The Swedish Institute for Space Physics (IRF)
is located in Kiruna, a minerary town close to the northern tip of Sweden, above the arctic polar circle. The Space Campus of Kiruna is one of three different centres - the IRF space lab, the EISCAT center, and the Lulea University of Technology department of Space Technology and Atmospheric Science. Close to the complex is the Esrange space center, a multipurpose launching base benefiting from a large unpopulated impact and recovery area.Above: the IRF from the visitor parking
In the last couple of days I have been busy writing a project to explore the potential of artificial intelligence to extract more information from particle detectors. In fact, while the development of these instruments in the course of the past 80 years has closely followed, and sometimes been a driver, of technological developments, I can see the issue of a progressive mis-alignment of detector design with the ultimate potential and final goals of large experiments. That mis-alignment is due to the rapid evolution of deep learning tools. They have now become the real elephant in the room in this area of studies: an entity that is present, but that risks being ignored despite its enormous impact.
I am exploiting my column today to advertise a workshop that the collaboration I lead, MODE, is organizing at Princeton University this coming July. The workshop, the third of its series, aims to bring together physicists and computer scientists to join forces in the solution of complex optimization problems in experiment design.
These days I am spending a few months in northern Sweden, to start a collaboration with computer scientists and physicists from Lulea University of Technology on neuromorphic computing (I'll soon write about that, stay tuned). The rather cold weather of March (sub-zero temperatures throughout the day) is compensated by having access to the night show of northern lights, which are often visible from these latitudes (66 degrees north).
Muon tomography is an application of particle detectors where we exploit the peculiar properties of muons to create three-dimensional images of the interior of unknown, inaccessible volumes. You might also want to be reminded that muons are unstable elementary particles; they are higher-mass versions of electrons which can be found in cosmic ray showers or produced in particle collisions.
During my long trip to South America, which just ended (leaving me fighting with a record pile of unanswered emails, an even higher pile of laundry, and a headache for jetlag-induced sleep deprivation), I had the real pleasure to make acquaintance with a Colonel of the British army (Guy Wood) during a cruise of the Galapagos archipelago. One of the recurring topics of our evening chats was of course international travel - the cause of our encounter - and in one occasion he pointed out that Air France is the airline with the worst record in terms of plane accidents.