Kicking the Tires
September 12, 2008

On Thursday, we heard a colloquium presentation from Barry Barish of Caltech, who leads the global efforts on the International Linear Collider. This, if built, would justifiably warrant the description "Mega-project." Barry’s presentation impressed many.

What is even more interesting is why Barry was here. He put it directly in the introduction to his talk: “We are here to kick the tires.”

Now often that’s fine, unless you are a tire. And in this case, we were the tires.

Barry was not alone; he brought Akira Yamamoto, a recent IEEE prizewinner for work with superconductivity, who is responsible for all the superconducting radiofrequency research and development for the project. The entourage was filled out by a number of other important people, including those responsible for distribution of both generic and ILC-related funds in the U.S. Since most are old friends of many of us, it was great to see them, but they were here to help Barry with his kicking.

Our team made presentations on the work we have been doing and would like to do on superconducting radiofrequency cavities, on electron guns and on cryogenic engineering for the ILC. The team also provided a tour, which was where the real kicking of the tires took place, and team members engaged in lively discussion with whomever raised queries. It appeared to me, a non-expert, to be a very healthy give and take.

After a day and a half, almost as in a formal review, we received a closeout at which Akira, Marc Ross and Mike Harrison spoke. They gave their appreciation of our work; they were very complimentary. We were looking for a sense of maintenance or enhancement of our program of work. I think that, despite very tight budgets, we heard that we are a key player in several aspects of this global enterprise. We will not be the constructors of large fractions of the ILC, nor will we be the system integrators, both of which roles we play for our own 12 GeV Upgrade Project.* But we offer top-of-the-line technological expertise and a rigorous investigative approach in these key areas. The work is synergistic with our own needs, it helps to provide our platform for the science, and we get to play in a very large and internationally prestigious enterprise.

So as tires, we got kicked, but the kicker was pleased and contributed to the cost of the car.


*See the news release about the award of CD-3.