surpasses 1 million hits in 2007

10 March 2008

The rising number of webhits at

The anticipation on site is tangible, now that the final steps in the installation and commissioning of the detector are underway. But whilst all the hard work is going on down in the pit and the ATLAS world prepares for the data to arrive, a small team of people are toiling equally hard to bring that sense of excitement and wonder out into the wider world.

“We’ve created a resource where everyone can find out what ATLAS is, why we’re doing it, and why it’s so important. We want to share our anticipation of what’s about to happen,” says Michael Barnett, senior physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, USA, and co-coordinator of the ATLAS Education and Outreach group.

Together with web developer Paul Schaffner, he is responsible for the ATLAS public website, which last year notched up well over a million hits. In line with the flurry of activity which has ensued in the cavern, it has undergone a complete reinvention since 2005, and now includes gallery, video, glossary, webcam, and press sections, to cater for the massive public interest that is brewing. In that time, annual hits have more than doubled, from 579,000 in 2005, to 1,263,000 in 2007.

“Our main goal is that the information on the site be accessible and engaging for anyone, from the general public, children, students, scientists… right through to the ATLAS researchers themselves,” says Paul, adding, “the collaboration itself involves 2,000 physicists, from 37 countries. It’s really very exciting.”

Currently, a Google search on the term “ATLAS experiment” returns the site as the number one result; while a search on “atlas” brings it up at number eight. This is pretty impressive if you consider all the different things the word might refer to: a book of world maps, a Greek God, a moon of Saturn, a missile, and a mountain range, to name but a few.

But the site isn’t the only way that ATLAS is connecting with the world at large. There is a dedicated ATLAS channel on popular video sharing site YouTube, screening explanatory movies about the experiment; and Google Earth now shows the locations of the LHC and ATLAS, with links to the website. The YouTube presence has been instrumental in capturing the attention of those who may not otherwise have known about ATLAS, and feedback has been encouraging. This is heartening, considering that ground-breaking particle physics is hardly the simplest subject to convey to non-experts.

 “The most important thing is to offer it in a straight forward way, but to keep offering new things, so that even the physicists working on the experiment can find some value in it,” says Paul. “They can use the animations and videos we’ve produced at talks they give, for example.” Check out the resources for yourself, at



Colin Barras


Ceri Perkins