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Ken Bloom | USLHC | USA

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The new particle data book is here!

OK, it may not be quite as exciting as the arrival of the new phone books in that Steve Martin movie, but I was still pleased to receive my copy of the 2008 Review of Particle Physics this week.  This year’s edition clocks in at somewhere around a thousand pages; not easy to tote around, but fortunately the summary booklet, formerly known as the “wallet card,” will soon be in the mail too.

What is this thing, anyway?  It’s a compendium of all of our knowledge of particle physics, and that is an amazing resource.  My colleagues in other disciplines, and even in other fields of physics, have a hard time knowing what is actually known in their field.  It can be hard to make an exhaustive search of the literature.  But in particle physics, we have a big book (and Web site) which records everything — every published measurement of every measured quantity out there, plus statistical analyses that provide world-average values that serve as reference points.  (Actually, that is no longer strictly speaking true; very obsolete measurements have been removed from the review, to save space.)  If you want to work on some measurement, this is the first place to go to find out what has already been done.

It doesn’t come for free, of course.  There is a hard-working team based at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory that produces the review every two years, collaborating with partners from around the world.  This year they sifted through 645 new publications from which they gathered 2,778 measurements that they have added to the 24,559 that were already in the previous review.  In addition, there are numerous in-depth reviews of specific topics, written by experts on those particular topics.  Mad props to all of those people.

The big question for this blog: what impact will the LHC have on the 2010 Review of Particle Physics?  The cutoff date for published data to be included in the next review will probably be in January 2010, which doesn’t really give us much time, especially given that we will have a limited amount of data in the next year and it will take us a while to analyze it.  But of course our goal, over time, is to completely re-write that book.  Stay tuned.

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