Oh my, naked women in the CERN cafeteria! This mannequin almost always scares me a little as I turn the corner, but it isn't usually standing naked in a closet.
Foolishly, I have not been getting to bed at a reasonable hour lately. The problem was clear even last week before the trip to Zurich, and in this one respect I dreaded the trip. A weekend of travel would mean a weekend without extra rest. My recovery was defered until this week.
It was a slow week, but one not entirely without action. All week I had been trying to get ahold of Terry, my former housemate, to help her resolve some issue with the wireless network in the house. The time difference could have made things difficult, I have to stay up quite late to make a call in the evening Eastern Standard Time. Thankfully Terry could be around most mornings. The one complication is that the coinciding afternoon is the busiest time of the day for me. This is when the crane operators usually show up, and there is often a need for everyone to drop what they are doing and help out. Either we need to quickly finish closing a crate, the sides of a new crate need to be opened so we can use the crane to remove the top, or there is a chamber that needs to be moved with the utmost care. With all the activity I kept forgetting to call Terry, and with Tuesday and later Thursday ruled out by Terry, I didn't even attempt a call until Friday.
The call was a complete success, though. I was using SkypeOut, the computer to phone connection available through Skype, for the first time. The volume was a little low and it dropped the connection once, but the sound quality was fine (not as good as Skype computer to computer call, but no worse than a regular phone connection). I only spent €1.09 for the hour long call to the States. We even got the wireless network working for Terry, though we never really figured out what was wrong. After a step-by-step diagnosis, and almost giving up, things just suddently started working. I assume somewhere a wire was plugged in incorrectly. In addition, it was fun talking to Terry for the first time in a while. With the summer crowd gone now I need to keep up my socializing somehow, so it seems a good time to get back in touch with older friends.
Spot lights shine from eight points around the LHC ring. I believe the triple beam in the distance comes from near the main CERN site in Meyrin.
The major action was Wednesday night when CERN continued it's 50th anniversary celebration with an LHC illumination ceremony. The largest accelerator at CERN is 8 kilometers in diameter but is hidden 100 meters underground. There are a few moderate sized complexes at access points around the accelerator, but even from the best vantage point they hardly stand out. The event promised to light up the hidden circle in a way never before seen. Up to this point the best one could do was to refer to an aerial photograph with the accelerator path superimposed. Many people are disappointed to discover that we have the worlds largest machine and yet from the air there is nothing to be seen.
Everyone wanted to see the event, and things became tricky when we decided to go as a single group. As usual Joe and I were cutting the time close but still wanted a little time to get something to eat at home. When Reid wanted a ride home that cut our time down to almost nothing, by the time we arrived home we had to scurry for some exteremly quick snacks and immediately leave. Adding to the stress was Jeremy, who was far too worried that if we were late we might miss the action. I doubted they would just flick the lights on and then off again. I had read the schedule and being late didn't seem to be a problem at all. We would certainly see.
Spotlights shine from points around the LHC ring, the nearest one in Crozet had multicolored lights.
We met at the hostel to gather up Marco, Reid, Reza, and Reza's parents. We were late and yet to our surprise we were the first to arrive. (Jeremy drove seperately, so technically he was the first). Everyone but Marco was arriving from other places and yet we didn't even see Marco without quite a bit of yelling at all sides of the building. I'm not sure how late it was when we finally left, but we did eventually get the whole crew together.
I was surprised by the traffic up to the viewpoint, but I probably shouldn't have been. CERN is a big place, and the road up to the viewpoint at Crozet is a small one. Even with our lateness we could have arrived before the lighting if it wasn't for the traffic. But instead we saw the lights come on as we idled in a massive line of cars. The few lights we could see didn't look very impressive, but we held out hope better views up on the hillside where the action was.
The center of the LHC illumination party seen from the viewpoint. The ball above is a balloon lifting cameras to photograph the event and the spotlights.
The wait in traffic wasn't as bad as it might have been. We soon arrived at a parking area with shuttle busses leaving frequently. The lack of organization was a little frustrating, though; without any formal queue we had to claw our way onto a bus or remain in the parking lot forever. Walking up was possible, but the bus would almost certainly be faster. There were a surprising number of people unloading from the busses in the parking area. At the time I thought it odd that so many people would be leaving this early. The lights had only been on for 15 minutes or so. Soon I would understand, the view at the top would explain all.
After a quick but cramped bus ride up the hill we arrived at the view point. It was at the base of a prominent cable car station going up to ski slops directly above CERN. Many months ago, with Pierre and Ezra, I hiked all the way straight up the clear-cut through which the cable climbs. Tonight, as throughout the snow-free season, the cable car wasn't running. Unless you were very energetic the view would be it's base station, but a respectable altitude nonetheless. The lights were already on so after squeezing off the the buss we were left with just a few simple steps to the edge...
"CERN Rockers" unite at the viewpoint in Crozet for the illumination of the LHC ring. Left to right: Reid, Reza, Marco, Alan, Jeremy.
What a disappointment! Instead of the near continuous ring of light we had hoped for, spotlights shone up from at most eight points around the circle, and even some of those were tricky to pick out. Granted, a couple of the sites sported more than one beam, and the one nearest to us had some slowly shifting color effects, but it was nothing like what we had hoped for. One of the major mistakes, as I see it, is that advertizing for the event, on the web and on special cafeteria placemats, suggested a near continuous ring of lights. In addition, I had gone to an Atlas outreach meeting in which ideas such as a ring of people holding candles was thrown around. Of course there are many reasons why the candle idea really wouldn't work (distributing candles, coordinating, impossibility of seeing anything but a nearby section, convincing enough to help out instead of climbing the mountain to watch, etc.); but, it planted a seed of expectation that never came close to being satisfied.
I believe this is the Geneva police band. They played in the large tent setup for the LHC illumination ceremonies.
There were many confused queries, among our group and from neighbors: "is this it, surely there is more?" It was immediately clear to me that this was in fact it, and I was just the tiniest bit thankful that at least I would be getting to bed early this evening. We held out a slight bit of hope for a slice of the CERN birthday cake they were to cut shortly, but mostly it seemed the evening would not come of much. Wandering around we ran into Pascale and her boyfriend Marco. Exchanging greatings and commisserations about the sad state of the presentation, we also noticed Shamil and his wife Catherine. It looks like the entire crew was present and accounted for. It's a shame the event was such a dude.
There was some mediocre music rendered by various bands under a large tent. During musical breaks came a few video conferences on a large projection display, one from the director of CERN and another from Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the web (while here at CERN). We walked up to the formal viewpoint from which obstructions were somewhat reduced, but the view improved little. At the viewpoint we ran into Curtis as well as Pascale again. They made the usual attempts at pictures with camera proped on the fence or a pole. But, thankfully I had, disappointing lights or not, not forgotten my fullsized tripod.
Returning to the center of the action we scavanged some scraps from the cake table and made our way to the buses. The anticlimatic evening ended with an icky climax: stumbling upon a large pile of dog crap along the poorly light walk to the car. My shoes stayed outside our door for many days afterwards until I finally got around to scrubbing off what the grass stubbornly wouldn't rub off.
The full view of the LHC illumination from Crozet, eight spotlights shine up from around the ring. The moon is full and Geneva adds a orange glow in the distance off to the right of center.
Bernard (the one in back, smiling) found it funny that Tony (the one on the top of the crate) had to wear a hard hat because the boss was around. He suggested we take a picture.
A week ago I went with Zhengguo to the France Telecom office in Ferney to order an ADSL connection for our house. Soon we should have internet with a wireless hub in our apartment, a wonderful wonderful thing. The hardware hasn't yet arrived in the mail, though. Each day, just in case, we have been going home relatively early to check our mail and eat dinner.
Thursday night, after once again finding no internet-at-home awaited us, I returned to CERN and stayed in the lab late dinking around on the internet and sorting some files. As is not uncommon I had been hearing some scratching around near the wall just below my desk. Eventually I was able to flush out the mouse who I have seen around the lab from time to time. It isn't terribly fast or skittish, at least not compared to what I expect of a mouse, so I have often gotten a good view of it. Tonight I was able to back it into a slight corner and pull out my camera for some pictures.
My mouse friend cornered under a table next to a trash can in building 184 where I work. I see it, or more often hear it, occasionally late at night and even a few times during the day.
Jeremy had handed over his copy of Angles and Demons to me shortly before the Zurich trip, and all week I had been devoting one or two hours to it. By Friday night I had finished it.
The book is certainly a very captivating work, but one which left a dinctly chalky taste in my mouth. Part of the curiosity of this Dan Brown novel is the large role CERN plays in it. Let me make this perfectly clear, the characterization of CERN is the most massive, ham-fisted fantasization a real place that I know about. I will give Dan Brown credit and possibly read another one of his books, only because I realize this is an early work of his. Make no mistake, if you are looking for non-stop action (and I really mean it, non-stop) and plenty of dramatic plot twists then this is book for you. But, it is nowhere near a work of subtly or intellect; the madness simply whisks you by a neverending stream of cardboard cut-out factoids, a Unversal Studios ride through high energy physics and the Christian history of Rome.
Another shot of my mouse friend in building 184. It didn't seem to be terribly fast or smart, which made photography easy.
I know Jeremy was itching to talk to me about the end of the book, but unfortunately the timing wasn't very good. On Saturday Jeremy left for the Atlas conference in Frieburg to film some of the lectures there. Zhengguo and Bing also left for the conference the day before, Friday; and I was left in charge of a few things around the lab. Hopefully that will all go smoothly.
Saturday and Sunday I finally got the sleep that I was so desperately wanting. I think I spent only about nine hours awake on Saturday, some of that time at CERN doing a tiny bit of work and some more dinking around on the computer.
Earlier in the week we helped Reid move most of his things from his apartment in St. Genis (an apartment with an incredible 9th floor view of the whole Pay de Gex valley in which CERN lies). His lease has ended, and his roommates have returned to Seattle, and so he is moving into the spare room in our apartment for the remainder of the year. Prominent amount his stuff is a whole slew of game consoles (GameCube, PS, PS2) and a TV set. Joe and Reid devoted much of sunday to playing Supper Smash Brothers Melee. It isn't a game I can get into much, something I hope will benefit my productivity on this web site.
Instead of video games, or even going into CERN and browsing the web, I stuck around home and actually did a few repectable things such as finally starting on some French studying, cleaning my room, continuing to organize my photographs, and some generally relaxing loafing.