The 4 letters of the acronym CERN provide the best introduction of our methods:
C for Collaboration between nations, labs and people.
E for Education: ATLAS counts more than 1000 students.
R for Research: "all results shall be published in peer reviewed scientific journals" is our golden rule.
N for New technologies: developed in all institutes to archive our goals, then available for society.
To investigate the fundamental processes of nature at the LHC, the ATLAS scientists had to design a detector of unprecedented size and complexity. New technologies had to be found for radiation tolerant electronics that consume less power, for high speed data acquisition and for light - yet strong - support structures. The 46 m long and 25 m high ATLAS detector is the product of a world wide effort from universities, laboratories and industry. Detector components were developed, produced and tested in each of the participating countries before being brought to CERN and assembled into the underground cavern. The institutes who have collaborated to build a part of ATLAS share the responsibilities of running and maintaining it for the entire experiment lifetime.
On the other hand, the ATLAS data is available to all collaboration members, and analyses are pursued all over the world on different physics topics. Here, few numbers are enough to set the scene : the rate of events streaming out of the ATLAS detector when beam is running is about 400 Hz, each event has a size of the order of 1.5 MB, and we do have at least 150 "physics" days per year... we are thus talking about 1 billion events per year, several Petabytes ! Same for simulated data, which are produced on the GRID and tell us what each physics process would look like in our detector if it was produced at the LHC. Physicists thus go back and forth between data and simulation, comparing and improving every detail while manipulating very large sets of files. We are talking here about 4 millions lines of code and ATLAS counts about 1000 software developers.
Graduate students play an important role in the operation of ATLAS and physics analysis, and after their degree many go on to apply their skills in fields as diverse as science, medicine, industry, government, finance and journalism.
- The strength of a worldwide collaboration , an eyewitness account by Peter Jenni
- Who really found the Higgs boson ? Wonders the 18th issue of Nautilus dedicated to Genius and collective intelligence.
- Students and post-docs are often the authors of the nicest blogs, for example on the occasion of the first World wide ATLAS PhD grants or Conversation on shift while waiting for data, but also interviews.
- What science for what society ? Reflecting the development of big science : a "conference publique" given by a sociologist (Prof. Felt, Ulrike, Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Vienna) on the occasion of the CERN 60th anniversary