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Monica Dunford | USLHC | USA

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Another ATLAS Week

“ATLAS week” is over. Hallelujah.

I notice that my ability to stay mentally focused through lectures or talks has diminished seriously with age. At the beginning of college I could go through three straight hours of lectures with no problem. By my 4th year it was a good day if 20 minutes of the lecture had passed and I hadn’t yet reached REM sleep. Back then, I had this great sweatshirt. It was incredibly warm and had this really thick, puffy hood. The hood could be rolled just at the back of the neck. And if I slouched down it made the perfect pillow against back of the chair. Eventually I had to get rid of the sweatshirt because it was having such a negative effect on my grades.

During this ATLAS week I managed each day to follow the first two or three talks with vigor, the next two or three with attentive yet forced comprehension, but the two or three after that I was longing for that puffy, warm sweatshirt.

The goal of ATLAS week is for people who are not full time at CERN to come and hear a full status report of ATLAS. It is also for people at CERN to hear the status of the other sub-detectors outside their own area of work. The week is organized first with each sub-detector giving a status report of their system, followed by status of the LHC, the status of ATLAS installation and overall commissioning (such as the commissioning of the magnetic fields and gas systems), software developments, data preparation developments and finally ended with discussions about the strategies of the physics studies. It is five days packed with talks which all take place in CERN’s biggest lecture hall. And still during some talks people have to press in the aisles and doorways.

In a previous posting, I was lamenting about the lack of hit-me-with-the-raw-truth in the detector overview talks. And I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised during this past week. I thought Leonardo Rossi’s talk on the status of the inner detector was particularly good. He just told it like it was. Didn’t make things sound better or worse. And made no excuses. Lyn Evan’s talk on the LHC beam status was also straight to the point and very reassuring. Wild rumors about the beam’s schedule have been plaguing CERN. All of which he claimed were exaggerated and blown out of proportion. But there were a few overview talks (that will remain nameless) where I had the distinct feeling that I was being persuaded to buy a used car that I didn’t really want.

It also occurs to me in these meetings that wireless internet access has actually done a disservice to the high energy physics community. There are indeed many people attending the talks but how many are actually listening? I would scan room and see a room full of people, their faces lit by a soft, blue glow from their laptop screens. Checking their email, browsing the web, frantically putting their own talk together. And I have no justification to take the moral high ground. I am certainly an offender too. When I asked a friend of mine how her talk went, her response went something like ‘It went great. I gave my talk to numerous attentive Dell’s, Vaio’s, Macs and a few human beings’.

Maybe the laptop is the modern version of a warm, hooded sweatshirt.

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