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Ken Bloom | USLHC | USA

View Blog | Read Bio

I was there

I’ve been thinking about what, if anything, to say about the recent difficulties with the LHC, and the news that we won’t have any beam this year.  What could I say that hasn’t been said already?  I was disappointed to hear the news, but ultimately unsurprised — this is a totally new machine, on a giant scale, so of course some things are going to go wrong.  Truth be told, I didn’t have high expectations for this fall’s running anyway; we knew that there weren’t going to be that many days of collisions, and even then we expected the luminosity to be low.  While we would have learned plenty from it, and it would have been great for shaking down the detector, it’s not like we would have observed any new physics right away.  “This is going to be the greatest experiment of my lifetime — I can wait a few more months,” I thought to myself.

Then I remembered my time as a postdoc at the start of Run II at the Fermilab Tevatron in 2001.  The Tevatron is doing very well now; in the past few days, CDF and D0 both completed collection of five inverse femtobarns of data during the run.  But it was a very difficult startup, and it took a long time to turn the corner.  No one enjoyed it, but I think it was particularly hard to be a postdoc or a student then.  Students need data so that they can do analyses, make measurements, write theses, and get on with their lives.  Postdocs are all in term positions; you can’t stay funded forever, and you want to get some good physics in as soon as you can.  So these were admittedly grim times, and, if my sympathy is worth anything, I do feel for the students and postdocs who have seen the LHC move a little further away.

But let’s remember that in fact things did turn around; CDF and D0 got rolling, and those same students and postdocs are now busy building their careers — many of them on the LHC.  We’ll get through this too, and the delay will motivate us to work even harder to make the best use of this down period, get the detectors and the software and the data analyses in the best shape possible, and be ready for when the beams return.  Once the LHC really gets rolling, the new physics might start hitting us in the face, and we’re going to be prepared.

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