Monday, November 23, 2015

The final marathon

Right now work on CMS is tough. We have tight deadlines to meet and a lot of work to do. This is what happens every time we get new data, and despite the increased workload it is my favourite time to be a physicist. What usually happens is that we target the Moriond conferences in March, but this time there is a December Jamboree for rapid analyses, and I'm working on one of them. The Jamboree and Moriond are my final push to get some physics results out, physics results that I'll be proud of and will make me nostalgic years from now. This is what I've been waiting for the past two years, building up my tools slowly and getting them ready, in anticipation of the data that turns our world upside down. There was some initial excitement over a single very high mass event, which was completely unexpected. Since then we've been keeping an extra look out for high mass events in the data set, and this has only made the curent work more exciting and competitive.

Unfortunately this level of work is not sustainable, even without any other commitments. As one of my friends pointed out in a recent (and probably final) visit to CERN, it's not unusual to do 40 hours of work in two days when things get tough. On top this, there is travel, teaching, and other meetings that take a long time. When I moved to CERN, I moved there to work, and to immerse myself in the life of the lab, which meant more work. It was very exciting and rewarding, but also exhausting. Since moving to Brussels I've been told to restrain my enthusiasm and to not lose myself in work, which isn't why I came here. I came to work hard, to give physics one last chance to show me that I still love it. Looking to the future, I realised that I don't want to keep following the same patterns. Whatever I work at, I'll always work hard and have long hours, but for the next few years I want to be able to set my own deadlines and any rush will be self inflicted.

A quick trip to Venice. It was pleasant, but did rather distract from the main event.

So I find myself slogging through the final marathon, a final blaze of glory before it all ends, and for now, I love it. If I had my own way I'd do nothing else, and for a few weeks I'd immserse myself in the work, going from one cross check to another and measuring all the spectra I could get manage. Knowing that this is the last time makes it all the more enjoyable, and more frustrating when other commitments keep me away from this work. These few months are the whole reason I came, and the reason I waited two years for the data. This is what make physics fun, this is what makes physics worth the time and effort.

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