CMS-Inspired Guitar Will Rock Your Hadrons Off!


Physicists celebrated the discovery of the Higgs boson — excuse me, a “Higgs-like particle” — in many different ways. But Piotr Traczyk, a member of the CMS collaboration, found an especially unique means of doing so. He created his own CMS-inspired electric guitar, completed just in time for the annual CERN Hardronic Festival.


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Writing on CERN’s website, Tracyk described his ten years as a particle physicist on the CMS collaboration, and even longer career as an enthusiastic guitarist.

“When I became interested in guitar building, I realized that I need to build a ‘CMS guitar.’ A one-of-a-kind instrument that — like the CMS detector — would be a prototype of itself…. It would also be a way of celebrating the experiment and showing how I proud I am to be part of it,” he writes.

He added: “Also, I thought it would be really cool.”

It is really cool. Traczyk didn’t build the whole thing from scratch; he admitted on his blog (which chronicles the entire project) that would have been beyond his skills. But he was able to modify an existing used instrument to get just the guitar he wanted.

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He took a classic photograph of the CMS detector — a head-on view showing the detector’s “interaction” point where the protons collide — and had it imprinted on a 600-piece jigsaw puzzle.

Then he put the puzzle together, and “cut out” the pieces he wanted to be on the face of the guitar. He attached them piece by piece and finished it off with a nice clear coat lacquer.

Tracyk also incorporated a couple of pixel detector prototypes, a tin surface divided into around 4000 readout “pixels” to detect particle tracks from the collisions, into the guitar volume knob. And he only kept the first five frets, since he was intrigued by the notion of a fretless guitar.

You can check out the finished product in the video below, of Tracyk’s performance with his band, Miss Proper and the Moving Target, at the 2012 CERN Hardronic Festival. He knocked out a killer rendition of ZZ Top’s “Sharp-Dressed Man,” thereby demonstrating that particle physicists can rock out with the best of them.

Credit: Piotr Traczyk/CERN

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