Yesterday people working at CERN took to the social media site Reddit to answer questions about life and work at CERN. CMS spokesperson Tiziano Camporesi, theorist Nazila Mahmoudi, accelerator engineer Giulia Papotti and head of computer security Stefan Lüders were online for 90 minutes to answer queries about (almost) anything. Joining them were CMS physicist Seth Zenz, ATLAS physicist Steve Goldfarb and science communicators Kate Kahle and Achintya Rao.
Questions from the public ranged from how much political interference there is in the work of a CERN physicist (none) to how satisfied is the whole CERN team about the discovery of the Higgs boson? (very). There was also advice for aspiring physicists and computer scientists, references to Japanese anime and the ever-present Comic Sans question.
Here are some highlights:
What does it sound like when you turn [the Large Hadron Collider] on?
When we close the LHC after access, the access console beeps. When we send out timing events to synchronize the equipment, we have an announcer that speaks out a line that recalls what happened.
For the rest, the control room is far from the equipment, so we don't really hear it... but colleagues told me that at the ISR (another accelerator at CERN), they could hear the beam being dumped with a low pitch boom :)
What is the most mind-boggling thing you have learned or experienced in your time working there?
The first mind-boggling aspect to CERN I found is the fact that I can work on a 3000-person experiment with participants from 38 different countries, some whose governments are in a state of war, and perform leading-edge research with no issues whatsoever…[…]
Perhaps you wanted a more physics-related answer? The discovery of the Higgs boson is definitely mind-boggling. In 1964, these theorists came up with the idea of an all-reaching field that gives mass to elementary particles. Then, nearly 50 years later, we collided protons together 500 trillion times and are able to pick out several hundred of the bosons that make up that field. It still blows my mind that we succeeded!
What would make the LHC look like old tech in the near future? I'm guessing not a "larger" one.
The LHC itself will! The planned next step is the HL-LHC. A further future step is the HE-LHC.
Hungry for more? CERN has been running weekly Q&A sessions called Hangout With CERN where we bring you the latest news from CERN and answer your questions from social media live on air. Hangout With CERN will return tomorrow at 5pm CEST, discussing the latest physics results from the LHC experiments. See the schedule of upcoming Hangouts.