CERN Briefing Book

This year the US and European HEP communities are engaging in exercises designed to put together plans for the future. In the US it’s Snowmass 2013, leading up to a big meeting in Minneapolis this summer. This past week has seen preliminary meetings at Irvine to discuss future prospects for experimental study of SUSY and other BSM ideas, and at Princeton for discussion of future prospects for study of the Higgs.

Over in Europe, there is a plan to update the 2006 European strategy for particle physics, This will officially take place in May/June, based on a document to be finalized by the CERN Council in March. Next week in Erice there will be a meeting to draft this document. To prepare for this, there was an open symposium last September, leading to the preparation of a briefing book, now available here.

The briefing book is a very interesting 220 page document covering in up-to-date detail the current experimental situation and future prospects, for all areas of HEP. One big issue is the Higgs: now that its mass is known, what can be learned about it using some new machine (a “Higgs factory”) beyond what can be learned from the LHC? As far as prospects for a new, higher energy machine, the document describes the possibilities, but no decision about such a thing is likely to be made until after results become available from seeing the LHC run at 13 TeV starting in 2015.

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7 Responses to CERN Briefing Book

  1. Markk says:

    I have a question about the goals. Are these more technology plans or experimental plans? It seems like until results at higher energies are analysed, the scientific direction may not be known, but we could be looking at what technologies would be needed in different cases.

    For example I have read about these linear burst (for lack of a better term) accelerators that somehow get energy injected in a short time. Is that a possibility? Is just a bigger type of current system the only bet? It seems to me like we may be in a period where research into enabling experimental technology is more important to look at.

  2. Peter Woit says:


    The technological issues are a huge part of the discussion, they’re what determine what the possibilities are. One chapter of the briefing book devoted specifically to accelerator technology, and the question of which areas of such R and D to fund is a big one being considered.

  3. Brendan says:

    Booklet also seems to be taking a stand on credit that is not aligned with the previous 50 years of particle physics theory and history…p. 151 Chapter 7, Particle Physics Theory

    The theoretical foundations for such a discovery were first laid down, almost fifty years ago, by three theorists working in Europe: Englert, Brout and Higgs.

    Not sure who wrote the chapter (for sure European) but leaving out GHK is interesting and political – certainly contrary to history and American Physical Society.

  4. Friend says:

    I’m curious to know if there is any plan to accelerate the particles with lasers, or perhaps they already do. Thanks.

  5. Peter Woit says:


    See pages 169-170 of the briefing book:

    “This technology is not yet ready for a proposal for a high energy accelerator.”

  6. srp says:

    The briefing book is an interesting window into how the world looks to the experimental particle physicist. The public is usually exposed only to views of the world presented by theorists. The differences are telling.

    For example, in the hadron physics section there’s a lot of discussion of how much empirical work continues to be needed to fill in the picture of how the proton works. Lots of collisions to measure one-dimensional parton distributions are prescribed, and on the cutting edge it’s suggested that it might be cool to find out how everything fits together in two or three dimensions. OK, then, but could we stop hearing about how the existing theory is so darn perfect that we have nothing to work on?

    I don’t think that the average citizen who reads popular science articles realizes that the existing theories, models, and data are insufficient to explain or predict the quantitative properties of the proton and its structure. The CERN briefing even has a throwaway paragraph about how the spin of the proton isn’t close to being derivable from measured spin components of the quarks and gluons. Oh. Shouldn’t we be a little bit curious about that?

    Here’s a safety tip for physicists who want public money for continued experimental HEP research: Don’t shoot yourselves in the foot by exaggerating the level of understanding already achieved by theory. And don’t kid yourself that the public will be more enthralled by far-out speculative stuff than by near-to-hand puzzles about things they’ve heard of and think they partly understand. “There are big gaps in our understanding of how the proton is constituted” might actually be an easier sell than “We think there are a bunch of new particles we can make at higher energy that would cancel out some of the nasty parts of our equations for the particles we can already see.” Of course, people in physics would actually have to care intensely about how the proton works to say it with a straight face, and unfortunately I’m not as sure as I used to be that that is the case.

  7. Peter Woit says:

    OK srp, that’s now the third comment insisting on the importance of studying poorly understood aspects of QCD. You’ve made your point, enough.