1985: First Computing in High Energy Physics (CHEP) conference is held in Amsterdam.
1991 or 1992: I encounter the World Wide Web for the first time. There is no graphical browser for it yet, so I am underwhelmed and not sure what it would ever be good for.
1998: CHEP to be held in Chicago. First time I had heard of the conference, and the thought that popped into my head was, “shoot me if I ever go to that.”
2005: I start to work on computing for the CMS experiment at the LHC.
2007: I attend CHEP in Victoria, Canada. No one shot me.
Last week: 19th CHEP held in New York City, and I was there. There were five hundred people registered, all eager to talk about the latest advances and future directions in software and computing for particle and nuclear physics, and also to explore one of the world’s great cities. (As a native of the New York area, I was happy to play tour guide, although I didn’t expect that I’d end up escorting 17 people to Katz’s over the course of four days.) It was a good opportunity to think about the impact that advances in computing have made on physics.
It’s worth looking at the keynote talk by Glen Crawford of the Department of Energy, who described the role of computing as a key enabling technology for our field. Here is a slide of his that I particularly liked:
On the right is what has become the meme (I guess) that we have been using in the US to illustrate how we need the interplay of scientific explorations in three scientific frontiers — energy, intensity, and cosmic — to understand critical problems in particle physics. But I hadn’t previously seen the diagram in the lower left, which shows the required interplay of advanced technologies to achieve these goals. (It certainly hadn’t occurred to me to put computing on the same footing as, say, the LHC accelerator itself.) Glen goes on to describe how particle physics has long been an early adopter of computing technologies, from networks to grids to the World Wide Web (yes, invented by particle physicists). And, in turn, these technologies have been absolutely necessary to handle the huge amounts of data produced by particle-physics experiments that need to be shared among thousands of researchers all over the world.
Other items that caught my attention:
2013: Next CHEP to be held in Amsterdam. Having survived this one without undue violence, maybe I’ll go to that one too. It will be interesting to see which predictions of this CHEP will have come true by then!