Thursday, January 24, 2013


Last week, my pump broke.  As you know.  But as it turned out, two pumps broke that day.

Since the pump was broken, as our lab tech and I were pulling out the broken laser-cooling pump to prepare it to be shipped back, we asked a colleague to turn off pit pump for us.

"Sure,"  He went over and flipped the switch.

"Uh... That didn't work."  I called up to him.  "The pump is still running!"

He called back down, "I've switched it 'on' and 'off' several times now.  Nothing's working?"

Hmm, the switch must have failed.  We went off in search of the pump's breaker.

My colleague found it and flipped the breaker open.  The pump stopped.

And then the alarm went off.
"What?!  We have an alarm on this pump?"  My colleague and I scratched our heads for a second, but then, the noise annoyed us so much that we went and flipped the breaker open.

We continued to take the broken pump out and shipped it off.

The next day, someone came looking for me.  "The pit pump is still running.  Is there a reason for that?"
"Yeah, we can't turn it off."

This week, my task has been to figure out how to turn off the pit pump.  And it's turned into a bigger headache than expected.  For one, the switch isn't broken.  We tested it, several times.  Secondly, the wires go down into this very long complicated series of conduits and boxes and other breakers.  Of course, none of this is labeled.  Third, I generally have no idea what I'm doing.

Today, I walked into the lab tech's office to give a report, "So, I went and pulled the fuses from the wires we were looking at.  I then tested the two wires up above and the circuit was open.  I flipped the breakers closed and nothing turned on.  So the short is happening on the switch end side of the circuit."

The lab tech nodded and another colleague stared at me in amazement.  "Wow, you sound like you know what you're talking about."

Seventh year of my PhD and what am I doing?

Learning the hard way about what it's like to be an electrician.  Alternate career path?

Maybe so.

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