This and That

  • There’s a new preprint here explaining the scientific case for running the Tevatron past 2011. A couple weeks ago the P5 subpanel came out with its report on the subject, generating news stories “Momentum builds for Tevatron extension” and “Panel Wants U.S. to Chase ‘God Particle’—If There’s Money”. The panel recommended extending the Tevatron run, but only if another $35 million/year in additional federal funding was provided to do it. Prospects for this are very unclear, with the next stage in the process a decision about whether to include this in the President’s DOE budget request for FY2012, due next February.

    The US for a long time now has operated under a bizarre budgeting system, where government agencies typically spend much of the time operating without a budget. FY 2011 began October 1, with the Congress still far from having come up with a FY 2011 budget, instead operating the government on a series of “continuing resolutions”, which allow spending at the FY 2010 level. The latest of these expires December 3, after which there will undoubtedly be another one. Sooner or later an “omnibus bill” setting the actual budget will presumably get passed and one might think the result would correspond to the levels set by the appropriation committees of the House and Senate (which contain an increase of FY 2010 levels). Every other year though is an election year, so the Congress that had left town for weeks to campaign comes back after a post-election rest as a lame-duck organization, with lots of its members pushing for delaying everything until next year if their side did well in the election. This year the Republicans did very well at the polls arguing that the government spends too much money on “discretionary” things. Unfortunately for HEP, it’s in the relatively small “discretionary” part of the budget. There will undoubtedly be a strong push from the Republicans to not wait for FY 2012, but to start cutting this year’s budget, in the middle of the fiscal year. Given the dysfunctional nature of the US political system, it’s anybody’s guess how this will turn out. For comments from the Fermilab director about this situation, see here.

  • One organization that doesn’t have to worry about federal funding is FQXI, which was initially funded by the Templeton Foundation with a grant that was supposed to take them through the end of last year. I don’t know where their money is coming from these days, but they have recently announced a new essay contest carrying $40,000 or so in prize money (the Gruber Foundation is one sponsor), on the topic “Is Reality Digital or Analog?”.

    Among other FQXI activities, next August its members will go on a cruise during which they will discuss foundational questions related to the nature of time.

  • The LHC proton-proton run has ended for 2010, with an integrated luminosity of about 45 inverse picobarns. The plan is to restart around February 4 and collide protons for 9 months in 2011. It’s possible that the energy of the beams will be raised from 3.5 TeV to 4 TeV. Detailed plans will be made at workshops at Evian and Chamonix (January 24-28). For recent news and some idea of long term plans, see this talk at the US LHC users organization meeting. It has the LHC shutdown to replace splices from December 2011-March 2013, and another long shutdown for a luminosity upgrade in 2016. In the very long term, there are discussions of upgrading the machine with new, higher field magnets that would allow operation at 16.5 TeV/beam, but this is probably about 20 years off…
  • The theorists at CERN have been retreating, see here.
  • There’s an interview with Steven Weinberg in Scientific American, see here.
  • Nature Physics has a review by Eva Silverstein of the Yau/Nadis book (that I discussed here).
  • See Dennis Gaitgory’s website here for some notes in progress on geometric Langlands.
  • Update:
    One more: An interesting diavlog between Lee Smolin and Robert Wright at the Big Questions Online site.

    Update: Tommaso Dorigo has a critical discussion of the paper making the case for an extended Tevatron run.

    This entry was posted in Experimental HEP News, Langlands, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

    10 Responses to This and That

    1. Seth Thatcher says:

      Physics is my hobby, but politics is my area of expertise. Our system of budgeting is strange indeed. I am pleased with the direction of the mid-term elections and I expect to see spending dramatically decreased going forward. But, politicians have a way of disappointing. I write this post, however, to put forth the idea that funding the Tevatron is no run of the mill congressional earmark. It is one of the truly necessary and fruitful federal expenditures. How can we leave real science unfunded or underfunded when there is so much good that can come from it. Also, there is much pseudo-science being generated these days as you point out regularly. Let’s not let crackpot science get any better foothold than it already has. In my humble opinion, we should give the Tevatron the funding it seeks. Let’s find the Higgs first (if it exists)! A little scientific competitiveness is a good thing.

    2. bmenrigh says:


      I agree and I’m sure most readers on this site agree. It seems unlikely that Congress will agree though…

      Let’s hope they do!

    3. DB says:

      Killing off the Tevatron is part of a bigger picture: putting the nail in the coffin of any grandiose plans that may exist to build expensive new accelerators on US soil.

      Killing off Constellation served a similar purpose in relation to NASA.

      However, the US will remain the world leader in String Theory, of that you may be certain.

    4. Kris Krogh says:

      The interview with Lee Smolin was refreshing, particularly his comments on time. His colleague, Carlo Rovelli, argues it is only an illusion and has claimed for years that loop quantum gravity will solve the “problem of time” by making time go away completely. (Reminds me of Frank Wilczek’s remark that “String theory is promising. And promising, and promising.”) Smolin takes the opposite (less fashionable) position that time may be something we need to accept as truly fundamental.

    5. Shantanu says:

      Peter, any comments/interesting stuff about the conference
      which has talks by Weinberg (among others)?

    6. Verified Armonyous says:

      Wow, no exclamation marks to spare for the outstanding performance of the LHC…A cold status report that would make jump any hypothetical student of yours into willing to work on high-energy Physics!

    7. Peter Woit says:


      Given that the projected total luminosity for 2010 was 100 inverse picobarns and they ended up with 45 or so, I don’t think that a large number of exclamation points are really justified. They did get peak luminosities above their goal, and prospects for reaching their goal of 1000 inverse picobarns next year look good, but that’s next year. I hope things work out well and they manage to reach that goal and more.

      As for whether students should be excited about the future of HEP and go into it, that depends not on how much data the LHC produces, but what’s in it. The time for exclamation points will be when there’s a real non Standard-Model signature (or at least a solid SM Higgs signal).

    8. Peter Shor says:

      I can give my view about the topic in the essay contest: Reality is quantum, which is both (and neither) digital nor analog, in the same way that an electron or a photon is both (and neither) a wave and a particle. I probably won’t enter it, though.

    9. Shantanu says:

      Peter, any comments about the Miniboone result which may be confirming LSND result? Is this an exciting development for
      particle physics?

    10. Peter Woit says:


      No, I think you need a statistically more significant difference from the Standard Model (with neutrino masses) to get excited.

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