I Have Arrived

Week 1

First Day

NYC from Newark airport

New York City from the Newark airport

I'm at CERN right now. The flights went fine. Most of the way had cloud cover and the trans-Atlantic flight was completely in darkness so I didn't see much on my journey. I did see downtown NY from a distance as I landed in Newark and then I saw the lights around Boston as I left Newark.

It's very rainy here and I hear it has been like this for a while. There are too many clouds so there is no chance of seeing any mountains right now. I hope this isn't anything of Biblical proportions, my job description doesn't include the building of arks. I'm very warm right now. The lady next to me on the flight in to Geneva complained that it was going to be cold in Geneva, 5 Celsius! Not only is that not very cold, but the humidity makes it feel even warmer. I think she said she was just in Las Vegas and Arizona.

My plane to Geneva

The plane that would take me to Geneva.

I already have my ID card, a swiss bank account, and will soon get a CERN computer account. My current email should work forever, so I won't bother give you my CERN email. I really didn't have much to do, but nearly everyone I spoke to said I didn't have all the required paper work. But, by returning repeatedly and looking very confused I seemed to persuade them to get things started paperwork or not.

I haven't seen the place I'm going to stay at yet. We plan to go take a safety course this afternoon and get some food to get me started. I'll be staying at the apartment my supervisor has rented. He has two extra bedrooms, at least for this month. Reza, a student in the same position as me, will be staying in the other room. We may try to reserve a room in the hostel just in case we have trouble finding a more permanent place by the end of the month.

More later...

Temporary Apartment

Prevessin construction

They are doing some pretty serious construction, involving digging a very deep hole, just up the street from our apartment.

My immediate supervisor, Zhengguo Zhuo, has graciously offered me and Reza, a physics student doing similar work as me, a place to stay for a month. He rented a three bedroom apartment in Prevessin, France. After we leave he will use it as temporary housing for some Chinese that will soon be arriving at CERN and after that he will have space for his family. He is a very nice fellow, and the area is quite pleasant. My only complaint is that there isn't much of anything around. The town has a church, a post office, a cafe, a bar, and maybe a couple other things. The apartment is very nice. It is a completely new development so everything is extremely clean. I had to take off the plastic wrapper around my mattress and break open the packet containing oven accessories! (The down side is that the oven has that funny new-oven smell.)

Prevessin house and the Jura

Sun sets on Prevessin and the Jura mountains.

Our patio faces a large block-style apartment complex, but other than that the town is mostly medium size houses. Walking around town, as I did the first weekend, I noticed that though the houses certainly weren't impressively large or elaborately landscaped many of them had fancy gates and security systems. Is that a quirk of the area? Though the landscaping isn't elaborate it often is very neat and I find the architecture be pleasing. Most of the houses at first glance don't look much different from those found in the US, but, after considering them for a moment or considering the general trends, you notice that nearly everything has a touch of the look I associate with classic Swiss or Bavarian architecture.

Jura and cows

Cow sweatshop? I think not. That's the Jura peering over the trees.

The only shopping is down the road just off the nearest roundabout, at a place called Netto. It's a small, convenience-store-sized place with the usual groceries, but they seem to avoid name-brand type things: they don't have any Lindt chocolate or Perier there. But, they seem to have a good selection for the size. That is where I purchased my first groceries: bread, brie, muesli, juice, yogurt, and dried ham if I recall correctly. The ham tasted a little strange to me, and after inspecting the very short ingredients list I decided it must be because of the added sugar.

Just outside Entrance B of CERN. The snow-capped Jura can be seen in the background.

Behind us is a business which I'm guessing distributes milk. At least the canisters they have piled up make me think of those they would ship milk in. I could see no concrete indication of what they do, the only labels they seem to have are their company name. Up the road from then there is a intriguing plot of land. It is a massive rectangular lawn which, as I walked by, I thought was the entirety of it. But, it turns out to have a very large house in the center, set back a bit, and connected to the road with one of those very long, straight driveways lined with trees. Somehow the house came as a surprise to me, I can't imagine putting a house in the center of so much empty space (but then I'm not from Kansas (not even a friend of Dorthy), so I have the obvious biases.) Across the road from the great empty space I met a couple frisky horses. At least they were frisky when I met them. The cows, on the other hand, weren't so frisky, but boy did they have a lot of tasty, damp grass to nibble on. They are too busy eating and enjoying the scenery to prance around like silly horses.

The apartment is certainly too far from CERN to walk, but it is probably a bikable distance. You can see Prevessin on the CERN map. (I work at the main, Meyrin, site not the Prevessin site.) So, I'm thankful that we have been provided a car. It is rented from CERN and we will have to pay a small monthly fee plus gas for it. It is essentially shared between Reza and I, but that should work out well enough since, at least for now, Reza and I are living in the same place making carpooling easy. Oh, one twist that hadn't occurred to me when the car was mentioned before arriving: it has a manual transmission and I have very little experience with manual cars. I will be learning.

Building 184

Building 184 panorama

The interior of building 184 early on. The boxes on the right contain our chambers. The chambers stacked in yellow frames are the Italians'.

Friday was the first day in which we actually spent almost the entire day doing something. Our shipment of equipment and parts arrived earlier in the week and was delivered to the main Atlas building, 180. Friday became the first day of what could be a long move-in project. The building we are using is 184. (The buildings are referred to only by number, I know of no buildings which have an official name, and even those with some sort of natural name are numbered, for example "Restaraunt 1", Restaurant 2", etc.) Building 184 is an impressive space in it's own right but no where near the scale of building 180. That building could only be compared to something on the order of one of Boeing's aircraft construction hangers, though maybe one of their smaller ones. If our crates weren't sitting right by the door they would have been easily lost among the massive, shiny tubes which could be very roomy, human-scale hamster tunnels. Of course, in this case the hamsters will really be an ass-load of electrons which, when put in motion, surround the five story Atlas detector in the warm embrace of magnetism.

Outside of building 184

The outside of bld. 184 from the direction we usually approach. (The circular road ends at the other side as well.)

Our building, 184, on the other hand is a little more modest. It has it's own crane running the length of the ceiling, from the enclosed loading area to the clean room in which the Italian slackers hide. The Italians using our building were supposed to be done by the end of the year, but they are behind schedule. (As is most everyone, except the Univ. of Michigan I'm told.) I'd like to envy their laid back attitude, but for some reason I'm itching to get work done. I'm sure a few months of applying epoxy will set me straight (more on this later). The chambers we will work on, still crated, are piled 13 feet high over almost half the main floor, which is roughly the size of a wide basketball court.

Looking away from bld. 184

This is the reverse of the last pictures, looking away from bld. 184 back down the circular road.

The building is surprisingly complicated in layout for what seems to be a big box structure. The loading area is raised relative to the main floor. The side closest to the main entrance is has a clean room at the level of the loading dock. I have not seen the inside of it. Under the clean room is the storage area where we've been spending most of our time lately. There the ceiling is just high enough so that I don't hit the roughly placed beams (as if the raised clean room was not part of the original construction) but I always stoop just to be sure. Outside, near this side, is two small portable buildings. One is an office which we can't yet use (the power is shut off because of a leak in the roof we are told). The other has no windows and in late breaking news, it contains showers! If only the leak had tried the next door over we could save on water bills, though I don't have a clue why they need showers there or when they were last used. Is this a quirky European thing, to shower after work before you go home? Or does it have something to do with the nature of the work people were doing here in the past? Zhengguo has already sent Reza and I on a mission to procure a refrigerator and microwave for the office. It looks like we are going to have to set them up inside the main building for now. On the other side of the building is a section that took me a couple days to notice. There is a machine shop and, above that, a room that can only be accessed from outside. Those rooms are hard to notice because they blend in so well when their lights are off and they attach to the building at an odd angle but have a dividing wall that squared off even with the main box structure. Toward the back is a big white canvas velcro to the wall. The canvas divides off another clean room in which the Italians are currently working.

Building 40 interior toward Atlas offices

Building 40 is round with a central atrium. This view looks toward the D "side" where the Atlas offices are located.

Friday we spent most of the day working with a French moving crew to hoist in 18 boxes of parts and equipment (each is on the order of 10x2x2' in size). The boxes and the chambers had been shipped out of Ann Arbor in December. We are not allowed to use the crane, the moving crew are in charge of that. They only speak French and the most French between the three of us (Zhengguo, Reza, and I) is the single semester that Reza just took. Nevertheless, communication wasn't difficult since they seemed to be very nice fellows and the job simply involved us pointing at places where we wanted boxes placed.

A sheep overlooking building 184

A sheep overlooking bld. 184

Finally, I should mention building 40, the LHC building. Building 40 is quite a distance from where we work but still on the Meyrin site: down near the main entrance, the hostel, restaurant 1, and other useful places. It is a newer building than everything else around. And speaking of around, it is (round). It contains the offices of the four main projects working on the LHC, or Large Hadron Collider. The LHC is a new and improved collider they are installing in the tunnels (the main one is a 10 km circle 100 m below ground). Around the circle four experiments are being installed. One of those experiments is Atlas, the one we are working on. The large attrium in the center is nice and is the sort of thing that seems to have become as required as outlets in any new acedemic building. I've had to visit this building a couple times, to fill out paperwork, make copies, etc. Interesting, the Atlas office seems to have a very good selection of back issues of The Economist. Also, what's with Europe using a different size paper than in the US? Is there anything we can agree on?

Oh, yeah, and as promised... the last picture is a sheep! Aren't they such lovely mindless animals? I understand why one might want to go to asleep by them. The sheep graze a hill overlooking 184 in the center of the ring. There is also a pasture fenced off for them around building 506 where I am right now. Building 506 is just a row of offices which we are using as a base of operations initially.