This and That
There’s a new preprint here explaining the scientific case for running the Tevatron past 2011. A couple weeks ago the P5 subpanel came out with its report on the subject, generating news stories “Momentum builds for Tevatron extension” and “Panel Wants U.S. to Chase ‘God Particle’—If There’s Money”. The panel recommended extending the Tevatron run, but only if another $35 million/year in additional federal funding was provided to do it. Prospects for this are very unclear, with the next stage in the process a decision about whether to include this in the President’s DOE budget request for FY2012, due next February.
The US for a long time now has operated under a bizarre budgeting system, where government agencies typically spend much of the time operating without a budget. FY 2011 began October 1, with the Congress still far from having come up with a FY 2011 budget, instead operating the government on a series of “continuing resolutions”, which allow spending at the FY 2010 level. The latest of these expires December 3, after which there will undoubtedly be another one. Sooner or later an “omnibus bill” setting the actual budget will presumably get passed and one might think the result would correspond to the levels set by the appropriation committees of the House and Senate (which contain an increase of FY 2010 levels). Every other year though is an election year, so the Congress that had left town for weeks to campaign comes back after a post-election rest as a lame-duck organization, with lots of its members pushing for delaying everything until next year if their side did well in the election. This year the Republicans did very well at the polls arguing that the government spends too much money on “discretionary” things. Unfortunately for HEP, it’s in the relatively small “discretionary” part of the budget. There will undoubtedly be a strong push from the Republicans to not wait for FY 2012, but to start cutting this year’s budget, in the middle of the fiscal year. Given the dysfunctional nature of the US political system, it’s anybody’s guess how this will turn out. For comments from the Fermilab director about this situation, see here.
One organization that doesn’t have to worry about federal funding is FQXI, which was initially funded by the Templeton Foundation with a grant that was supposed to take them through the end of last year. I don’t know where their money is coming from these days, but they have recently announced a new essay contest carrying $40,000 or so in prize money (the Gruber Foundation is one sponsor), on the topic “Is Reality Digital or Analog?”.
Among other FQXI activities, next August its members will go on a cruise during which they will discuss foundational questions related to the nature of time.
The LHC proton-proton run has ended for 2010, with an integrated luminosity of about 45 inverse picobarns. The plan is to restart around February 4 and collide protons for 9 months in 2011. It’s possible that the energy of the beams will be raised from 3.5 TeV to 4 TeV. Detailed plans will be made at workshops at Evian and Chamonix (January 24-28). For recent news and some idea of long term plans, see this talk at the US LHC users organization meeting. It has the LHC shutdown to replace splices from December 2011-March 2013, and another long shutdown for a luminosity upgrade in 2016. In the very long term, there are discussions of upgrading the machine with new, higher field magnets that would allow operation at 16.5 TeV/beam, but this is probably about 20 years off…
The theorists at CERN have been retreating, see here.
There’s an interview with Steven Weinberg in Scientific American, see here.
Nature Physics has a review by Eva Silverstein of the Yau/Nadis book (that I discussed here).
See Dennis Gaitgory’s website here for some notes in progress on geometric Langlands.
One more: An interesting diavlog between Lee Smolin and Robert Wright at the Big Questions Online site.
Update: Tommaso Dorigo has a critical discussion of the paper making the case for an extended Tevatron run.