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Posts Tagged ‘San Diego’

Not a day at the beach

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

Only two weeks left until the end of the academic year! This is always a very busy period, which is my excuse for not writing anything recently. Very little academic business gets done around the university during the summer, so all sorts of things need to get wrapped up before we get to the end of the term, and there are always so many year-end events for our students too. And of course I still have my class to teach; this is going farily smoothly, but I will probably need every last minute in the next two weeks (or at least until I have prepared the final exam) to bring it to a happy ending.
As it happens, I also have a cluster of research-related travel right now — not helpful for getting my teaching done, but it gives me something to write about. I spent some of this week in San Diego, where those of us working on CMS software and computing gathered to discuss the state of the world. These meetings are more typically at CERN, but someone (I’m not even sure who, actually) came up with the brilliant idea of doing them next to an ocean this time instead. That’s great for me — not the ocean part, so much, but it’s always a challenge for me to get to CERN, what with the long distance and the fact that it’s hard to go for less than a week. For these meetings, I was able to teach on Tuesday morning and catch a flight here that night, and still attend most of the workshop.
As has been true for some time, the question we have been struggling with is are we ready for the start of the LHC, and if not what do we have to do to get there. I think that the greatest value of this meeting (heck, any meeting, I suppose) was to bring together groups of people who don’t usually talk. It turns out that there were cases of people working on different aspects of particular problems who had very different understandings of some of the issues. For instance, there was a dispute over whether “24 hours” actually meant 24 hours, or something more like 48 hours. And in some cases, one group of people didn’t know about work that another group was doing that could in fact be very useful to the first group. In short, there’s nothing like actually getting people in the same room to explain themselves to each other.
But once again, I was struck by just how complicated this experiment will be. The challenge from the computing perspective is how interconnected everything is. We want to make sure that a user can’t do anything that could essentially knock over a site (or possibly the whole distributed computing system) by accident. Certainly there were times in the meetings when someone would ask, “why do we have to make it so hard?” but honestly, sometimes it just is that hard.
Anyhow, next week I’ll be in Denver for the April general meeting of the American Physical Society. I’ll write about it then…much more physics content, I promise!

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