Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Visit to Virginia

I've been in Virginia for the last couple of days, visiting one of our MPhys students, who is spending his Research Year at Jefferson Lab, in Newport News, Virginia, in the US. 

The picture on the left shows the student, Alex, left, and his local supervisor on the project, Jerry, right.  The picture is obviously posed, in that I asked them both to pose for the picture, but it is  also perhaps misleadingly staged, in that I took it when Jerry took me and Alex on a tour of the experimental facilities.  JLab is undergoing an upgrade, so there are not experiments going on at the moment, and Alex is working on the development of software that will be used in analysing the forthcoming experiments.   It seemed a bit less mundane, though, to take the picture of him underground in the accelerator tunnel.  

Behind Alex and Jerry is the long straight part of the tunnel where electrons are accelerated as they go round in a kind of racetrack path, with the two straight accelerating sections joined by arcs at either end through which the electrons are bent. 

I walked round much of the tunnel, and into one of the experimental halls, known as Hall B (surprisingly situated between Hall A and Hall C).  It was possible to go into the hall because no experiment was running, and instead of a beam of high energy electrons going into the hall, there was a stream of highly skilled technicians, working on the upgrade of the detector.  The central part of the Hall was empty, though it would normally be filled with a vast detector, and it is the new version of that detector that Alex is working on the software for.  

The picture on the right shows part of the old detector, which will stay in place to be augmented by a more sophisticated detector.  If you click on the picture, you should be able to see an enlarged version, but even without enlarging, you might be able to see the guy standing on the floor to the left of the detector.  It gives a sense of the scale.  The thing is huge.  I took some more pictures, which you can see here.  At least I hope you can.  Social networks have made it harder to share URLs and know that you will see what I intend you to...

It's quite a flying visit to the US.  I arrived late on Sunday, landing at Richmond Airport at 23:45 local time on Sunday.  I spent yesterday visiting Alex and Jerry, and am flying back today.  Perhaps fortunately for me, though, is that the flight back doesn't leave until the afternoon, so I've spent some of the day at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art.  If you want to see the pictures I took of that, you can look at this facebook photo album.  I've made it publicly viewable, but who knows if that means "public-who-have-facebook-accounts" or not. 

I'll be home tomorrow morning, no doubt refreshed by my overnight flight in economy, ready for a full day of work, and then hosting this event in the evening.  Come along, if you're free and you've read until the end of the post.