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Day to day logistics of what happens at the LHC

  1. Oct 17, 2012 #1
    Hello, I've done some research and can't seem to get a read on the day to day logistics of what happens at the LHC. Specifically, say with the ATLAS, do the researchers prepare a proton collision event at a specific day and time, and when that event is done, then spend the next few days or so analyzing the data?

    Or, is the experiement continuously running, i.e., is it just a steady stream of particles colliding 24/7, all day long, and they are continually chasing the data by developing algorithms to tease out the interesting interactions? Thanks.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 17, 2012 #2


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    Re: Lhc

    The latter. The LHC collides particles 24/7 when operating. To date is has done over 1 trillion collision events. The amount of data generated is so high the individual detectors are programmed to only up-channel "interesting" events, and to ignore others. IE they only record certain events that the scientists want, as the amount of data generated in each collision is staggering and would overwhelm the data processing capabilities of the LHC and supporting equipment if every single detection event were recorded in its entirety.

    For the life of me I can't remember where I found all this information at. If I find it again I'll get you a link.
  4. Oct 17, 2012 #3
    Re: Lhc

    Thanks Drakkith.
  5. Oct 18, 2012 #4


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    You can monitor the LHC operation live here.
  6. Nov 23, 2012 #5
    Just to flesh this out a bit.

    The accelerator is NOT in operation 24/7 - e.g. it is not constantly colliding. There is a lot of time where it is down for light maintenaince, awaiting re-injection, etc.

    Typically speaking, you're looking at 30 minutes for injection, 30 minutes for the ramp to 4 TeV, and then 30-45 minutes to achieve stable beams, and then it goes into recordable/useful data.

    The triggers designed to pre-select interesting events are generally very stable. Changing them means changing efficiencies, and makes life much harder. Triggers will only be changed if absolutely necessary - e.g. if a major flaw is found in a trigger.
  7. Nov 23, 2012 #6


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    Nice theory :/
    Triggers can change with running conditions, physics goals and so on. And every improvement of the reconstruction can lead to trigger changes, too.

    The LHC had ~1700 hours in stable beams since april 1, which corresponds to ~30% overall efficiency. Without technical stops / machine development blocks, this increases to something like ~40%.
  8. Nov 23, 2012 #7
    Yes, but at the same time, for the purpose of making analyses consistent, you avoid changing the triggers unless absolutely necessary. Triggers were changed alot going from 7 TeV to 8 TeV because of cross-section changes - so for example more pre-scaling on softer triggers was introduced to suppress rates (some lines now prescaled to 1%), but the 'optimal' scenario would be uniform implementation of a trigger over one 'state'. I can't speak for how it is implemented on ATLAS, but I do know they currently quote something like 6? or 7? discrete data taking periods (Run A onwards).

    Within what I've seen done at LHCb, I can only think of two analyses where the triggers were changed within a period of data taking - one because there was a serious flaw in the trigger making the trigger efficiency extremely low, and another where the pre-scaling killed the event yield for a very rare decay process. Most of the triggers are loose enough that changes in the reconstruction are propagated to a later stage, rather than effecting the triggers (at least in my own experience). If you look at LHCb, for example, the L0 trigger is a very 'crude' trigger almost, just looking for high Pt events (not quite true, but fundamentally), and then it is stripped off by the HLT. And ultimately, interesting events are interesting events. LHCb was built with muons in mind, and indeed that remains true today - muons get triggered on.

    And, yes. That sounds about right. Last year the general motif was to try run 12 hours of physics collisions and 12 hours of machine development to allow increasing the number of bunches (amongst other things). This year is much more focused on data accumulation. But the point is, it is not in operation 24/7.
  9. Nov 23, 2012 #8


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    Well, reality can be far away from this optimal scenario. I saw analyses which had ~5 different triggers, corresponding to different data taking periods or other conditions within a single year (LHCb). Ok, I think this was 2010, where luminosity was increased by several orders of magnitude during the year and triggers had to adapt to that. But 2-3 different trigger settings within a year is not uncommon for 2011/2012 data. L0 and HLT1 are fine, HLT2 with its many individual trigger lines can change.
  10. Nov 23, 2012 #9
    ah ha

    but alot of those early LHCb triggers were entirely MC driven, and the rates don't correspond to what you get in data (For example). Or you find out, as has been done recently, a couple triggers are much worse in their reconstruction efficiency than you would expect (for example).

    2010 is just clearly detector commissioning, ultimately, and that applies as much to the triggers. In 2011 the only triggers I'm personally aware of being changed were either pre-scaling for rate suppression or because of a serious flaw in them. It's not so nice having to adapt your analysis for multiple data taking periods (etc).

    Stripping lines after the fact, yes, they can change, that's a different story, but the actual information is still written to disk and stored on a tier 1 site somewhere.
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