Blogging ICHEP 2010

A collective forum about the 35th edition of
the International Conference on High Energy Physics (Paris, July 2010)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Back to the future

It's Tuesday and I'm exhausted! I've only just found some time to sit down and think about the future session that happened way in the past (on Saturday, pre-Sarkozy, pre-press conference, pre-dinner - gee, was it only three days ago?!). Anyway, with the network problems already reported by Gordon, the dinner already covered by Katie and hundreds of reports in media around the world I hope I am excused. Also, sitting in the press booth isn't exactly supportive of concentrated work as many people pass by for a chat. I guess I have to educate them to pass by for a chat AND bring a coffee. Since you ask, no sugar but a lot of milk please, thanks!

But now, here goes! Saturday saw a big overview of all the exiting and less exciting future projects for the world of particle physics. I leave it up to your judgement to decide which is which, comments are welcome! I am also arranging them by my brain's personal sorting system and will happily accept comments and corrections - the list is probably not complete.

Particle physics is a global field. You just have to look around around the room to notice that people come from all over the place. The big machines that we work on these days are challenging and cost a lot of money so that no one country could afford to build and host them - all countries have to chip in and work together. The more challenging the technologies become the more this is the case, and it also takes many years for a machine to evolve from idea to design study to running accelerator. Consequently it may seem strange to the outside world that while we've only just switched on the LHC and are waiting for discoveries, we already plan the next generation – but we have to have a variety of options in the drawer that will enable us to make the best choice when results are there. And then of course there are physics topics that aren't covered by the LHC!

There are several ideas for 'LHC follow-ups'. Two different varieties of LHC upgrades exist - one for more luminosity and thus higher statistics and safer discoveries, one for higher energies. Whereas one, the luminosity upgrade, is virtually around the corner, the energy upgrade is an option that's far in the future (around 2030, according to Roger Bailey's talk from Saturday). The discoveries at the LHC will probably dictate whether the higher energies are more interesting, or whether the LHC could be transformed into a electron-proton machine, or a 'superHERA', although it goes by the name of LHeC in the session, with the e for electron. LHeC would collide the LHC's protons with electrons from a linear collider - an intriguing thought for someone working on the ILC! My imagination already went off into dreamscapes where LHeC and the linear collider would run together on different physics programmes as the best possible synergy of machines we have yet to see (and believe me, physicists are great at creating synergies and reusing existing machines!). I guess I'll have to talk to a few proper scientists to check whether this is imagination running wild or whether it's actually possible.

Certainly possible and the most likely next big project is a linear collider for electron-positron collisions. It'll complement the LHC and it's only a question of LHC discoveries, again, whether the ILC or CLIC is the machine of choice. While the ILC is basically ready to be built - the Technical Design Report is due in 2012, which means "Here's how we would build it", CLIC is a few years behind, with its Conceptual Design Report due next year. When you think that first collisions from a linear collider could be expected in the 2020s you start to understand why there is plenty of planning, designing and testing going on around the world!

Then there are b factories, machines that would complement and extend anything that the b physics experiments around the world, like the LHCb experiment at the LHC, find. One is proposed in Italy, and KEK in Japan has just started reconfiguring its KEKB accelerator into - can you guess its name? - SuperKEKB. Funding isn't final but they are planning get 40 times more luminosity. The Italian b factory would also be a light source, and it shares its multifunctionality with Fermilab's 'Project X', which can contribute to the ILC, to a possible muon collider and ultimately a possible neutrino factory. Fermilab is busy working on a plan for a muon accelerator program (i.e. a MAP), and muon colliders, though technologically still a big challenge, are also a big topic for machine physicists. Probably something called 'dielectric acceleration is, too, but I couldn't tell you as I didn't understand the talk, sorry....but when asked about whether there is a plan for a beam delivery system, the speaker laughed and said that he'd like to have this questions again in 10-15 years -- so I conclude it's not something that would pop up in the next months.

What I missed in almost all of the talks were good, catching, convincing arguments why these machines that were proposed are needed. I am sure there are solid physics cases for all of them, but surely it can't harm to state them again, clearly, understandably, in talks like these that will live on for a while? I'll go hunting for them for a future story in NewsLine, but first I go hunt particles in the Grand Rex, the nuit des particules -- see you there!

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