Mile End Road

I spent most of the past two days in the “Arts 2” building of Queen Mary University of London, on Mile End Road.


According to Wikipedia, Mile End was one of the earliest suburbs of London, recorded in 1288 as La Mile Ende, meaning ‘The hamlet a mile away’ (from Aldgate). This is middle English, apparently, which looks quite a lot like French to me. Though if it were it would presumably be La 1.6 Kilometre Ende.

The last time I went to a meeting at QMUL, it was held in the “People’s Palace” (see above), bearing the name of the original foundation of the university. (Wikipedia again).

Wikipedia is silent on what “Arts 2” means, though “Arts 1” is next door so probably Art just had two buildings and not much imagination. The back of the building overlooks a listed Jewish Cemetery, there are glass windows in the floor of the building showing the stones of whatever preceded it, and the Hammersmith and City Line rumbles periodically below. It is an atmospheric place for a meeting.

The meeting was the annual get-together of the UK part of the ATLAS collaboration. These always happen in early January, at one of the many ATLAS UK Universities. They are a great way to start the year, even if I don’t much feel like taking advantage of the drinks reception so soon after holiday excess. The talks are dominated by scientists early in their careers – PhD students and postdocs. Most are excellent.

We heard about the challenges that were met while making the detector run reliably into the tenth year since its construction, and the plans and progress towards the “High Luminosity LHC”, when the intensity of the beams will be increased. The higher rate of collisions will place significant stress on the detector – much of which needs to be replaced – , the data acquisition and selection chain, and our software and computing resources. It will also turn the screw on our statistical uncertainties, requiring us to understand our calibration and systematic errors to a commensurate level, so we can extract maximum information about the energy frontier of physics.

Whether what we see will reveal the Standard Model triumphant and alone, or something beyond, remains to be seen. That’s why we do experiments, of course. And we have rather a lot of data “in the can” already, to chew over for the next couple of years while the accelerators and detectors are being serviced and upgraded.

Meanwhile, like the rumbles of the underground, noises off continue to cause concern. UCL has started spending money preparing for catastrophe. Maybe we should pretend to be a ferry company.

Anyhow, thanks QMUL for hosting a good way to get back into the swing of physics for 2019.



About Jon Butterworth

UCL Physics prof, works on LHC, writes (books, Guardian Science and elsewhere). Citizen of England, UK, Europe & Nowhere, apparently.
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