Director's Corner

16 November 2006


Barry Barish

The Evolving ILC Design: Lowering Detectors from the Surface

On 2 November, right before the very successful GDE meeting that has just concluded in Valencia, Spain, we officially made another important change to the ILC baseline design. Instead of assembling the detectors in their final resting place, they will be assembled on the earth's surface and carefully lowered down to the caverns a hundred meters or so below ground. Although the CMS experiment for the LHC lends credibility to such a scheme, I like to imagine that some inspiration came from Don Quixote and his adventure of the Cave of Montesinos in the heart of La Mancha, Spain. Of course, I am influenced by being in Spain at the moment, and also because I happen to be reading the great novel of Miguel de Cervantes. Nevertheless, I am not the first to make connections between this particular adventure and cosmology and the universe. In some sense, the story parallels our new plan to carefully drop down our large complex and delicate experimental instruments, in order for us to explore the unknown wonders of the universe.


"Don't go burying yourself alive or getting yourself caught so you will hang there like a bottle that has been dropped down to cool" says Sancho Ponza to Don Quixote as he is about to be lowered into the cave.

Blanca Muñoz piece inspired by the rendition of light, space and time by Don Quixote after he emerged from the Cave of Montesinos.

The feasibility of assembling the ILC detectors on the surface and dropping them into the underground halls has been evaluated by each of the detector concepts. The impact on both cost and schedule has been determined by our GDE Beam Delivery System (BDS) group. This study has resulted in the request to make a configuration change for two reasons: Most importantly, there will be a substantial scheduling advantage in preassembling detectors on the surface. There will also be cost savings because we can eliminate much of the detector staging areas deep underground.

Of course, despite the predictions of theorists, we won't really know what wonders of the universe await us until the ILC is built, the detectors become operational and there is beam deep underground. In the meantime, perhaps we can take some added inspiration from Don Quixote and his report of his adventure in the Cave of Montesinos, an apocryphal adventure of discovery.

Apparently, I am not alone when it comes to connecting the Montesinos adventure to the mysteries of science. Contemporary Spanish artist Blanca Muñoz, who has been a visitor at Institute of Astrophysics in the Canary Islands, created a sculpture shown here that was inspired by the dark world depicted by Don Quixote. In this unfamiliar place, everything appears as fantastic apparitions and glints of light, as if the darkness and gloom holds the mysteries of the cosmos.

Although we will need to wait to uncover our own discoveries regarding light, space and time, our decision to move the assembly of the ILC detectors to the surface represents another important step in the evolution of the ILC design, making it a better and more cost effective project.

Unfortunately I am now leaving romantic Spain, but at least I can still read and re-read Cervantes!

-- Barry Barish