Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fast Times at Geneva High - sadness for Chhaya's family, happiness for Verena Kain

I haven't really talked about the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), because I haven't had anything to say about it.

Not that I really have anything to say about it now, but as long as I'm using the word "FAIL," I might as well keep up my almost-trendiness.

While I haven't personally confirmed that Europe still exists, all indications are that it's still there. If Europe had disappeared, Robert Scoble would have told me.

But I did pick up a couple of things while checking FriendFeed early this morning.

Mr. BabyMan shared a story entitled "Large Hadron Collider Claims Its First Victim." When I saw the title, I assumed that this was an Onion-type parody story. Sadly, it wasn't:

A 16-year-old girl in Madhya Pradesh...allegedly committed suicide after watching news about the possibility of the end of earth, following the atom-smasher experiment in Geneva that began on Wednesday.

Chhaya, a resident of Sarangpur town in Rajgarh district, consumed sulphos tablets (an insecticide) on Tuesday....

Her parents told reporters that she had been watching reports about the world's biggest atom-smasher experiment in Geneva on news channels since the last two days, following which she got restless and ended her life.

This is just another example of how the presence of media can influence us, for good or for ill. Now I don't believe that the media killed Chhaya, but it's a sad story nonetheless.

But there was one other thing that I saw on FriendFeed. Chris Kim A shared some information about Dr. Verena Kain. Specifically, Chris shared a picture.

This served to put LHC in interest section. In the same way that male politico geeks are responding to Sarah Palin, male tech geeks are responding to Dr. Verena Kain.

But, while Palin discusses the duties of mayors, Kain's discussions are a little more esoteric:

Beam based Alignment of the LHC Transfer Line Collimators (2005)

* Kain, Verena,
* Burkhardt, Helmut,
* Goddard, Brennan,
* Redaelli, Stefano


At LHC injection energy the aperture available in the transfer lines and in the LHC is small and the intensities of the injected beams are an order of magnitude above the damage level. The setting of protection elements such as the transfer line collimators is therefore very critical; mechanical and optical tolerances must be taken into account to define the nominal setting. Being able to measure and control the collinearity of the collimator jaws with the beam relaxes the requirement on the settings considerably. A method to measure angular misalignment of the collimator jaws in the transfer line based on a transmission measurement is discussed. Simulations have been made and a test of principle has been carried out during the 2004 commissioning of the transfer line TI 8.

But Kain is also able to speak normally:

The world's biggest experiment has got off the ground and it seems to be working. The first beam of protons made it around the 27-km long LHC at about 10:30am, to a whoop of cheers from CERN staff gathered in the main amphitheatre.

"Everyone's on air," said Verena Kain, an engineer in the CERN control room. "Everything's going well, but we've just made the first little step. If it all goes like this, great. But there are bound to be problems - there always are."

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