The Tevatron has been performing well, producing record-high weekly luminosities. Fermilab director Oddone has announced that plans to shut-down the accelerator complex for yearly maintenance work are being canceled this year, instead the plan is to run the Tevatron straight through the year, with a shutdown not until spring 2009. The current proposal to DOE is to run through FY 2010 (i.e. until September 2010), by which time the expectation is that integrated luminosity would be more than double the current value of nearly 4 fb-1.
The budget situation for US and British HEP continues to look rather grim. Durbin and several other senators sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee requesting that supplemental funds for FY2008 be found to stop lay-offs at Fermilab. Senators Clinton and Obama did not sign the letter, which seems especially remarkable in the case of Obama, since Fermilab is in the state he represents. For the latest in the sad story of UK physics funding cuts, see here.
As far as FY2009 goes, Congress is on more or less exactly the same path as last year. Attempts to rein in earmarking were defeated, and committee hearings, including those on the science budget, show no signs of interest in making any tough decisions (to cut military/Iraq war spending, domestic spending, raise revenues) now. See some commentary here. Presumably decisions will ultimately get made by the same mysterious staffers in the same mysterious way as last year. This year the betting is that there actually won’t be a budget until deep into the fiscal year, with Congress waiting for a new president rather than negotiate with Bush. This will leave US science programs operating under a continuing resolution, financed at FY 2008 levels into FY 2009.
The P5 committee is meeting in Washington today to put together recommendations for how US HEP should proceed, under various possible funding scenarios over the next few years. For more about their deliberations, see their web-site here. The last public meeting of the group was at Brookhaven, talks there are available here.
Talks at the Linde-fest included many serious and informative ones about current cosmology research, together with a large helping of Multiverse madness, since Stanford is ground-zero for this phenomenon. The string cosmology talks were mostly devoted to showing that some string compactification or other can reproduce any conceivable experimental result. Several speakers discussed Boltzmann brains, perhaps one of them was the one who so annoyed Lawrence Krauss recently. Max Tegmark promoted future measurements of the 21cm hydrogen line as being very promising for cosmology, the same point was made here by Scott Dodelson. Lance Dixon gave a talk on the finiteness of N=8 supergravity. He describes conversations with string theorists who would like to interpret this result as indicating that string theory would still be necessary to deal with the asymptotic nature of the perturbation series (not clear why the same problem in string theory doesn’t bother them). One problem with this is that string theory doesn’t have the same symmetries as N=8 supergravity. Witten gave a talk on his recent work, much the same as one he gave at Stony Brook last week. I hope to write about that in my next posting.
See here for an interesting talk at the KITP in Santa Barbara from Albert de Roeck about what to expect from the early stages of the physics run at the LHC.
Michio Kaku’s new book The Physics of the Impossible is getting some attention, especially in the UK. A Fox News story headed Physicist Says Time Travel Is Not Only Possible, but Likely claims that:
… in Blighty [that’s the UK], Kaku’s being treated as if he’s Doctor Who informing dim-witted humans about the wonders of the Universe, with front-page treatment Wednesday in both the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian. Even the normally staid Economist is chiming in.
while, in the US:
… outlandish claims in books are recognized as, well, a good way to sell books.
Sabine Hossenfelder, Michael Nielsen and Lee Smolin are organizing a conference at Perimeter this semester on Science in the 21st Century.