Occasional Musings of a Particle Physicist

The Live Blog Everyone’s Been Waiting For: ATLAS Night Shifts

with 7 comments

10:30pm: Quiet at CERN. Lots of rain outside. Soon I will go out in the rain as the ATLAS control room is on the other side of the road. Hope my swipe card access still works from last year….
Red Bull Count: 1
Espresso Count: 0

No need for meetings at 10pm on Saturday. Yet.

Artist impression of the particles we brutally lovingly destroy in every collision

CERN at night is like a zombie video game

Essential supplies for any night shifter

11pm: Take over from previous shifter, LHC has cryo problems. Wonder if I’ll even see beam in the next 8 hours. Get in touch with trigger on call expert to confirm she does want to be called when the beams are back even if it’s 4am.

Access granted, the metal gate slides back

Mural by night

Home for the next 8 hours

Previous shifter can’t wait to leave

Phone an expert

11:15pm: Crisis averted. Discovered US->Swiss power adapter left in office with minimal laptop battery remaining, quick dash across the road and all is well again.
Red Bull Count: 1
Espresso Count: 1

Bane of the shift so far

Reminder of why I’m here

11:30pm: When I arrived LHC expected cryo conditions at midnight, this has now changed to 3am 😦

The bad news

12:10am: ATLAS shift leader thinks there’ll be no collisions during this shift, I agree. Not much hope for any exciting updates to follow in this live blog. Less than 7 hours to go, not falling asleep yet!

Thanks Boromir

Me on webcam updating this blog. A picture so meta it could be an episode of Community

Nick Clegg is looking sad because we’re not adding to the 8TeV data for ICHEP tonight

12:50am: Shifter next to me has fallen asleep.
Red Bull Count: 1
Espresso Count: 2

Bank of screens I would be monitoring if there were collisions

Coffee machine. Worshipped as a false God. Giver of life for an offering of 1CHF.

1:15am: A phone rings, it’s not for me.

Super amazing awesome race car toy left by a previous shifter I guess. I may be over selling it a bit.

1:30am: Watching the sector 7-8 temperature curve come back down. Also doing some analysis of 2011 physics data.

Quiz: Given the current rate of temperature decrease, how long before sector 7-8 is back to operating level?

I can’t show any pictures of my 2011 data analysis work so here’s a picture of a low level flying kitten instead.

1:45am: Some activity as a subsystem enters a FATAL state. I won’t name and shame which one but it seems to have woken up a few people in here!
1:50am: The subsystem seems to have got over its hiccup. Not a great 2am wake up call for that on call expert though. Less pressure to fix while there’s no beam, things can become really time critical if there are collisions and data is being lost!
Red Bull Count: 2
Espresso Count: 2
Yawn Count: 2
2:10am: If you did the quiz above you’d have realised 3am was far too optimisitic for cryo conditions to be restored. Looks like LHC page 1 agrees as their estimate has just changed to not before 5am.

More bad news for this shift

2:45am: Starting a yawn count was a bad idea because I’ve already lost count.
3am: Shift half way point 🙂 4 hours to go, LHC sector 7-8 temperature still needs to drop 0.2K before recovery is complete. Current dT/dt is ~0.2K/3hours.

3 hours to go?

3:30am: Midnight(+3.5hrs) snack time.

Do not feed the shifters.

Outside to the hut of vending machines. Too many clouds to see the Supermoon while walking there.

Four vector (kind of)

4:40am: Nothing to report
Red Bull Count: 2
Espresso Count: 3

The ATLAS detector is pretty big you know

The real thing below the surface, waiting

6am: Still waiting, 1 hour of this shift to go
Red Bull Count: 3
Espresso Count: 3

Less red than earlier but still not quite there yet

6:05am: Buses don’t start running to France until 11am on Sunday so it’s a 20 minute walk home for me after the shift.

Yep, I look about as tired as I feel

6:50am: Shift summary posted, next shifter arrived, I’m spent, good night/morning!


Written by Mark

05/05/2012 at 10:37 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

7 Responses

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  1. See you shortly!


    05/05/2012 at 10:43 pm

  2. Really exciting idea!


    05/05/2012 at 11:14 pm

  3. Reblogged this on aidan@cern and commented:
    Mark took over for me on shift. Here’s his livebog of the experience!


    06/05/2012 at 1:31 am

  4. Anyone who’s ever pulled a really boring nightshift can relate to this, job well done to show the mind-numbing experience of waiting for nothing to happen.

    Annie Wynn

    06/05/2012 at 7:16 am

  5. I was there back in 1984 ( Z sand W Boson Hunts). I was there in the control room on a couple 3 shift runs. Had computer issues with our CDC 990,Dual CPU running Our CDC NOS OS. Darned thing kept forgetting when it was in “Montor” Mode (verses User mode) and not getting any user work done.
    I know how long those morning can be.

    Don Kjenstad

    06/05/2012 at 8:52 am

  6. That toy car has offered my the boost to make it through till 7 many a night this year…. Want to hug the person who left it

    Alex Martyniuk

    07/05/2012 at 5:32 am

  7. […] at some point. For a flavour of the true, Moneybox-like thrill of data-taking shifts, I recommend last night’s live blog by my colleague Mark […]

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