SCIMMA workshop, day 2

I officially don't go to meetings on the weekend! That said, I did go to day 2 of a workshop on multi-messenger astrophysics (and, in particular, the field's computing and information infrastructure needs) at Columbia University today. A lot happened, and there were even some fireworks, because there are definitely disagreements among the physicists, the computer scientists, the information scientists, and the high-performance computing experts about what is important, what is hard, and what is in whose domain! I learned a huge amount today, but here are two highlights:

In its current plan (laid out at the meeting by Mario Juric of UW), the LSST project officially doesn't do any scientific analyses; it is only a data source. In this way it is like ESA Gaia. It is trying to do a lot of social engineering to make sure the community organizes good data-analysis and science efforts around the LSST data outputs and APIs. Famously and importantly, it will produce hundreds of thousands to millions of alerts per night, and a lot of the interest is in how to interact with this firehose, especially in multi-messenger, where important things can happen in the first seconds of an astrophysical event.

During Juric's talk, I realized that in order for us to optimally benefit from LSST, we need to know, in advance, where LSST is pointing. Everyone agreed that this will happen (that is, that this feed will exist), and that (relative to the alerts stream) it is a trivial amount of data. I hope this is true. It's important! Because if you are looking for things that happen on the sky, you learn more if you happen to find one that happens inside the LSST field while LSST is looking at it. So maybe looking under the lamp-post is a good idea!

The LCOGT project was represented by Andy Howell (LCOGT). He talked about what they have learned in operating a heterogeneous, global network of telescopes with diverse science goals. He had various excellent insights. One is that scheduling requires very good specification of objectives and good engineering. Another is that openness is critical, and most break-downs are break-downs of communication. Another is that there are ways to structure things to reward generosity among the players. And so on. He talked about LCOGT but he is clearly thinking forward to a future in which networks become extremely heterogeneous and involve many players who do not necessarily all trust one another. That's an interesting limit!

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