LBNL Open House

It is my pleasure to show you low-quality cell phone photos of an impossibly great physics thing.  This is a Lego scale model of the ATLAS experiment, one of the two detectors at CERN responsible for the recent discovery of the Higgs boson.

Here’s what it looks like in real life:

ATLAS Experiment © 2012 CERN

The Lego version is still pretty cool though, right?

A lot of my posts lately have been about particle accelerators and how impressive they are.  (A quick summary: particle accelerators are impressive.)  But I’ve only briefly touched on what you might want to use one for.  Let’s totally talk about that it more detail, very soon.  For now, I’ll just say that discovering fundamental properties of matter at the smallest scales requires some very very impressive, complicated machinery.  Something like 3000 people work on ATLAS.  Some of them develop hardware and maintain the various bits of the detector.  Some of them work on piping the vast amounts of collected data from the detector complex to their computing farm.  And some of them study that data, looking for evidence of new and interesting physics.  Three thousand people!  And this is only one of six detectors operating at CERN right now!

The model is color-coded, by the way. Here’s the key.

The model is built to scale. Look at those little Lego guys! Yes, the detector really is that big.

This wonderful monument of dorkitude was on display at my lab’s recent open house.  I ran a demonstration about the superconducting magnets used in certain kinds of particle accelerators, including the LHC.  I would be very happy to write a post about this, but first I need to get a few more photos together.

PS.  Should we talk specifically about the Higgs boson?  Or did you get enough of that from every other blog in the entire world?  I think it would be interesting to address your questions, if you have any.  (“What is the Higgs” is a fine sort of question to ask.)  I encourage you to post your questions in the comments section.

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