In The Field

Lepton Photon 2009: The malaise

lppeople-2.jpg Here are the several hundred physicists that made their way to Hamburg for the conference. It’s a relatively small conference, and since there is only one plenary session at a time, with invite-only talks given, there is none of the helter-skelter feeling of something like an APS meeting. But several people complained to me that there are only about half as many people as usual — and that that reflects the growing ennui, malaise even, of a community that hasn’t pushed at the energy frontier in decades. You can see that more people made the trek out to Korea for the last Lepton Photon in 2007 in the group photo from that year.

High energy physics has been waiting for something like the LHC for 25 years, says Bob Cousins of UCLA, and a deputy spokesman on CMS. He remembers a DOE advisory committee in 1983 that outlined the need for a super-collider — some machine that would reach beyond the TeV energy scales where the Standard Model breaks down. Sure, the Tevatron has done plenty of interesting things in the interim — but there has been no upheaval to the overall picture. The community has watched as the Superconducting Super Collider got partway built and then was canceled. And it has waited patiently as the LHC worked its way slowly into existence. It really has taken a generation for the LHC, Cousins says. “The lost generation?” I asked. “Yeah, something like that — my generation,” he said. But if they can hold on a little longer, they could end up being the greatest generation.

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