US ATLAS Construction: Check! July 2, 2008Posted by gordonwatts in ATLAS, science, USA.
This is a by-product of big science – and the resulting management and budget oversight. The last bit of the ALTAS detector was shipped over to CERN a long long time ago. For example, at UW, we spent almost three years running continuous production for the forward muon chambers (the picture is that of one of them being lifted into place). The last one left our lab more than 2 years ago (might even have been 3 now). In fact, an astro-physics experiment has chopped up the large granite block and taken over the space already.
A project like ATLAS evolves. There is no real beginning. And it will be hard to identify an end. People will be working on it long after it has ceased to take data, for example.
But that isn’t true for the bureaucracy. Budgets and oversight demand a definite start and a definite end. And that just happened for the construction phase for the ATLAS project in the USA. The budget was tied off. No more money for construction. All wrapped up.
I originally wasn’t going to write anything about this. From the point of view of science and public interest in how ATLAS is doing this is, basically, a non-event. What do you care as long as ATLAS sees collisions and produces physics? You don’t care so much about the meat grinder aspect, just that the sausage tastes good, right?
It was the fairly continuous stream of emails that came after the announcement that changed my mind. It has slowed to a trickle now, but there is still about one a day congratulating everyone involved. From the point of view of the managers and people working in the funding agencies this is really a very big deal. BTW — most of the people managing this both inside and outside the funding agencies are scientists or ex-scientists themselves. At any rate — many of these folks labor outside the public eye, but they have done a great job keeping ATLAS going in the USA. After all, without funding, there is no way I or anyone else could participate in the physics! Howard Gordon, at Brookhaven, is mostly singled out for keeping the project on track, though many other names are mentioned.
As one of the congratulatory messages said: “On to operations!”… which happens to be what the physics phase of the funding will be called. Weird to see how the bureaucracy in a project like this maps to the real life.
UPDATE: Fixed Howard Gordon’s affiliation.