AAS 2010: Washington DC

AAS 2010: Washington DC

Howdy folks: It’s a frigid morning here in Washington DC, the site for this year’s American Astronomical Society meeting, where 3,500 attendees are expected to pack into the Marriott Wardman Park hotel. This is where I live and work, so instead of tumbling down to the conference from a warm hotel room, I had a lung-scouring walk to the hotel against the wind in 20 degree weather. On the flip side, I know where the bars and restaurants are. Happy to provide advice. After an opening talk from Kepler PI Bill Borucki — stay tuned for the latest discoveries from this mission that could very well bag the first exo-Earth — the conference is underway.  Read more

Lepton Photon 2009: An LHC in every home

Lepton Photon 2009: An LHC in every home

So what’s next for high-energy physics? The LHC won’t be the end. Physicists will want to go to higher energies. The question is, how? The International Linear Collider — a planned linac that will do for positrons and electrons what the LHC did for protons — is what the community wants right now, but it won’t go to any higher energies. It might be too expensive to build just to match the LHC’s capabilities. Machines like the ILC struggle to achieve accelerating gradients of 30 MeV per metre, and the radio wave power delivered to the metallic cavities would melt them were they not supercooled and superconducting.  Read more

Lepton Photon 2009: Hint of a Higgs?

Lepton Photon 2009: Hint of a Higgs?

So nearly all of the talks at this conference have been reviews — not surprising, given the paucity of fresh data in the field. But there is one machine still chugging along — the Tevatron — and new results were presented by each of the main experiments, CDF and DZero. The new Higgs search results weren’t all that surprising, just incremental advances on the last big rollout of results in the spring. But let’s look at the latest results for CDF in the plot here. You can see that, even without combining their data together for a joint analysis, the individual teams are getting close to excluding certain ranges of Higgs masses.  Read more

Lepton Photon 2009: Shining a light through a wall

While most of the talks here at Lepton Photon have focused on blowing up the Standard Model at high energies — i.e., firing up the LHC — Joerg Jaeckel of the University of Durham in the UK gave an interesting talk on how you can look for new physics at energies of just an electron-volt or so. The LHC might miss particles that only rarely interact with normal matter. And so Jaeckel extolled the virtues of exquisitely sensitive experiments that probe this alternative (and cheaper) ‘low-energy’ frontier.  Read more

Lepton Photon 2009: The malaise

Lepton Photon 2009: The malaise

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.  Read more

Lepton Photon 2009: Clamping down

So in all of the discussions of the status of the LHC, there has been little change to the new plan that emerged a few weeks ago: the machine will run at half-energy through most of 2010. The two general purpose experiments, Atlas and CMS, will just have to be patient. But at the end of an LHC status talk, the Atlas team’s Mel Shochet, of the University of Chicago, had a question: how will the LHC fix the problem with the splices for good? Mel had heard a rumor that the LHC would be shut down for quite a while as the welded splices were replaced with clamps — a simpler technology used effectively at Fermilab’s Tevatron.  Read more

Lepton Photon 2009: Hamburg

Lepton Photon 2009: Hamburg

Welcome to Lepton Photon 2009, the premier high-energy physics conference of the summer, this year taking place in Hamburg: Germany’s second largest city and, with its system of rivers, dammed lakes and canals, the country’s biggest port. It’s also the place where the Beatles, back in the early 60s, cut their teeth, playing night after night in the city’s famous red-light district.  Read more

APS 2009: Back to DC

I’m set to head to the airport in a bit, and so this is sayonara. As usual, I didn’t get to half the sessions that I wanted to, but that’s part of the appeal. Just to keep us on our toes, it looks like APS is having its next April meeting in February. But it will be in Washington, DC, my home, so I’ll be happy to offer insider tours. I’m a journalist, so my rates are cheap!  Read more

APS 2009: Pierre Auger backs off claims for cosmic ray source

APS 2009: Pierre Auger backs off claims for cosmic ray source

The mysterious origin of ultra-high energy cosmic rays is, it seems, still a mystery. Two years ago, scientists at the Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina thought they had it solved. They published a paper in Science, based on two dozen particles, that there was a correlation with the location of Active Galactic Nuclei — supermassive black holes that accelerate jets of material at near-light speed throughout the universe. At the time of the announcment, there was some doubt: The Hi-Res project, which scans the northern sky like Auger does the south, found no such correlation.  Read more