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You Need To Be There August 6, 2007

Posted by gordonwatts in CERN, physics life.

Many people ask if you can do ATLAS physics at UW and never travel to CERN. The answer is no. You can do a lot of physics at UW — in fact, I suspect you could do all the physics you wanted — but it would take a lot longer — and you’d never be able to keep up with the people that did travel to CERN.

Coming back from dinner this evening is a case-in-point. The #9 bus, which goes from downtown Geneva to CERN, was packed at 10:30. By the time it thinned out I found myself standing next to a group that sounded like they were from CERN. One thing lead to another and I discovered they were working on GRID software, and, in particular, condor.

This has been one of my pet things — using VM’s (Virtual Machines) to run GRID jobs so you can avoid all the setup issues that generally one has to deal with (i.e. did you get the version of python right? etc.). And it turned out they were experts in using VM’s for doing GRID jobs. I got lots of good ideas out of that — we stood at the bus stop for perhaps another 20 minutes after the bus left exchanging email addresses and names.

All from a chance meeting. It is like the coffee house cooler, but on a bus. 🙂 Travel will always be a necessary part of all types of physics. Too bad, on one hand!



1. Fred - August 7, 2007

Hi Gordon,

Dumb question, but does VM’s stand for virtual machines?


2. gordonwatts - August 7, 2007

Dang it, yes. Sorry about that. Fixing up the text…

3. Fred - August 8, 2007

No, not at all, thanks. In this day and age, two letters together might indicate a slew of other things. It’s just that a good percentage my work this past year has involved producing media for VMware and their business partners. I’ve become punch drunk and indoctrinated with their myriad of solutions and continuing propositions within the IT world. Sometimes I feel like Anthony Quinn’s character in “Requiem for a Heavyweight”. Your case is another scenario where virtualization has been implimented within our research and educational institutions. i.e. Bowdoin College and Loyola Marymount have created a joint venture by incorporating the technology for their disaster recovery plans.

4. chip - August 8, 2007

I fear for our long-term health as an academic discipline in physics departments if our only way to do LHC from the US is to station all of our people there, even if we could. This will be the first HEP experience of decades-long duration in which there will not be anywhere like the necessary number of seats at the host lab. It’s my particular bugaboo. We have to do better. Or, we could station people on the buses as listeners…

I think solving this is about 40% hardware/software and 60% culture. And, like Yogi said, the other 50% is mental.

5. gordonwatts - August 9, 2007

Fred — thanks! That is interesting. VM’s are really cool, and I can’t imagine living without them at this point.

Chip — I hear you. As someone that will be located about 80% of the time back in the USA I’m not sure how it will work either (especially as the labs also disallow various communicatinos technologies — I’ve been using Skype because it is so cross platform (and free) but CERN doesn’t allow it and actively searches for it).

I have not yet seen any tool that really does what you are talking about. For example, IM — even if we mandated that everyone in HEP had to use it, it still requires you to start up a conversation and both of you to be sitting at the computer. That is just far from the same thing as sitting at lunch.

6. chip - August 9, 2007

I know, I know…We have to think Big here. By the way, we’re using Gizmo, which is peer to peer and so doesn’t have the same problems for CERN IT that Skype has. Works like a champ on all platforms (that I know of) from CERN (and local hotels) to all US phones.

7. gordonwatts - August 9, 2007

CHip — p2p is exactly why CERN doesn’t like it… actually, the thing they don’t like is that it could carry someone else’s traffic (some traffic that was non-CERN).

8. M. Simon - August 19, 2007

I saw UW and thought University of Wisconsin.

So I was going to ask some questions about IEC Fusion.

Then I saw on your blog a University of Washington bit.

Oh. Well.

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