Mind the Gap

It’s a strange and unnerving feeling, to watch people you admire, people you’d like to even consider your mentors (or even förebilder), be pushed nearly to their limits. It’s hard to know what to do or say when you can see the nerves beginning to break slowly, and behind the eyes.

Simply put: the construction and insertion of the Stick into the experiement was possibly the most botched operation I have ever had the pleasure of calling myself a part of. (that’s what she said). What went wrong? Everything, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed.

Let us recap the saga of the F***ing Stick:

0. Stick is a few months late in getting to CERN.

1. Poor communication between the machinist, the designer, and the company that makes the MCP means there is no safe way to safely mount the high voltage parts. Parts from other parts of the assembly are re-purposed and a ‘chewing gum’ solution is reached.

3. Wave guide for microwaves is too long and it is sent to the machinist. Several hours are lost.

4. Microwave horn is accidentally thrown away in a ball of crumpled aluminum foil. Recovered with an oath of silence on the issue in regards to the rest of the collaboration.

5. Instruments are aligned 90 degrees off and spatially won’t fit in the experiment. Commence rewiring #1

6. Sautering Iron needs acid flux in order to flow on to stainless steel. Sadly, this also destroys the iron tip.

7. Insertion and pumpout #1 goes according to plan until a leak is discovered in the small microwave VCR flange at the top.

8. A leak is discovered in the rotatable flange.

9. the rotable flange was bolted with English bolts instead of metric ones. Bolts are swapped, but leak still persists. Stick must be removed.

9. Knife edge on rotatable flange is scratched and must be sent to the machinist. An afternoon is lost.

10. Stick broken down and reassembled, without instruments on, and Insertion #2 happens for simply alignment purposes. But alignment can’t happen because the stick, without the instruments on is, incidentally, a few centimeters too short to be seen through the window into the vacuum chamber.

13. Instruments are mounted by coax wires are bent so joints have to be made.

14. Insertion #3 happens, but the plate is not aligned correctly, something that can only be done with the stick off and risky twisting of the copper wave guide. Walter saves the day.

15. It’s 1:30 AM, torrential rain is falling outside and Daniel, tim, and I have only our bikes. Walter is walking. I forgot my jacket. Joel drives Walter and tim home. Daniel and I call a cab to Geneva and bill the collaboration.

16. the next day, a cockamany sceme to measure the needed adjustment is hatched. two PhD students and a Berkeley physics undergrad fail at an 8th grade level trigonometry problem. But! at least we fixed it in the end.

17. Insertion #4 happens. Final lateral alignment is made. Electral connections are OK’d. the windows are on, the system is pumping out for the next half hour, and there’s twenty kilometers left in today’s stage of  the tour de France just as we all walk back into the control room. Le tour plays live on regular tv here and has been streaming out of the small screen in our control room for the last five hours. “Perfect.” Everyone watches the absolutely beautiful finish put on by the Colombia highroad team and Cavendish. Personally, I’m just overjoyed to be around other people who care about this stuff.

Leak Check 1: Passed. Dinner: eaten. Fingers: crossed. Leak Check 2: passed.

Phew. Phew. Phew.

I hate the stick. Nonetheless, I’m amazed an impressed at the impeccable poise and almost inhuman clam displayed by my colleagues and advisers in the face of so much misery.




One Response to “Mind the Gap”

  1. sannlille Says:

    great scott! somehow i thought with all those brilliant people that the work would be more efficient, too funny – at least you have training in jimmy rigg method – remember we fixed the jeep steering fluid hose, w/bubble gum, a sponge, and duct tape ? lol

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