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 )
Current Mentor, Med WebsterThat is Med as grad student at a cosmic ray lab high in the Colorado Mountains (March, 1956, 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)
ATTENTION QUARKNET TEACHERS:Our 2012 Quarknet week will be. July 9-13.
Monday - Wednesday we will meet at Vanderbilt to discuss neutrino speeds, the Higgs, gravity, and the use of our counters. Thursday and Friday we will travel to Louisiana to see LIGO, home of the effort to detect gravitational waves. Our meetings will start at 9 in the physics wing of the Stevenson Science center, room SC 6322. Coffee and informal conversation preceeding our meetings, 8:30 to 9.
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. The quarknet meeting room and parking information will be posted here well before our meeting. Med Webster can usually be found in 6901 or 6923. The first digit of a room number is the building and the second digit is the floor level. Hence, 6901 means building 6, level 9 and room 01. Floor 3 is ground level. Push 9 in the elevator to get to level 9, If you need further assistance, phone Med Webster at the office (615-322-2842), at home (615-665-1493), or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). The people in the physics office, 6301, or phone (615) 322-2828 will also be helpful.
Neutrinos MAY have been caught violating the Einstein speed limit. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN continues to produce collisions at the highest energies ever studied in detail. The Higgs has not shown up convincingly in any of the reports despite a well focused program of searching in many of its expected decay modes. The Higgs mechanism is so elegant that it seemed it must be true, but we begin to hear rumors that perhaps Nature picked a different, as yet unknown, mechanism for endowing particles with mass. We certainly will bring our Quarknet Teachers up to date on these developments, and review the use of our muon counters.
Our in depth topic for our meeting this summer will be gravity - from why moons and planets stay in orbit to the need for Dark Matter to account for the speeds of stars as they go around the Milky Way. By the way, those speeds are what we measured on our trip to Green Bank a couple of years ago. We have been funded for the trip to LIGO in Louisiana so that we can see attempts to detect the most speculative aspect of gravity, gravitational waves.
We have three Cosmic Ray Detector units ready for your students to use. Brenda, Aimee, and Scott used counters this past year. We used the first telescope, with the small detectors, for our work with University School of Nashville students measuring the speed of cosmic ray muons. The card and GPS on that counter have since been replaced so data from our original telescope can now be submitted to the Quarknet analysis site. We are approved to receive a fourth counter this summer and are working to get it scheduled before our VU meeting.
The American Physical Society is celebrating the hundreth anniversary of the discovery of cosmic rays and Bill Gabella presented a paper on the student interest in their mesurements of the speed of cosmic rays at the meeting in Atlanta on March 31.
Get your request in if you would like to use one of the counters next year.
Highlights from our recent Quarknet weeks and work with our two muon counters at our schools:
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.
Central QuarkNet Website
An assortment of web sites which you might find interesting
To Vanderbilt Physics Department Home Page
Experimental Elementary Particle Physics at Vanderbilt
Science Is Everywhere - A Great Website for Teachers, Students and Parents
The Museum of Unworkable Devices - Test Your Understanding of Physics Laws