Back of the Virtual Envelope (Or Is that Virtually Back of the Envelope?)

Assume that it takes a graduate student only an hour to work through all the detector data from an event and see if it is interesting or not. Assume one event in a billion is interesting, and we have ten billion events. This is 10^10 student-hours. Since these are, after all, graduate students, we shall introduce 20 hour days and 365 day years, giving 1.4 * 10^6 student-years. Alexander the Great conquered the whole of the Persian Empire with perhaps 30,000 men; let us say 35,000 people forms an ``army'', since this makes the division nicer. One army of graduate students would take 40 years to process the data from a single experiment.

Sometimes the processing is much faster; I could scan a hundred bubble chamber photos in an hour, in the palmy days of my youth. This would reduce the time needed for analysis to half a year - if you employed a plurality of the world's physicists under a regime unknown outside forced-labor camps, such as the city of Manchester in 1844.

By contrast, actual experiments where only one event in a billion passed all the cuts, on which no more than 600 physicists worked in all capacities, and then likely not over sixty hours a week, have analysed their data in less than a year, i.e., they had no more than about 200,000 hours available, and probably used much less than that.