Pakistan on SLAC Today
By Erik Vance
International collaboration has long
played a fundamental role in high-energy physics. Experimental
results pass around the globe in seconds, making collaboration
easier between far-flung labs and scientists.
For decades, countries across the world have contributed
to high-energy physics by lending top minds to laboratories
in developed regions like Asia, Europe and North America.
Now, some countries in the developing world are aiming to
play a bigger role in experiments through data analysis.
One such country is Pakistan. Les Cottrell, of the Scientific
Computing and Computing Services (SCCS) Group, said Pakistani
physicists are eager to take a more prominent role in high-energy
physics. Cottrell went to Pakistan in February to encourage
the country's further involvement in the development of
computing infrastructure for projects like the Large Hadron
Collider (LHC) and the proposed International Linear Collider
Pakistan has a long history of contribution to high-energy
physics. Pakistan’s Abdus Salam won the 1979 Nobel
Prize along with an American and a British physicist, for
the theory of unified weak and electromagnetic interactions
between elementary particles.
Today, Pakistan produces many renowned physicists and is
already deeply involved in the LHC. Scientists at the NUST
Institute of Information Technology hope to further establish
themselves by becoming a major LHC grid node. According
to Cottrell, however, a major obstacle impeding their progress
is Pakistan's network speed.
Information sent from overseas, such as an email, takes
a few stops before it appears on a screen. Sending a message
from SLAC to Paris, for example, can involve brief stop-offs
in Sunnyvale, Chicago, New York and London. The same is
true for Pakistan; however, the delay is exacerbated by
congested routers and low speed copper links that slow the
During his most recent visit to Pakistan, Cottrell shared
results from a program (PingER) his team of collaborators
from SLAC, FNAL and NUST developed, that gauges the performance
of international networks. The program sends out a message,
or "ping," to a distant host and measures how
long it takes to return. Using this information, Cottrell
is getting a sense of which parts of the world are better
equipped to participate in international high-energy physics
analysis. With this information he has been working to encourage
Pakistani leaders to support international physics by investing
in infrastructure and addressing "last mile" problems.
"If you want to be a player in the international collaboration
stage you're going to need to do something about your networking,"
he said. (Courtesy SLAC Today)