At Fermilab the Tevatron is producing record amounts of luminosity, see here for a story about a celebration of this. Things also appear to be going well at the LHC, as the cooldown remains on schedule, and only a tolerable number (12) of PIMs needed to be replaced in the sector recently warmed back up. See here and here for some discussion of current planning for the next year. The machine should be cool and ready for beam commissioning in late June, and if all goes well, by September an initial physics run with 5 TeV beams at relatively low luminosity may begin. At these luminosities and energies, the stored energy in the LHC beam will be no greater than at the Tevatron (although the important number for physics, the per-particle collision energy, will be 5 times higher). The plan is to run until December, with a heavy-ion run at the end, then shutdown until April 2009. During the shutdown the magnets will be trained, allowing beams at the full energy of 7 TeV during the 2009 run.
Particle theory, especially string theory, is not doing as well. Data recently compiled about top-cited particle physics papers from 2007 shows only one [note added: should specify string theory here, at 27 and 31 are phenomenology papers from 2002 and 2000] theory paper from this century making the list of 51 most heavily cited papers, and that was the KKLT paper which is referenced by all “landscape” and “multiverse” studies. The sad state of string theory has even made it deep into the popular consciousness. Last week’s episode of “The Big Bang” featured a brilliant young prodigy explaining to the particle theorist character that his work on string theory was a “dead-end”, due to the landscape problem. Even economists are dissing the subject:
Modern financial theory as applied ranks with string theory in physics as one of the greatest intellectual frauds of our time. Whereas the vacuous pretensions of string theory have finally been exposed (we now know that the theory never generated a single falsifiable prediction), those of “financial engineering” are just beginning to be exposed both in the press and in lawsuits alike.
Joe Polchinski (inventor of D branes in string theory, and one of the few permanent members at KITP) also agreed to be mock-interviewed, revealing a sly sense of humor in the process. For instance, asked if there was any controversy about string theory, he deadpanned, “Oh no. Everybody agrees that string theory is correct.” It cracked up the room.
This workshop unfortunately didn’t seem to include the advice to just say no when asked by TV producers to participate in a short stupid comedy skit making fun of science and scientists. See here, here and here, for reports on Wednesday’s “Root of All Evil” show from Comedy Central, which featured a mercifully short segment making fun of scientists as incomprehensible geeks. Participating in things like this does about as much to help the image of science and scientists as appearing on a Spike TV segment about the use of physics to determine whether women can crush beer cans with their breasts.
Given that things are going very well with the LHC, and badly with string theory, string theorists are doing the logical thing: advertising their activities with graphics of strings superimposed on a picture of the LHC. See here and here.
Update: Minutes from the LHC Installation and Commissioning Committee April 11 meeting are here. They include the exchange:
L.Evans asked if the cryogenics teams are still on track for having the whole machine at operating temperature in mid-June. S.Claudet replied that taking the figure of 6 weeks from room temperature to 2K, and allowing 2 weeks of cryo tuning, sector 45 would be ready for hardware commissioning in the first half of July.
This indicates that beam commissioning is likely to begin in July, not June.
Also discussed was what to do about possible stray plastic parts in the beam tube:
Any pieces of plastic would be vaporised by the beam so we should not delay start-up to search for these.
Update: Commentary on this posting from Lubos here, including
I am amazed by the people who deliberately keep on opening the pile of manure called Not Even Wrong – it must be due to a really nasty deviation of theirs that dwarves pedophilia.