Sunday, February 7, 2016

Visit to CERN

I am just back from CERN, where I stayed over this week to visit Diego Blas at the CERN THeory Division and to give the talk "Compact Objects as Dark-Matter Probes".

Some sparse thoughts on the visit:

1) On the first night, I checked in at a hotel in Geneva instead of staying at the CERN hostel. That was a very bad move. Everything in Geneva is unbelievable expensive and the hotel (albeit 3 star and averaged rated) turned out to be quite bad. I got bed bugs, i am still full of pinches, and i'm still trying to disinfect my clothes at home...

2) On the other hand, the hostel at CERN (where I stayed for the rest of the week) was excellent. The room was clean and cozy and equipped with a large desk. Everything at CERN seems to be designed to simply researchers' life and work.

3) I was impressed by the low average age of people working at CERN. About 10K work at the center and most of them are young PhDs or postdocs. The comparison with the average Italian university, where most of the faculty members and staff are over 40, is impressive. I recently read an interview by CERN Director Fabiola Gianotti, who was precisely commenting on this fact. However, experiencing it directly is a different kettle of fish.

4) Although CERN is big and experiments are scattered around a 27-km underground ring, I enjoyed the fact that most offices are located in a handful of buildings which are connected among each other. This basically means that theorists can chat over a coffee with experimentalists, or that it is easy to attend the (enormous) number of talks and lectures that are organized on a daily basis. The canteen is also common for all buildings and researchers from different collaborations and experiments meet there to have lunch (and sometimes dinner) together.

5) Overall, the atmosphere is definitely suggestive, even for someone like me who's used to see so many physicists in the same place (I guess that for the numerous students who regularly visit CERN during a school trip it must be really a unique experience).

6) I had the opportunity to meet various friends with whom I went to college in Cagliari (some of them are also authors of this blog). Funny enough, the excess of physicists from Cagliari University, especially in the LHCb experiment, is beyond 5 sigma. Thus, I had the opportunity to visit the LHCb experiment and control room, as this picture testifies:

Visit to the LHCb experiment. 
From the left to the right: Andrea (aka Scrilly), Francesco (both CERN Fellows) and me.

7) BTW, I also had the opportunity to hear more rumors around the 750 GeV diphoton resonance. Every theorist I talked to was extremely excited and sometimes confident about the possibility that ATLAS and CMS experiments have detected something new. Funny enough, every experimentalist I talked to was instead extremely cautious and, most of the time, pessimistic. I should definitely write about this in a next post but, as you probably have heard, this coming week the spotlight will all be on LIGO's announcement of the first direct detection of gravitational waves (!) No doubts on the topic of my next post (after Thursday).
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