HEPAP is meeting in Washington today, presentations available here. The idea of this regular meeting is for the US HEP community and the funding agencies to meet and plan for the future, something that’s not easily done in an environment where these agencies have no budget at all for the current year, just an authorization to spend money at last year’s rate that expires in a couple weeks from now. No one seems to be sure what funding prospects are for the next few months, much less the next few years. Fermilab is dealing with this situation by offering 600 of its staff incentives to quit or retire next month (see here). There’s a new DOE Committee of Visitors report out here, it contains the bizarrely familiar recommendation of all such reports: the US needs to fund more HEP theory students (they don’t explain why, or where the money should come from).
In dark matter news, Princeton this week hosted a workshop on the subject, talks available here. Still no results from the latest Xenon100 run. This week’s Nature has a nice review of the various searches for WIMP dark matter, with conclusion:
With the advent of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, and a new generation of astroparticle experiments, the moment of truth has come for WIMPs: either we will discover them in the next five to ten years, or we will witness their inevitable decline.
(Update: a commenter points out that this article is also available on the arXiv here.)
One new astroparticle experiment that is supposed to look for evidence of dark matter is Sam Ting’s Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, set to be launched in February, and described in a front-page New York Times article yesterday.
Ten days after first collisions, Alice already has two papers out (here and here) with experimental results on lead-lead collisions at an energy more than an order of magnitude higher than ever before. String theorists are very enthusiastic about this (see here and here), claiming that what is being observed is “properties of a type that can be nicely captured using string theory models”. I’d be quite curious to see any AdS/CFT based predictions that could be compared to these new results (or to forthcoming ones).
For the latest from the LHC, see here. Current plan is to have a proton-proton beam back around February 21, followed by at least 2 weeks of beam recommissioning. The proton run would end in November, followed by another ion run. First estimates for 2011 are that the run will be at 4 TeV/beam, and a “reasonable” estimate of total luminosity would be 2.2 inverse femtobarns, double the initial goal. Even more optimistically, the possible “ultimate reach” for next year would be a luminosity that would give a total of 7.2 inverse femtobarns if sustained over the hoped for 200 days of running. This kind of higher luminosity would allow the LHC to see evidence of a Higgs over the entire expected range, as well as allowing it to finally overtake the Tevatron in the Higgs race. The experiments so far are reporting results that match exactly the Standard Model, more announcements to come at the Winter Conferences early next year.
There’s an interesting trend of our LA-based theorist-blogger-media-stars starting to resist making dubious media appearances. A few months ago Sean Carroll described storming off the set of a TV pilot here. Now Clifford Johnson (whose media mishaps include appearing as a scientific expert on the question of how big women’s breasts need to be to crush beer cans, see here) tells us that Sometimes I Say No.