What hiking and mountain biking has to do with physics? Well, a lot, as it turns out! For one, try climbing 2000 feet and then tell me if you still think that gravity is a very weak force!
Aspen, Colorado is a tiny gem tucked away in the Rockies, some 200 miles from Denver. Most famous for its top-notch skiing resorts and a record number of private jets per capita, it is also a home for Aspen Center for Physics. Founded in 1962, the Center is a warm and welcoming place hosting a number of workshops and conferences in all areas of physics. Founded by physicists and for physicists, the Center offers very informal and productive atmosphere for work and collaboration with other physicists. There are about 50 people visiting the Center at any given time – usually from two or more different disciplines. The days are full of discussions, informal seminars, trips up the mountains, lunches and picnics, where new ideas are being exchanged, papers are discussed, and new collaborations formed. Want to talk about Supersymmetry? – Just cross the corridor and walk in the office of Howie Haber. Feel that four dimensions are not enough? – Cross the little meadow to an adjacent building and chat with Lisa Randall.
For the past couple of weeks I have been attending a workshop on Physics Beyond the Standard Model in Aspen, run by the leading theorists in the field. I was one of the only two experimenters invited to the workshop to offer expertise on LHC detectors and to discuss with theorists our plans for the first year of the LHC running. Michael Schmitt from Northwestern, my CMS colleague, was the other invitee.
Michael and I gave seminars for theorists about the LHC schedule and our preparations to exciting discoveries the new energy frontier is expected to offer. We also had many informal discussions on various new theoretical ideas and possible ways of testing them experimentally. Some of these ideas would require certain modifications to the way we look at the LHC data, perhaps even changes to the trigger – the fast system that decides, which few out of millions of collisions happening every second to keep for further analysis. Many of these discussions started at the Center, where continued on hiking trips, in the Alpine meadows and aspen groves, on the shores of mountain lakes and on rocky ridges leading to them. All in all, it was very productive and a lot of fun.
I’ll write more about the hikes and the biking trips we took and the discussions we had in this blog.