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Aidan Randle-Conde | Université Libre de Bruxelles | Belgium

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2013: The road ahead

This time last year I wrote a blog post about what 2011 delivered and what to expect for 2012. It was obvious that we’d get some answers on the Higgs question, so it’s no surprise that we saw some 5 sigma bumps in there. As Rolf Heuer, Director General of CERN said it was a “vintage year” for physics, which I think means “very good”. Personally I think that the choice of word “vintage” is a bit anticlimactic. Surely a vintage anything is best enjoyed after several years have passed, if you have the money for it? It would have been nicer to see a word that reflected the current excitement of being a part of the discovery and seeing physics a living field, rather than comparing it to a bottle of dusty (though very tasty) wine at the back of a cellar somewhere. Oh well, maybe I’m reading too much into one word. Rolf’s article gives a very nice overview of 2012. In short, 2012 was brilliant and delivered as promised.

As usual, the end of the year also marks the end of the LHC run. In 2012 the LHC was ramping up for another year of proton collisions. This year it’s ramping up for weeks heavy ion physics, and then the long shutdown. Long shutdown. There’s so much meaning in those two words. No more data for two years. What will we do with that time? Will people flee from the field? (That would make it easier for the remaining physicists to find good positions!) Will we re-analyze the existing data? Will we work hard on the hardware? Will we revise our theories? First things first: early in 2013 we’ll need to deal with the rest of the Higgs questions for the Moriond conference. Some questions will have to wait to be answered, but most of them can be addressed with the data we have. What are the final states and branching fractions? Can we get a handle on the spin and parity? Do the production mode rates look right? We can get answers to most of these questions and that would be enough to confirm that what we have seen is the Standard Model Higgs boson. If one value comes out significantly “wrong” at both ATLAS and CMS then we’ve got new physics on our hands.

That’s what I’m hoping for. That’s what nearly everyone is hoping for. I hope 2013 is the year that the Standard Model gets broken. I want to see that model fall apart and leave a big new physics shaped hole for us to fill. If we get a Higgs boson and new phenomena then the 2015 data will be worth the wait. The nightmare scenario is seeing the Standard Model Higgs and nothing else. That would be like Columbus sailing West and getting to India. Impressive, somewhat reassuring, but ultimately disappointing. I don’t want a easy route to an old question, I want a whole new continent of discovery. It worked very well for us last time! I don’t know what a discovery of that kind would look like. It would have be in the dataset somewhere though, and once the pressure from the Higgs searches dies down we’ll have a lot more time and labor to look at the data with fresh eyes and comb it for new processes. Keeping the pace going for analysis during the shutdown will be hard, but worth the effort. There will be no media frenzy, the world will not be watching over our collective shoulders. Instead it will be a quieter process, a time to reflect on the implications of what we’re unwinding and what it is telling us.

2012, you’ve been great, but it’s time to move on. Bring it on 2013. Change the landscape for us all over again and tell us where to take the field in the next few years. Enjoy the hibernation, LHC, 2015 will be rough on you.

And of course Happy New Year to all!

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  • Pingback: 2013: The road ahead « aidan@cern()

  • http://www.roscalen.com Adrian the Rock

    I’m certainly looking forward to the results of the data analyses. I agree it would be a surprise if the Standard Model doesn’t get broken before very long, there are too many currently unanswered questions/anomalies.

  • Mr. October

    I really hope the LHC finds nothing but a Standard Model Higgs. That’ll REALLY cause some drama and humble a lot of a**holes!

  • http://www.greatestsourceofenergy.com LW

    There has been a tremendous amount of really great work performed in the search for the Higgs particle, and all involved deserve high praise. The amount of achievements that have already been made – from the theoretical work, to the design and building of the LHC, to the results obtained to date –have been a much-needed “shot in the arm” regarding human progress. I have a deep suspicion, however, that the newly found boson will be a spin 2 particle, as I describe in this paper: http://vixra.org/pdf/1211.0167v2.pdf, which is based on this book: http://www.greatestsourceofenergy.com. Time will tell of course. It will be exciting either way: spin 0 or 2.

  • Mr. October

    LW,

    This is no place to advertise your crackpot theories.

  • Stephen Brooks

    –[Surely a vintage anything is best enjoyed after several years have passed]–

    Yes – everyone will look back on 2012 as the year the Higgs was discovered, although its properties will be refined in later years. People will be referring to the LHC results from a long time to come.

  • Kevin

    “No more data for two years.”

    Well, not quite. CMS has a large amount of “parked data” which passed a set of alternative triggers and was then stored without being reconstructed. The reconstruction process is the real computing bottleneck, but the computers won’t be doing anything else for the next two years during the long shutdown, so we will have time to process all of this new data.

  • flashgordon

    No matter what happens . . . whether the Standard model gets cracked by the LHC or not . . . new physics has to be out there somewhere; the astronomers have found dark matter, dark energy, billion light year quaser structures, and they’ve found that spacetime is much smoother than quantum mechanics would like.

    I can’t wait for the gravity meters to get going . . . !

  • flashgordon

    I grew up reading “The Second Creation”(i finaly got around to reading the seventh day of creation; the biology book that inspired it!), and knowing that the electroweak unification was the greatest thing we’ve ever done. In that time, astronomers used pulsars to prove that gravity waves exist; particle physicists found the top quark, cobe confirmed the inflationary theory. I recall particle physicists showing through muon physics that there must be dark matter out there sometime in the 1990s. I almost guarantee we’ll have plenty of exciting science at almost any time.

    Another exciting possibility for quantum physics(and generalisations) is quantum computers simulations of quantum systems!

  • flashgordon

    Another exciting science event for humankind in the coming years is human expansion into space; humans on mars, asteroids at least!

  • http://aidanatcern.wordpress.com Aidan Randle-Conde

    Hi Kevin, good point! I forgot about the delayed streams. (I think ATLAS, CMS and LHCb all have their own kind of delayed streams.) I’d be surprised if these tipped the balance for more than a couple of analyses, but it’s certainly something we need to keep an eye on, especially if they’re using novel triggers.