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!