Friday, 20 June 2014

Neutron holiday

I have recently come back from one of the 'big experiments' that I have mentioned from time to time on this blog, in this post in particular.

Travelling in the British summer sunshine is a pleasure in itself, but this was a particularly sunny and rewarding trip to the ISIS facility at Rutherford Appleton Laboratories. Coke was quaffed, burgers were consumed and good company and conversation abounded. Neutrons were plentiful and samples were well-behaved. At times like these this doesn't really feel like a job at all; and maybe it isn't ("I don't really feel like I have done a full day's work", I reflected to one of my coworkers. "We haven't", said he).

OK, I have been slightly rash here. This type of experience is of course is countered by difficult, exhausting and almost fruitless trips. Preparation for this trip has taken many 'person-weeks' of intense preparation, and a fair quantity of stress, to be honest. Work is work, but it doesn't have to be so all the time, so I'll settle for that. Anyway this post is about walking up hills and taking pictures and not "philosophosising" too deeply, to be pronounced as spelt.

ISIS Target Station 2 (in the sun). Image Mike Weir but thanks to STFC.
One thing I find a real pleasure is to climb up ISIS's man-made hill and survey the scientific scenery. Apparently, there was already a hill of leftover earth that was dug out from when the first construction was done on the ISIS site (although it might not have been called that in those days). This hill was then 'in the way' when construction was planned for Target Station 2 (pictured) and so was moved. For good measure, some more earth was excavated and dumped on top of that in turn to create a sort of arc-shaped mound. You can see a scar on the side of the hill where ground level once was. There is a little path up there where you can go and look at the scenery while your experiment chugs along.

The view is of a fairly flat Oxfordshire scene although I am told you can see all the way to the Ridgeway - there were some ridgey looking things in the distance but I can't say I could have identified any correctly. The scientific scenery of the Harwell Campus (if I am indeed giving it its proper name) is spread out all around, from the shiny blue ISIS Target Station 2 to the flying saucer of Diamond. Beyond this scene, in the distance, are the monolithic cooling towers of the power station at Didcot. Bountiful numbers of Red Kites soar in the skies above this part of the world.

The scientific scenery from ISIS hill. Image Mike Weir but thanks to STFC.
I was accompanied on this trip by two colleagues who had never been to ISIS. I would like to think that they were impressed with ISIS and all of its facilities.

As I write my computer is chugging through the data we collected, rejigging and reprocessing it to get the best possible result. There is definite heat coming up through the laptop keyboard.

Well, it just finished, so I am off to fit the data. Enjoy the summer (now or in six months, depending on your hemisphere).

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