Visitors’ Centre revamp

22 February 2010

Legend showing a slice of the ATLAS detector as represented on the Visitors' Centre stairwell

In preparation for the media descending on Point 1 on ‘First Physics Day’, the ATLAS Visitors’ Centre has undergone a few improvements in recent weeks. Designer Juliette Davenne, who was in charge of the original project as well as the upgrade, gave ATLAS e-News a quick tour of the new additions.

Firstly, ATLAS guides will be pleased to hear that it is now possible to navigate forwards and backwards within the presentation material on the interactive touch screen. In the case of the shortest presentation, individual slides can actually be selected from a strip at the bottom of the screen – handy when you have a time-pressed VIP and need to pick just one or two crucial slides to display.

Elsewhere, the gesture-sensitive glass screen in the centre of the room now has audio, with the option of film commentaries in French, English, or German.

The hemispheric ‘globe’ screen, which displays real-time geographical hits on the public website, also has new additional functionality. Visitors can explore ATLAS’s administrative structure – highlighting Member States, Observers, and Candidates separately – and they can see how the 172 institutions are distributed across 37 countries with ATLAS Collaboration member institutions.

“It shows to visitors that almost all the world belongs to the ATLAS Collaboration,” says Juliette.

Over by the window looking onto shifters in the Control Room, live event display images flash up on a small screen, the ATLAS public website can be explored, and a Google Earth application shows real-time data transfer from CERN to ATLAS institutes across the planet via the Grid.

On the coffee table in the seating area, a new scale model of the detector may seem like a bit of a low-tech addition to the existing interactive suite, but in fact the 60 by 30 centimetre structure is invaluable for giving people a tangible 3D impression of the detector when they can’t go underground to see it for themselves.

And finally, the route that tour groups follow, as they head upstairs to watch the soon-to-be re-mastered, higher quality 3D film, has become a little more colourful. The wall of the stairwell is now painted with a 1:1 scale representation of a slice right through the detector, with particle tracks emanating outwards from the ‘centre’ at the top of the stairs.

“The idea is to give the visitor a feel for the size of the detector compared to themselves,” Juliette explains.

Of course, arguably the most exciting thing visitors can see remains the people busy on shift behind the glass window. The Visitors’ Centre is currently receiving around 1200 guests per month, and the ATLAS Secretariat registers over 100 visit requests some days.  That’s a lot of people interested in ATLAS; expect numbers to rise.

Scale model of the ATLAS detector


Ceri Perkins

ATLAS e-News