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Feature - Scientists step back for wide view of LHC data

Scientists face a daunting task collecting and analyzing the data from just one of the large collider experiments.

To store, distribute, and analyze the 15 petabytes of data the LHC experiments generate each year, physicists had to create the World LHC Computing Grid. The WLCG is a worldwide collaboration that works hand in hand with established grid infrastructures such as Open Science Grid and the European Grid Infrastructure.

Pulling it all together to compare results from several experiments presents yet another challenge. On 19-20 November, experimentalists and theorists held the Standard Model Benchmarks at the Tevatron and LHC workshop at Fermilab to start doing just that.

“Lots of new information has come out,” said Yale experimental physicist Helen Caines, who spoke at the workshop on behalf of the ALICE collaboration. “We're trying to bring it together in a cohesive story.”

One reassuring development is that the experiments at the Large Hadron Collider are in agreement with one another and with experiments at the Tevatron about most of their results so far, she said.

“As we're starting up, it's important to see that we agree where we have overlapping abilities so that, when you get to the exotic stuff, it's more likely you're right,” Caines said.

During the conference, experimentalists from the ATLAS collaboration let their colleagues on the CMS experiment know that they were preparing to study an unexpected ridge CMS scientists found in their data.

Agreement lets scientists know that their detectors are well tuned, said experimental physicist Fabrizio Palla of INFN, who presented on the CMS collaboration's first published paper on heavy flavor physics.

For many theorists, the workshop presented an important chance to discuss LHC experiment results with experimentalists, said speaker and theorist Stephen Ellis of the University of Washington and the Coordinated Theoretical-Experimental Project on QCD, or CTEQ.

“The history of physics is littered with cases in which experimentalists and theorists didn't work well together and the science got hung up,” Ellis said. “This meeting is an opportunity for that kind of interaction to occur.”

A version of this article originally appeared in Fermilab Today.

—Kathryn Grim, Fermilab

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