CERN Accelerating science

How many points to direct the particle beam to collision?

Players of all ages lined up to play the Accelerator Game during the CERN Open Days. (Image: CERN)

How many points does one get for directing the particle beam to the collision? Unfortunately, one gets no points for the big collisions in real accelerator like the Large Hadron Collider, only enormous amounts of data. But in the Accelerator Game things work a bit differently. Developed specifically for the CERN Open Days by the Electrical Power Converters Group at CERN, this interactive activity aimed to explain the role of power converters in particle accelerators in a fun and engaging way for visitors of all ages.

In particle accelerators like the Large Hadron Collider, particles are kept in a curved trajectory by magnets called dipoles, focused using magnets called quadrupoles, and accelerated in metallic chambers called radiofrequency (RF) cavities. All of these structures are electrically powered by hundreds of CERN-specific power converters. In the Accelerator Game, visitors needed to apply the right electrical pulse to make all these structures function properly. The game consisted of two distinctive parts: an arcade-like video game and a scaled-down model of an accelerator. The goal was to accelerate and guide a beam of particles, avoiding collisions with the accelerator pipe and obstacles – collimators. In real-life, collimators allow the deposition of beam losses in specific locations, minimising the radiation impact on the collider and detectors. “We took a few liberties to strike the perfect balance between realism and amusement,” explained Fulvio Boattini, the mastermind behind the idea for this activity. “And we would say, successfully so!”

If the beam collided with these obstacles, some particles in the beam would be lost. The player would interact with the game with two controller sticks for the two types of power converters: one powering dipoles and moving the beam on the horizontal and vertical plane, and the second powering quadrupoles, allowing the player to focus and defocus the beam and avoid the more difficult obstacles. As time progressed, the beam gained speed, accelerating the particles, and challenging the skills of the player.

If any particles remained after the one minute the game lasted, the player was rewarded with a stunning animation of two colliding beams and a final score. A scoreboard with the top ten players of the video-game was added to encourage some healthy competition among visitors and volunteers. “Each time the players managed to guide the beam through an obstacle, they got points equal to the product of velocity and number of particles they still had,” explains Dariusz.

The creation of this game was a joint effort by different sections of the EPC Group at CERN and the surprising contribution of two students from CERN’s High-School Students Internship Programme (HSSIP). The video-game itself was developed using the UNREAL engine by Christoph Merscher, with the collaboration of Dariusz Zielinski, who also designed the visually stunning animations and images, and Krzysztof Lebioda. “We started developing the game having almost no knowledge of the Unreal Engine. Every time we came up with a new challenge, we had to find out a solution, learning along the way. First, we were using block-based graphical programming, but soon we realized we had to write code in C++ to achieve the behaviour we wanted,” says Christoph.

To make the experience more tangible, Arnaud Bessonnat constructed a 1.2 meter scaled-down model of a circular collider, using 3D printing techniques. It included dipoles, quadrupoles, radiofrequency cavities, a detecting experiment and, of course, power converters. A LED strip around the accelerator simulated the two counter-rotating beams and the magnetic field. As particles gained speed, the LED beam rotated ever faster and the magnetic field glowed stronger. João Afonso wrote the code to switch each individual LED on and off in a predefined pattern, using an Arduino microcontroller. This program received instructions from the video-game through a communication protocol specifically designed for this purpose, and synchronised the LED beam with the progress of the player through the game. João based the program on the original work of two students from CERN’s High-School Students Internship Programme (HSSIP).

Accelerator Game display, with the model scaled-down accelerator and the interactive video-game developed by the Electrical Power Converters Group at CERN. (Image: CERN)

Over the CERN Open Days weekend, the Accelerator Game team estimate conservatively that about 600 visitors played the game. That is one player every two minutes, not counting all the visitors who stayed to watch and cheer the players as they tried to prove their worth, some coming back for multiple attempts at beating the highest score. “The reaction from the visitors is a clear sign that the hours we dedicated to this project paid off!” says Raul Murillo, the project supervisor for the game development, and the team agrees.

By all appraisals a successful exhibition, Raul attributes a great part of the activity’s success to the commitment and passion of the team. At a time when major developments are taking place for LINAC4 and ELENA in the context of LS2, Christoph, Dariusz, Arnaud, João and Krzysztof put a lot of effort in bringing the game to near perfection. “They were working weekends and after-hours to bring this game to a whole new level,” he says.

The CERN Open Days organisers have shown an interest in the Accelerator Game and would like to make it available to use in future events. For this, further development would be required, as the interactive game was designed to have the support of an Open Days volunteer, that is, the team would have to make the game more robust and low-maintenance, as well as provide instructing documentation. Hopefully one day the Accelerator Game might become a permanent activity for CERN visitors and the accelerator community.

References

Isabel Bejar Alonso (CERN) , Rama Calaga (CERN), Ofelia Capatina (CERN)
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The future of communication and outreach for accelerators

The ARIES consortium organized a workshop for communication officers of the European accelerator infrastructures and Physics centres. Under the name Accelerator Communication and Outreach (ACO) Workshop, the event took place on 5-6 November, at CERN.

“We wanted to engage communication officers in defining how to increase the effectiveness of outreach activities for particle physics’ and light sources' accelerators,” said Phil Burrows, leader of WP2 – Training, Communication and Outreach for Accelerator Science for ARIES.

The group of sixteen representatives from the accelerator communication community had a specific task: to fill nine flipcharts with communication challenges, specific actions the community might take to answer them and the necessary resources to implement such an action plan for accelerators.

Challenges, best practices and actions during the two working days

After a brief welcome from Phil Burrows, Sarah Davies, from PCST – Public Communication of Science and Technology, was the Keynote Speaker, providing a short talk about science communication and communication networks. "From my experience, networks and associated events are one way for science communicators to avoid constantly reinventing the wheel," said Sarah on the topic of knowledge-sharing.

James Gillies, Advisor for Strategic Planning and Evaluation at CERN, continued with a talk about communication strategy, thus setting the context and guidelines for the following discussion. In the end, participants shared, during the two hourly sessions, a recent communication challenge or solution, in the form 5-minute presentations.

From the importance of keeping good relations with your neighbours and engaging policy-makers, to having someone actively coordinate an organization or network’s activities full-time, to initiatives like Accelerate! and Mísion ALBA, and the importance of matching the right platform to the right audience, the ARIES team and the participants had the opportunity to listen to the learnings and challenges of the several sides of a good communications strategy.

For the second day, participants reflected on the challenges and solutions from the previous day. Do accelerator infrastructures share common goals? Would a network be useful, in parallel to others like lightsources.org and interactions.org? How to engage different audiences of research infrastructures – politicians, the public, funding agencies, industry – with a limited amount of resources?

“The ARIES ACO workshop highlighted the common challenges our community faces when communicating about accelerators and science,” said Anais Rassat, who acted as facilitator for the challenge and brainstorm sessions of the workshop.

By the end of the second day of activities, in answering these questions, participants had agreed on specific steps the community should undertake to promote accelerator communication and outreach, considering limitations such as resources and different short-term agendas.


One of the activities for the next year is create a channel to share best practices.

The ARIES consortium thus invites researchers and science communicators in the accelerator community to share their initiatives and other communication resources in Accelerating News. The editors are looking to share initiatives, methods in evaluation and monitoring, and impact surveys and studies.

Please send your contributions at: acceleratingnews.eu/contact

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The University of Liverpool has launched a new project to connect the local community to the world-class science taking place on their doorsteps.

The residents of Liverpool are being invited to help create a science trail that will sit deep underground, more than 20 metres beneath the city’s streets, within an underground rail network. The trail will showcase the ground-breaking scientific discoveries made possible by particle accelerators developed by Liverpool researchers and their international partners.

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Dr Chris Edmonds (right) together with his colleagues Dr Laura Laura Harkness-Brennan and Dr Barry King from the University of Liverpool. (Image: University of Liverpool)

The Tale of Two Tunnels idea was conceived by Dr Chris Edmonds, a lecturer at the University of Liverpool, who says: “Liverpool plays a significant role in some of the world’s largest scientific collaborations, working on questions ranging from ‘what happened at the very beginning of time’ to ‘how can we improve cancer treatment. By working together to create the story of this machine we want to welcome the people of Liverpool into this global scientific community.”

The Tale of Two Tunnels project aims to connect people of all ages with world-class accelerator science through a series of art workshops culminating in a unique exhibition. It will be inspired by CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

Over the coming months the University of Liverpool is delivering workshops in schools and community settings to introduce the project to local communities. Academics and physics students will tell the story of accelerators by drawing parallels between the tunnels of the Large Hadron Collider and Wirral loop line in Liverpool. Participants will then put forward their own ideas of what they think the final exhibition should include.

The full trail is due to open in summer 2019, and it will bring the idea of an accelerator in Liverpool city centre to life, within the Wirral loop line. Exhibits will be on display at six venues, each investigating a different aspect of particle accelerators.

Map of the exhibition. (Image: University of Liverpool)

The route, which includes Liverpool Lime Street station, Liverpool’s World Museum and the Victoria Gallery & Museum, will feature interactive installations. An app will enable visitors to find out more about the big questions about the universe that Liverpool scientists are exploring through particle accelerators, such as the LHC. It will also provide background information on accelerator science.

Professor Carsten Welsch, Head of Physics at the University of Liverpool, said: “Particle physics is our generation’s equivalent of space exploration. It has the potential to change the world and requires ‘atom smashers’ that are at the cutting edge of technology. The world-wide accelerator community is pushing the limits of current technologies and is already thinking about projects that may become reality in 10 or 20 years. The Tale of Two Tunnels project creates an important link to the wider community and will help create better awareness of the importance of accelerators. There are also other important local links: Right here in the Wirral, the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre was the world’s first hospital-based proton beam therapy facility and a new ion therapy facility is currently being built.”

The Tale of Two Tunnels is a collaboration between the University of Liverpool and local organisations including Merseyrail, World Museum, Victoria Gallery & Museum and FACT. It receives funding from the STFC.

For updates and upcoming workshops, please follow: https://twitter.com/T2Tunnels

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