Swedish governmental officials visit ATLAS

17 March 2008

Lars Leijonborg (second from right), Minister for Higher Education and Research of Sweden, visiting the Control Room

With the ATLAS detector scheduled to close to the public soon, VIPs are taking advantage of their last chance to view the ATLAS detector at close quarters on 10th March, it was the turn of Lars Leijonborg, the Swedish Minister of Higher Education and Research, and Professor Per Omling, the Director General of the Swedish Research Council.

“We wanted to show the Minister what we are doing, and explain why we want to do basic research,” says Kerstin Jon-And. “We thought it would be important for our minister to see this huge experiment and get a feeling for what CERN is like.”

The Swedish delegates met representatives from Sweden’s four groups in ATLAS and one group in ALICE, before taking a tour of CERN and ATLAS. The tour began with a presentation by Robert Aymar, before moving on to the ATLAS Control Room. There, the newly appointed ATLAS Deputy Run Coordinator, Christophe Clement of Stockholm University, talked about the successful recording of cosmic events in ATLAS that had taken place just the night before the visit.

The tour continued with a trip to the ATLAS detector led by Peter Jenni. “Peter had made a good plan,” says Kerstin. “When you go down to the normal viewing platform you can’t see anything these days because the end-cap toroids are out of the midline position – right in front of you. So Peter took them round to the other side where they had a better view.”

Later, there was an informal discussion. “We told the minister what we were about to do – to explore new physics is the goal of everybody,” says Kerstin. “Professor Omling thought that other sciences could learn from us because we’re now used to working in this enormous collaboration. He found it interesting that this sort of organisation is even possible – and it obviously is, we managed to build this huge detector with contributions from all over the world!”

Professor Omling later signed the Memorandum of Understanding of the Worldwide LHC Computing GRID Collaboration, and Kerstin says that both he and Minister Leijonborg were impressed by the e-science and computing initiatives at CERN and ATLAS. “They realise that computing and e-science development could have importance beyond our field,” says Kerstin. “Just like the World Wide Web is no longer important only to us, the GRID concept could also spread and be important for many other fields.”

Minister Leijonborg seemed keen to recommend to the Swedish Government that more money be committed to e-science, says Kerstin. “He asked some good questions during his visit,” she says. “Including: if you find the Higgs, what will it look like and how will you know it’s there? That gave us the opportunity to say that it’s a long process. Before we can say anything we have to rule out ordinary physics, and show that it’s not just an artefact of the detector not working before we conduct a statistical analysis to make sure we see a signal.”

Colin Barras


Colin Barras