Just got back from a ten day visit to the US, as my workgroup successfully applied for a week of beamtime at the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago. It's a synchtrotron ring used to store a beam of high energy electrons, which were previously brought to relativistic speeds (close to the speed of light) by a linear accelerator and a booster synchrotron before being injected into the main ring, where they can be used to emit high-brilliance X-ray beams for experiments. There are a number of different experiments that can be peformed at beamlines of such large scale devices, of which there are also several in Europe, with BESSY II in Berlin being the one most frequently visited by my group. However, for the experiments we performed now, only this synchrotron has a properly equipped beamline. My group has already been there two years ago, though without me, but the experiment was plagued by a cryostat with a broken temeprature controller... And since the whole purpose of a croystat is to achieve stable low temperatures, the results were not all satisfactory, but still good enough for a nice publication.
This time though, even though we had fewer people (a professor, a PhD student and myself), everything was well planned, we had interesting and properly characterized samples, the beamline had a new closed-cycle cryostat (which doesn't require you to supply liquid helium for it to work) and we got a Lufthansa 747-8 instead of a United 777 (important that). For me, it was the first ever beamtime, and it was probably the best one we've ever had. I always had the impression that beamtimes were always riddled with problems, numerous equipment malfunctions, either everything only starts working when it's too late, or works at first, and then mysteriously dies for no apparent reason. So whenever I heard others talk about their beamtime, it seemed to be a series of catastrophic failures and improvisation. In our case, everything went well, we achieved all important goals and even got a lot of extra stuff done, making the BESSY guys a bit jealous.
I wanted to submit some of my numerous photos while I was there, but ran into a problem: Since you can also post nude photos and whatnot on dA (but no erect dicks!), it was blocked by Argonne's internal network, meaning I had no access to dA whatsoever. A bit annoying, so the pictures just had to wait until I got back. And when I did get back, not having slept at all on the plane thanks to awesome movies, I was too tired to do anything meaningful.
Interestingly, I didn't suffer at all from jetlag. Granted, the time difference of -7 hours isn't that huge compared to what I had to endure in Australia. However, the biggest "advantage" was the fact that the young PhD students worked the night shifts so that our 75 year old Professor could do the day shift. I hope I'll still be this involved and active when I'm 75! Still, I'm sure my body didn't enjoy falling out of bed at 9pm to eat a hefty dinner, spend the night at the beamline, eat a hefty breakfast and then go to bed. I loved that breakfast though... Scrambled eggs with onions, as much bacon as you wanted, hash brown potatoes, pancakes or waffles with maple syrup, a wide selection of cereals... They really know how to feed scientists at the Argonne Guest House!
I was also looking forward to the flights, this being the first time I got to ride in the latest incarnation of the ultimate classic, the 747-8I. Sadly though, Lufthansa crammed so many economy seats into that thing that it did feel much more cramped than the A380s I've been on. Still, on the way there, it was one of the smoothest flights I've ever had, hardly even a hint of rough air, and some awesome views of the frozen world below as we passed over Canada.
So yeah, lots of stuff happening, with no time for train photos, but perhaps my non-train pics will also be sufficiently interesting.