do worse than look to his favoured manual for a suggestion.. King James Bible
"And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"
It may be considered uncharitable and irrelevant to emphasise those episodes of breathtaking cruelty perpetrated by the Catholic body. No one would think to blame Benedict and his bishops for the irrefutable facts of inquisition, invasion and mass murder. These are understood to have been historically documented however. As an indicator of what was to come, individual free thinkers were subjected to inquiry in order that heresy be effectively stamped out and the power of the Vatican reinforced.
Reasoning thinkers understand that the papal stand on contraception and termination continues to endanger lives and compromise women the world over.
Shifting opinion will be accomplished by logical argument and cultural adjustment however.
There is no reason to forgive. Theirs is a free thought. Collectively held and acknowledged as largely irrelevant but respected as a right.
Lennon was correct in his closing statement about the endurance of the Beatles music and the inevitable decay of religious belief. His creation has never prompted battles or genocide. The violence that erupted at the time of his statement was entirely focused on the band's product. Records and memorabilia was publicly destroyed. Reassuring counter statements were issued by schools and even by congress members anxious to divorce themselves from this unpopular young man.
No one suggested a Fatwa however. There were death threats but from within the Ku Klux Klan and lone gunmen.
The Faith based community gasped in affronted indignation and then forgot all about it.
There.. I can feel a cold wind blowing. It's about time. He'll need more than a frilly skirt to protect his fundamentals!
Sunday, 16 November 2008
An explanation of interdimentionality...
The interview with a sadly ineffectual Arthur C Clark..
and a Goosander.
Under this bridge..
The Stepping Stones are now visible and useable. I nearly lost my standing in the community as passers by begged my pardon and tried to walk past...
Various sprites reveal themselves in their passing..
Interesting questions arise from standing crooked and sideways over the river. . . about photons and their states of existence. The speed at which they convey information to a camera-ready recipient, blessed by evolution with the ability to make use of them for survival and fun...
The photon is an elementary particle, despite the fact that it has no mass. It cannot decay on its own, although the energy of the photon can transfer (or be created) upon interaction with other particles.
It could be said that Photons need us as much as we need them then...
Photons are spin-1 particles (making them bosons), with a spin axis that is parallel to the direction of travel (either forward or backward, depending on whether it's a "left-hand" or "right-hand" photon). This feature is what allows for polarization of light.
So, slip on your sunspecs and witness quantum physics in action..
Saturday, 15 November 2008
A small sequence of doodles executed during lulls in conversations at the workface.
...with some memory jogging notes designed to prompt my thoughts...
Monday, 10 November 2008
As a good friend once said; "Your photography is so right brain I'm surprised you don't walk in circles.." I was gifted a book and promptly tried to forget everything it said.. This link may prove a useful reminder for those who need one..
I have decided that I have been absent from the Blogosphere for long enough. The floods have receded and the mud is drying. I no longer have the smell of rotting river life and stranded vegetables to contend with and I miss the creative punch this thing gives me..
In an attempt to kick start myself into action, I purchased a camera. Dubbed the Liquorice Leica by You Know Hoo.. this is a lovely thing. A compact SLR alternative that offers a great lens in front of a fairly simple pinhole digital.Panasonic and Amazon brought the price to within my grasp and I see that it has now, gratifyingly gone back up by £100.00! Hurrah! I don't often catch bargains...
Anyhoo. I took off this week to engage in some instantly memorable Right Brain recording.
Silly me! That's not how it works!
I shall return with a more characteristic blog entry.. Meanwhile.. some Autumnal pictures.
Looking for maths.. found this Fibonacci in Wallington greenhouse.
And this bolt. I just liked the tension I think.
I nearly ate this! It just cries out for vinaigrette!
These wheels still control the Wallington conservatory air con..
As someone remarked, 'It looks better than it did in the summer..'
It certainly smelled glorious...
Sunday, 21 September 2008
The water reached an unlikely and scary 50 cm from the front door before stopping for the night.
The garden and all around were submerged and treated to a uniform layer of grey brown sludge.
Quantum physics puts new spin on Jonny Wilkinson's life
Saturday, 30 August 2008
A short post today, to celebrate my very first sighting of a Kingfisher at my tea table by the Wansbeck.. There was NO way I could have photographed the event but the colours in almost languorous movement registered first.
Then the kinetics of the colours and it's vector from below us, on the bank across the river and westward, soon to perform a flypast over the flotilla of Mallard
and the one Goosander
that had recently swum past.
All in a flash.. and within the aspect of the river that forms the backdrop of my Blog's title.. glimpsed through the trees.
Quite the most beautiful bird I have ever seen.
Monday, 25 August 2008
Bottling the big bang
Published: 19 May 2008 03:20 PM
Source: The Engineer
The sense of anticipation is palpable.. The interjections are mine...
There might have been mileage in asking Ken Livingstone to accommodate..
There are four major detectors: ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC Apparatus) and CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid), which sit opposite each other on the LHC circuit, aim to observe every particle resulting from the collisions; ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment) and LHCb are looking for specific phenomena. Associated with these are a raft of ancillary services, including control systems and an enormous computing effort to collate and study the da ta from the experiments.
The scale of everything is stunning. Even before it starts, LHC is already producing superlatives. The largest magnets ever made.
From the surface, it is hard to comprehend the size of CERN. Its headquarters are just outside Geneva and look much like any other university. But there is no indication of the whereabouts of the ring of the LHC, longer and deeper than London's Underground's Circle Line (and more circular: I rest my case!) and crossing the Swiss-French border four times.
CMS, the most distant of the experiments from the headquarters, is a 20-minute drive into the mountains from ATLAS, which is the only one of the four detectors in Switzerland. ALICE's surface buildings sit incongruously next to a pretty village; LHCb is behind a supermarket near Geneva airport, just within France.
Visiting CERN is a jaw-dropping experience. ATLAS, the larger of the two general detectors, is half the size of Notre Dame cathedral, a glittering chunk of tech nology 44m long, 22m high and weighing 7,000 tonnes; it is like standing next to a cliff covered in gold mirror. CMS, 15m across and 22m long, is even heavier at 12,000 tonnes; it resembles a planet-busting superweapon from a science fiction film.
Compared with these monsters, the LHC itself seems relatively modest. Its tunnel was one of the few parts of the project not purpose-built; it housed the site's previous high-energy particle accelerator, the Large Electron-Positron collider (LEP), which operated from 1989 to 2000. Without the site's other accelerators, it would be useless.
An endcap of CMS is lowered down into its cavern
LHC works with protons most of the time, and these start off in a bottle of hydrogen. Stripping away the electrons produces the isolated protons, and 'bunches' of these, containing about 1011 particles, are injected by a linear accelerator into the first of CERN's circular accelerators or synchrotrons, the PS Booster, which accelerates them to 1.4GeV.
So, for us simple people.. They open a bottle of gas, strip the electron cloud from the nuleus and send the Protons on their multitudinous way. Quickly!
They are then transferred to another accelerator, the Proton Synchrotron , which increases their energy to 25GeV *
* 1 gigaelectron volt = 1.60217646 × 10-10 joules by the way (Ed).
* 1 teraelectron volt = 1.60217646 × 10-7 joules by the way (Ed)roughly equivalent to the kinetic energy of a flying mosquito, but far more concentrated.
Before LHC was built, all the accelerators had independent control systems but now, to aid co-ordination of the accelerators and their supporting power and cooling grids, all the systems are operated from a single, purpose-built control centre. It is a haven of blue-carpeted calm where cataclysmic forces are marshalled and focused. 'We can have 50 or 60 people in here and it still feels quiet,' said Paul Collier, one of the LHC engineers.
The beams run for most of their circuit through two separate pipes about 20cm across, which are under a high vacuum of 10-13 atm. At regular intervals, the beams pass through radiofrequency cavities, which pump power in to accelerate the particles, and a series of magnets that generate a field of 8.3T (for comparison, the Earth's magnetic field is about 40mT at the surface), steering the protons around their near-circular orbit.
The amount of current needed to maintain the field is huge, some 11,700A, so the magnets are superconducting; they are made from strands of a niobium/titanium alloy. When cooled to below 10K, this material conducts electricity with zero resistance. In the LHC magnets, the cables are cooled by liquid helium at 2.7K. At this temperature, helium is in a state known as a superfluid, which allows it to conduct a large amount of heat and therefore makes it an extremely efficient refrigerant.
The superconductivity is essential to reduce the amount of electricity needed to run the magnets. 'Even so, we use about 30 per cent of the electricity demand of the Canton of Geneva,' said LHC physicist Mike Lamont.
The total power consumption of the LHC alone is 120MW, with CERN as a whole consuming 230MW. 'That's one of the advantages of being in both France and Switzerland. The Swiss Grid alone can't supply all the electricity we need; we actually get most of it from France. Even then, glitches in the power supply cause major problems —the system can take weeks to settle down properly after a glitch. We have a large amount of power conditioning to make sure the supply is smooth, but we can still have problems.'
There are several types of magnet used on the LHC. Most of them are dipoles, but immediately before the beams enter the caverns housing the detectors, they run through a more complex type of magnet called a quadrupole. These squeeze the diameter of the proton bunch down from about a millimetre to about 16µm and aim it so that it will collide with the beam travelling in the opposite direction from the other side of the detector. 'Despite the number of protons in a bunch, only about 20 per bunch will actually collide with another proton; the others will just fly through without noticing anything,' said Lamont.
Each bunch is about 7m apart, which means bunches will cross 30 million times every second; in other words, there will be 600 million particle collisions a second.
Like any high-energy synchrotron, the LHC will be dangerous when running. Beams of particles at near-light speed give off radiation similar to X-rays, so in operation, nobody will be allowed inside the LHC tunnel, or the detector caverns. 'I don't know how long it would take you to die,' said Lamont. 'But you'd die.'
The superconducting coils of the toroidal magnet system, striped in red, awaiting the arrival of the inner detectors and solenoid
The consequences of colliding two protons with energies of 7TeV are dramatic. The energy — much less than that produced by a handclap, but focused down to an almost imaginably small size — is enough to break the particles apart and recombine the fragments into a variety of different particles. Many of these can only exist in the hot, dense conditions immediately following the collision: conditions similar to those just after the Big Bang. It is the job of the detectors to see and categorise these particles, and they have a variety of ways to do it.
ATLAS and CMS, the two 'general-purpose' detectors on the LHC, are both designed to do the same physics: detect all the particles produced during collisions, and reconstruct the processes that made them. Two detectors are necessary, so that each can confirm the findings of the other, but there is a certain amount of rivalry between ATLAS and CMS that pervades CERN.
'We come from different schools of physics, and we have very different ideas, but both groups believe they have the right answer,' said Marzio Nessi, technical director at ATLAS. 'Whoever sees the Higgs boson, for example, first — they'll be the ones to get the Nobel Prize.'
All the detectors work in roughly the same way, and ATLAS, CMS and ALICE have similar designs. The detectors are barrel-shaped, with large magnets wrapped around the collision point. When charged particles fly out of the collision, the magnetic field makes them follow a curved trajectory — positive charges in one direction, negative in the other. Vast arrays of detectors, containing materials that ionise when charged particles pass through them, track the paths of the particles through the detector. Particles with high momentum will curve very little, low momentum ones will fly in tight spirals.
The particles end up in calorimeters, which measure the energy of the particle by stopping it dead. There are two types — electromagnetic calorimeters (ECALs), which work on particles such as electrons and photons that do not interact much with matter; and hadronic calorimeters (HCALs), for particles such as protons and neutrons. Generally, these use materials that can convert the kinetic energy of the particles into light or an electric signal, that can be collected and analysed.
The only particles that can pass through both types of detector are muons, which are similar to electrons. It is vital to detect these, as they are produced when some of the particles that CERN is particularly looking for decay; for example, theory predicts that a Higgs boson will decay into four muons. All the LHC detectors therefore have specific systems for finding muons, which are often the most impressive and largest part of the system.
It is obvious from looking at ATLAS and CMS that their technologies are different. ATLAS is characterised by the arrangement of its magnetic fields. The inner parts of the mammoth detector are surrounded by a solenoid coil, which bends the paths of all particles apart from muons. This is surrounded by a toroidal field shaped like an exceptionally deep ring doughnut and generated by eight superconducting loops, which run the full length of the detector; the largest superconducting magnets ever constructed (although they will be overtaken by the magnets at ITER, the nuclear fusion reactor soon to take shape in southern France). Within this magnetic field are the systems to track and stop the muons. At either end of the barrel are 'big wheels', huge discs of muon detectors to stop the particles that fly forwards from the collision.
'There are 2,000 scientists working on this project, and every single one of them would die to see it completed,' said Nessi. 'They speak over 30 different languages and come from over 160 institutions, but we've found ways to communicate and work and bring these systems together. You just don't get that level of devotion on most engineering projects.'
Integrating the systems has been a particularly difficult task, he added: 'All these thousands of detectors need to be cooled, so they all have their little circuits to carry liquid helium or argon to them; and they are all linked to the data-gathering system via fibre-optics.'
CMS, meanwhile, has only a solenoid magnet surrounding the trackers, ECAL and HCAL systems, but it is the largest superconducting solenoid ever built, a 13m long, 6m diameter coil of niobium-titanium, producing a 4T magnetic field.
A technician slides the final rack of detectors into the support structure of the ALICE experiment
The ECAL of CMS is particularly unusual, containing 80,000 crystals of lead tungstate, denser than iron but transparent and made in China and Russia. When electrons and photons pass through these crystals, they produce a flash of light which can be amplified and analysed to determine the energy of the particles. The immense weight of the crystals is supported in a fibreglass construction structured like the inside of the human lung, with separate 'alveoli' or pockets for each crystal.
Building CMS was a particularly tricky task, said civil engineer John Osborne, because of its location. 'We're near the mountains, so we had to dig through 80m of glacial deposits before we got to solid rock to make the cavern,' he said. 'So while ATLAS was built entirely within its cavern, CMS was built on the surface while we did the excavation, tested there, then lowered into the cavern in slices.'
To dig the cavern, Osborne's team sunk a series of tubes through the water-saturated glacial deposits and filled them with a freezing mixture, cold enough to freeze the water surrounding the tubes and create a curtain of ice.
They then dug the 100m deep pit through which the CMS slices would be lowered, while the ice held back the water in the surrounding rock. Once the sides of the pit were lined with cement, the ice curtain was left to melt, and the team continued excavating horizontally to complete the cavern.
While ATLAS and CMS are general detectors, ALICE is specialised, looking at a different sort of collision. For most of its operational period (270 days a year), LHC will accelerate protons. But for the remaining time, its circuit will be filled by nuclei from lead atoms —more than 200 times heavier than a proton, and far more complex in structure, containing both protons and neutrons. Because their mass is greater, their momentum and therefore their collision energy is also higher, and they produce a much greater variety of particles.
The ALICE physicists hope that the hot, dense conditions at the collision point will melt the protons and neutrons into their component parts, charged particles called quarks, and gluons, which carry the force that holds the quarks together. Physicists believe that in the microseconds after the Big Bang, a plasma of quarks and gluons existed which then coalesced into normal matter. Quarks are not found alone in nature, but nobody knows why. Moreover, protons and neutrons contain three quarks, but the mass of three quarks is only 1 per cent of the mass of either particle, and gluons have no mass. There is a theory that the mechanism that forces the particles together may give rise to the rest of the mass, and ALICE might be able to confirm this.
ALICE also contains a solenoid, but it is not superconducting. Instead, it is made of iron — it contains as much iron as the Eiffel Tower — and is second-hand; it was used on the LEP experiment in the same cavern. Its 77 tonnes of detectors are slid into the barrel of the magnet into a stainless steel support structure on trolleys, which allows them to be removed easily for maintenance during the LHC's winter shutdown (electricity is prohibitively expensive around Geneva in the winter).
This, says Diego Perrini, who is responsible for ALICE's support structures, illustrates an important difference between the detectors and the LHC itself. 'We can run ALICE with missing detectors; it just means we won't get any data from that particular sector,' he said. 'But all the LHC systems have to be functional for anything to work.'
The exception to the barrel design is LHCb, which is looking for specific objects known as B-particles. These contain a type of subatomic particle called a b-quark (also known as a bottom quark or a beauty quark), which is not stable under normal conditions. Studying them will help understand why the universe is made of matter, not antimatter.
B-particles are only scattered in a shallow angle from the main beam, so LHCb's detectors are arrayed around and in front of the collision point like a series of walls.
LHCb contains some of the most specialised detectors in CERN, because it needs to locate the position of the particle collisions with more precision than any of the other experiments.
'B-particles are very unstable and decay only a millimetre away from the collision that produced them,' said Richard Jacobsson, an LHCb physicist. 'LHCb has to be able to confirm whether it is detecting particles that come from the collision, or from a 'secondary vertex' a short distance away, which would indicate the presence of a B-particle.'
It does this with a detector called the VELO (VErtex LOcator), which is the closest detector to a collision point anywhere in CERN, just 5mm away from the intersecting beams, which have energy similar to a high-speed train.
Half of the VELO array for the LHCb detector, which locates the position of collisions precisely
The VELO consists of 42 semicircular modules that sit on either side of the collision point and close in to study the collision. Made from silicon that produces an electrical signal when struck by a particle, they were built in the UK, at the University of Liverpool.
Much of the engineering at CERN is in fact done by physicists, Jacobssen said. 'It puts us in an interesting position, because nobody has done anything like this before,' he said.
A large sheet of expanded polystyrene taped to one of the scintillation counters on LHCb testifies to the tricky nature of the work.
'Somebody put three holes in the casing,' said Jacobsson. 'We're not sure how.' Then there was a loud clang and a shout of 'Desolé!' 'I think that might be a fourth,' said Jacobsson.
Back on ATLAS, Nessi believes that typical engineering skills could be the key to the whole project.
'We've all had to learn to work in cross-disciplinary ways; we've learned new jobs, new skills, and worked with an array of people we couldn't have imagined. And the ones who are best at the collaborations? They're the ones who will make the big discoveries. The ones who'll win.'
Take note Olympic Committee.. What's more important, 'Team GB' as a corporate entity or the constituents of that team?
Sunday, 24 August 2008
I shall adjust my seating and look for the saddle that started this all, way back when...
Meantime, a thought and a half for my Dad. He woke up the other night with a strange 'Legful' sensation and discovered that he had developed a DVT. He was quickly treated and will be undergoing a Warfarin regime.. He favours Homer at present. I shall be reading The Iliad.. , promise!
The Bee I found, exhausted on the carpet last night was missing it's right front leg.
I made my way along the Wansbeck today. Forgot water and had to rely on the comfort of strangers for free hydration. I reminded the Kitchen Garden at Meldon Park that I had bought a bottle of Chablis there a couple of weeks ago but I think I would have been offered the water with the same open welcome had I been cold calling..
The previous visit was prompted by my immediate and unquenchable desire for Chard.. The outside barrow promised it and I went at it with a kitchen knife, supplied by the bemused proprietor.
This is how it looked today.. following all the rain we have had. But I left my wallet so had to come home without greenery...
En route, I hung over bridges to find Northumbrian Pyramids..
Rewarding, rain soaked foliage and mossy stonework...
Working back towards home, the river gets wider and deeper. The silt and brush collects against the piers..
Until, they become occluded
But no worse for that! A watercolour series to follow.. There, I have committed. *gulp*!