When I was back at Daresbury and I had a three day slot of beamtime to test, build and destroy my gas cell (not in that order) I had a choice. At that time I could travel an hour back home eat relax and travel an hour back to work to continue with the science or I could dig the broken glass out of my hand and the gas cell load another bloody crystal and power on through. Then came the option of staying in the now infamous Daresbury hostile. So the table had turned I could dig the glass out of my face or sleep in the “squalid” rooms of the hostile (yes, that is how I am going to type hostel for the rest of this post). Now I am faced with a large LCD tv, hot and cold running water in my own private bathroom with a shower and a BIG comfy bed. This is true at Ridgeway house at Daresbury Lab South and the Berkeley Lab Guest House. So why would I bother to push the boundaries of science when the boundaries of my bed have not been fully explored. Is two pillows enough or would three be better, perhaps four?
Someone please tell me how my science can be better when there is FREE coffee on tap 24/7? Free, I do not have to pay for it! This can only lead to two things: 1) I can no longer mount crystals because I have the shakes from too much caffeine and 2) even though my bed is o’so lovely I can not sleep because I have overdosed on said caffeine from the first part of this sentence.
So yes I am getting soft, and yes my science is suffering for it. But it is not me I feel sorry for. It is the countless numbers of young scientist who follow me. The ones who think this is what being a synchrotron beamline experimentalist is like. The ones who never went down-pit or walked 20 miles in the snow to and from school up hill both ways whilst wrestling off bears and some such shit.
When it all began, there was a bloke (Ian Munro, I think) who said “Oh’ particle physicist people can I drill a hole in your nice radiation shielding and do some erm experiments with the stuff that comes out”. They said “Yes” and it was good, the stuff that came out that is. You got a think that if they had said no they would have been a lot better off as shortly after they said yes they had lost their facility and it was being pulled and prodded and turned into a full 2nd generation synchrotron. In those day beam started at 08:00 on Monday and ended by 16:00 just in time to go home. Then some bright spark started to leave it in for longer, then overnight and finally over the weekend. So whilst the light was on and the science booming someone forgot to inform the rest of the site that we may need food after 18:00 or a bed to sleep. They were slow to play catch-up and now they have I think they have overshot the mark.
But how can the kids today know about the real synchrotron experience. It is brilliant bringing them to the ALS to work on beamlines without walls which are organic and grown. Unlike DLS which sometimes feels so clean and sterile that even MRSA could not survive there. But still 10 minute refills, continuous top-up/off (why ALS is top-off sounds like some perverse sexual act, who knows) instead of 24 hours of decaying beam then a 40 minute refill, then a beam dump as some muppet had opened their soft radiation beam end station to air and tripped out the safety circuit.
I was told of stories where fire alarms were going off due to a fluorine gas fire at the SRS and the users were being told to leave which they did right back around the other way to their stations, they knew they had only 2 hours until next beam dump and refill and they needed to get their stuff done, their sample would only last those two hours not the necessary four before they could see light again!
So am I soft? Who knows I’ll leave history to decide that one for me but I do know that if my hot chocolate packet is not in my Ridgeway house complementary tea tray or BLGH pot of Major Dickason’s coffee is empty I get a proper monk on irrespective of beam dumps or refills!