23 June 2009


I have written previously that I am working on two experiments: MINOS and NOvA, and I would like to provide a little more detail about what has been happening with NOvA. First, I should explain that the name is an acronym: NuMI Off-axis νAppearance, then I should explain the acronym within the acronym. NuMI stands for Neutrinos at the Main Injector. Neutrinos are the particles NOvA was designed to study, and the Main Injector is a part of the Fermilab accelerator complex that produces the neutrino beam studied by NOvA.

Some controversy exists about whether the proper name of the experiment is NOvA or NOνA ("v" vs. the neutrino symbol). The neutrino symbol would more accurately represent the name of the experiment, but it is difficult or impossible to find using a search engine. For that reason, and because one of my supervisors prefers it, I shall use the "v." 

Whatever acronym is used, the project has experienced a resurgence of funding after being nearly cancelled in late 2007. It, like MINOS, consists of two detectors. One will be built at Fermilab; the other will be in a building in northern Minnesota.   The neutrinos travel from Fermilab to northern Minnesota in a few milliseconds.  The two detectors will measure changes in the beam between those two points, which will give us the most precise understanding of these ghostly particles to date.  For a more detailed description of the purpose and physics behind this experiment, I recommend an article written for the College of William & Mary, "Tracking the elusive ghost particle," featuring my colleague Patricia Vahle.

The latest sign of progress toward making this experiment a reality was the groundbreaking for this new building on May 1. It was attended by several officials, including Congressman Bill Foster, who has a Ph.D. in Physics (like two other members of Congress) and an interesting sense of humor.

As part of the local publicity for this event, the neutrino group at Indiana was called together one morning to pose for a photograph.  It shows us with our arms on a small section of extruded PVC very similar to the extrusions that will be produced for the detectors.  

(Photograph courtesy of Indiana University)

22 June 2009

Pictures from Cambridge

Though much delayed, here are the photographs promised from my trip to Cambridge, England.

12 June 2009

MINOS Collaboration Meeting in Ely, MN

To see more details, go to the album; photo descriptions are there.

06 June 2009

04 June 2009

Traveling in June

During the first half of June, I am traveling to three different states for various different personal and academic events.


As I write this, I am attending the annual Fermilab Users' Meeting.  I am looking forward to learning about the people and activities here beyond the experiments on which I work.

Partially overlapping with the Users' Meeting is the 2009 Outreach Workshop, which will feature a Tesla coil show, posters, presentations, and panel discussions.  Given some of the difficulty I have had in effectively communicating certain aspects of science to my friends, I hope I can learn practical lessons from people with experience reaching out from the lab to the public, government, and educators.

On Friday through Sunday, I will be taking shifts monitoring MINOS again.  I will be on the morning shift (6 AM to noon).  I hope that these shifts will be less eventful than my previous set of shifts, during which a transformer failed (go to 11 PM once you click the link) cutting power to MINOS and multiple other parts of the lab.  It was quickly replaced.


On Sunday evening, I am scheduled to fly from ORD to DLH.  From Duluth, I will drive with a grad student in our group to Ely, MN for the MINOS Week in the Woods Meeting.  I have never been to this meeting before, and I have not been to northern Minnesota for several years.  I look forward to it, but I was sure to pack the strongest insect repellent I could find.


I will leave Week in the Woods on Friday (June 12) to fly from Duluth to La Crosse, WI (LSE), where my sister lives.  There, I will meet Kelly, and the next morning, we will travel to Independence for my 10-year high school class reunion.  I expect it to be a fairly strange experience, given how much I have changed and grown since 1999.  Also, I have not seen most of the people who will be there since then, so I am curious to see how they have changed.  I will, as always, be proud to have my finacée with me.

My mother and sister will be hosting an engagement party for us on Sunday.  It should be a fun time to celebrate this occasion with friends and family, especially those who might not be able to travel to the wedding.  Since some guests have been asking about gifts, Kelly and I have started gift registries.

Kelly and I will fly back out of La Crosse to O'Hare on Monday afternoon.  There, we will part ways as she returns to Columbus and I fly to Indianapolis on my way home.