For the first time in weeks, I am able to sit down and write a blog post. And it feels great. But it also feels like I owe you an explanation. So, here it comes. For the last two months, PSI has run the show, a yearly recurring event in this family that can last for up to three months. If you would check all the dates of my previous posts, you could see when Frederik was at PSI: No posts in those periods.
If I say: A. My husband is a researcher in nuclear physics. And B. Most of his experiments take place in Switzerland. Then most people assume: C. So, he works at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. And I correct: No, he doesn’t. In Switzerland, there is another institute that has an accelerator where a lot of groundbreaking research is done into the smallest particles we know of: the Paul Scherrer Institut in Villigen.
In 2011- Janne had just turned one – Frederik went to PSI for three months in a row before we moved to the States. Janne and I went to visit him after about six weeks (with a car filled up with Belgian beer and chocolate). By then, thanks to Skype, Janne was calling the computer Daddy. It is the only time that I myself have been in PSI and I must admit: I was impressed.
The hall where the accelerator stands is gigantic, filled with big concrete LEGO blocks to separate the different experiments and for safety purposes. A crane is fixed to the ceiling to pick up and transport those blocks as needed. The constant noise of air ventilation machines and detectors everywhere is overwhelming and tiring. Not too mention the excruciating heat in the summer months. Sometimes clouds form in the hall and it starts raining. Most of the time researchers sit in metal work container scattered over the hall where they keep an eye on the data that is coming in on their computers.
Does that sound like fun to you? It doesn’t to me, but Frederik loves it. The adrenaline of setting up the experiment, seeing if all the detectors and software you worked on for a long time is actually working. Making sure everything keeps running as they start shooting the particles into the setup. Seeing the data coming in day and night. The comradery of long – impossible – hours and the common goal of the experiment. I am just happy he likes it as he has spent a lot of time there over the last eight years. If you count all the months together, probably like a year and a half of his life.
So, every January, you apply for “beam time”, that is having particles shot into your experimental setup. In February, you go to the meeting to defend your proposal and stating your time preferences. And after all the politics and networking is done, you know if and when you will have a “RUN”. This means different things for Frederik and me: He knows when his experiment and deadlines for the year will be and I know when I will be single parenting again.
Frederik being at PSI used to be the hardest time of the year for me. Especially when Willem was still a baby. Thank God for my mother-in-law who would come and help out. In the States. In Germany. Whenever she could. And she still does despite her busy schedule. Because, even if it has gotten easier to keep the show running when Frederik is not around, it still is hard core with no time left to relax or to blog. My hats off to all you single parents!
Tired but happy! If you want to see more cool pictures of experiments, go to Frederik’s facebook page.