Is the LHC Too Busy To Blog?

By Sean Carroll | June 26, 2008 11:56 am

It’s fascinating to read the GLAST blog, written by Steve Ritz and featuring the exploits of everyone’s favorite new gamma-ray observatory. Not that it’s perfectly transparent — it’s full of breathless exclamations along the lines of “Very early this morning the LAT and GBM flight computers were powered on and booted successfully. Later this morning, the process of turning on the LAT detectors will begin!” But you kind of get the idea, even if the acronym-heavy NASA-ese is not a model of accessibility. And so far, things are looking just great — in fact, the LAT (my guess is “Large Aperture Telescope,” and I’m too proud to look it up) just took it’s first science data! Which is indeed an event worthy of exclamation points.

Steve is a friend of mine, and a good choice for a blogger, but I have to admit that I prefer the blogs that are by the experiments themselves, rather than the people working on them. This is a path blazed by NASA’s Opportunity Mars Rover, which had a (now sadly defunct) LiveJournal that made the Red Planet come to life: “The article also talked about my little, ahem, driving accident and implied that I am getting old and creaky — OMG so embarrassing!!! What if he read them!!”

What about the new Phoenix Lander? There was one of those boring human-based blogs for the landing, but the craft itself doesn’t seem to have it’s own blog. That’s because Phoenix is totally ahead of the curve, and eschews the outdated blogging format in favor of a Twitter account! And, of course, a Facebook profile. Good call, Phoenix — very cutting-edge.

So I want the Large Hadron Collider to have a blog. Humans are fine in their own way, of course, but I’d rather hear from the machine itself, or at least one of the experiments — an ATLAS or CMS blog would be fine. There is a Hardware Commissioning webpage, which makes the GLAST blog read like Dr. Seuss. (They’re cooling the thing down, and it seems to be going well.) There is also LHC Countdown, which seems less connected to facts on the ground.

Anyway, we are entering the home stretch, and the LHC should actually be injecting protons in July or maybe August. The beam won’t be at full strength yet, and there is going to be a lot of work to shake down the detectors and get everything in working order. After that, it’s up to Nature, who will decide whether to give us some interesting physics discoveries early, or really make us work for them.

In the meantime, a blog would help keep us up to speed. Now that we know that the LHC won’t destroy the world, it could use a media-friendly makeover. That’s all I’m saying.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Internet, Science
  • Eric

    For what it’s worth LAT is the Large Area Telescope and GBM is the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor.

  • Jason Dick

    Actually, GBM=GLAST Burst Monitor πŸ˜‰

  • TimG

    After that, it’s up to Nature, who will decide whether to give us some interesting physics discoveries early, or really make us work for them.

    For a second I thought you were telling me that the journal Nature might decide to make us wait before telling us what was discovered. It’s not like a scientific journal to deliberately keep us in suspense. πŸ˜‰

  • Ellipsis

    I think your wish has been magically granted:

  • Ellipsis

    sorry, I didn’t see the “Humans” link. It’s a fine idea to make a public-friendly version of the hardware commisioning site, person to request this of would be Lyn Evans at CERN,

  • Sili

    Let me guess: Elle’s first post will be about how those mean humans are freezing her but off.

  • graviton383

    The latest rumor I’ve heard as of this AM is that 10 TeV collision will startthe end of October & will go for ~40 days accumulating 20 pb^-1 of integrated luminosity…enough for detector tuning with the usual SM processes.

  • spaz

    A collidor with a blog reminds me of Jonathan Lethem’s novel about a black hole with a personality.

  • Kea

    Cool! I’m now one of Phoenix’s friends on Facebook!

  • Boltzmann’s Reptilian Brain

    I fear that if the LHC gets its own blog its first words will be

    “My god….it’s full of….nothing but standard model stuff!”

    Alternatively it might well lead to the construction of the first sentence ever written containing the words “spontaneous symmetry breaking” and “twee”.

  • Bob Munck

    Wouldn’t an LHC blog contain millions of posts every day, each gigabytes in length? I’m having trouble keeping up with my RSS feeds as it is.

  • Ian Mulvany

    Hi Sean,

    There are few real objects that have twitter accounts, and things that make data and have an API attached can easily be set up to auto-twitter. The first two examples that spring to mind are Tower Bridge in London:, and the excellent Low Flying Rocks which tweets every now and again when an asteroid passes by, always sends a shiver down my spine.

    – Ian

  • Mike M

    Have to agree that a blog along the lines of “not a Higgs… not a Higgs… not a Higgs… [repeat 10^16 times]… not a Higgs… not a Higgs… bugger they cut my budg” would not make for the most interesting reading…

  • Sean

    LowFlyingRocks is pretty awesome.

  • JCF

    Associated Press decides “Nothing to fear from atom-smasher”:

  • Ben

    As a new grad student on CMS, and having gone to a multiple hour meeting discussing color palettes for histograms…I wouldn’t hold your breath for something like what you are speaking of being implemented without at least 10 hours of meetings.

    Oh by the way, it turns out good is green and bad is red.


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About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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