Shared vision

ICFA writing group: Barbara Warmbein, DESY; Judy Jackson, Fermilab; Rika Takahashi, KEK; Pier Oddone, Fermilab; Sachio Komamiya, U of Tokyo; James Gillies, CERN; Joachim Mnich, DESY; and Tim Meyer, TRIUMF.

Last July, at the meeting of the International Committee of Future Accelerators that I missed because of my daughter’s wedding, I was elected to chair a committee to produce a document with a shared global vision for particle physics. The document should be easily accessible to policy makers, funding agencies and members of the public from all the world’s regions. It should demonstrate a high degree of coherence across the world’s programs, and place the regional programs in the context of the global program. Associated with the document there will be a website where those with a deeper interest and the time to indulge it will be able to explore the global program in much greater detail.

Last week our committee met at DESY together with writers from several laboratories. The meeting took place over two days in which we hammered out the messages we want to convey and drafted a rough design for the document. I will present our committee’s progress at the ICFA meeting next week in Beijing and will take direction from ICFA on the document’s further development. Communicating a shared vision has never been more important than today, when all the regions are traversing turbulent times.

After all the advances we have made, our lack of understanding of the basic laws that underlie our universe is dramatic. Profound questions that seem almost theological in nature both bedevil and inspire us. The answers to some and perhaps all of these questions appear to be just over the horizon as the world comes together to exploit the most powerful set of scientific tools ever assembled. Will we be rewarded with a grand synthesis that will resolve all these mysteries in a revolutionary new framework, as was the case in the past with quantum mechanics? Or will today’s answers lead the way to even more fundamental questions, opening vistas onto more distant horizons?

Particle physics has developed a remarkable culture of collaboration across many countries. Large detectors for colliders like the LHC and the Tevatron and other projects at the intensity frontier from B-factories to neutrino experiments bring together dozens of institutes across many countries. Within each collaboration physicists confront tough decisions on design and technology choices. Ultimately it is our shared and passionate vision that settles the hard-fought battles and brings everyone to work together toward a common purpose.

The document we will produce takes us beyond the shared vision for a single detector to the globally shared vision for the future of our field. Within that vision the facilities we develop in the different regions complement each other. Reaching a grand synthesis in physics or discovering the next set of mysteries will require a variety of approaches carried out in the various regions of the world. Accelerators that reach the highest energies and produce new particles directly, accelerators with the greatest number of particles to study the rare processes that carry the imprints of worlds beyond our direct reach, and major observatories of natural processes deep underground, on the surface of the Earth and in space can all take us beyond our present horizon. All will be needed if there is a grand synthesis ahead of us.