Visit CMS and the LHC with virtual reality

Guest post by Tom McCauley, a physicist and software developer working for the CMS Collaboration.

TL;DR: Point your phone's browser to this URL and use Google Cardboard to take a trip to CERN:

This month marks my tenth year based at CERN working on CMS and in that time I have seen the actual CMS detector twice: once above-ground as parts of it were being prepared to be lowered into the cavern and once underground in the cavern when it was all assembled. I’ve taken some long shifts when the LHC was first delivering collisions so have seen all I want of the CMS control room. It’s not surprising (in fact it’s probably expected) that a member of CMS has visited the underground cavern and control room. I would consider it very rare to have visited the LHC tunnel itself. Of course, if you are not based at CERN visiting any of these sites is impossible.

It occurred to me that since there are some nice panoramic images of the LHC tunnel, of the CMS cavern and of the CMS control room, why not use them to create a web application and allow one to visit rare places like the LHC tunnel in virtual reality in the browser? Actually the thinking was more the other way around: I want to learn a bit more about how to use virtual-reality tools, so what would be a nice thing to work on?

CMS A-Frame in a browser window (Image credit – Tom McCauley; original photograph – Max Brice/CERN)

Test-beam tales: Days 6 and 7

Monday, 22 August

8am: Yet another early morning after a late night. I am getting too old for this (some would disagree with the “getting”). The shifters this morning are the same as those from yesterday morning, who were unfortunate in that there was no beam throughout their shift. They were more fortunate today as the beam was on. But our data acquisition system was not in such good shape. In the middle of the night the system had stopped working. A Windows-based laptop that controls part of the system seemed to have spontaneously rebooted itself!

Test-beam tales: Days 2 and 3

Thursday, 18 August

9am: We reconvened at the test-beam area. First thing on the agenda was a second visit from the safety service, who wanted to see if we could improve on the grounding of our system – to protect people from any possible chance of electrocution. The risk was already extremely low (and, in any case, people are not permitted near the equipment when it is running) but we still managed to improve things a bit.


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