Saturday, January 21, 2012

Nuclear Physics, Holifield, and the End of an Era (or, why I'm at work at 11pm on a Saturday)

You can tell by the large pile of junk food near me that we're camped out.

When we run our nuclear physics experiments, like the one running right now, we utilize every available moment. Weekends. Overnights. We run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Someone is always here. At least one experimenter, as well as two facility operators and the on-call radiation protection folks. But this is the price of science. Science doesn't stop at 5pm. Science doesn't take weekend breaks.

What's more, this particular experiment is important because it may be one of our last. As you probably know, the Department of Energy - our sole source of funding - made the decision last year to close us down. The Holifield Radioactive Ion Beam Facility, where I now sit, is slated to cease doing science on March 1st. This knowledge adds almost a desperate sense of urgency to the results of this experiment, prompting a concerted effort by the facility staff to keep things running. We don't have much longer, and we know it.

I don't know what I hope to achieve by elaborating upon the fact that I'm sitting at a data acquisition computer at 11pm on a Saturday. Perhaps I felt as though getting the thoughts out would help ease my pain and frustration. Perhaps I feel as though it is a justification, a reason to keep going - look, I am here now, is that not enough?

4 comments:

  1. Abdul, thanks - those are some great ideas!

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  2. Is the HRIBF shuting down today?

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    Replies
    1. Technically yes. But we were graciously given a four-week extension from DOE to complete the highest priority experiments. Of course, my definition of "high priority" is a bit different from DOE's - we have a whole list of PAC approved experiments here that simply cannot be performed anywhere else on Earth. But those aren't a priority, apparently.

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