Let me say this much about the Community Summer Study 2013, also known as “Snowmass on the Mississippi“: it feels like a family reunion. There are about 600 people registered for the meeting, and since in the end we are a small field, I know a lot of them. I’m surrounded by people I grew up with, people I’ve worked with before, people I work with now, and people with whom I’d really like to work someday. I find it a little overwhelming. Besides trying to learn some science, we’re all trying to catch up with each other’s lives and work.
As with any family, we have our differences on some issues. We know that there are diverse views on what the most important issues are and what are the most promising pathways to scientific discovery. But also, as with any family, there is a lot more that unites us than divides us. As Nigel Lockyer, the incoming director of Fermilab, put it, we will probably have little trouble finding consensus on what the important science questions are. Today’s speakers emphasized that we will need to approach these questions with multiple approaches, and there was mutual respect for the work being done in all of the study groups.
The challenge, of course, is how to accommodate all of these approaches within an envelope of finite resources, and how to strike a balance between near-term operations and long-term (if not very long-term) projects. As our speakers from the funding agencies pointed out, we are in a particularly challenging time for this due to national political and fiscal circumstances. Setting priorities will be a difficult job, and one that will only come after the Snowmass study has laid out all the possibilities.
The workshop continues for another eight days, and if you are interested in particle physics and the future of the field, I hope you’ll be keeping an eye on it. The agenda page linked above has a pointer to a live video stream, presentations are also being recorded for future viewing, and various people are tweeting their way along with hashtag #Snowmass or #Snowmass2013. There are a lot of exciting ideas being discussed this week, some of which can have a transformative effect on the field. Stay with us!