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Frank Simon | MPI for Physics | Germany

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A New Year: Heavy Ions, Dark Matter, and back to a Life on the Road

It is the middle of January, and the new year is definitely keeping me busy. Lectures are still on at the Technical University of Munich, and a good week ago, I kicked of the year for my students with a journey back in time for me: Heavy Ion Physics, and the search for / study of the Quark Gluon Plasma, or what is now called a strongly coupled QGP aka The Perfect Liquid. For my PhD thesis finished six years ago, I worked at the STAR experiment at Brookhaven’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider RHIC, a facility we’ll be hearing of here quite a bit in the future in BNL’s blog, I’m sure. Back in my time as a student at RHIC, the results that led to the discovery of the sQGP, such as the observation of collective flow of the matter produced in the collisions, evidence for the absorption of jets in the hot and dense medium (“Jet Quenching”), …  were just coming together, truely an exciting time. Today, things are equally exiting in this field: We are now seeing first results from Lead-Lead collisions at the LHC, which show a fantastic strength of the jet quenching, spectacularly illustrated by event displays from the experiments, and a continuation of the almost ideal hydrodynamic behavior of the matter it this new, much higher energy. The very first impressions were nicely summarized in a Physics Viewpoint.

I’ve been giving my lecture on high energy hadron collider physics for the third Winter in a row, but this time is really special: All topics that I cover now have new LHC results to go along… Detector physics, Top Quarks, seaches for exotic phenomena like micro black holes, heavy ion physics… and SUSY will be coming up next on my list. I hope I can convey some of this excitement to my students!

Then, two days ago I took a quick detour to Dark Matter physics, since I had Laura Baudis from Zurich as a guest in the Munich physics colloquium. Another area with a lot of excitement currently: Direct detection experiments could see really convincing signals from dark matter particles any time now, and there is already quite some controversy about exiting results. Definitely something to watch out for in the near future!

And, after a couple of weeks in Munich, I’m back to my life on the road: Two days in Hamburg, already completely filled with discussions about publication plans and analysis results from the CALICE calorimeters… And the trip gives me the opportunity to blog from where I usually do: At the airport, waiting to board…

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