Comments on a video tour of Cern’s Atlas facility

360° tour: ATLAS Experiment – Inside CERN’s largest detector!

Dear Atlas at Cern:

There are two purposes for a video like this. One is to simulate what physical visitors do and see if they ever have a chance to visit. You show the parking lot, door, elevator, tunnels, and things. You show things from a human perspective. Except. You are in the way, and the viewers are not seeing it as they would see it, but by watching you. So, for that, I do not think this is a 360 degree view of that location and facility.

The other part is to view the phenomena, processes in those many detectors, data flows, model calibrations, people and groups involved – the sense of a rather large human group, with many computers and models, spread around the world, all trying to measure, visual, model, understand, (and control?) these phenomena. I cannot say it simply, but it is richer, deeper and much more complex and beautiful than I think you conveyed.

I would rather have live datastreams from the experiments. Archives of data, in forms accessible to the billions of people on earth who can understand what is going on there. But if I had to criticize, that rather small group who get to actually work on the data and experiments, are mostly throwing away the lower energy, and more everyday things that would connect with, and educate and train future generations. I won’t say it is hoarding, or “our data only”, but if it is so narrowly used and narrowly targeted, I think it is only benefiting a very few.

I wanted to ask if the Large Hadron Collider is being used, or could be used to calibrate radio neutrino detector arrays?

I visited Atlas.Cern, but it is much for members only. There was not a friendly “contact us”, in spite of your many offers to “write us, contact us”. And the link to the “public” Atlas at Cern that was is broken.

Experiments like these are instruments to see new things. But part of viewing those things is having context and tools to know the scope and purpose and form and methods of the data. You are only sharing data (I never found it) that requires years of memorizing special words and methods. I think it is great that people are good at memorizing vast quantities of formulas, diagrams, processes, program steps, units, equations, clicks and commands to run various visualizations. But, for the human species, I think it would be better if you don’t stand between them and the phenomena, the controls and results.

Yes, it is a bit harder to put hovers on everything on the screens. If a person does not know something, they should only have to hover. Not click. You guys invented the Internet paradigm, “click on a link and go to a completely different place – forgetting everything that went before”. I think it ought to be, now, hover whatever you want to explore, see it, but never have to leave your original context. Bring the views to the viewer, not force them to wander around with you – you always in the way.

Work beside people, not be a talking head. Let people work together, help people work together, don’t talk at or down to them.

I spend a LOT of time studying groups on the Internet. I know the psychological and social impact of many things. Particularly, your particular face and personality affect the viewers, the learners, the team members, the potential team members and collaborators.

In the old days, people had to be hired, or pay for universities to be allowed to come to use those experimental data. That is sort of changing. But think about it more. How many of the 7.8 Billion people on earth have access to your results? If it is really important, then everyone not only should hear words spoken, pictures taken, narratives about, text about, books about — then everyone should be able to gather, collection, organize, compare, share, work with, elaborate, use the data you gather. It should have a purpose in every school in the world – down to kindergarten if there are some (there are) who can understand complex things from birth almost. A child playing with water colors creates and explores things. Your data and the visualization tools (if they did not require so much memorization of things that really do not matter to what is seen) could be within the capabilities of anyone of any age.

When the tools are human language independent, when the tools and controls and hovers and exploration tools to examine and play with your data streams and patterns and textures and events – are easy enough for someone with any background. Then I think you are getting to the essence of the value of your results for the whole human species. Not to just answer a few questions of a very very few people and let the rest see pretty pictures about things not the things themselves.

I am going out of my way to try to explain some things I feel I have learned from spending the last 23 years studying groups on the Internet – particularly scientific, technical, engineering, design, mathematical, computer, modeling, control systems, imaging, sensors, detectors and the kinds of things you do there. I know what stands in between anyone and what you have, or might have. You should show the data as a living thing, let people see it as a whole, and hover to any part of it. If they want to play with any piece – don’t force your visualizations on them, but give them the data – the real stuff of the experiments – and let them explore.

Thank you for the video. I have a much better sense of the place and scale. I was shocked to see that small building, never realizing is was mostly underground. But I saw more halls and walls then living data. It was kind of like looking at a parked airplane and having someone say, “It can fly”.

Richard Collins, Director, The Internet Foundation

Richard K Collins

About: Richard K Collins

Director, The Internet Foundation Studying formation and optimized collaboration of global communities. Applying the Internet to solve global problems and build sustainable communities. Internet policies, standards and best practices.

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