Besides the dramatic new CMS results mentioned in the last two postings, there’s other news from the high-energy frontier as it moves from Illinois to Geneva.
Plans for next year’s LHC run were made at Evian last week and will be finalized at Chamonix next month. Beam re-commissioning will start February 21, and it looks like the goal will be to run the machine at 4 TeV/beam (up from 3.5 this year) and accumulate a total luminosity of 1-3 inverse femtobarns. Instead of shutting down during 2012 to fix magnet interconnections, the plan now is for the LHC to continue running through 2012, accumulating enough data to definitively see or rule out a Standard Model Higgs and finally put the Tevatron out of business.
Today at Fermilab people are looking backwards, with a symposium celebrating the 25th anniversary of first collisions at the Tevatron. While a proposal has been put forth to keep the machine running through FY 2014, the budgetary situation looks increasingly likely to put them out of business, no matter what CERN does. The dysfunctional nature of the US federal budget process means that the laboratory is already several months into FY 2011, with no budget, operating under a “continuing resolution” that allows them to spend money at the same rate as last year. Last night, an effort to pass an “omnibus” spending bill for the rest of FY 2011 allocating total spending at the same level of FY2010 was defeated. This means that until February and the next Congress, Fermilab and the rest of the government will operate without a budget. At some point after that, the Republicans plan to try and pass a budget cutting spending from the FY2010 level. Fermilab could very well find itself this Spring finally finding out that its FY2011 budget has been cut, with only a few months left to get spending down to the appropriated level. Budgetary problems are not just affecting the Tevatron, with plans for an underground laboratory in South Dakota dedicated to neutrino and other experiments now up in the air as the NSF has withdrawn its support for the project.
President Obama did make an inspiring speech about his dedication to support Research and Development spending.