Short Items

  • The Fermilab Physics Advisory Committee recently recommended that the Tevatron be kept running for an additional three years (until 2014). By the end of that time it should be able to accumulate a total of 20 fb-1 of data, which would give sensitivity to a standard model Higgs at the 3-sigma level over the entire interesting mass range. The cost for this would be a total of about \$150 million, which would likely have to come out of Fermilab’s $810 million/year budget. While the idea of continuing to do physics at the high-energy frontier and possibly beat the LHC to the Higgs, for less than 10% of the lab budget/year seems to be a no-brainer, director Oddone still may not be completely sold on the idea. Keeping the Tevatron going would set back some of the projects the lab has planned for its future in a post-Tevatron world. There’s also significant concern about the future federal budget situation, and how to make sure that the best possible case is made for a future of Fermilab, in an environment where people may be looking for large, expensive programs that could be cut. For more about this, see Adrian Cho’s article Higgs or Bust? in Science.

    One huge consideration in this decision is that of what will happen at the LHC. CERN is facing its own budgetary problems, and has just decided to shut down during 2012 not just the LHC (for repair of magnet interconnections), but the entire accelerator complex. Work continues this year on trying to raise the luminosity of the machine, but progress is slow. They still are an order of magnitude lower than where they want to be by the end of the year, with only a few more weeks left before the machine is shutdown as a proton-proton collider and reconfigured for a heavy-ion run. If all goes according to plan, by late 2011 the LHC would have 1 fb-1 of data, enough to compete with the Tevatron in the Higgs search. But, so far, plans like this have turned out to be overly optimistic, with things taking longer than expected.

    In today’s CERN Bulletin and Fermilab today, Oddone and CERN DG Heuer issued a joint statement downplaying the competition between their labs:

    The press makes much of the competition between CERN’s LHC and Fermilab’s Tevatron in the search for the Higgs boson. This competitive aspect is real, and probably adds spice to the scientific exploration, but for us such reporting often feels like spilling the entire pepper shaker over a fine meal.

  • is now selling a Universe Splitter iPhone app for $1.99, complementing its other products. At $3.95, the Basic Universe:

    Using quantum physics, we split your universe into two branches, then we send you an email to inform you which branch you’re in.

    As celebrity endorser, they have Garrett Lisi explaining:

    The functioning of this app is in complete agreement with the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.

  • The author is always the last to know such things, but I’ve heard rumors that someone intends to bring out a Czech edition of Not Even Wrong.
  • High quality videos of talks from the Princeton IAS summer school on supersymmetry are available here.
  • In Langlands-related news, there’s an excellent new preprint by David Nadler about the fundamental lemma and Ngo’s proof. This is one of the most ferociously difficult topics to understand in current math research, and Nadler’s article is about the best expository piece on the subject that I’ve seen.

    This semester there’s a program on Langlands Duality in Representation Theory and Gauge Theory at Hebrew University.

    There’s a fascinating recent preprint by Kevin Buzzard and Toby Gee on The conjectural connections between automorphic representations and Galois representations. They conjecture a reciprocity sort of relation between algebraic automorphic representations and Galois representations, not just for GL(n), but for arbitrary reductive groups. This involves invoking a twist by “half the sum of the positive roots”, a phenomenon that arises in various places in representation theory, often indictating that spinors are involved (“half the sum of the positive roots” is the highest weight of the spinor representation).

  • This entry was posted in Experimental HEP News, Langlands, Multiverse Mania, Not Even Wrong: The Book. Bookmark the permalink.

    16 Responses to Short Items

    1. Sven Johnston says:

      Will Lubos Motl be translating the Czech edition of Not Even Wrong? And if he does so, can we order the iphone universe splitter so that we can live in a universe where Garrett Lisis translates it?

      Feynman, Einstein, Newton, Galileo, Planck–how awesome for them that they do not have to live through our era which consisted of cashing out and corroding the legacy they created. And how sad for us.

    2. Peter Woit says:


      I’m not sure how many joke multiverse iphone apps at $1.99 one can sell, even with Garrett’s endorsement. My suspicion is that all he gets for this is the amusement value, but if he’s getting paid, it’s probably less than the amount I’m getting for the Czech rights to NEW. In another universe this might be more than enough to pay for a nice dinner out in New York, but not in this one…

      So, at least as far as the topics of this posting go, I don’t think there’s a lot of cashing out or corroding of legacies going on. The news from CERN and Fermilab reflects a likely exciting time ahead for experimental results and research mathematics is a quite healthy subject.

    3. Sven Johnston says:

      “The news from CERN and Fermilab reflects a *likely* exciting time ahead for experimental results and research mathematics is a quite healthy subject.”

      This kindof sums of the *likely* sentiments of the last 40 years of zero progress in physics, save for new tv shows and iphone apps for our amusement. lzozlzllz

    4. neo says:

      About the universe splitter. I already know about the branch I am in. I want to know about the branches I’m not in.

    5. Theorist says:

      I would argue that not running the Tevatron is a no-brainer. They don’t have the resources to do anything BUT a Higgs search. It’s a waste of money to run the machine just to do one measurement.

    6. physicsphile says:


      Well its a very important measurement. I think they should do it. What if the LHC has some faults and never works?

    7. Paolo says:

      About the “Universe splitter”, just wanted to report that by *any* criteria, even the most relaxed ones, it’s a robery, in the sense that it does *not* connect to any remote source of randomness: modulo all the “funny” wording, I expected it to remotely connect to a source using an hardware device like but in fact it doesn’t access the web *at all*.

    8. Noname says:

      You keep insisting on how slow progress is with the LHC. Well, the increase in luminosity over the past months has been exponential, with a factor 10 of improvement per month (on average). Obviously this will not continue forever, but it’s difficult to find an adjective more inappropriate than “slow” to describe their impressive progress.

    9. Peter Woit says:


      I don’t think “slow progress” is an inaccurate description of the situation, if you look globally (compare where things are to projections put out early this year), or locally (what has been happening the past few weeks).

      I also don’t think there’s anything at all wrong with this, it’s about what you expect for this kind of project, even when things are going well (and has been the case ever since the machine was first proposed). The important point is that progress is being made and everything indicates that sooner or later the machine will work as designed. That’s great.

      However it’s also true that those deciding how long to keep the Tevatron running might be paying close attention both to history and the current situation and making their own projections about what luminosity the LHC will achieve over the next couple years.

    10. Peter Woit says:


      I checked a bit to see if I was remembering things correctly, and found documents like this from early this year

      which states

      “Making reasonable operational assumptions regarding
      fill length, luminosity lifetime and machine availability,
      the total integrated luminosity for the year would be about
      hundred inverse picobarns.”

      The integrated luminosity is now at 3-4 inverse picobarns, with six weeks to go.

    11. Amos says:

      Paolo: How do you know Universe Splitter isn’t touching the web? It seems to, by which I mean that it takes more or less time to run depending on the quality of my internet questions.

      Assuming that it does do what it says (and that the many-worlds interpretation is correct) its an excellent solution to a lot of thorny dating problems.

    12. Buba says:

      3 sigma is very weak – it is not enough to constitute a discovery..

    13. Eric Daniels says:

      @Paolo: The Universe Splitter actually *does* contact the quantum device you mentioned. How do I know this? Because I wrote the code. In fact, I even purchased a backup machine in case the one in Geneva breaks down… much to my wife’s dismay.

      If you’re at all curious, but don’t want to see me make a dime, you can have fun with the online, public version at (it says it’ll cost you $3.95, but it won’t; it’s free until I decide otherwise, which will probably be never).


    14. Joe Kriek says:

      As someone involved in science education, I can only conclude that Hawking is doing science a service by stating, to put it very crudely, that the universe is self-creating, self-organizing, and self-explaining. If this message can reach millions of Americans, it’s no bad thing.

      The alternative is that millions of Americans with no science background will continue to believe that an unknowable, untestable intelligence outside the universe is responsible for the entire show.

      This has nothing to do with how seriously M-theory should be taken within the science community, but it’s important that the public understand there is no need to insert the supernatural into science.

      All of this is obvious to those in the field, but to the millions whose exposure to science is via tv, pop science books, etc, Hawking is doing us a favor when, for sales reasons, he adds a dash of no-God spice to his book.

      Science is not only about what can be tested, or what is likely to be testable in the future, it’s also the ideas that scientists have while at work at scientists. As such, I can buy M-theory as more useful and helpful than theology.

    15. Peter Woit says:


      I don’t think that a scientist “stating” something is or should be convincing of anything to anyone. The whole point of science is that we can (or should be able to) back up our statements with evidence. The danger of what Hawking is doing, making statements that he backs up with a bogus argument he has no evidence for, is that it will encourage people to believe that the knowledge claims of science have no different status than those of religion. You see this very clearly in the debate in England, where theologians just have to point out that there is no evidence for M-theory to win the argument.

    16. CT says:


      Both religion (Christianity) and any self-creation theory require faith to believe. A big difference here is that the former is open and clear about the requirement (see, for example, Hebrews 11:6 in the Bible), whereas the latter pretends to be a scientific fact, with no evidence to back it up, as Peter said.

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