Bill Harwood: How A Chemist Becomes A Cop

As a young chemist working for the state crime lab, Bill Harwood is unexpectedly called to a crime scene.

As a young chemist working for the state crime lab, Bill Harwood is unexpectedly called to a crime scene.

Lt. Bill Harwood is the director of the Maine State Police Crime Laboratory. He has over 26 years of experience in forensics and law enforcement. Lt. Harwood began his career as a forensic chemist at the Crime Laboratory in 1989 after graduating from the University of Maine at Orono with degrees in Medical Technology and Zoology. He examined physical evidence and testified as an expert witness over the next 5 years.

He became a Maine State Trooper in 1994 patrolling Kennebec and Lincoln Counties. He was promoted to Maine State Police Detective in 1998 conducting child abuse investigations for the Kennebec County District Attorney’s Office while also serving as a homicide investigator for central Maine communities. He was promoted to Sergeant of the Crime Laboratory in 2002. He supervised the Firearms and Latent Print units while also serving as the Quality Manager and Assistant Director until 2008. He was then promoted to Lieutenant in charge of headquarters Special Projects until his assignment as crime laboratory director in 2010.

Lt. Harwood has served as a Crisis and Hostage Negotiator, Staff Sergeant Cadre Supervisor at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, State Police Emergency Response Team member for the Maine Emergency Management Agency and serves as the administrator of the Maine State Police Evidence Response Team.

A GUT feeling about physics

Scientists want to connect the fundamental forces of nature in one Grand Unified Theory.

The 1970s were a heady time in particle physics. New accelerators in the United States and Europe turned up unexpected particles that theorists tried to explain, and theorists in turn predicted new particles for experiments to hunt. The result was the Standard Model of particles and interactions, a theory that is essentially a catalog of the fundamental bits of matter and the forces governing them.

While that Standard Model is a very good description of the subatomic world, some important aspects—such as particle masses—come out of experiments rather than theory.

“If you write down the Standard Model, quite frankly it’s a mess,” says John Ellis, a particle physicist at King’s College London. “You’ve got a whole bunch of parameters, and they all look arbitrary. You can’t convince me that’s the final theory!”

The hunt was on to create a grand unified theory, or GUT, that would elegantly explain how the universe works by linking three of the four known forces together. Physicists first linked the electromagnetic force, which dictates the structure of atoms and the behavior of light, and the weak nuclear force, which underlies how particles decay.

But they didn’t want to stop there. Scientists began working to link this electroweak theory with the strong force, which binds quarks together into things like the protons and neutrons in our atoms. (The fourth force that we know, gravity, doesn’t have a complete working quantum theory, so it’s relegated to the realm of Theories of Everything, or ToEs.)

Linking the different forces into a single theory isn’t easy, since each behaves a different way. Electromagnetism is long-ranged, the weak force is short-ranged, and the strong force is weak in high-energy environments such as the early universe and strong where energy is low. To unify these three forces, scientists have to explain how they can be aspects of a single thing and yet manifest in radically different ways in the real world.

The electroweak theory unified the electromagnetic and weak forces by proposing they were aspects of a single interaction that is present only at very high energies, as in a particle accelerator or the very early universe. Above a certain threshold known as the electroweak scale, there is no difference between the two forces, but that unity is broken when the energy drops below a certain point.

The GUTs developed in the mid-1970s to incorporate the strong force predicted new particles, just as the electroweak theory had before. In fact, the very first GUT showed a relationship between particle masses that allowed physicists to make predictions about the second-heaviest particle before it was detected experimentally.

“We calculated the mass of the bottom quark before it was discovered,” says Mary Gaillard, a particle physicist at University of California, Berkeley. Scientists at Fermilab would go on to find the particle in 1977.

GUTs also predicted that protons should decay into lighter particles. There was just one problem: Experiments didn’t see that decay.

Artwork by Sandbox Studio, Chicago

The problem with protons

GUTs predicted that all quarks could potentially change into lighter particles, including the quarks making up protons. In fact, GUTs said that protons would be unstable over a period much longer than the lifetime of the universe. To maximize the chances of seeing that rare proton decay, physicists needed to build detectors with a lot of atoms.

However, the first Kamiokande experiment in Japan didn’t detect any proton decays, which meant a proton lifetime longer than that predicted by the simplest GUT theory. More complicated GUTs emerged with longer predicted proton lifetimes – and more complicated interactions and additional particles.

Most modern GUTs mix in supersymmetry (SUSY), a way of thinking about the structure of space-time that has profound implications for particle physics. SUSY uses extra interactions to adjust the strength of the three forces in the Standard Model so that they meet at a very high energy known as the GUT scale.

“Supersymmetry gives more particles that are involved via virtual quantum effects in the decay of the proton,” says JoAnne Hewett, a physicist at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. That extends the predicted lifetime of the proton beyond what previous experiments were able to test. Yet SUSY-based GUTs also have some problems.

“They’re kinda messy,” Gaillard says. Particularly, these theories predict more Higgs-like particles and different ways the Higgs boson from the Standard Model should behave. For that reason, Gaillard and other physicists are less enamored of GUTs than they were in the 1970s and ’80s. To make matters worse, no supersymmetric particles have been found yet. But the hunt is still on.

“The basic philosophical impulse for grand unification is still there, just as important as ever,” Ellis says. “I still love SUSY, and I also am enamored of GUTs.”

Hewett agrees that GUTs aren’t dead yet.

“I firmly believe that an observation of proton decay would affect how every person would think about the world,” she says. “Everybody can understand that we’re made out of protons and ‘Oh wow! They decay.’”

Upcoming experiments like the proposed Hyper-K in Japan and the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment in the United States will probe proton decay to greater precision than ever. Seeing a proton decay will tell us something about the unification of the forces of nature and whether we ultimately can trust our GUTs.

Scientists want to connect the fundamental forces of nature in one Grand Unified Theory.

The 1970s were a heady time in particle physics. New accelerators in the United States and Europe turned up unexpected particles that theorists tried to explain, and theorists in turn predicted new particles for experiments to hunt. The result was the Standard Model of particles and interactions, a theory that is essentially a catalog of the fundamental bits of matter and the forces governing them.

While that Standard Model is a very good description of the subatomic world, some important aspects—such as particle masses—come out of experiments rather than theory.

“If you write down the Standard Model, quite frankly it’s a mess,” says John Ellis, a particle physicist at King’s College London. “You’ve got a whole bunch of parameters, and they all look arbitrary. You can’t convince me that’s the final theory!”

The hunt was on to create a grand unified theory, or GUT, that would elegantly explain how the universe works by linking three of the four known forces together. Physicists first linked the electromagnetic force, which dictates the structure of atoms and the behavior of light, and the weak nuclear force, which underlies how particles decay.

But they didn’t want to stop there. Scientists began working to link this electroweak theory with the strong force, which binds quarks together into things like the protons and neutrons in our atoms. (The fourth force that we know, gravity, doesn’t have a complete working quantum theory, so it’s relegated to the realm of Theories of Everything, or ToEs.)

Linking the different forces into a single theory isn’t easy, since each behaves a different way. Electromagnetism is long-ranged, the weak force is short-ranged, and the strong force is weak in high-energy environments such as the early universe and strong where energy is low. To unify these three forces, scientists have to explain how they can be aspects of a single thing and yet manifest in radically different ways in the real world.

The electroweak theory unified the electromagnetic and weak forces by proposing they were aspects of a single interaction that is present only at very high energies, as in a particle accelerator or the very early universe. Above a certain threshold known as the electroweak scale, there is no difference between the two forces, but that unity is broken when the energy drops below a certain point.

The GUTs developed in the mid-1970s to incorporate the strong force predicted new particles, just as the electroweak theory had before. In fact, the very first GUT showed a relationship between particle masses that allowed physicists to make predictions about the second-heaviest particle before it was detected experimentally.

“We calculated the mass of the bottom quark before it was discovered,” says Mary Gaillard, a particle physicist at University of California, Berkeley. Scientists at Fermilab would go on to find the particle in 1977.

GUTs also predicted that protons should decay into lighter particles. There was just one problem: Experiments didn’t see that decay.

Artwork by Sandbox Studio, Chicago

The problem with protons

GUTs predicted that all quarks could potentially change into lighter particles, including the quarks making up protons. In fact, GUTs said that protons would be unstable over a period much longer than the lifetime of the universe. To maximize the chances of seeing that rare proton decay, physicists needed to build detectors with a lot of atoms.

However, the first Kamiokande experiment in Japan didn’t detect any proton decays, which meant a proton lifetime longer than that predicted by the simplest GUT theory. More complicated GUTs emerged with longer predicted proton lifetimes – and more complicated interactions and additional particles.

Most modern GUTs mix in supersymmetry (SUSY), a way of thinking about the structure of space-time that has profound implications for particle physics. SUSY uses extra interactions to adjust the strength of the three forces in the Standard Model so that they meet at a very high energy known as the GUT scale.

“Supersymmetry gives more particles that are involved via virtual quantum effects in the decay of the proton,” says JoAnne Hewett, a physicist at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. That extends the predicted lifetime of the proton beyond what previous experiments were able to test. Yet SUSY-based GUTs also have some problems.

“They’re kinda messy,” Gaillard says. Particularly, these theories predict more Higgs-like particles and different ways the Higgs boson from the Standard Model should behave. For that reason, Gaillard and other physicists are less enamored of GUTs than they were in the 1970s and ’80s. To make matters worse, no supersymmetric particles have been found yet. But the hunt is still on.

“The basic philosophical impulse for grand unification is still there, just as important as ever,” Ellis says. “I still love SUSY, and I also am enamored of GUTs.”

Hewett agrees that GUTs aren’t dead yet.

“I firmly believe that an observation of proton decay would affect how every person would think about the world,” she says. “Everybody can understand that we’re made out of protons and ‘Oh wow! They decay.’”

Upcoming experiments like the proposed Hyper-K in Japan and the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment in the United States will probe proton decay to greater precision than ever. Seeing a proton decay will tell us something about the unification of the forces of nature and whether we ultimately can trust our GUTs.

The hottest job in physics?

Accelerator scientists are in demand at labs and beyond.

While the supply of accelerator physicists in the United States has grown modestly over the last decade, it hasn’t been able to catch up with demand fueled by industry interest in medical particle accelerators and growing collaborations at the national labs. 

About 15 PhDs in accelerator physics are granted by US universities each year. That’s up from around 12 per year, a rate that held relatively steady from 1985 to 2005. But accelerator physicists often come to the field without a specialized degree. For people like Yunhai Cai of the US Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, this has been a blessing and a curse. A blessing because high demand meant Cai found a ready job after his post doctoral studies, even though his expertise was in particle theory and he had never worked on accelerators. A curse because now, despite the growth, his field is still in need of more experts.

“Eleven of DOE’s seventeen national laboratories use large particle accelerators as one of their primary scientific instruments,” says Eric Colby, senior technical advisor for the Office of High Energy Physics at DOE. That means plenty of job opportunities for those coming out of special training programs or eager to transfer from another field. “These are major projects that will require hundreds of accelerator physicists and engineers to successfully complete.”

Transition mettle

Cai, now a senior staff scientist at SLAC and head of the Free-Electron Laser and Beam Physics Department, is one of many scientists recruited from other fields. The transition is intensive, and Cai considers himself fortunate that his academic background taught him the mathematical principles behind his first job. 

Notwithstanding, “the most valuable help was the trust of many leaders in the field of accelerators,” Cai says. “They offered me a position knowing I had no experience in the field.”

Training specialists from other fields is a common and successful practice, says Lia Merminga, associate lab director for accelerators at SLAC. A planned upgrade to SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source is creating a high demand for specialized accelerator experts, such as cryogenics engineers and superconducting radio frequency (SRF) physicists and engineers.

“Instead of hiring trained cryogenics engineers who are in short supply, we hire mechanical engineers and train them in cryogenics either by providing for hands-on experience or with coursework,” Merminga says. 

New funds catalyze university research

The National Science Foundation has recently provided a boost to university research, which could help produce more accelerator scientists. In 2014 NSF launched their Accelerator Science program, distributing a total of $18.8 million in research funds, divided among approximately 30 awards in 2014 and 2015. The grants seed and support fundamental accelerator science at universities independent of government projects. Additionally, the program aims to entice students to accelerator science by challenging recipients to develop potentially disruptive technologies and ideas that could lead to breakthrough discoveries, as well as by supporting student travel to major accelerator science conferences.

“We are looking for high-risk, transformational ideas cross-cutting with other academic disciplines, with the goal of attracting the best students and postdocs,” says Vyacheslav Lukin, accelerator science program director at NSF. “Such students tend to gravitate toward the truly challenging problems with potential for novel solutions.”

Significantly, the NSF program recognizes accelerator science as a distinct field, which many institutions have been slow to do. 

“There are few universities offering disciplines in the field of accelerators,” Cai says. “Most importantly, many people think it is [only] an engineering field.” Similar concerns were raised in responses to a 2015 Request for Information posted by DOE on the issue of too few accelerator physicists. Multiple respondents pointed out that many research awards don’t include work with accelerators.

Others believe solutions lie in outreach. SLAC has instituted programs to introduce undergraduates to research opportunities in accelerator science and plans to extend partnerships and internships to more schools and industries. Some respondents have pushed even further, supporting K-12 outreach as well.

Colby says that DOE will be implementing some of the suggestions over the next few years to strengthen its decades-long tradition of sponsoring accelerator science that supports its mission.

Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Ana Kova

DOE labs partnering with universities

The NSF funding is not the only effort to foster growth. An adequate accelerator for students to train on can be an enormous boon to a university, so DOE has historically supported university programs by granting access to beams at national labs. 

Northern Illinois University has supported its Northern Illinois Center for Accelerator and Detector Development this way for fifteen years. NICADD fosters development of a new generation of accelerator and detector technologies. Faculty and students at NICADD also have access to Fermilab and Argonne National Laboratory facilities for research and instruction. The labs, in turn, work with the jointly appointed faculty on major projects such as Muon g-2, Mu2e and DUNE at Fermilab or CERN’s ATLAS experiment through Argonne. The program has also collaborated on international experiments such as CERN’s AWAKE and ALPHA in its own right. University and labs may share the costs of hiring new faculty, enabling the parties to develop a world-class accelerator research enterprise and generate significant research income.

NICADD “has done quite well recruiting graduate students in accelerator physics,” says David Hedin, acting director. “We attribute this to the scarcity of graduate programs in the subfield and to our close connection to Fermilab.”

NIU has granted eight PhDs in accelerator physics since 2009, all without an accelerator on its campus.

A similar partnership formed between Old Dominion University and Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in 2008. The Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, a joint project between DOE and Michigan State University, promises to boost an already strong NSF-supported program at the school, and Brookhaven National Laboratory partnering with Stony Brook University has formed the Center for Accelerator Studies and Education. SLAC partners primarily with Stanford University, but also works with other schools, including the University of California, Los Angeles.

“Labs such as SLAC, with a broad accelerator research portfolio, guidance from world-renowned accelerator physicists, leading test facilities where students can get hands-on training, and connections to Stanford and Silicon Valley, offer an ideal environment for student training in accelerator science,” Merminga says.

USPAS expands the traditional classroom

University programs don’t have faculty dedicated to every topic that falls under the umbrella of accelerator science: particle sources, accelerating structures, cryogenics, superconducting radio frequency cavities, magnets, beam dynamics, and instrumentation and controls, to name a few.

DOE fills those gaps with the US Particle Accelerator School (USPAS). The semi-annual, traveling two-week session of rigorous courses trains students and professionals alike in both general and specialized courses.

“US accelerator school provides a critical service to schools that do have PhD programs in accelerator physics by essentially providing all the advanced courses,” says Bill Barletta, who directs the program. Universities give their students credit for coursework completed through USPAS that often is not offered at their own institution. 

Barletta says roughly a third of participants are non-accelerator specialists transitioning into accelerator roles. Cai, who is familiar with that path from his own career change, has taught at USPAS twice – offering his mentorship in special topics such as charged particle optics and beam dynamics.

An industry perspective

Creating more accelerator scientists is valuable for both academia and industry, where particle accelerators are used for work in energy and medicine. The value of the accelerator science industry is estimated to be growing by approximately 10 percent each year. 

“The real increase has been in medical accelerators, with a number of new companies getting into the proton therapy business,” says Robert Hamm, CEO of R&M Technical Enterprises, an accelerator consulting group. “This has been the most significant factor in the industrial demand for accelerator physicists.”

Most private companies only have the training resources to specialize new hires on their products. Thus, most companies want to recruit individuals trained at universities or national labs. Industry can, however, partner with these institutions through internships and collaborations to commercialize technology.

“Accelerator [science] has many applications, ranging from high energy physics, nuclear physics, and material and medical sciences,” Cai says. Both within the field of high-energy physics and beyond, the high demand illustrates the immense value of accelerator scientists and of the institutions helping to train them.

Accelerator scientists are in demand at labs and beyond.

While the supply of accelerator physicists in the United States has grown modestly over the last decade, it hasn’t been able to catch up with demand fueled by industry interest in medical particle accelerators and growing collaborations at the national labs. 

About 15 PhDs in accelerator physics are granted by US universities each year. That’s up from around 12 per year, a rate that held relatively steady from 1985 to 2005. But accelerator physicists often come to the field without a specialized degree. For people like Yunhai Cai of the US Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, this has been a blessing and a curse. A blessing because high demand meant Cai found a ready job after his post doctoral studies, even though his expertise was in particle theory and he had never worked on accelerators. A curse because now, despite the growth, his field is still in need of more experts.

“Eleven of DOE’s seventeen national laboratories use large particle accelerators as one of their primary scientific instruments,” says Eric Colby, senior technical advisor for the Office of High Energy Physics at DOE. That means plenty of job opportunities for those coming out of special training programs or eager to transfer from another field. “These are major projects that will require hundreds of accelerator physicists and engineers to successfully complete.”

Transition mettle

Cai, now a senior staff scientist at SLAC and head of the Free-Electron Laser and Beam Physics Department, is one of many scientists recruited from other fields. The transition is intensive, and Cai considers himself fortunate that his academic background taught him the mathematical principles behind his first job. 

Notwithstanding, “the most valuable help was the trust of many leaders in the field of accelerators,” Cai says. “They offered me a position knowing I had no experience in the field.”

Training specialists from other fields is a common and successful practice, says Lia Merminga, associate lab director for accelerators at SLAC. A planned upgrade to SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source is creating a high demand for specialized accelerator experts, such as cryogenics engineers and superconducting radio frequency (SRF) physicists and engineers.

“Instead of hiring trained cryogenics engineers who are in short supply, we hire mechanical engineers and train them in cryogenics either by providing for hands-on experience or with coursework,” Merminga says. 

New funds catalyze university research

The National Science Foundation has recently provided a boost to university research, which could help produce more accelerator scientists. In 2014 NSF launched their Accelerator Science program, distributing a total of $18.8 million in research funds, divided among approximately 30 awards in 2014 and 2015. The grants seed and support fundamental accelerator science at universities independent of government projects. Additionally, the program aims to entice students to accelerator science by challenging recipients to develop potentially disruptive technologies and ideas that could lead to breakthrough discoveries, as well as by supporting student travel to major accelerator science conferences.

“We are looking for high-risk, transformational ideas cross-cutting with other academic disciplines, with the goal of attracting the best students and postdocs,” says Vyacheslav Lukin, accelerator science program director at NSF. “Such students tend to gravitate toward the truly challenging problems with potential for novel solutions.”

Significantly, the NSF program recognizes accelerator science as a distinct field, which many institutions have been slow to do. 

“There are few universities offering disciplines in the field of accelerators,” Cai says. “Most importantly, many people think it is [only] an engineering field.” Similar concerns were raised in responses to a 2015 Request for Information posted by DOE on the issue of too few accelerator physicists. Multiple respondents pointed out that many research awards don’t include work with accelerators.

Others believe solutions lie in outreach. SLAC has instituted programs to introduce undergraduates to research opportunities in accelerator science and plans to extend partnerships and internships to more schools and industries. Some respondents have pushed even further, supporting K-12 outreach as well.

Colby says that DOE will be implementing some of the suggestions over the next few years to strengthen its decades-long tradition of sponsoring accelerator science that supports its mission.

Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Ana Kova

DOE labs partnering with universities

The NSF funding is not the only effort to foster growth. An adequate accelerator for students to train on can be an enormous boon to a university, so DOE has historically supported university programs by granting access to beams at national labs. 

Northern Illinois University has supported its Northern Illinois Center for Accelerator and Detector Development this way for fifteen years. NICADD fosters development of a new generation of accelerator and detector technologies. Faculty and students at NICADD also have access to Fermilab and Argonne National Laboratory facilities for research and instruction. The labs, in turn, work with the jointly appointed faculty on major projects such as Muon g-2, Mu2e and DUNE at Fermilab or CERN’s ATLAS experiment through Argonne. The program has also collaborated on international experiments such as CERN’s AWAKE and ALPHA in its own right. University and labs may share the costs of hiring new faculty, enabling the parties to develop a world-class accelerator research enterprise and generate significant research income.

NICADD “has done quite well recruiting graduate students in accelerator physics,” says David Hedin, acting director. “We attribute this to the scarcity of graduate programs in the subfield and to our close connection to Fermilab.”

NIU has granted eight PhDs in accelerator physics since 2009, all without an accelerator on its campus.

A similar partnership formed between Old Dominion University and Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in 2008. The Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, a joint project between DOE and Michigan State University, promises to boost an already strong NSF-supported program at the school, and Brookhaven National Laboratory partnering with Stony Brook University has formed the Center for Accelerator Studies and Education. SLAC partners primarily with Stanford University, but also works with other schools, including the University of California, Los Angeles.

“Labs such as SLAC, with a broad accelerator research portfolio, guidance from world-renowned accelerator physicists, leading test facilities where students can get hands-on training, and connections to Stanford and Silicon Valley, offer an ideal environment for student training in accelerator science,” Merminga says.

USPAS expands the traditional classroom

University programs don’t have faculty dedicated to every topic that falls under the umbrella of accelerator science: particle sources, accelerating structures, cryogenics, superconducting radio frequency cavities, magnets, beam dynamics, and instrumentation and controls, to name a few.

DOE fills those gaps with the US Particle Accelerator School (USPAS). The semi-annual, traveling two-week session of rigorous courses trains students and professionals alike in both general and specialized courses.

“US accelerator school provides a critical service to schools that do have PhD programs in accelerator physics by essentially providing all the advanced courses,” says Bill Barletta, who directs the program. Universities give their students credit for coursework completed through USPAS that often is not offered at their own institution. 

Barletta says roughly a third of participants are non-accelerator specialists transitioning into accelerator roles. Cai, who is familiar with that path from his own career change, has taught at USPAS twice – offering his mentorship in special topics such as charged particle optics and beam dynamics.

An industry perspective

Creating more accelerator scientists is valuable for both academia and industry, where particle accelerators are used for work in energy and medicine. The value of the accelerator science industry is estimated to be growing by approximately 10 percent each year. 

“The real increase has been in medical accelerators, with a number of new companies getting into the proton therapy business,” says Robert Hamm, CEO of R&M Technical Enterprises, an accelerator consulting group. “This has been the most significant factor in the industrial demand for accelerator physicists.”

Most private companies only have the training resources to specialize new hires on their products. Thus, most companies want to recruit individuals trained at universities or national labs. Industry can, however, partner with these institutions through internships and collaborations to commercialize technology.

“Accelerator [science] has many applications, ranging from high energy physics, nuclear physics, and material and medical sciences,” Cai says. Both within the field of high-energy physics and beyond, the high demand illustrates the immense value of accelerator scientists and of the institutions helping to train them.

74 Pather Panchali

This week, Amy & Devin tackle a 1955 Bengali film directed by Satyajit Ray, which Devin has no problem pronouncing. Grab your opium tea and settle in to listen to the debate. Don’t forget to hop on the Earwolf forums to cast your vote!

This week, Amy & Devin tackle a 1955 Bengali film directed by Satyajit Ray, which Devin has no problem pronouncing. Grab your opium tea and settle in to listen to the debate. Don’t forget to hop on the Earwolf forums to cast your vote!

Nneze Akwiwu: The First Female President Of Nigeria

A chance conversation gives Nneze Akwiwu a chance to study in the United States.

A chance conversation gives Nneze Akwiwu a chance to study in the United States.

Nneze Akwiwu is currently a senior Biology major at Spelman College. She thinks of herself as a bubbly, outgoing and very family oriented individual. She has plans of becoming the first female president of Nigeria.

LHC data at your fingertips

The CMS collaboration has released 300 terabytes of research data.

Today the CMS collaboration at CERN released more than 300 terabytes (TB) of high-quality open data. These include more than 100 TB of data from proton collisions at 7 TeV, making up half the data collected at the LHC by the CMS detector in 2011. This release follows a previous one from November 2014, which made available around 27 TB of research data collected in 2010.

The data are available on the CERN Open Data Portal and come in two types. The primary datasets are in the same format used by the collaboration to perform research. The derived datasets, on the other hand, require a lot less computing power and can be readily analyzed by university or high school students.

CMS is also providing the simulated data generated with the same software version that should be used to analyze the primary datasets. Simulations play a crucial role in particle physics research. The data release is accompanied by analysis tools and code examples tailored to the datasets. A virtual machine image based on CernVM, which comes preloaded with the software environment needed to analyze the CMS data, can also be downloaded from the portal.

GIF: exploring CMS data

CERN

“Once we’ve exhausted our exploration of the data, we see no reason not to make them available publicly,” says Kati Lassila-Perini, a CMS physicist who leads these data preservation efforts. “The benefits are numerous, from inspiring high school students to the training of the particle physicists of tomorrow. And personally, as CMS’s data preservation coordinator, this is a crucial part of ensuring the long-term availability of our research data.”

The scope of open LHC data has already been demonstrated with the previous release of research data. A group of theorists at MIT wanted to study the substructure of jets—showers of hadron clusters recorded in the CMS detector. Since CMS had not performed this particular research, the theorists got in touch with the CMS scientists for advice on how to proceed. This blossomed into a fruitful collaboration between the theorists and CMS.

“As scientists, we should take the release of data from publicly funded research very seriously,” says Salvatore Rappoccio, a CMS physicist who worked with the MIT theorists. “In addition to showing good stewardship of the funding we have received, it also provides a scientific benefit to our field as a whole. While it is a difficult and daunting task with much left to do, the release of CMS data is a giant step in the right direction.”

Further, a CMS physicist in Germany tasked two undergraduates with validating the CMS Open Data by reproducing key plots from some highly cited CMS papers that used data collected in 2010. Using openly available documentation about CMS’s analysis software and with some guidance from the physicist, the students were able to recreate plots that look nearly identical to those from CMS, demonstrating what can be achieved with these data.

“We are very pleased that we can make all these data publicly available,” adds Lassila-Perini. “We look forward to how they are utilized outside our collaboration, for research as well as for building educational tools.”

 

A version of this article was originally published on the CMS website.

The CMS collaboration has released 300 terabytes of research data.

Today the CMS collaboration at CERN released more than 300 terabytes (TB) of high-quality open data. These include more than 100 TB of data from proton collisions at 7 TeV, making up half the data collected at the LHC by the CMS detector in 2011. This release follows a previous one from November 2014, which made available around 27 TB of research data collected in 2010.

The data are available on the CERN Open Data Portal and come in two types. The primary datasets are in the same format used by the collaboration to perform research. The derived datasets, on the other hand, require a lot less computing power and can be readily analyzed by university or high school students.

CMS is also providing the simulated data generated with the same software version that should be used to analyze the primary datasets. Simulations play a crucial role in particle physics research. The data release is accompanied by analysis tools and code examples tailored to the datasets. A virtual machine image based on CernVM, which comes preloaded with the software environment needed to analyze the CMS data, can also be downloaded from the portal.

GIF: exploring CMS data

CERN

“Once we’ve exhausted our exploration of the data, we see no reason not to make them available publicly,” says Kati Lassila-Perini, a CMS physicist who leads these data preservation efforts. “The benefits are numerous, from inspiring high school students to the training of the particle physicists of tomorrow. And personally, as CMS’s data preservation coordinator, this is a crucial part of ensuring the long-term availability of our research data.”

The scope of open LHC data has already been demonstrated with the previous release of research data. A group of theorists at MIT wanted to study the substructure of jets—showers of hadron clusters recorded in the CMS detector. Since CMS had not performed this particular research, the theorists got in touch with the CMS scientists for advice on how to proceed. This blossomed into a fruitful collaboration between the theorists and CMS.

“As scientists, we should take the release of data from publicly funded research very seriously,” says Salvatore Rappoccio, a CMS physicist who worked with the MIT theorists. “In addition to showing good stewardship of the funding we have received, it also provides a scientific benefit to our field as a whole. While it is a difficult and daunting task with much left to do, the release of CMS data is a giant step in the right direction.”

Further, a CMS physicist in Germany tasked two undergraduates with validating the CMS Open Data by reproducing key plots from some highly cited CMS papers that used data collected in 2010. Using openly available documentation about CMS’s analysis software and with some guidance from the physicist, the students were able to recreate plots that look nearly identical to those from CMS, demonstrating what can be achieved with these data.

“We are very pleased that we can make all these data publicly available,” adds Lassila-Perini. “We look forward to how they are utilized outside our collaboration, for research as well as for building educational tools.”

 

A version of this article was originally published on the CMS website.

Where I’ll Be For NewCo Boston April 26-7 – Come Join Me!

The post Where I’ll Be For NewCo Boston April 26-7 – Come Join Me! appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

The first ever NewCo Boston goes off in less than two weeks, and I’ve been studying the schedule and making my picks for the companies I most want to visit. The lineup is insanely great – Boston is brimming with innovative NewCos, 79 of which will open their doors on April 27th. Thanks to our partners […]

The post Where I’ll Be For NewCo Boston April 26-7 – Come Join Me! appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

The post Where I’ll Be For NewCo Boston April 26-7 – Come Join Me! appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

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The first ever NewCo Boston goes off in less than two weeks, and I’ve been studying the schedule and making my picks for the companies I most want to visit. The lineup is insanely great – Boston is brimming with innovative NewCos, 79 of which will open their doors on April 27th. Thanks to our partners at MassTLC – you guys really know how to do it right!

Tuesday, April 26th, 6 pm: VIP Kick-off & Reception @ Hatch Fenway NewCo Boston kicks off at Hatch Fenway, a NewCo incubator that was once an industrial hub. Mingle, swill, and get inspired by host company CEOs, city leaders, and VIP ticket holders alike.

Weds., April 27th

8.30 am – HubSpot Long the leader in the new art of “inbound marketing,” HubSpot is one of Boston’s pillars. I’m looking forward to learning about the company’s unique culture. Yes, this is the company that Dan Lyons recently skewered, but I’m not buying his version of reality. The great thing about NewCo is you can see it for yourself, and I plan to do just that. Wish I could also go to: Oxfam America and CIC Cambridge.

10.30 am – Ginkgo Bioworks I’ve been fascinated by this company ever since I heard the term “organism engineering foundry,” which is how they describe their offices. I can’t wait to see what they’re up to – I sense it’s a taste of the future, right now. Wish I could also go to: Artaic – Innovative Mosaic  and Resilient Coders.

12.30 pm – athenahealth – I recently met Todd Park, one of the original founder of athenahealth, and I am excited to see how the company he founded (he went on to be the CTO of the US Government) is changing healthcare for the better. Wish I could also go: Emulate, Inc. and Carbonite.

2.30 pm – Wayfair – This top ecommerce site is thriving, and it’s expanding into new forms of merchandising, including VR. Co-founder Steven Conine will be leading a Q&A session, which are always fascinating at a NewCo festival – everyone in the audience is there because they want to learn about the company, and they always have awesome questions. Which I could also go: Freight Farms and Greentown Labs.

4.30 pm – clypd – I’m an investor in this video advertising innovator, but in their NewCo session, they’re going to focus on company culture. I’ve never seen their offices, but I hear there’ll be beer on tap, and by late afternoon, I’m sure I’ll have a thirst! Wish I could also go: Roxbury Innovation Center and Localytics.

5.30 pm – After Party @ GEM Lounge After a long day of killer Boston NewCo sessions, I’ll be hanging at the GEM Lounge, a Boston original with a very long stone bar, and plenty of libations. See you there!

The post Where I’ll Be For NewCo Boston April 26-7 – Come Join Me! appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

Eight things you might not know about light

Light is all around us, but how much do you really know about the photons speeding past you?

There’s more to light than meets the eye. Here are eight enlightening facts about photons:

Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Kimberly Boustead

1. Photons can produce shock waves in water or air, similar to sonic booms.

Nothing can travel faster than the speed of light in a vacuum. However, light slows down in air, water, glass and other materials as photons interact with atoms, which has some interesting consequences.

The highest-energy gamma rays from space hit Earth’s atmosphere moving faster than the speed of light in air. These photons produce shock waves in the air, much like a sonic boom, but the effect is to make more photons instead of sound. Observatories like VERITAS in Arizona look for those secondary photons, which are known as Cherenkov radiation. Nuclear reactors also exhibit Cherenkov light in the water surrounding the nuclear fuel.

 

Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Kimberly Boustead

2. Most types of light are invisible to our eyes.

Colors are our brains’ way of interpreting the wavelength of light: how far the light travels before the wave pattern repeats itself. But the colors we see—called “visible” or “optical” light—are only a small sample of the total electromagnetic spectrum.

Red is the longest wavelength light we see, but stretch the waves more and you get infrared, microwaves (including the stuff you cook with) and radio waves. Wavelengths shorter than violet span ultraviolet, X-rays and gamma rays. Wavelength is also a stand-in for energy: The long wavelengths of radio light have low energy, and the short-wavelength gamma rays have the highest energy, a major reason they’re so dangerous to living tissue.

 

Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Kimberly Boustead

3. Scientists can perform measurements on single photons.

Light is made of particles called photons, bundles of the electromagnetic field that carry a specific amount of energy. With sufficiently sensitive experiments, you can count photons or even perform measurements on a single one. Researchers have even frozen light temporarily.

But don’t think of photons like they are pool balls. They’re also wave-like: they can interfere with each other to produce patterns of light and darkness. The photon model was one of the first triumphs of quantum physics; later work showed that electrons and other particles of matter also have wave-like properties.

 

Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Kimberly Boustead

4. Photons from particle accelerators are used in chemistry and biology.

Visible light’s wavelengths are larger than atoms and molecules, so we literally can’t see the components of matter. However, the short wavelengths of X-rays and ultraviolet light are suited to showing such small structure. With methods to see these high-energy types of light, scientists get a glimpse of the atomic world.

Particle accelerators can make photons of specific wavelengths by accelerating electrons using magnetic fields; this is called “synchrotron radiation.” Researchers use particle accelerators to make X-rays and ultraviolet light to study the structure of molecules and viruses and even make movies of chemical reactions.

 

Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Kimberly Boustead

5. Light is the manifestation of one of the four fundamental forces of nature.

Photons carry the electromagnetic force, one of the four fundamental forces (along with the weak force, the strong force, and gravity). As an electron moves through space, other charged particles feel it thanks to electrical attraction or repulsion. Because the effect is limited by the speed of light, other particles actually react to where the electron was rather than where it actually is. Quantum physics explains this by describing empty space as a seething soup of virtual particles. Electrons kick up virtual photons, which travel at the speed of light and hit other particles, exchanging energy and momentum.

 

Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Kimberly Boustead

6. Photons are easily created and destroyed.

Unlike matter, all sorts of things can make or destroy photons. If you’re reading this on a computer screen, the backlight is making photons that travel to your eye, where they are absorbed—and destroyed.

The movement of electrons is responsible for both the creation and destruction of the photons, and that’s the case for a lot of light production and absorption. An electron moving in a strong magnetic field will generate photons just from its acceleration.

Similarly, when a photon of the right wavelength strikes an atom, it disappears and imparts all its energy to kicking the electron into a new energy level. A new photon is created and emitted when the electron falls back into its original position. The absorption and emission are responsible for the unique spectrum of light each type of atom or molecule has, which is a major way chemists, physicists, and astronomers identify chemical substances.

 

Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Kimberly Boustead

7. When matter and antimatter annihilate, light is a byproduct.

An electron and a positron have the same mass, but opposite quantum properties such as electric charge. When they meet, those opposites cancel each other, converting the masses of the particles into energy in the form of a pair of gamma ray photons.

 

Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Kimberly Boustead

8. You can collide photons to make particles.

Photons are their own antiparticles. But here’s the fun bit: the laws of physics governing photons are symmetric in time. That means if we can collide an electron and a positron to get two gamma ray photons, we should be able to collide two photons of the right energy and get an electron-positron pair.

In practice that’s hard to do: successful experiments generally involve other particles than just light. However, inside the LHC, the sheer number of photons produced during collisions of protons means that some of them occasionally hit each other

Some physicists are thinking about building a photon-photon collider, which would fire beams of photons into a cavity full of other photons to study the particles that come out of collisions.

Light is all around us, but how much do you really know about the photons speeding past you?

There’s more to light than meets the eye. Here are eight enlightening facts about photons:

Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Kimberly Boustead

1. Photons can produce shock waves in water or air, similar to sonic booms.

Nothing can travel faster than the speed of light in a vacuum. However, light slows down in air, water, glass and other materials as photons interact with atoms, which has some interesting consequences.

The highest-energy gamma rays from space hit Earth’s atmosphere moving faster than the speed of light in air. These photons produce shock waves in the air, much like a sonic boom, but the effect is to make more photons instead of sound. Observatories like VERITAS in Arizona look for those secondary photons, which are known as Cherenkov radiation. Nuclear reactors also exhibit Cherenkov light in the water surrounding the nuclear fuel.

 

Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Kimberly Boustead

2. Most types of light are invisible to our eyes.

Colors are our brains’ way of interpreting the wavelength of light: how far the light travels before the wave pattern repeats itself. But the colors we see—called “visible” or “optical” light—are only a small sample of the total electromagnetic spectrum.

Red is the longest wavelength light we see, but stretch the waves more and you get infrared, microwaves (including the stuff you cook with) and radio waves. Wavelengths shorter than violet span ultraviolet, X-rays and gamma rays. Wavelength is also a stand-in for energy: The long wavelengths of radio light have low energy, and the short-wavelength gamma rays have the highest energy, a major reason they’re so dangerous to living tissue.

 

Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Kimberly Boustead

3. Scientists can perform measurements on single photons.

Light is made of particles called photons, bundles of the electromagnetic field that carry a specific amount of energy. With sufficiently sensitive experiments, you can count photons or even perform measurements on a single one. Researchers have even frozen light temporarily.

But don’t think of photons like they are pool balls. They’re also wave-like: they can interfere with each other to produce patterns of light and darkness. The photon model was one of the first triumphs of quantum physics; later work showed that electrons and other particles of matter also have wave-like properties.

 

Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Kimberly Boustead

4. Photons from particle accelerators are used in chemistry and biology.

Visible light’s wavelengths are larger than atoms and molecules, so we literally can’t see the components of matter. However, the short wavelengths of X-rays and ultraviolet light are suited to showing such small structure. With methods to see these high-energy types of light, scientists get a glimpse of the atomic world.

Particle accelerators can make photons of specific wavelengths by accelerating electrons using magnetic fields; this is called “synchrotron radiation.” Researchers use particle accelerators to make X-rays and ultraviolet light to study the structure of molecules and viruses and even make movies of chemical reactions.

 

Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Kimberly Boustead

5. Light is the manifestation of one of the four fundamental forces of nature.

Photons carry the electromagnetic force, one of the four fundamental forces (along with the weak force, the strong force, and gravity). As an electron moves through space, other charged particles feel it thanks to electrical attraction or repulsion. Because the effect is limited by the speed of light, other particles actually react to where the electron was rather than where it actually is. Quantum physics explains this by describing empty space as a seething soup of virtual particles. Electrons kick up virtual photons, which travel at the speed of light and hit other particles, exchanging energy and momentum.

 

Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Kimberly Boustead

6. Photons are easily created and destroyed.

Unlike matter, all sorts of things can make or destroy photons. If you’re reading this on a computer screen, the backlight is making photons that travel to your eye, where they are absorbed—and destroyed.

The movement of electrons is responsible for both the creation and destruction of the photons, and that’s the case for a lot of light production and absorption. An electron moving in a strong magnetic field will generate photons just from its acceleration.

Similarly, when a photon of the right wavelength strikes an atom, it disappears and imparts all its energy to kicking the electron into a new energy level. A new photon is created and emitted when the electron falls back into its original position. The absorption and emission are responsible for the unique spectrum of light each type of atom or molecule has, which is a major way chemists, physicists, and astronomers identify chemical substances.

 

Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Kimberly Boustead

7. When matter and antimatter annihilate, light is a byproduct.

An electron and a positron have the same mass, but opposite quantum properties such as electric charge. When they meet, those opposites cancel each other, converting the masses of the particles into energy in the form of a pair of gamma ray photons.

 

Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Kimberly Boustead

8. You can collide photons to make particles.

Photons are their own antiparticles. But here’s the fun bit: the laws of physics governing photons are symmetric in time. That means if we can collide an electron and a positron to get two gamma ray photons, we should be able to collide two photons of the right energy and get an electron-positron pair.

In practice that’s hard to do: successful experiments generally involve other particles than just light. However, inside the LHC, the sheer number of photons produced during collisions of protons means that some of them occasionally hit each other

Some physicists are thinking about building a photon-photon collider, which would fire beams of photons into a cavity full of other photons to study the particles that come out of collisions.

Wow. The People look like ants.

The post Wow. The People look like ants. appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

The post Wow. The People look like ants. appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

The post Wow. The People look like ants. appeared first on John Battelle’s Search Blog.

The post Wow. The People look like ants. appeared first on John Battelle’s Search Blog.

73 The Lost Weekend

Devin and Amy break down Billy Wilder’s “The Lost Weekend.” They discuss the film’s depiction of alcoholism in the 1940s, the accuracy of struggling to write after drinking and Devin’s next-level jukebox trolling. Cast your vote in the Earwolf forums to decide if “The Lost Weekend” should be in The Canon. Also, make sure to get a head start on next week’s foreign film “Pather Panchali.”

Devin and Amy break down Billy Wilder’s “The Lost Weekend.” They discuss the film’s depiction of alcoholism in the 1940s, the accuracy of struggling to write after drinking and Devin’s next-level jukebox trolling. Cast your vote in the Earwolf forums to decide if “The Lost Weekend” should be in The Canon. Also, make sure to get a head start on next week’s foreign film “Pather Panchali.”