I didn't actually intend to visit the Synchrotron. I didn't actually know it was right next door (honestly – I don't exaggerate) to the Centre for Biomedical Imaging at Monash University in Melbourne until I arrived there on Monday. Somehow I managed to get myself tagged onto a tour with a group of students.
The synchrotron is a machine for producing broadband high energy X-rays (plus a lot of other lower energy electromagnetic radiation) for a variety of purposes – what they are used for depends on who has set up their experiment at the time. Electrons are accelerated to high energies, and then when they are bent they emit high-intensity broadband radiation in a very narrow beam- very useful stuff for physicists. We saw a bit of the gear needed to do the job – lots of magnets and electromagnetic cavities for accelerating the electrons with alternating electromagnetic fields. What I loved was the method for tuning the cavities. Someone would adjust them by punching tiny dents into the side of the metal (lots of copper here) at the right places – a low technology solution to a high technology problem.
What was I doing next door? I was in Melbourne last week visiting some potential collaborators. This coming week I'll be talking with some more – this time in Perth. I took the opportunity today to travel out to Rottnest Island and see the quokka (what's a quokka?) – a beautiful day trip from the city. But back to work on Tuesday.