UK News from CERN Issue 78

 

Issue 78 contents

The LHCb experiment

Cracks in the Standard Model?

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The LHCb experiment has announced a result that could be an early indication of new physics beyond our current understandings of the Universe.

Stellar upcycling is the thrifty option

Stellar upcycling is the thrifty option

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After spending 15 years scanning patients at an Australian hospital, an unwanted MRI machine has been upcycled to enable CERN researchers to learn more about how the forces in atomic nuclei of different elements affect their properties.

Winter visitors

Winter visitors

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Few people are immune to the thrill of taking a lift to descend 100m underground, and most are awed by the scale, complexity and exquisite engineering that awaits them.

New faces

New faces

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One of the characteristics common to all the LHC experiments is job rotation; key roles within the senior management are rotated to bring fresh ideas, ensure wider representation and offer career development opportunities.

BBC Lancashire at CERN

BBC Lancashire broadcasts live

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It all started with an invitation! As part of STFC’s project to make CERN regionally relevant across the UK, we’ve been inviting BBC local radio stations to broadcast live from CERN, featuring students from local schools who are visiting as well as researchers from the region.


 

Cracks in the Standard Model?

The LHCb experiment

The LHCb experiment.
(Credit: CERN)

 

The LHCb experiment has announced a result that could be an early indication of new physics beyond our current understandings of the Universe.

The Standard Model of particle physics is the theory that predicts how particles and forces behave, however it is incomplete, not including gravity, nor explaining dark matter that makes up most of the Universe. More data is needed before LHCb scientists can definitively confirm they’ve found a crack in the Standard Model of particle physics, but this result strengthens similar indications from earlier studies.

Simone Bifani (Birmingham) presented the new results in a seminar at CERN. "The measurements represent a milestone for the LHCb collaboration. When we update the analysis to include data recorded during Run 2 we have the potential to make the first observation of physics beyond the Standard Model at the LHC."

In this study, the LHCb collaboration looked at the decays of B0 mesons to an excited kaon and a pair of electrons or muons. The muon is 200 times heavier than the electron, but in the Standard Model its interactions are otherwise identical to those of the electron, a property known as lepton universality. Lepton universality predicts that, up to a small and calculable effect due to the mass difference, electron and muons should be produced with the same probability in this specific B0 decay. LHCb finds instead that the decays involving muons occur less often.

"Lepton universality is a basic feature of the Standard Model - break it, and you've blown our existing understanding of particle physics wide open,” says Tara Shears (Liverpool and LHCb). “This result gives us a tantalising glimpse of what might be out there. We need to analyse more data to see this behaviour is real or a statistical quirk, but, with the high quality data LHC has delivered and the fantastic performance of our particle detectors, we're ready for it."

Tim Gershon (Warwick) is Spokesperson for LHCb-UK, "The mood is one of cautious excitement -- no-one is popping any champagne corks yet. Detailed understanding of these deviations requires a long-term programme of measurements that we are now planning. Work is ongoing towards LHCb detector upgrades that will enable the increased sensitivity that is required."

Watch this space!

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Stellar upcycling is the thrifty option

After spending 15 years scanning patients at an Australian hospital, an unwanted MRI machine has been upcycled to enable CERN researchers to learn more about how the forces in atomic nuclei of different elements affect their properties.

It’s more common for components from science to find new uses in medicine but, in an unusual twist, a team of technicians, engineers and scientists from STFC Daresbury Laboratory and the Universities of Liverpool and Manchester reclaimed the superconducting magnet from an old MRI scanner in a Brisbane hospital and shipped it to CERN where a small team from STFC, including two apprentices, worked to strip and reconfigure it as part of a new spectrometer for ISOLDE.

"The ISOL-SRS project is designing and constructing spectrometers to explore subtle features of the forces that bind atomic nuclei and nuclear reactions thought to occur in stellar explosions,” explains Robert Page (Liverpool) who leads the international collaboration that will exploit the magnet. “This ex-MRI magnet is a vital component of the ISOLDE Solenoidal Spectrometer (ISS) to be exploited at HIE-ISOLDE.”

Whilst a bespoke magnet, designed and manufactured especially for the purpose would have cost at least £1M, the ex-MRI magnet has proved to be a more thrifty option at just £130,000. The purchase and reconfiguration was co-funded by STFC and the universities of Leuven, Liverpool and Manchester.

Advanced silicon detectors built by the UK team will be fixed inside the magnet to create the spectrometer. Once fully operational it will perform a vital role at ISOLDE. A beam of radioactive ions will be fired at a deuterium-rich target sited inside the magnet. The ions will capture extra neutrons from the target and go on to form the exotic nuclei of interest to the researchers. The strong magnetic field causes the protons left over from the neutron-stripped deuterium to spiral backwards and land nanoseconds later on the silicon detectors. From the position of the proton on the detector, and its energy, the energy levels of the exotic ions can be determined. In this way scientists will be able to understand how the forces in atomic nuclei having differing numbers of protons and neutrons give rise to their very different properties, and how elements are created by supernovae.

Ian Lazarus (STFC) is the Technical Coordinator for the project, said “For the technical team at STFC the real challenge has been ensuring firstly that the magnet was going to be fit for purpose, then that we could get the magnet back to Europe in one piece before completely reconfiguring it to make it ready for use in its new role.”

After months of work, the repurposed magnet was ready for final testing in early 2017. With help from the CERN cryogenics team, it was cooled using liquid helium before being successfully re-energised to prove that it was ready to work again as a superconducting magnet in its new role. It was then carefully moved to its new home in the ISOLDE experimental hall. Work is underway to connect it up to the HIE-ISOLDE beam line. The science programme will begin in 2018, facilitated by collaboration with Argonne National Laboratory, who will bring an on-axis detector system from an existing spectrometer system to enable the magnet to be used before the final ISS silicon detector array is installed during Long Shutdown 2.

Stellar upcycling is the thrifty option

(Credit: Karl Johnston/CERN)

Stellar upcycling is the thrifty option

(Credit: Karl Johnston/CERN)

 

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Winter visitors

Analysing event displays

CERN visitors.
(Credit: STFC/CERN)

 

Few people are immune to the thrill of taking a lift to descend 100m underground, and most are awed by the scale, complexity and exquisite engineering that awaits them.

Visits to CERN are always inspiring, but the LHC’s annual winter technical stop offers the chance for more people to go underground and see the detectors and the LHC machine.

This year we’ve had an unprecedented number of visits from elected representatives and key stakeholders, We’ve welcomed the winners of the STEM Inspiration awards – outstanding ambassadors for STEM who inspire young people up and down the UK to pursue careers in science and technology – as well as representatives from hands-on science centres who do so much to encourage schools and families to Explore Your Universe, Members of the Welsh Assembly and Houses of Parliament, University Vice Chancellors, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, future leaders in the Civil Service, and hundreds of school students.

A key element of each visit is the chance to meet members of the UK community at CERN, from early career researchers and engineers to senior scientists. Their passion for their work, and enthusiasm to share their knowledge is always evident and many visitors cite this as a highlight.

If you would like to see what this year’s winter visitors have seen, you can! Visits to CERN are free and you can find lots of practical information online.

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New faces

One of the characteristics common to all the LHC experiments is job rotation; key roles within the senior management are rotated to bring fresh ideas, ensure wider representation and offer career development opportunities.

Dave Charlton

Dave Charlton with Professor Sir Mark Walport

Dave Charlton (r) with Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Sir Mark Walport
(Credit: CERN)

Dave Charlton (Birmingham) has just completed four years as Spokesperson for the ATLAS experiment.

“It has been a privilege and pleasure to serve as Spokesperson of ATLAS. The last four years has been a mixture of challenges and surprises; in the first long shutdown of the LHC we installed ATLAS' first significant upgrade, the innermost pixel layer, as well as carrying out further consolidation work on the detector. This long shutdown also gave us the chance to enhance analysis of the Run-1 data, and to rework the analysis framework for the larger data samples to come in Run-2.

“Since then, the LHC has been running at the unprecedented collision energy of 13 TeV, and we have collected a data sample much bigger than in Run-1, with very much greater reach to possible new physics processes. Looking to the future and the high-luminosity LHC, we’ve started the work on the two main upgrade phases.

“It’s a pleasure to pass the Spokesperson baton on to Karl Jakobs; I know ATLAS is in safe hands.”

 
Chris Parkes

Hello Kitty

Deputy Spokesperson Chris Parkes with the LHCb experiment
(Credit: University of Manchester)

Over at LHCb, Chris Parkes (Manchester) will become Deputy Spokesperson in July. Along with the Spokesperson, he will be responsible for ensuring the smooth running of the collaboration.

“The collaboration has many facets,” explains Chris, “from its detector operations, physics outputs, the planning of the LHCb upgrade to its external communication through its publications, talks, relationships with funding agencies and public outreach. Fortunately these aspects are all supported by many talented people working on the experiment.

“It’s a very varied role, and the variety is one of the reasons the post is an interesting challenge. Every period in the experiment has its own important developments, and this will be very much the case in the next three years as the current LHCb experiment will finish data taking at the end of 2018, we will publish its definitive results, and we will install the LHCb Upgrade that we are currently constructing.”

And this means lots of meetings for Chris, “Sometimes it feels like drinking tea in the CERN restaurant is a primary part of the role as that’s where many decisions are taken,” he jokes.

 
Sudan Paramesvaran

Sudan Paramesvaran

Sudan Paramesvaran, CMS Run Coordinator
(Credit: University of Bristol)

Sudan Paramesvaran (Bristol) has been appointed Run Coordinator for the CMS experiment. He will be in operational charge of the experiment, and a key member of the management team. Coordinating the day-to-day efforts of hundreds of physicists, his role will be similar to the flight director of a space mission.

Having previously been a Deputy Run Coordinator, Sudan will now be leading the team, "We’ll be managing the operation of the detector 24/7. I’ll be chairing a daily meeting at the experiment to examine our recorded data, learn from the results, and identify where we can make improvements.

"We’ll then focus on the next 24 hours at a time, plan any work that needs to be done, always with the goal that we aim for 100% efficiency in data-taking. Keeping CMS running needs intense teamwork from scientists around the world, and I’ll be responsible for making that happen."

As well as managing detector operations, the Run Coordinator is the experiment’s link to the LHC itself. The accelerator has to plan in the same way as the experiments, and interfacing between the two is crucial to achieve scientific goals.

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BBC Lancashire broadcasts live

 

It all started with an invitation! As part of STFC’s project to make CERN regionally relevant across the UK, we’ve been inviting BBC local radio stations to broadcast live from CERN, featuring students from local schools who are visiting as well as researchers from the region.

BBC Lancashire presenter, Sally Naden, producer Chris Thornley and social media manager Abi Davies were quick to accept the invitation, but they wanted to turn the outside broadcast into something even bigger; a week on the road, and a celebration of women in STEM.

On the Monday, the team were at St Christopher’s CE High School in Accrington to meet students preparing to come to CERN at the end of the week. Tuesday was live from The Christie Hospital in Manchester to meet female researchers working on proton therapy treatments using many of the technologies originally developed by particle physicists to explore the origins of the universe and the fundamental structures of matter.

Driving down through France in a BBC outside broadcast van, the team stopped off in the Somme to feature Lancastrian heroes of WW1 in Wednesday’s programme, and Thursday was live from downtown Geneva featuring Lancastrians living and working on the area.

Friday’s show came live from the sunny terrace outside CERN’s main restaurant. The interviewees included staff, students and alumni from Lancaster University as well as students from St Christopher’s and CERN staff who originate from Lancashire. Sally talked accelerators, detectors, proton therapy and the birth of the World Wide Web with people from Chorley, Leyland and Lancaster. You can see and hear clips from the shows on the BBC website.

The live broadcast from CERN was a great success, and spurred on by the need to encourage more girls to study STEM subjects and pursue fulfilling careers in STEM, Sally is now working with teachers at St Christopher’s to arrange a STEM careers fair for students in the Accrington area. This unexpected but very welcome outcome from the initial invitation is being enthusiastically supported by researchers from Lancaster University, the Cockcroft Institute and Daresbury Laboratory.

More invitations will be issued to other BBC regions over the forthcoming months.

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