Skip to main content
Things Carried

Panduit cable ties

We have over 3,000 kilometers of cable. These are run-of-the-mill ties we use all over the place. In a pinch, we've also been known to use them as measuring sticks. And sometimes, when we run out of caution tape, we string together quite a few and use them to cordon off an area we don't want people to disturb.

Lab jacket

We had one of those mechanical kung fu chipmunks in the lab. He became a mascot for our team, so we made these patches for our standard, lab-issued jackets.

Dosimeter

These measure your dose of radiation. The one on top is active and reads out your dose as you get it. The lower one gives you your cumulative dose each month. When we initially started working during this shutdown period, we didn't know how radioactive it would be. They sent in teams to measure, but we still had to plan everything before knowing how radioactive it was.

RaidSonic Icy Box IB-PBa7800 battery

This is for my phone and GoPro camera. I'm doing a film project with a friend to film all of this shutdown period. People don't understand what happens down there.

Facom pliers and screwdriver

We carry around general tools. If you go in and forget a wrench, it probably takes an hour to come back up, get the wrench, and then come back down.

Petzl safety helmet

We work on several stories of scaffolding. Murphy's Law says the guys above us will occasionally drop a wrench.

GoPro camera

I've been using the GoPro as a documentary kind of thing, but I've seen more and more people using them to refer back to their work.

Opsial gloves

We don't want to transfer finger oil to the stuff we're installing. Theoretically, sweat and finger oil could lead to corrosion in certain conditions.

Clean-room shoes

We took the entire detector package out on a crane and refurbished it in our clean room. We were connecting all these panels of pipes. From one side, we named the panels from the left, looking toward the center. From the other side, we named them from the right. I kept getting confused, so I just put the L and R on my shoes so I could look at the detector and know.

WorkForce tool pouch

The electronics are extremely high-tech, but the tools are often not and the work is more hands-on and artisanal. There's a craftsman kind of mentality. We tend to look more like cabinetmakers than high-tech engineers.

Bolts and caps

We often use bolts made of either carbon fiber or PEEK [polyether ether ketone]. These materials have lower radiation than metals but are still quite strong. This means they cannot break without serious damage. And because of their low mass, they won't degrade as much as other metals.

Ergo kneepads

I spend a lot of time crawling on my knees to get to the work area. Then there's scaffolding all over the place. Sometimes I'm at the wrong height for what I need to be working on, so I'm kneeling to fix things all the time. The kneepads are not required, but they keep me from feeling like an old man at the end of the day.

The Things They Carried

The Supercollider Handyman

Interview by Kelly DiNardo | Photographs by Niels Ackermann

Neal David Hartman likens his job to that of a miner: He spends much of his day deep underground, disconnected from the world. But Hartman's work is more high-tech than that of the average mineworker. A mechanical engineer at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland, Hartman does repairs and refurbishments on the world's largest, most powerful particle accelerator. This machine, which uses magnets to smash together particles moving at almost the speed of light, allowed scientists to identify the Higgs boson in 2012. Better known as the "God particle," the Higgs boson helps explain why much of the universe's mass exists.

Neil David Hartman

"It is the most bizarre mine you can imagine," Hartman says of the ring-shaped tunnel, nearly 17 miles long, that houses the accelerator. (Among other things, it is home to more than 1,600 superconducting magnets.) "It really is like another dimension where we're mining knowledge, not minerals."

After operating successfully for three years (and helping two scientists win the Nobel Prize in physics), CERN's accelerator was shut down for maintenance in February 2013. Now Hartman and dozens of other engineers pass through a biometric reader each day, descend underground to enter the machine, which stands eight stories high, and crawl inside different pockets to do their respective work. Hartman's job is to design, install, and maintain one of the accelerator's smallest subdetectors, which records and maps the particles flying out from superfast collisions.

The accelerator is set to start back up in early 2015, with nearly double the energy it had before. Scientists are hoping to use it to re-create the conditions that existed just fractions of a second after the Big Bang. "We want to understand the fundamental laws of nature," Hartman says. "There will always be something more to understand about our world, about where we come from. The work we do here is all geared towards answering those questions."

Foreign Policy sat down with Hartman at the CERN cafeteria -- which looks like your average college eating spot -- to learn about what he brings with him into the "bizarre mine."

Panduit cable ties -- We have over 3,000 kilometers of cable. These are run-of-the-mill ties we use all over the place. In a pinch, we've also been known to use them as measuring sticks. And sometimes, when we run out of caution tape, we string together quite a few and use them to cordon off an area we don't want people to disturb.

Bolts and caps -- We often use bolts made of either carbon fiber or PEEK [polyether ether ketone]. These materials have lower radiation than metals but are still quite strong. This means they cannot break without serious damage. And because of their low mass, they won't degrade as much as other metals.

Lab jacket -- We had one of those mechanical kung fu chipmunks in the lab. He became a mascot for our team, so we made these patches for our standard, lab-issued jackets.

Clean-room shoes -- We took the entire detector package out on a crane and refurbished it in our clean room. We were connecting all these panels of pipes. From one side, we named the panels from the left, looking toward the center. From the other side, we named them from the right. I kept getting confused, so I just put the L and R on my shoes so I could look at the detector and know.

WorkForce tool pouch -- The electronics are extremely high-tech, but the tools are often not and the work is more hands-on and artisanal. There's a craftsman kind of mentality. We tend to look more like cabinetmakers than high-tech engineers.

Opsial gloves -- We don't want to transfer finger oil to the stuff we're installing. Theoretically, sweat and finger oil could lead to corrosion in certain conditions.

GoPro camera -- I've been using the GoPro as a documentary kind of thing, but I've seen more and more people using them to refer back to their work.

Facom pliers and screwdriver -- We carry around general tools. If you go in and forget a wrench, it probably takes an hour to come back up, get the wrench, and then come back down.

RaidSonic Icy Box IB-PBa7800 battery -- This is for my phone and GoPro camera. I'm doing a film project with a friend to film all of this shutdown period. People don't understand what happens down there.

Ergo kneepads -- I spend a lot of time crawling on my knees to get to the work area. Then there's scaffolding all over the place. Sometimes I'm at the wrong height for what I need to be working on, so I'm kneeling to fix things all the time. The kneepads are not required, but they keep me from feeling like an old man at the end of the day.

Loading graphics

Welcome to a world of insight.

Make the most of FP.

Explore the benefits of your FP subscription. Explore the benefits included in your subscription.

Stay updated on the topics you care about with email alerts. Sign up below. Stay updated on the topics you care about with email alerts. Sign up below.

Choose a few newsletters that interest you. Get more insight in your inbox.

Here are some we think you might like. Update your newsletter preferences.

  • Morning Brief thumbnail
  • Africa Brief thumbnail
  • Latin America Brief thumbnail
  • China Brief thumbnail
  • South Asia Brief thumbnail
  • Situation Report thumbnail

Keep up with the world without stopping yours. Keep up with the world without stopping yours.

Download the FP mobile app to read anytime, anywhere. Download the new FP mobile app to read anytime, anywhere.

Download on the App Store
  • Read the magazine
  • Save articles (and read offline)
  • Customize your feed
  • Listen to FP podcasts
Download on the Apple App Store
Download on the Google Play Store

Analyze the world’s biggest events. Analyze the world’s biggest events.

Join in-depth conversations and interact with foreign-policy experts with Join in-depth conversations and interact with foreign-policy experts with

A Russian flag at the Embassy of Russia is seen through a bus stop post in Washington, DC on April 15, 2021. - The US announced sanctions against Russia on April 15, 2021, and the expulsion of 10 diplomats in retaliation for what Washington says is the Kremlin's US election interference, a massive cyber attack and other hostile activity. President Joe Biden ordered a widening of restrictions on US banks trading in Russian government debt, expelled 10 diplomats who include alleged spies, and sanctioned 32 individuals alleged to have tried to meddle in the 2020 presidential election, the White House said. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
A Russian flag at the Embassy of Russia is seen through a bus stop post in Washington, DC on April 15, 2021. - The US announced sanctions against Russia on April 15, 2021, and the expulsion of 10 diplomats in retaliation for what Washington says is the Kremlin's US election interference, a massive cyber attack and other hostile activity. President Joe Biden ordered a widening of restrictions on US banks trading in Russian government debt, expelled 10 diplomats who include alleged spies, and sanctioned 32 individuals alleged to have tried to meddle in the 2020 presidential election, the White House said. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Do U.S. Sanctions Work?

✓  

Registered

  |   Ask a Question Ask a Question   |   Add to Calendar
  1. Only FP subscribers can submit questions for FP Live interviews.

    ALREADY AN FP SUBSCRIBER?

  2. Only FP subscribers can submit questions for FP Live interviews.

    ALREADY AN FP SUBSCRIBER?

When Washington seeks to curtail Beijing’s ambitions or punish Moscow for its war in Ukraine, it often turns to a familiar tool: sanctions. In the last two years, the Biden administration ...Show more

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - DECEMBER 29:  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir react after sworn in at the Israeli parliament during a new government sworn in discussion at the Israeli parliament on December 29, 2022 in Jerusalem, Israel. Conservative Benjamin Netanyahu and a bloc of nationalist and religious parties won a clear election victory last month and will be sworn in as government to the Knesset today. This completes Netenyahu's political comeback with a record sixth term in office.  (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - DECEMBER 29: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir react after sworn in at the Israeli parliament during a new government sworn in discussion at the Israeli parliament on December 29, 2022 in Jerusalem, Israel. Conservative Benjamin Netanyahu and a bloc of nationalist and religious parties won a clear election victory last month and will be sworn in as government to the Knesset today. This completes Netenyahu's political comeback with a record sixth term in office. (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)

Israel’s Democratic Decline

✓  

Registered

  |   Ask a Question Ask a Question   |   Add to Calendar
  1. Only FP subscribers can submit questions for FP Live interviews.

    ALREADY AN FP SUBSCRIBER?

  2. Only FP subscribers can submit questions for FP Live interviews.

    ALREADY AN FP SUBSCRIBER?

The new Israeli government is said to be the most far-right, religiously extreme, and ultranationalist coalition in the country’s history, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-ser...Show more

An illustration shows US President Joe Biden surrounded by the foreign-policy issues he has faced in his first two years in office.
An illustration shows US President Joe Biden surrounded by the foreign-policy issues he has faced in his first two years in office.

To mark the halfway point in U.S. President Joe Biden’s first term in office, Foreign Policy asked 20 experts to grade his administration’s performance on relationships with Russia and C...Show more

See what’s trending. See what’s trending.

Most popular articles on FP right now. Most popular articles on FP right now.