Thursday, September 11, 2008

Scientist rap

Nell, a dear friend of mine from high school, has recently relocated to the Ithaca area to be near her beau, Peter Wittich, who is an assistant professor with the Physics Department at Cornell. Peter is a member of a large team of people working on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), about 27 km in circumference and 100 meters underground, straddling the border between Switzerland and France, outside of Geneva.

The red circle shows the area under which the tunnel for CERN's LHC can be found, near Geneva and lac Leman. The French Alps with Mont Blanc can be seen in the background. Photograph: AC Team

Peter is part of a sub-team working on the Compact Muon Solenoid. (From the linked site):

    CMS is designed to see a wide range of particles and phenomena produced in high-energy collisions in the LHC. Like a cylindrical onion, different layers of detector stop and measure the different particles, and use this key data to build up a picture of events at the heart of the collision.

    CMS Muon chambers and calorimeter

CMS Muon chambers and calorimeter. Photo by Solarnu on Flickr.

Big, big stuff.

The LHC was just fired up for the first time this week (details). To mark this occasion, the Physics Department held a forum this past Tuesday evening. Peter and another Cornell scientist, Yuval Grossman, spoke. There were refreshments, related instruments on display and some small demonstrations. There was a good turnout - including some children - and everyone there seemed engaged and enthusiastic.

It is an exciting project, and the scale - of the LHC itself, the international involvement, the cost, the amount of data that will be produced and analyzed, etc. - is mind-boggling. Peter and Yuval broke down the "science" during their presentations, with easy-to-follow everyday examples as analogies for more complicated concepts , as well as some jokes and, of course, Dilbert cartoons.

Peter also showed some of his own photos of the LHC and the surrounding area (he is quite the photographer - see some of his lovely shots of the Ithaca area, too).

So what does this all have to do with rap? At the end of his talk, Peter showed the video, above, created by some other scientists involved in the LHC project. If you listen (or just read the subtitles), it gives a pretty good breakdown of what the project is all about.

Peter jokingly instructed his students to come down front and dance. That sent a few of them scurrying to the exits with their backpacks.


Unfortunately, there was a helium leak and a restart of the system is expected in Spring 2009. Huge operation - so many systems to keep functioning at once. Press release.

1 comment:

Giftbearer said...

This rap video is pretty funny!