At the big AAAS conference held in San Francisco the past few days there was a session on “A New Frontier in Particle Physics”, about the LHC and the promise of physics at the TeV scale. Burton Richter’s talk there on Charting the Course for Elementary Particle Physics is now available at the arXiv.
Richter uses the “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times” line from Dickens to characterize the current state of particle physics. He expects the LHC to begin operations at full energy in summer 2008, with physics results beginning to appear in 2009. As for the ILC, at the earliest it would be completed in 2019, and he sees no chance of it being built if the LHC doesn’t find something new by 2012. He also sees a luminosity upgrade of the LHC being considered next year, one which would take place after the machine had been running for 5 years or so.
He also discusses the MiniBooNE experiment at Fermilab, a neutrino experiment that is late in reporting results. They are doing a “blind analysis”, not “opening the box” and looking at the final answer from their data until the last moment. Richter is dubious about this, saying: “I never did like blind analyses”, claiming that they prevent experimenters from seeing problems in the data, and he worries that the MiniBooNE result (which is trying to check results from the LSND experiment that disagree with the standard picture of neutrino physics) will be inconclusive.
We should know soon, I see that on March 1 there is a colloquium scheduled at Princeton by one of the MiniBooNE experimenters on “New Neutrino Oscillation Results from the MiniBooNE Experiment”. For a recent talk about MiniBooNE given at Columbia, see here. This talk did also definitely mention the possibility of an inconclusive result, requiring a more sensitive experiment that might take place at the SNS (Spallation Neutron Source) in Oak Ridge.
Also at the AAAS meeting was yet another session on the wonders of the multiverse called “Multiverses, Dark Energy and Physics as an Environmental Science,” featuring the usual Stanford team of Linde and Susskind, with Lawrence Krauss brought in to provide a little bit of reality. Stanford has put out a press release promoting Andrei Linde’s talk at the meeting. Linde goes on about what he calls 101000 vacua, and how they are “an unexpected gift from string theory… an eternal feast where all possible dishes are served.” He seems to be positively gleeful about the “Alice’s Restaurant” aspect of this pseudo-science, where “you can get anything you want…”
Update: For the YouTube generation, Stanford has a video here.
Update: Jon Bagger’s talk at the AAAS is available here.
Update: Various reports on the AAAS multiverse session including here, here (Wired blog, couldn’t get in the room, too full), and here (New Scientist blog, describes the session as “you might have mistaken the proceedings inside for a stand-up comedy act”).