I met beautiful people in Los Angeles earlier this month: smart, talented students, all destined for great careers. They welcomed me to their high schools and their after-school programmes, all well-equipped with computing, electronics, a robotics lab and, above all, a brilliant staff of teachers.
This past Spring, I had the opportunity to travel to Taos, New Mexico, USA, to work with artist Agnes Chavez, on one of her “Projecting Particles” workshops. Her innovative programme aims to develop STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) skills in students aged 8 and up, employing a mixture of science education and artistic expression. It is a winning combination for everyone involved.
My colleagues and I are in town to attend the 22nd International Conference on Computing in High Energy and Nuclear Physics (CHEP 2016, for short). I like to think of us as the nerds of the nerds. Computing, networking, software, middleware, bandwidth, and processors are the topics of discussion, and there is indeed much to talk about.
A few weeks ago, I found myself in one of the most beautiful places on earth: wedged between a metallic cable tray and a row of dusty cooling pipes at the bottom of Sector 13 of the ATLAS Detector at CERN. My wrists were scratched from hard plastic cable ties, I had an industrial vacuum strapped to my back, and my only light came from a battery powered LED fastened to the front of my helmet. It was beautiful.
Amazing, incredible, emotional. These are uncommon words for summarizing the annual accomplishments of a particle physics experiment. Yet 2012 has been a fantastically uncommon year for ATLAS, one of the main experiments at CERN: marvellous machine performance, numerous and interesting physics results, plenty of interactions with students and general public, and - last but not least - a major discovery!
The clock just turned 2:00 a.m., again, on LHC Page One – the machine’s online status viewer – and I’m pondering just how I ended up on the longest shift of the year. I normally love this evening, snuggling under a warm comforter for that extra hour of late-autumn sleep. But, this year, on the very hour we ‘fall back’, I am cuddling with the controls of ATLAS’s 46 meter long muon spectrometer, a bar of chocolate and an extra cup of coffee. So be it.