Summer schools from your couch


It’s that time of year again: the last undergrads have left your office after asking for final exam regrades, your adviser is off to another continent for big conferences, and even the spring television line-up is wrapping up. Meanwhile, your officemates have gone off to various summer schools to mingle with other postgraduates and learn new tools for their research.

If you’re the Cinderella that got left in the office, then fear not, for the Internet will be your fairy godmother. More summer schools and conferences are jumping on the webcast bandwagon and you can tune in to some of this summer’s pedagogical action:

  • CERN-Fermilab Hadron Collider Physics School, at Fermilab this year. If previous years are an indication, these lectures will eventually make their way online. You’ll probably have to search through Fermilab’s Visual Media Services, look for “Hadron Collider Physics Summer School” under ‘series’.
  • PASCOS08 at Perimeter Institute. Ok, it’s not technically a `summer school,’ but it’s still probably of interest. Talks will be made available on PI’s PIRSA system, updated daily!.
  • TASI08 at Boulder. TASI experimented with video recordings for the first time last year, and I’m glad that they appear to be continuing the tradition. Each year TASI’s proceedings form a fantastic corpus of review literature for postgraduates, and these videos will be an excellent compliment. The folks at Colorado seem to be having trouble keeping their links in order, so here’s the link for last year’s TASI in case you were looking for it.
  • Physics of the LHC at the KITP. Again, not quite a `summer school,’ but rather a week-long conference. Be sure to also check out the video lectures from the associated programme that’s been going on for the past few months–these are generally targeted at initiating useful conversation rather than advertising new results.
  • SLAC Summer School Institute. This year’s focus is `cosmic accelerators,’ reflecting the lab’s shift in physics emphasis. SSI has been providing streaming videos and lecture notes for a decade now. I recommend checking out past schools for excellent introductions to a wide range of topics if particle physics.

If you can’t wait for the above lectures to make it online, you can always fall back on a few favourites from the past few years.

If you keep an eye out on the blogosphere, PW is very good at pointing out interesting videos as they appear.

Unfortunately, many of the big annual schools and conferences have yet to step into the 21st century. One of this year’s big offenders is SUSY08 , which is a shame since SUSY06 made a valiant attempt to provide podcasts of some of its sessions. Other schools that would have been great to see webcast are: Cargese, PiTPEuropean School of HEP, PSI Summer School, Cracow School of Theoretical Physics, ICTP Summer School on Cosmology. What’s rather frustrating is that some of the lecturers of these schools are notorious for giving great talks but never contributing lecture notes to the proceedings.

It’s important to note that these video recordings are not replacements for actually being at a summer school, where the point isn’t to hear lectures, but to engage other researchers. So for those of you who get to travel a bit this summer: ask questions in the discussions, make new friends and collaborators, and take advantage of the group of people you have around you.

And if any of you end up organising a summer school in the near future, please look into webcasting options! (The EyA system, for example, is a relative bargain.) Such webcasts are a huge benefit to future generations of young physicists and also help promote your school to encourage applicants in later years.

By the way, CERN Document Server has an updated list of upcoming schools. Note that schools like PiTP and TASI alternate every year between formal and phenomenological emphasis. Les Houches, I’m told, only occurs during odd-numbered years.


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