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Ken Bloom | USLHC | USA

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On the long road

Finally, it’s summer time! As I’ve said from the beginning, summer is a very nice time to be a professor, as we don’t have to do half of our job for these few months. But already this summer is filling up with things to do, and a lot of it involves travel. I have trips to five different destinations, two international, in the 13-plus weeks until the fall semester starts. It is a long road to be on. So you, dear reader, will be subject to my travelogues for a few months.

Today, I’m at the University of Colorado for the annual US CMS collaboration meeting. This is my first visit to Boulder, and it seems pretty nice, although it’s one of these campuses where are the buildings are of a similar style and exterior and thus it’s easy to get lost. The US CMS meeting is a chance for all of the US-based collaborators to get together and talk about what we’re doing on CMS and where we are going. Obviously, there is a lot to talk about right now. The LHC is running, there is a lot of data analysis in progress, and many public results that are having an impact about how we think about particle physics.

But what have we been devoting the most time to at this meeting? Detector upgrades! Yes, we’re talking about stuff that isn’t going to get installed until 2016, even while we might discover a Higgs boson in 2012. Why? First, it takes a long time to build detectors for particle physics. The technology tends to be pretty leading edge, often you have to build a large number of parts by hand, and you need extensive quality control. A real plan for construction, testing, and installation needs to be in place well before the detector needs to be operational. Also, we’re especially concerned that these improved detector components will be ready in time, if not early. The instantaneous luminosity of the LHC, a measure of the collision rate, is rising quickly, and within a few years we expect that it will be above the level for which the CMS detector was designed. If we want to be able to analyze future LHC collisions, we need a detector that meets the needed specifications. And finally, the finances for the construction of these detectors are still very much in the air. We might not have enough money to do everything we want on the timescale that we want to do it. So it’s important to give these projects a lot of scrutiny up front. It’s the start of a long road there, too.

Not that there isn’t any fun physics going on here. Today we had a series of talks by younger people (well, at least younger than me) on a variety of data-analysis topics. The quality of the work being done is really impressive, and there are a lot of creative and sophisticated ideas being put to use. One running theme is our ability to rely on real detector data, rather than simulations, to model the old-physics backgrounds to potential new-physics signals. And it’s worth keeping in mind that this is only possible because of the excellent detector that we’ve built. Good detector upgrades will allow us to keep doing this excellent data analysis in the future.

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