I made it back from CERN last night, despite the “problem with radar” over London, as the attendant in the Swiss lounge had it. (It turns out a computer failed rather than the radar itself.) I was lucky – some of my colleagues had flights cancelled, and were rebooked for this morning.
Much of the CERN council meeting I was there for was quite draining. It puzzles me why, since most of the time all I do is sit there and listen (often on the back row, since I am generally not the delegate, just an advisor). I think it must be like fielding in cricket. Often no intervention is needed, but you have to stay alert in case something comes your way at speed.
The best bits were the updates on the status of the Large Hadron Collider. It has been shut down, under refurbishment, since the beginning of 2013, and is planned to restart in May 2015. Things are going well. The magnets in one eighth of the ring have now been tested up to the huge currents they will have to carry in order to provide the magnetic field required to steer the proton beams at 6,500 GeV of energy¹. There’s a CERN press release on that here and one from STFC, the UK funding agency, here.
We have unfinished business with understanding the universe.
says Professor Tara Shears from Liverpool, and I can almost hear her setting phasers to CP violation as she does so.
The higher-energy beams will allow us to increase the proton-proton collision energy to 13 TeV, compared to 8 TeV when we finished running in 2012. The extra energy, and the fact that we will simply have more collisions, will allow us to look more deeply into the structure of matter at the smallest distances, to search for new particles (such as Dark Matter, for instance) and try to address some of the other open questions of particle physics and cosmology. They will also allow us to learn more about the Higgs boson. The picture at the top is a detail from a nice new poster, from STFC, by Ben Gilliland, showing what we do and don’t know about the Higgs so far.