by Panos Charitos. Published: 16 April 2013

Twenty years ago ALICE started its amazing adventure in the wonderland of strong interactions and the study of extraordinary forms of matter. Therefore we thought of making a timeline unfolding the history of the ALICE Experiment going back to the early days of the collaboration.

The aim of the timeline was threefold: First of all we thought that it should show the links between ALICE and other heavy-ion experiments both at CERN but also in other laboratories around the world. As Jurgen Schukraft wrote in a previous article that appeared in CERN Courier: "As the field of heavy ions has unfolded, the ALICE collaborators have been flexible in changing or adding to their detector. Over the course of time, 50% of new detector components have been added to the original Letter of Intent submitted in the spring of 1993, as a result of the new data from the SPS and RHIC.". Of course one should mention the fixed-target experiments on which many of the ALICE members started their careers before joining ALICE.

The second task was to link the history of ALICE with theoretical advancements in the field of QCD and the understanding of strong interactions. Modern theoretical approaches and novel techniques for calculations boosted the study of QCD in our laboratories. Results presented in various conferences across the years clearly motivated the building and the design of ALICE and we thought that the timeline should remind this simple fact.

Finally, ALICE is about the people who worked hard in building the various detectors, developing the software for collecting and analyzing the data and ensuring the smooth running of the machine.

This threefold aim posed a significant challenge for the design of the timeline and we explored many different options before coming up with this one. It proved that summarizing twenty years of history in a webpage was not an easy task as we had to deal with a lot of information loaded in a single webpage plus with issues of portability.

The present ALICE 20 years anniversary timeline is a media-rich web page based on Django Python web framework. Django framework as a backend supports the storage of the HTML articles and placement settings of the boxes, in a SQLite database. In order to give users the ability to get content as quickly as possible and maintain a seamless navigation through the page media files are served through Amazon CloudFront content delivery network. This ensures high availability, large bandwidth, aggressive caching and use of user location heuristics to find the closest server. Content of the popup windows is loaded dynamically upon user demand. All this behavior is implemented client-side with optimized JavaScript. Serving efficiently a web page of this size to many users would be otherwise impossible and would lead to either very large loading times or server denial-of-service due to high load.

A timeline for the ALICE 20th Anniversary

So here we go. We are presenting this first beta version of the ALICE timeline. The site is still under development so you have to follow the link . We hope that you will enjoy it and we are looking forward to your comments. We would like to get your feedback and of course edit/add a few events; although as we explained one has to cope with issue of portability and browsing through a large number of data. We are planning to release a public version near the mid of May so please send me your comments and suggestions well in advance.

We would like to recognize the invaluable help of George Lestaris, a technical student from the Software Support for Experiments (SFT) group, for implementing solutions that minimize the total size of loaded data and for optimizing the code and making the whole website loading much faster.