Wednesday, February 24, 2016

LIGO, journal, servers: behind the scenes

"Inside Higher Ed" has published an interesting article
Riding the Wave
about some not-quite-visible events that took place before the world officially learned about the discovery of the gravitational waves. Much of it must be a boring stuff – in similar large collaborations, there is a committee that decides about every important enough event.

On September 9th, the LIGO folks were already convinced that they would discover the waves soon. Some of them were thinking what they would buy for the Nobel prize and all of them had to make an online vote about the journal where the discovery should be published.

It has to be Physical Review Letters because PRL (published by the APS) is the best journal for the Nobel-prize-caliber papers, the LIGO members decided. Five days later, Advanced LIGO made the discovery. Four more days later, as you know, they officially started Advanced LIGO. ;-)

Robert Garisto, a PRL boss, was happy that his journal was chosen but it wasn't really surprising. The paper arrived on January 21st, the reviews were sent back 6 days later, and 4 days later, LIGO resubmitted.

To hide that something big is taking place, Garisto's employees had to use the term "Big Paper" for the big paper – apparently a clever method that guarantees that no one notices that it is a big paper.

Someone at PRL was hired to press the "publish" button in the journal at a specific point of the press conference so that they're synchronized. The extended PRL servers were ready to sustain a higher traffic but under 200 requests per second that lasted for a few minutes after 10:30 am local time, they collapsed, anyway.

Many members of LIGO are proud about having taken the PRL servers down.

By the way, LIGO just informed us that the House Science Committee has invited the bosses of LIGO to testify in the U.S. Congress.

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