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Frank Simon | MPI for Physics | Germany

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The IEEE/NSS conference: Exciting new Technology, Fun… and suffering

Today is already the last day of the IEEE/NSS conference, at least for me. And contrary to what I promised, there has not been a blog entry on the conference yet. That is not really a bad sign, though: The conference is very interesting, with quite a few exciting new developments that are being presented here. And of course meeting colleagues is always fun, one of the main reasons to go to a conference after all.

Personally, the presentation I found most exciting was the development of a digital silicon photomultiplier by Philips… I think I have already written something about silicon photomultipliers (SiPMs) here at some point: Small silicon devices, that can detect single photons, and which are used in thousands in the CALICE prototype hadron calorimeter, and will be used in millions in a complete ILC detector. Now, the exciting thing about the new device is that it has a lot of intelligence already built in: It does not send out an analog signal that is proportional to the number of photons it saw, but a truly digital number. It can also provide information on the  timing of the individual photons, which might also be very useful for us. Now, the present first prototype the engineer from Philips presented is not yet fit to use in a calorimeter, but I had a quite long and very informative discussion with him about the prospects… Lets see where this is going, I’m definitely very interested to try out one of these new devices at some point! And I was not the only one interested in the talk: SiPMs are one of the hottest (if not THE hottest) topic at the conference: Apart from their application in highly granular calorimeters, which was actually the first large-scale use of these things, they are the coming thing in PET medical imaging. And that is of course a field where a lot of money is, consequently leading to a lot of interest. The room where the session was held was way to small, so mid-session the room had to be expanded, doubling its size, while disturbing one of the speakers in the session… And still people where standing in the doors.

Ingrid and me during lunch at the pool... Nice to be outside in the warm air!

Ingrid and me during lunch at the pool... Nice to be outside in the warm air!

Of course it’s not all work here… I met fellow Quantum Diarist Ingrid, and we just had lunch at the pool… The sunshine was a fantastic opportunity to warm up from the way over-airconditioned meeting rooms, the picture shows me with one sleeve rolled up, the other one still down to ward of the chill inside the rooms. That is something I never understand about conference centers in the US: I know AC is important to keep the humidity out, but if it is 30 degrees outside, sitting in a room at 18 degrees is just crazy. The fact that you have to bring winter clothes to survive a conference is just plain ridiculous. A large fraction of the attendees already has a cold… Another thing I don’t understand is why the conference is not able to provide a reasonable bandwidth for the internet connection. The reason I’m typing this post right now is that I’m waiting to download an important document I need to prepare a talk… A 10 MB pdf. Nowadays, this should be a matter of seconds, but here it takes 15 Minutes… IEEE conferences are notoriously bad with this for some reason, while most conferences I attended in the last years have provided excellent internet connectivity. Everybody here has a laptop, and we all need to check email from time to time… The slow network just leads to a lot of wasted time, I’ve already missed some talks because of this.

Still, the scientific quality, and of course the many interesting discussions, far outweigh these problems… Definitely a worthwhile event!

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