In perhaps the most important development for the future of HEP in the US in quite a while, yesterday Bill Foster, an HEP experimentalist who worked on CDF and the Recycler at Fermilab, won a race to fill the congressional seat being vacated by Dennis Hastert. This is the congressional district that includes Fermilab, and one of the main reasons for the disastrous budget cuts affecting Fermilab this year seems to have been the fact that the congressional representative for its district not only was no longer Speaker of the House, but had retired.
Foster managed to win as a Democrat in a district that has been a safe one for the Republicans, but he will be up for reelection in November, facing the same opponent. The House Democratic leadership will likely be doing whatever it can to support Foster, and this could very well involve changing its stance from cutting Fermilab’s budget to restoring it for next year, FY2009. This should hold true at least through the first week of November, although chances of a budget being passed by then don’t seem very high.
I’m still rather confused by news about how the LHC is progressing. A new schedule has appeared, but unlike previous versions, it just shows plans for cooling down the machine, with no information about plans for what happens after that. Earlier versions of the schedule included a period of 2-3 months of powering tests for each sector after it is cool, followed by a month for machine checkout, and two months for beam commissioning before collisions at 7 TeV.
The new schedule has most of the machine cool by the end of May, except for sector 4-5, which is now being warmed up for the repairs on inner triplet magnets, with powering tests already having been performed. This last sector is supposed to be cool again in mid-June. A review of the powering tests is here, from which I gather that discussions are underway about possible ways of speeding up the process for the other sectors, including the possibility of running the machine at 5 TeV rather than 7 TeV during its first year. This would evidently allow a quicker commissioning, avoiding time-consuming quenchings of the magnets that are part of testing them at the highest currents. The Resonaances blog has a report of a talk by Lyn Evans at Moriond this past week, where he describes the possibility of running at lower energy as the currently preferred option, and states that the current plan is for first collisions by the end of August.
For news about recent experimental HEP results, I’m afraid I can’t do better than refer you to Tommaso Dorigo for coverage and excellent discussions of a new, more accurate top mass measurement, reports of not very convincing deviations from the Standard model in B-mixing and charm decays, and stringent new limits on WIMPs that make SUSY more unlikely.
For other news about particle detectors, it appears that perhaps at some point in the future, one will be built into every memory chip made, to guard against errors caused by cosmic rays.
Update: For a KITP talk on the current state of the LHC and prospects for the next year or so, by Michael Barnett of ATLAS, see here.