Research High

I’ve been a bit glum these last few weeks. At first I wasn’t able to exactly pinpoint the problem, but given how well I’ve felt this week I think I’ve figured it out. I needed research, and I needed it **bad**.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed my time at MIT, working on simulations for the neutrino experiment I work on in my “spare time”. But that’s simulation, not data. With the “BaBar”:http://www.slac.stanford.edu/BFROOT experiment, I get my data fix. Oh yeah, I am a serious data-junkie, and this week I’ve started getting my steady I.V. drip once again.

I’ve got a pretty cool little project that I’m working on in conjunction with a “theory colleague”:http://bob.mcelrath.org of mine at UC Davis. I’m hoping to wrap it up for the summer, but I haven’t had a chance to work on it until this week. And boy, does it feel good. I’ve even got a plan all laid out for understanding the efficiencies of my analysis, a key ingredient in the extraction of the final result from the data.

What is that data? Well, that’s a good question. BaBar is a three-story-tall, multi-ton particle detector built around the collision point of the PEP-II electron-positron collider. PEP delivers high-intensity (*luminosity*) beams of bunched electrons and their anti-matter counterparts, positrons, and tries to smash each bunch together once every 4 nanoseconds. Electrons and positrons are so small that even with billions of them per bunch, we’re fortunate to get even one matter/anti-matter annihilation per crossing.

Each annihilation yields pure energy, energy whose value is roughly equivalent to that present in our universe when it was but a millionth of a second old. That’s right, I get data from the closest thing to a time machine we have on this planet. Well, let’s be fair – it’s really more like going to a theme park that recreates some ancient time. You do it in the lab and study what it was like, then report you findings.

I have a curiosity for the invisible. I had a chance to meet with a film maker a few months back who spoke of his fascination for physics and its pursuit of the innately unseeable. My current research is an attempt to look for the signature of an unseeable particle recoiling against things which are visible to BaBar.

So I’m back in the swing of my research. I hope it lasts!

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