QUARKNET at Vanderbilt University

See the Facebook group page

We started a Facebook group page named the "Vanderbilt University QuarkNet" group. It is a "closed group" account, which means that Bill has to allow your membership. We want all the QuarkNet teachers in our area to belong. Since it works with Facebook accounts, many, most, all might want to create a Facebook account just for their school QuarkNet (and other science?) activities.

Current Mentor, Bill Gabella

Bill talking to the teachers at Vanderbilt Quarknet 2014. Hovering over either the QNet2 (LabView) or the Equip (Java) control program for a set of Cosmic Ray Muon Detectors.

It only has to do with the respect with which we regard one another, the dignity of men, our love of culture. It has to do with those things. It has to do with, are we good painters, good sculptors, great poets? I mean all the things that we really venerate and honor in our country and are patriotic about. It has nothing to do directly with defending our country except to help make it worth defending.
-- Robert R. Wilson (1914-2000), When answering Congress' question on how the new accelerator at Fermilab will affect the nation's security.

Emeritus Mentor & Advisor, Med Webster

That is Med as grad student at a cosmic ray lab high in the Colorado Mountains on March 1956. He was using cosmic rays to study particle physics.

One of Med's favorite quotes:
Science is built up with facts as a house is built up with stones. But a collection of facts is no more a science than a heap of stones is a house.
-- J. H. Poincare (1854-1912)

Founding Mentor, Bob Panvini (deceased, 2004)

Bob founded the Quarknet program at Vanderbilt University in 2002.

One of Bob' favorite quotes:

The fact that our knowledge is in fact universal is something that is not completely appreciated ... the world is so wonderful in the sense that stars are made of the same atoms as the cows and ourselves, and as stones.
-- Richard Feynman ( from a talk at the Galileo Symposium in Italy, 1964 )


Plan your use of the Cosmic Ray Muon Dectors (CRMDs) for the 2016-17 school year. We have three standard sized scinitllator CMRDs and one with small scintillators, good for looking at attenuation with material like bricks or water. Contact Bill or Med for scheduling the CRMDs.

Click here to get a PDF map of the Vanderbilt Campus or here to get a "Google" map of the Vanderbilt Campus centered on building 6 of the Stevenson Center. Bill's office is SC6907H near the 9th floor meeting room; his phone is 615-343-2713, and email is b.gabella(AT)vanderbilt.edu. Med's office is SC6901 or you can find him in the computer bullpen SC6912. His offcie phone is 615-322-2842 and email med.webster(AT)vanderbilt.edu. The people in the physics office, SC6301, or phone 615-322-2828 can also be helpful.

Source Material to help prepare class presentations:

Here is a nice glossy from the Quarknet folks called Cosmic Extremes. Click here for a pdf of a text file desribing the discovery of Cosmic Rays, how the interactions of Cosmic Rays led to the discovery of new forms of matter - the birth of particle physics. Click here for a power point with pictures to illustrate this story.

Aimee Ragland made a power-point for her class and I am cheking the authorship of one on muons. Brenda Ball found a clever way to introduce showers by giving the students templates representing the paths of particles in a partially developed shower. By bisecting the angles of pairs of tracks and projecting backward, the original interaction point can be found.

Highlights from our recent Quarknet weeks and work with our muon counters at our schools:

Vandy Quarknet 2018

We met 25-29 June 2018 at Vanderbilt University. We had eight teachers show up for some or all of the week. We did our traditional news, science, and enrichment for the first few days, highlighting CMS and the LHC, Particle Physics and Machine Learning, Mars discussed by David Weintraub, Exoplanets, and Gravitational Waves using pulsar timing arrays and the big LIGO/VIRGO announcement of GW170817, the binary neutron star merger caught in gravitational waves and in the electromagnetic imaging too.

Great Week! Thanks to our speakers and out participants who make it a fun and interesting week.

The Monday and Tuesday talks for Vanderbilt QuarkNet 2018 can be found here.

Gabella's Welcome .
Gabella's LHC talk .
Starko's Why I Study Particle Physics .
Melos's Machine Learning and Particle Physics (missing talk) .
Weintraub's Mars (no talk, see his book).
Oelker's TESS/Exoplanets.
McMann's Pulsars, Nanograv, and Pulsar Timing Arrays (missing) .
Gabella's Gravitational Waves and GW170817.
Gabella's "Tension" in Physics.

Selected pictures
And a movie of the laser diffracting from a steel ruler .

Vandy Quarknet 2017

In progress.

Vandy Quarknet 2016

Following our tradition, we had several talks by local experts, on the LHC, CMS physics and computing, Mapping the Universe, and CMS Forward Pixel upgrade. Thanks to Andrew Melo, Andreas Berlind, and Will Johns for the very interesting talks and discussion. Bill talked after lunch introducing Gravitational Waves, mostly about the sources and the nature of the Quadrupole formula for gravitational radiation.

Tuesday and Wednesday were all about the LIGO eLab---looking at the data from the Hanford and Livingston seismometers. Ken Cecire form Notre Dame and national QuarkNet led the two day workshop. It was interesting to correlate data with earth quakes and other events. Checkout the "agenda" link below and especially the "Info on frequency bands" that appears. This is from Dale Ingram who also gave us and two other institutions a virtual tour of Hanford LIGO.

Thursday was all about a day trip to Marshall Space Flight Center (and the U.S. Space and Rocke Center) in Huntsville, AL. We were hosted by Scott Anderson, who looks like a great contact for teachers---free stuff was mentioned as well as teacher space camps with the possibility of funding/grants to attend! We heard from Trey Cate, the deputy communications person, about the Space Launch System (SLS), NASA's new heavy lift vehicle. The discussed the distant retrograde orbit on the far-side of the moon for construction of the Mars space craft and rocket. He also discussed the Orion crew module that can sit on top of the SLS. We had a bus tour after lunch to see Marshall itself and hear about the history. One stop was the Payload Operations and Integration Center, where we visitors could look at operators in the control room guiding and monitoring science experiments on the International Space Station.

Friday seemed to be all about throwing bottles of water that had a leaking hole cut in their sides. But actually it started with Terry King guiding us through the construction of two fun LIGO/Gravitation demos...the spandex warped spacetime, and the tennis ball merging like blackholes. Very Fun! We also assembled the Cosmic Ray Muon Detector and looked at the Equip program, to refresh our memories. The last thing we did was to throw leaking water bottles at Bill and Meaghan from a spiral staircase. By-the-way, they do not leak the whole time...somethink to do with the equivalence principle.

Great Week! Thanks to our speakers, to Ken, and to the teachers that make it interesting.

The Monday and Tuesday talks for Vanderbilt QuarkNet 2016 can be found here especially other formats, and linked below.

Gabella's Welcome .
Gabella's LHC talk .
Melos's CMS Physics and Computing .
Berlind's Mapping the Universe .
John's CMS Forward Pixel Upgrade.
Gabella's Gravitational Waves, Sources .
Cecire's agenda for the VU Workshop.
Gabella's LIGO and Saulson's Description of Light Stretching .
LIGO's Educators page, and the last link for the Educator's Guide.

Bill's iPhone shots includes Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday with Ken Cecire, fun with the interferometer, and Thursday in Huntsville.
Bill's camera shots with the virtual tour of Hanford LIGO and the interferometer, as well as Huntsville. Includes a picture or two of Scott Anderson.
Scott's pictures while we were touring the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Hunstville, AL. Gallery has the full resolution pictures if you keep clicking on them.

Vandy Quarknet 2015

The week began, as we like to, with several talks in the morning until just after lunch describing the status of the CMS detector on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, also on physics analysis and on astronomy/astrophysics. Dr. Gabella talked about the LHC, CMS, and later Cosmic Rays. He also described the speed-of-muons (of-light) experiment, a favorite of Dr. Gabella and Dr. Webster. "Almost Dr." Delannoy did a fine job describing the new physics results and the hopes for new data. Dr. Rudy Montez represented the astro group and talked about exoplanets and his field, stellar evolution.

We also took a moment in the morning to remember Tom Jordan who passed away this year.

The Monday talks for Vanderbilt QuarkNet 2015 can be found here and linked below.

Gabella's Welcome .
Gabella's LHC talk .
Gabella's CMS Detector .
Delannoy's LHC Physics .
Montez's Astronomy and Astrophysics.
Gabella's Cosmic Rays .
Gabella's Muon and Speed-of-Light .

Monday afternoon was spent checking out the four sets of cosmic ray muon detectors---the three that Vanderbilt loans out and one borrowed from Diana Giante from Bowling Green, KY. Four old but good laptops were donated by Vanderbilt University and Gabella installed Fedora Linux. They ran the Equip control program fine and served very nicely as the DAQ computer. The teachers set the CRMDs up as speed-of-light experiments.

Tuesday and Wednesday, we had another visit from Bob Peterson from Fermilab "Central" QuarkNet group. Always good to see Bob and be reminded and aided in all the ways we can use e-Lab. He took us through two days of experiments and e-Lab tools, especially focusing on shower mode.

Our special event this year was a visit on Thursday from a summer program at Vanderbilt University called Vanderbilt Science Academy for high school students. This class focused on Galaxies and Large Scale Structure and met for three weeks during the summer. Their instructer was Dr. Erika Grundstrom who kindly allowed us to "practice" on the children. The students prepared by reading and discussing "Cosmic Extremes" and other units or measurement useful in the study of cosmic ray muons.

We divided the students into 3-4 person teams with two teachers each. Each team was responsible for one CRMD and took data to calculate the speed-of-muons. They manipulated the hardware, setting up in telescope mode, and trying to separate the upper pair from the lower by as much distance as possible in the lab. They also took data in normal ordering, and then to eliminate the systematics in the swapped order. We used a program of Dr. Websters to create the spreadsheet datafile and the students then analyzed them either in Google Sheet (preferred) or with any other spreadsheet program the wanted to use. Our teams did very well, actually finding the speed-of-muons to be about the speed-of-light to within 3%---or they found the speed-of-light to within 3%.

This seemed to be a big success for both the teachers and the students. Quarknet teachers were able to see this somewhat simple, with the complexity of the swapped scintillators, few hour exercise and how the students would do with experiment. The students seemed to understand that there was a "trick" here of swapping the detectors and it was necessary to create data that made any sense. Unclear how many students really understood why this was done---we believe that takes a little time and rumination. They students were rewarded with a good measurement of the speed-of-light.

Friday found use debriefing about Thursdays teaching experience, creating a summary document of the speed-of-light experiment, and filling out the survey forms.

Vandy Quarknet 2014

We started the week with a set of talks on the status of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment, the ongoing physics analysis coming out of CMS, and an astronompy/astrophysics talk on the Bicep2 result possible seeing effects of gravity waves from the Big Bang. Thanks to our speakers: Dr. Will Johns, (proto-doctor) Andres Delannoy, and (proto-doctor) Jen Piscionere. In the afternoon, we went through the "time-of-flight" (aka speed-of-light, or speed-of-muons) experiment where data can be analyzed from a spreadsheet.

We had two visitors from Quarknet "Central," Ken Cecire of Purdue University and Bob Peterson of Fermilab. Bob ran the Tuesday and Wednesday sessions with a focus on the Cosmic Ray e-Lab and the importance of uploaded data. We culminated that effort with presentations in the online CR e-Lab way, and finally with teachers being teachers and uploading a "lesson plan" like document.

On Thursday we had a field trip to Dyer Observatory where we were guided through astornomy by Dr. Billy Teets and Dr. Bob Schweikert. We say the camera obscura aptly named the Star Chamber, we learned much about sun dials (finally understanding those odd hyperbolic lines above and below the actual scale), we made icy, dirty, chemically snowballs, and we say great images of the sun through a modest-sized telescope with a filter.

On Friday we hit the roads to visit Jere Matty at the STEM Center at Arnold Engineering and Development Center. We tried out had at wind tunnels, metered "stomp rockets," and entered the inflatable planetarium. We lunched at UT-Space Institute's "The View" cafeteria, uh, with a great view of the reservoir and good, interesting food. Dr. Bill Hofmeister was able to spend time with us and show us around the Center for Laser Applicationas as well as demonstrate freezing water in a vacuum chamber.

Copies of the talks are here.

You can find some pictures at Bill's pictures and at Med's pictures.

Vandy Quarknet 2013

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN continues to produce collisions at the highest energies ever studied in detail and the additional data has convinced most people that the Higgs has been found. We will review this progress.

Supporting evidence for time dilation (twin paradox to sci-fi aficionados) was first obtained by comparing cosmic ray fluxes at different altitudes in Colorado. We repeated this classic experiment by comparing the flux in Nashville with the flux on Mt. Mitchell in North Carolina. We started the week at Webster's house for low altitude runs, moved to Mt. Mitchell for high altitude runs, and returned to the Vandy physics building to compare the rates and see if we need to invoke time dilation to explain our data. We have posted our detailed plan, pictures, power points, and a paper describing our work.

You can find some pictures of Med's scouting trip to Mt. Mitchell here. Bill's pictures are here.

Vandy Quarknet 2012

Our 2012 program featured gravity and updates on CERN - LHC physics. Work on the web site is still in progress and only a sumary is available here.

Med took some great photos of LIGO Livingston where Brian O'Reilly (aka Irish) was a wonderful tour guide.

Vandy Quarknet 2011

Two of our teachers went to the "Fermilab Boot camp" to analyze fresh data from CERN. Our local effort was divided between a workshop on using the e-lab facilities to analyze data from our Cosmic Ray Detector units and a session on the history of nuclear fission. We caped off our study of fission with a visit to Oak Ridge, where a vital part of that history took place. Our 2011 agenda includes links to the power point presentations and photos of our local sessions on analysis of data from our muon counters and from our Oak Ridge expedition.

Vandy Quarknet 2010

Our representative from the national Quarknet office helped us welcome six new participants this year and we began with discussions of the history and status of particle physics to help orient the newcomers. Ken (from the national office) also introduced us to masterclasses and proposed that we consider one this fall. Our 2010 agenda includes links to the power point presentations from several speakers and photos of our session on construction and use of our group's muon counters.

Vandy Quarknet 2009

We started with coffee and presentations from each teacher on how the muon counters were used in her/his classroom and generally how particle physics and cosmology were worked into the curriculum. Webster discussed a new counter presently under construction to help visualize the passage of cosmic rays. This counter will use proportional tubes. A distinguishing feature of proportional tubes is the very fine wire down the axis of the tube and Webster explained why the center wire must be so small. Each teacher had an opportunity to measure the tension in the central wire of a tube and the prototype, still lacking electronics, was on display to help show how LEDs mounted near the ends of each prop tube will show the path of cosmic rays. Our scintillator muon counter systems are used for real measurements during the summer vacation and we visited the observatory dome where our two muon counters are in use to measure the East-West asymmetry of the cosmic ray flux. Sean Nomoto summarized the data and conclusions thus far obtained.

We illustrated the role of a small group in the large CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid - one of the principal detectors at the LHC (Large Hadron Collider, just starting up at CERN in Geneva , Switzerland)) collaboration by showing how Vanderbilt participates. Comments from the teachers confirm that detailing such local participation is essential to help them believe that we (collectively) have a real part in the LHC. Our on-site effort will include data transport, storage, and processing on Vanderbilt facilities while we maintain an active role at the detector in CERN. Webster illustrated the Moore's Law like growth of storage from the 80 Byte punched "IBM card" a couple of decades ago through disks of a few GBytes common on PCs today. Dan Engh described how even the multi-Terabyte disks today are inadequate for LHC data volumes and explained how both data storage and computing power from many institutions will be harnessed through the internet to efficiently process the LHC data. Paul Sheldon set up and Zhiao Shi led a tour of the 1000 CPU Vanderbilt cluster which will contribute to the storage and reduction of CMS data. Will Johns joined us from CERN by teleconferencing to explain the on-site work the Vanderbilt team is doing to prepare for beam and gave us some inside hints on progress toward colliding protons.

We concluded our on-campus sessions with a discussion of how we expect to have computer reconstruction and visualization of real events for our workshop next summer.

The final two days were in Boulder, Colorado for tours of the NIST (National Institute of Science and Technology, Department of Commerce), NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research, National Science foundation), and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Commerce) labs. Highlights of the tours were:

Our NCAR tour started in the rain. Inside we saw the racks of CPUs comprising the computer which runs the weather analysis and prediction programs, some of the apparatus for acquiring the data needed for the computation, and numerous clever demonstrations to illustrate the formation of clouds and tornadoes. Our guide was very knowledgeable and here makes a point about climate change.

At NIST we saw the frequency standard which adjusts the clock that defines world time and our guide demonstrated numerous low temperature (liquid nitrogen) effects.

At NOAA (Department of Commerce) our tour concentrated on weather prediction and the use of the results from the NCAR computers for forecasting.

The beautiful Rockies were in the background for all this, so one afternoon after our tour we bought some sandwiches in Estes park and headed up toward the Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park. The fog (Or was it a cloud?) was so dense that we did not make it to the divide but did enjoy our dinner of sandwiches in magnificent surroundings.

Gayle Dawson and a student, Karli Fisher, working with a muon counter at Blackman High School and Aimee Ragland's Class (Oakwood with a Quarknet counter set up in the background.

Vandy Quarknet 2008

Our 2008 Quarknet week started at Vandy with Bob Peterson (Quarknet at FNAL) and Beth Marchant (Quarknet staff at Notre Dame) helping our local group with the assembly of our second muon counter. Brenda Pless (Blackman High School) and Bob Peterson bring up the new software. Aimee Ragland (Oakland High School) and Daniel Soto (REU student) tape a new scintillator. Brenda and Bob bring up a new counter while Daniel Soto, Beth Marchant and Aimee observe. Final testing of the first new pair is done by checking coincidences between our two sets of counters. The larger new counters are on the wooden platform. One pair of the older set is on the board above and the other on the table beneath, so that a muon through all four of the small scintillators had to go through the larger new scintillators. The GPS of each set of counters records the time at which a signal is received from its scintillator paddles and these times are the same within a few nanoseconds for a muon which passes through all the paddles. Hits on all four small paddles with no coincidence from the larger paddles would indicate inefficiency of the large paddles.

We spent the final day of our 2008 Quarknet week at Brookhaven National Laboratory. The Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider - RHIC - was off for maintenance so our group was able to go inside the tunnel where our guide, Christoph Montag, described how the machine works. Inside that pipe on the left is a magnet and the vacuum tubes for the two streams (beams) of lead or gold ions going in opposite directions. A display model shows these tubes and the liquid helium connections. The physics discoveries at these machines are made by measuring the fragments produced when ions from the two streams collide. Large detectors such as the PHENIX detector are needed to measure the fragments. Brant Johnson is one of the leading physicists in the work with PHENIX and is shown here explaining the parts of the detector to our group. The parts were separated for maintenance work at the time of our visit so we were able to see much more of the internal pieces.

Our Quarknet group touring the muon g-2 experiment. That white circular object is part of a circular ring in which magnets bend a beam of muons into a circle. The muons are like tiny bar magnets which are twisted (rotated) by the magnetic field. Measurements of the angle of the electron emitted when the muon decays measure the twist and hence the strength of that tiny bar magnet. In the 1960s this building was the home of the large bubble chamber in which the Omega minus was discovered, giving credibility to the foundations of the Standard Model.

Bill Morse, our Guide at the muon g-2 experiment, showing us one of the precision magnetic field measuring devices used in the experiment while Aimee (her camera is barely visible in the lower left corner) takes a picture of it - a picture she will show to her class.

Setting up at Brenda's classroom at Blackman with help from three students. One pair of scintillators is on the table and the other pair is on the floor underneath.

Vandy Quarknet 2007

Nick Horton (Riverdale), far right and his class, May 17, 2007. The muon counter is set up on the table and shelf by the young man's elbow. The cable to the Gps unit is strung over the emergency shower and out the door behind them. Nick set up the counter with the GPS mounted on his wind vane and anemometer on the roof. Luke Nowaki, the student in front of Nick measured the speed of cosmic rays by comparing timing with the upper counters two feet above the lower pair as shown with the timing when the upper counter is mounted up in the ceiling. Luke also visited us at Vanderbilt to measure the lifetime of the muon using one of our advanced lab setups.

We went to the National Radio Observatory at Greenbank. No gasoline vehicles (spark plugs!) and no digital cameras are allowed near the telescopes because the electrical noise such electronic devices generate upsets the radio telescopes. The huge Robert C. Byrd Green Bank radio telescope is in the background behind our group, and a closer view of the telescope shows the detailed structure. We actually got to operate one of the smaller telescopes. Our guide makes a preliminary adjustment before each of our teachers actually ran the telescope to measure the differential rotation of our galaxy.

Kim Hawtin at Oliver School with the set up her students used to measure attenuation of Cosmic Rays by two bricks. Kim's students also measured the attenuation by marshmallows.

An assortment of web sites which you might find interesting

t Central QuarkNet Website at i2u2.org

t The e-Labs site at i2u2.org

bullet To Vanderbilt Physics Department Home Page

bullet Experimental Elementary Particle Physics at Vanderbilt

bullet Science Is Everywhere - A Great Website for Teachers, Students and Parents

bullet The Museum of Unworkable Devices - Test Your Understanding of Physics Laws

M.S. Wester