This week’s New Yorker has a quite good article on the LHC and the state of particle physics with the title Crash Course. One of the main themes of the article is that of the rivalry between experimentalists and theorists. There’s a quote from Leon Lederman:
If I occasionally neglect to cite a theorist, it’s not because I’ve forgotten,… It’s probably because I hate him.
CMS experimentalist Robert Cousins describes worries that triggers designed with too much attention paid to theorists could be disastrous:
There are famous high-energy-physics experiments that missed discoveries because they weren’t writing them to tape… This is why we try not to be too specific about which theoretical speculations we care about. We add up all the energy, and if it’s a huge number we write that event to tape. If on one side of the detector it’s a not-so-huge number, but there is nothing on the other side, so it’s a huge imbalance, we get excited about that, and we write that to tape, too.
The only theorist interviewed is Nima Arkani-Hamed, who, while consuming prodigious numbers of espressos, describes the perception of theorists by experimentalists as:
There is a sense among many experimentalists that theorists are a bunch of irresponsible little spoiled brats who get to sit around all day, having all these fun ideas, drinking espresso and goofing off, with next to no accountability.
and jokes that theorists will need to get a “Deep Throat” among experimentalists in order to get access to any raw LHC data.
As for the state of the LHC, the Resonaances blog at CERN describes rumors from “well-informed sources” that the low-energy test run scheduled for late this year is likely to be cancelled, with a physics run at full energy not likely until summer 2008.