In this episode we look at how supercomputers are used to help with managing the pandemic. It’s a double-header with two guests. We start with Cineca’s Andrew Emerson. As part of the EXSCALATE 4 COV EU-funded research project, he works of virtual screening of existing drugs regarding their potential efficacy against SARS-CoV-2. In part two we talk with Dan Jacobson of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He and his team used a big data analysis to understand how the virus “works”, and they figured out very interesting mechanisms and pathways.
Humanity has always been exposed to potentially catastrophic risks that might endanger the continued existence of humanity. Asteroid impacts or supervolcano eruptions come to mind. But since about the invention of the atomic bomb, humanity has been able to wipe itself out, adding self-made existential risks to the natural ones. Oxford philosopher Toby Ord argues in his book The Precipice that those risks are much more likely than the natural ones. In this episode we explore this idea with him, and also discuss what we should do about this realization.
To conclude our detailed look at the ATLAS experiment, this episode looks at the computing infrastructure. We start out with the trigger systems that decide, very quickly, whether the data from a particular collision is worth keeping. We then discuss the reconstruction of the event, the simulation needed to understand the background as well as the LHC Grid used distribute data and computation over the whole planet. Our guest is CERN’n Frank Berghaus.
After understanding the history and development of ATLAS (and covering the LHC and particle physics in general) in previous episodes, we are now at the point where we can try to understand how a scientist uses the data produced by one of these large detectors and make sense of it. This is what we’ll do in this episode with physicist (and listener) Philipp Windischhofer. If you want to learn even more, you can check out these links provided by Philipp or read the last chapter of the book :-)
ATLAS is one of the two general-purpose experiments at the LHC. It has been conceived, designed, and built over decades by hundreds of scientists and engineers from dozens of countries and hundreds of organizations. My guest, Peter Jenni, has been the head of the ATLAS collaboration for most of this time. In this episode we talk about science and engineering, but mostly about organizational aspects and the “community management” necessary to get such a magnificent machine off the ground.