Thursday, July 28, 2005

At the Lab : Jul 27-28

I can't really talk much about what I do publicly. However, I do study Greek and Roman inscriptions, and I do so using synchrotron x-ray radiation.

The lab I'm working at right now -- from July 27th to August 2nd -- is the Cornell High-Energy Synchrotron Source, or CHESS. It's really a quite nice facility, particularly because the staff are very helpful.

The preliminary investigations were done about a year ago, also at CHESS and also by me (principally). I essentially cobbled together some equipment for moving the inscriptions around in front of the x-ray beam (which is fixed in position) from old equipment available. Since then, some of that has been salvaged, much to my chagrin. Fortunately, since then, a staff scientist here has been studying using x-rays to look at paintings. To this end, he built a three-dimensional translation stage (one more dimension than I need) that turns out to hold way more weight than is necessary. It's quite capable of holding the largest inscription I have here. It's very, very nice, so I immediately replaced my sort-of-working equipment with that. He also put together a nice frame grabber for the video camera inside the x-ray hutch (separated from the user by a heavy lead door), making recording where you're looking at all the easier. I also have some help from a fellow graduate student. This is good, because you're supposed to more or less use 100% of the available beam time, which is 24 hours for roughly 6 days. That's hard to do singlehandedly. A lot of the control software is automated, and some of our scans take some 4-8 hours to run, but that still is really packing sleep in there as an afterthought.

My current plans after this entertaining run at CHESS are to visit the barn up on Martha's Vineyard for some rest and relaxation. Delicious!

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