Hibernation - Not!
February 10, 2010

Given the time of the year, and the lack of a recent Montage, you would be forgiven for wondering whether the director had gone into hibernation or succumbed to the very real winter we have been experiencing this year. In fact neither is the case, and it’s certainly not true for the laboratory as a whole.

Following the holiday period at the end of December and start of January, the laboratory has actually been hard at it. The accelerator is shut down, but work has proceeded in the tunnel and in the halls. Cryomodules have been shuffled in preparation for the summer experimental campaign and the moves have also involved the accelerator in the Free-Electron Laser facility. Notably, the first tunnel installation activities for the 12 GeV accelerator were also completed.

Following a very successful period of running in the fall - when a pair of parity-violation experiments in Hall A, DVCS experiments in Hall B, and a hypernuclear spectroscopy experiment in Hall C were completed - we are now preparing for the next wave. Installation of the Q-weak experiment is well underway in Hall C, where, for example, the eight coils of the toroid are now mounted. The components of this magnet came, in part, from Canada and were pre-assembled and tested at the MIT Bates laboratory. In Hall A, the polarimetry is being upgraded in preparation for the sensitive measurement of parity violating scattering from lead. This will give a fairly direct measure of the neutron skin of lead. Finally in Hall B, FROST (the FROzen Spin Target) is being mounted for the next round of the campaign to understand the nucleon and its excitations.

In late January, we enjoyed a very interesting physics meeting. It is not labeled a conference, but in many ways the physics Program Advisory Committee (PAC) is just that, with the added spice of a sense of competition. On the first morning, Hall A Staff Scientist Doug Higinbotham remarked to me that the PAC is really enjoyable because he always learns from the ideas of others that he often hears for the first time at this meeting. Once again, we saw the enthusiasm of the community for the potential of the 12 GeV machine. There were also a couple of new twists. We heard about a letter of intent and a proposal to search for a “dark photon” – something of an oxymoron you might say. Its existence could explain a number of puzzling results associated with the dark matter that makes up a significant part of the universe. We also began the process of assigning scientific priorities and beam time allocations for those 12 GeV proposals that have approval; the first round in this process covered mainly measurements of the nucleon form factors.

During the fall, the construction work for Hall D was hampered by the ample rainfall. Jokes circulated about the Hall D swimming pool. Since Christmas, the precipitation has changed from colorless to white. However, the hardy construction crews put in extra hours a couple of weeks ago to complete two large concrete pours; each pour used the night as well as the day in a continuous burst. I am happy to report that we now have a foundation floor for the hall, and with no injuries requiring more than first aid. This is a great start to construction for the year.

And last but not least, we have been worrying about money. This is the budget season. We get to spend several hours talking to the DOE Office of Nuclear Physics (ONP) about what we can and cannot do within various budget scenarios. ONP kicked the process off earlier this year, and we prepared written material for submission on Jan. 15. That preceded the president’s State of the Union address and the publication of his budget request for 2011. So, our preparation was based on a set of hypothetical scenarios. Had the weather not hit Washington this month, we would be making our presentations on Friday. We will try again in a couple of weeks.

Not surprisingly, it turned out that one of the scenarios we had been given was a very accurate prediction of what actually appeared in the president’s budget. In fact, it is a reasonable budget, which supports the 12 GeV Upgrade Project as planned, a new utilities initiative, and will permit a strong program of operations in 2011. As far as we can tell, this applies not only to CEBAF, but to other nuclear physics facilities as well. What we are still working out are the details that will impact the physics program in 2012. Meanwhile, Congress will begin its deliberations on the president's proposal.

So, no! We have not been hibernating. In fact, the lab has been a veritable hive of winter activity.