Overview of an important week

Fermilab Director Pier Oddone

A number of important events occurred last week. On Monday, the Honorable Chaka Fattah visited the laboratory, accompanied by Bill Brinkman and DOE staff.

Rep. Fattah is a senior member of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee. A devoted public servant, Rep. Fattah has represented Pennsylvania in Washington since 1983.

His visit gave us an opportunity to tour the laboratory, showing him some of the experiments and facilities. We also had a lively discussion about our plans and needs for the future. We are very appreciative to Rep. Fattah for taking the time to visit the laboratory during this very arduous time in Washington.

On Thursday, we had a full-day visit with the former Secretary of the Indian Department of Atomic Energy, Dr. Anil Kakodkar. He is a strong supporter of our collaboration with India on superconducting Radio Frequency technology and the proposed Project X. Dr. Kakodkar is a prominent nuclear engineer and a firm believer in the need for high-intensity accelerators for thorium reactors. Dr. Kakodkar described himself as “now free as a bird” since he retired as Secretary of DAE – which I found quite amusing as he is still the chairman of the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai, a member or chairman of 23 other board of directors and a member of five government commissions. It’s all the more impressive that he found the time as the Secretary of Atomic Energy to personally promote the collaboration of several Indian national laboratories with Fermilab.

Also on Thursday, the European Physical Society meeting on High Energy Physics (EPS-HEP2011) started in Grenoble, France. This has been a much-anticipated meeting, with new results from experiments across the world, including many results from the LHC, the Tevatron, neutrino physics and dark matter searches. Most prominent are the first reports from the LHC on the more than one inverse femtobarn of accumulated luminosity, more than 30 times that of last year. This was the first opportunity for a real shot at discovering new physics at the LHC, such as the simpler versions of supersymmetry. But at this stage: no cigar yet – nature does not give up its secrets easily. The hundreds of measurements performed do not hint of new physics, except in the searches for the Higgs boson. Physicists saw an excess of events in some specific channels. The evidence for the Higgs is not yet conclusive but, with the LHC sensitivity across a broad range of masses and the Tevatron sensitivity in a limited range at low masses, the evidence will become conclusive in the next year. We will either find the Higgs or rule it out in the entire range of possible masses. Prominent theorist Guido Altarelli summarized the situation in his talk on the present state of affairs. He said as, “The Higgs comes closer, New Physics is pushed further away.” Of course it is much too early to tell what the physics landscape really is. The LHC will collect 3,000 times more luminosity at twice the energy before it is done, exploring a huge new territory, keeping us on the edge of our seats for a long time to come!