The hypothetical magnetic monopole is running out of places to hide.
Physics students in South Wales, prepare yourselves!
Ensuring experimental data is available at the click of a mouse.
The CERN Summer Student Programme is in full swing.
The highs and lows of life as a particle physicist at CERN.
MoEDAL experiment in LHC IP8
The hypothetical magnetic monopole is running out of places to hide following publication of the first paper from the MoEDAL experiment. As well as researchers from King’s College London and Imperial College London, the collaboration also includes students from a Kent school.
Students from the Simon Langton School in Canterbury joined the MoEDAL collaboration in 2013 to hunt for the hypothetical magnetic monopole. By CERN standards, MoEDAL is a small collaboration and this makes the involvement of a school even more notable. However, the Langton takes a very different approach to teaching science, encouraging its students to participate in fundamental research alongside established research institutes and universities.
“It is wonderful to have the first MoEDAL paper out, and to involve young people in this frontier science,” says Becky Parker, Head of Physics at the school. “Our students are contributing to the analysis of data. As the MoEDAL experiment continues to develop and find out more about the possibilities of monopoles in the Universe it’s likely that some of the school students inspired right now may in the future help find the monopole itself!”
Just as electricity comes with two charges, positive and negative, so magnetism comes with two poles, North and South. The difference is that while it’s easy to isolate a positive or negative electric charge, nobody has ever seen a solitary magnetic charge, or monopole. If you take a bar magnet and cut it in half, you end up with two smaller bar magnets, each with a North and South Pole. Yet theory suggests that magnetism could be a property of elementary particles. So just as electrons carry negative electric charge and protons carry positive charge, so magnetic monopoles could in theory carry a North or a South Pole.
Arttu Rajantie (MoEDAL and Imperial) is involved with the theoretical aspects of the MoEDAL experiment, “The discovery of magnetic monopoles would open a new chapter in particle physics, shedding new light on the fundamental laws of nature. Because the experiment would be able to trap monopoles, they could be stored and used for new types of experiments, and they could even have practical applications outside particle physics. For example, they could make new types of electronic devices possible, or allow new ways of storing information and energy.”
The collaboration’s paper is based on an analysis of data collected during the LHC’s first run, when the trapping detector was still a prototype. Although showing no evidence for trapped monopoles, the results have allowed the MoEDAL collaboration to place new mass limits, assuming a simple production mode of these hypothetical particles. The MoEDAL collaboration is now actively working on the analysis of data obtained with the full detector in 2015, with the exciting possibility of revolutionary discoveries in a number of new physics scenarios.
Sam (2nd from right) with international colleagues on the High School Teacher Programme 2016
(Credit: Sam Williams)
Physics students in South Wales, prepare yourselves! One of your teachers has just spent three weeks on the High School Teacher programme at CERN and she can’t wait to share what she’s learnt with you!
It’s a big commitment for any teacher to spend three weeks at CERN taking part in the High School Teacher (HST) programme, but it’s been worth every minute for Sam Williams. “I’ve learnt more, and laughed more, than at any time I can remember!”
It’s not Sam’s first visit to CERN – she took part in the first Welsh teacher programme run in conjunction with the National STEM Learning Centre. Having relished spending three days at CERN, as soon as she heard about the chance to spend a further three weeks enthusiastic support, she submitted her application for the HST.
“HST is taught at a much higher level – I’ve realised that the three-day course just covered the basics. We’ve had an amazing group of speakers and got an insight into everything at CERN. There have been Q&A sessions with lecturers so we’ve been able to ask lots of questions.”
Alongside lectures, there have been lots of visits. For Sam, a metallurgist by background, the magnet assembly facility was a highlight – she would happily have spent more time grilling the engineers.
Another feature of the HST programme is the working groups – small groups of teachers working together to develop practical solutions to common problems. With 47 teachers from 35 countries taking part in this year’s HST, there’s a lot of scope to learn from each other.
Sam was part of a group looking at gender inclusivity – a particular issue in her school where, despite both physics teachers being female, there are no girls studying the subject at A’ Level. “I’ve realised that I need to include more reflective, collaborative activities, and create a more nurturing environment that is more appealing female students.”
“There are so many things that I’ve learnt on a personal and professional level,” says Sam. She’s keen to share that knowledge, and not just with her students. She plans to work with the National STEM Learning Centre to help the many non-specialists who teach physics. And she now feels confident to run physics sessions for the Seren Network of gifted and talented sixth formers in Wales.
Describing her three weeks at CERN as being inside a “beautiful bubble”, Sam is now back in Port Talbot; while most teachers were looking forward to a long summer holiday, she is already fired up about getting back in the classroom in September and inspiring her students!
If you’d like to bring your physics teaching right up-to-date, there’s more information on the CERN website and specific information for UK teachers is available from the National STEM Learning Centre.
(Credit: Ian Collier)
With a community of more than 10000 researchers spread across institutes in 73 countries, ensuring experimental data is available at the click of a mouse is essential.
Disseminating data through two Tier 0 sites (at CERN and in Budapest), 13 Tier 1 sites (including the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory), 160 Tier 2 sites and thousands of Tier 3 sites (these can be computer clusters in university departments or even an individual PC on a researcher’s desk) is the responsibility of the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid (WLCG). Practical discussions about how to make the Grid work and how to evolve the infrastructure take place at WLCG’s Grid Deployment Board (GDB).
The Grid Deployment Board brings together the infrastructure providers and the experiments. Meeting every month, it has no formal decision making authority, but the discussions can often form a consensus, and that helps the WLCG Management Board.
The Grid relies on trust between individual institutes; the philosophy has always been traceability – it should be easy for users to access data and computing resources, but equally easy to trace someone if they abuse that trust.
“As technology changes, we need to adapt,” explains GDB Chair, Ian Collier (STFC). The group is currently looking at federated identity management – where registration for a multi-institute service gives you instant access from any registered device, wherever you are.
“Eduroam is a good example of how federated identity management can be implemented,” says Ian, referring to the global wifi service for the academic community – once you’ve registered your device, it will automatically pick-up Eduroam wherever there’s a service. “Users love it, but it took years to establish, and that was down to building trust between the institutions involved.”
Ian has been Chair of GDB since January. It’s a two year term and one of his priorities is to ensure that enough people participate in the meetings to give the discussions weight. “It’s going to be a challenge to meet the ever-increasing aspirations of the LHC experiments. The stakes are now higher - grid is operating well and so we have to make sure that any changes don’t degrade things.”
One option for coping with the massive increase in data when the LHC moves to higher luminosities could be to improve the code on which the Grid is based. As Ian says, “we’ve already done most of what we can to improve data storage and computer performance within the WLCG budget."
Whilst Ian has a global view of the Grid, he’s also aware of the pressures on the collaborating institutes to provide the service. Like many other Tier-1 sites, the team at RAL is trying to run the WLCG service with less effort and, at the same time, trying to find ways of making the same infrastructure more accessible and relevant to other communities.
Whether it’s the Grid as a whole, or the UK’s contribution, the challenge is the same, says Ian, “It’s all about making our resources more adaptable.
Hands up if you want to spend the summer at CERN! The 2016 cohort of summer students.
The CERN Summer Student Programme is in full swing.
Aimed at physics, engineering and computing undergraduates about to go into the final year of their degrees, the Summer Student Programme brings together many of the brightest students from around the world to spend up to 13 weeks submerged in their subject.
With a combination of lectures from many of the best names in the business, challenging projects to develop new skills, and a buzzing social life, spending a summer at CERN not only helps students focus on their future career choices (e.g. academia v industry, experimental v theory etc), but they also leave with a little black book full of international contacts.
Myron Huzan is a physics student from Nottingham Trent University. He came to CERN immediately after finishing a placement year at the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) where he worked in the neutron detector group on the ISIS neutron source, developing detectors for the muon beamlines. He’d never visited CERN before. “My first impression was that it’s big – there was a lot to take in. I thought RAL was big with a lot going on!”
He’s been surprised how many different nationalities are represented within the programme, “there are students from all over the world – it’s very diverse, and interesting to talk to everyone”.
Myron is fairly sure that he wants to do a PhD but is still working out whether he’d prefer to follow a theoretical or experimental path. Either way, he’s found the lectures fascinating, particularly Markus Kraemer’s lectures on the Standard Model.
Away from the lectures, Myron has joined a team measuring hyperfine splitting of hydrogen on the ASACUSA experiment in CERN’s Antimatter Factory. The equipment he’s using will be measuring and characterising hydrogen; the plan is to use a similar setup with antihydrogen.
So far, Myron’s work has involved testing equipment and performing leak tests but he’s confident that the team will soon be ready to take measurements and that he’ll be able to analyse some of the data before the end of the summer.
Tom Parton took part in the 2015 summer student programme. He’s just completed a MASt in Applied Maths and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge. Over the summer he’ll be teaching physics and aeronautical engineering at a summer school in Saudi Arabia, before spending the autumn in China developing a leadership programme for Chinese high school students. “My experience at CERN was highly valuable in several ways: the lectures helped with my studies in Cambridge; working on a project gave me confidence in developing my own ideas and working with others; and the social experience left me with lots of fond memories. I hope I get back to CERN soon!”
There’s stiff competition for places on the programme – applications normally open in October and close towards the end of January. STFC has prepared helpful guidance notes for any UK students planning to apply. Given that spending the summer at CERN could change your life, the number one piece of advice is ‘don’t leave your application to the last minute!’
Back in December 2015, the ATLAS and CMS experiments observed an unexpected bump in their data. What made the bump so intriguing was the fact that both experiments had seen it.
With the restart of the LHC in April, the race was on to collect enough data to be able to confirm whether the bump was a statistical blip or an unknown particle.
BBC Horizon followed many of the people involved in the analyses, and the resulting documentary captures the highs and lows of life as a particle physicist at CERN.
Last updated: 11 May 2018