Happy 2007

By JoAnne Hewett | January 1, 2007 1:58 am

Happy New Year wishes to all, and a very, very special New Year it will be. The LHC is turning on! The LHC is turning on! The LHC is turing on!

Sorry if I seem carried away, but this is a special year indeed. We’ve been waiting for this accelerator for 25 years – my first paper with LHC calculations was in 1987, and I was relatively late in the game. We all expect the LHC to make spectacular discoveries on the nature of Electroweak Symmetry Breaking, the Hierarchy Problem, and Dark Matter – to name a few – not to mention possible discoveries of Supersymmetry or extra dimenions or another layer of compositness, or….

Let’s all raise a special toast of New Year’s bubbly to the success of the LHC!

  • http://capitalistimperialistpig.blogspot.com/ CapitalistImperialistPig

    When is the actual beam turn on?

  • http://quantumfieldtheory.org nc

    Do you think that the results of the LHC experiments will definitely be interpreted and presented correctly? There is an eternal tradition in physics that someone makes a mainstream prediction, and the results are then interpreted in terms of the prediction being successful, even where the prediction is a failure!

    Example; Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory ‘predicted’ an aether, and Maxwell wrote an article in Encyclopedia Britannica suggesting it could be checked by experimental observations of interference on light beamed in two directions and recombined. Michelson and Morley did the experiment and Maxwell’s theory failed.

    But FitzGerald and Lorentz tried to save the aether by adding the epicycle that objects (such as the Michelson Morley instrument) contract in the direction of motion, thus allowing light to travel that way faster in the instrument, and preventing interference while preserving aether.

    Einstein then reinterpreted this in 1905, preserving the contraction and the absence of experimental detection of uniform motion while dismissing the aether. The Maxwell theory then became a mathematical theory of light, lacking the physical displacement of vacuum charges which Maxwell had used to close the electromagnetic cycle in a light wave by producing a source for the time-varying magnetic field which by Faraday’s induction law creates a curling electric field, which displaces other vacuum charges causing a new magnetic field, which repeats the cycle.

    Experimental results lead first to mainstream theories being fiddled to ‘incorporate’ the new result. In light of historical facts, why should anyone have any confidence that the phenomena to be observed at LHC will be capable of forcing physicists to abandon old failed ideas? They’ll just add ‘corrections’ to old ideas until they match the experimental results … string theory isn’t falsifiable so how on earth can anything be learned from experiments which has any bearing whatsoever on the mainstream theory? (Sorry if I am misunderstanding something here.)

  • Dan Riley

    The latest commissioning schedule I’ve seen has first collisions in November 2007, with 450 GeV beams. 7 TeV beams won’t arrive until Q2 2008, so the Tevatron at FNAL will effectively remain the “energy frontier” for 2007.

  • graviton383

    While it is true that 14 TeV operation of the LHC won’t happen until June ’08, JoA is correct in pointing out the importance of 2007, at least psychologically. As she said, some of us have been doing this kind of physics for a long time (almost 25 years for me!) & we will some idea by the end of this year how well the LHC may work at start up. Theorists, model builders & phenomenologists have been discussing possible TeV-scale physics scenarios for the past quarter century plus…and this era will soon be at an end. Soon (but not too soon for us!) we will KNOW what is going on in this energy regime. Personally, I find this incredibly exciting. Will one of the ideas JoA mentioned be experimentally verified (in some form or other) or will we see something entirely new that we hadn’t yet thought of?? IMHO nature is more clever than we can imagine and we will be suprised…Today I will toast the engineers and experimenters who are building both the LHC and the detectors & wish them all the best!

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/joanne/ JoAnne

    CIP: Dan has given the current schedule for the LHC start up. As emphasized by Graviton383, the psychological impact of having the accelerator begin operations this year mitigates any disappointment that the collisions will be at low energy. Just having collisions will show that the end of the long 25 year wait is near.

    NC: The data will be correctly presented, with no dispute. The experimenters will report the events observed in their detectors without bias or manipulation. With roughly 2000 physicists per experiment, there isn’t any room for funny business as too many eyes will be watching. The key here is that the experimenters will merely report the events observed, without attaching a meaning to them.

    As for the interpretation of the data – yes, there will be many theories which fit the data – at first. But as more data comes in, further tests will be made, the pieces of the puzzle will fit together, and we will hone in on the correct theory. This is how science works! There is only one correct theory at the TeV scale, and it will be revealed by data. Getting to the point where we are convinced of the correct theory will be alot of fun!

    As for string theory – it is basically irrelevant to discussion of physics at the TeV scale and thus at the LHC. It is a separate branch of our field. Unless, of course, strings exist at the TeV scale, instead of the Planck scale.

  • Vince

    Hey, and let’s remember that even if the LHC turns up nothing — a barren desert — it’s still a success, because we will have found out what nature is NOT and that’s valuable too.

  • Aaron

    Huzzah!!! Now we can finally see that pesky Higgs, and/or create a ravenous horde of world-devouring black holes! 😉

  • Seth

    I’d save my excitement for 2008. Even if the LHC project keeps to its current schedule, there’s no results coming until then.

  • amanda

    I won’t believe any results from the LHC until they have been confirmed by an independent accelerator.

    Who’s to say they won’t get paid off by the supersymmetry mafia to put out simulated data with squarks and sleptons? Kind of like they did with the fake moon landings?

  • http://quantumfieldtheory.org nc

    Amanda: Ptolemy’s epicycles the best analogy.

    Whatever problems Ptolemy found in his model, he just added further correction factors by introducing new epicycles. Instead of calling these ad hoc modifications fiddles, they were regarded as real discoveries about nature. Every experimental disagreement with the existing theory was presented as part of the ‘learning curve’ about nature.

    Nobody was allowed to throw out the theory, so they never did (until a replacement had been developed). Instead, everytime a discrepancy was found it was turned into a positive, constructive contribution by adding further ad hoc fiddles to the theory to compensate. There was no incentive to come up with a better theory, it was quite the opposite.

    When a better theory did come along, it was first quite wrong in detail itself (Copernicus had circular orbits and twice as many epicycles as Ptolemy, 80 versus just 40 – contrary to many popular accounts which lie about the historical facts in order to justify Copernicus using false reasons). It took 187 years to sort out the main details properly (Copernicus, 1500 – Newton, 1687):

    ‘Scientists have thick skins. They do not abandon a theory merely because facts contradict it. … History of science, of course, is full of accounts of how crucial experiments allegedly killed theories. But such accounts are fabricated long after the theory had been abandoned. … What really count are dramatic, unexpected, stunning predictions: a few of them are enough to tilt the balance; where theory lags behind the facts, we are dealing with miserable degenerating research programmes. Now, how do scientific revolutions come about? If we have two rival research programmes, and one is progressing while the other is degenerating, scientists tend to join the progressive programme. This is the rationale of scientific revolutions. … Criticism is not a Popperian quick kill, by refutation. Important criticism is always constructive: there is no refutation without a better theory. Kuhn is wrong in thinking that scientific revolutions are sudden, irrational changes in vision. The history of science refutes both Popper and Kuhn: on close inspection both Popperian crucial experiments and Kuhnian revolutions turn out to be myths: what normally happens is that progressive research programmes replace degenerating ones.’

    — Imre Lakatos, Science and Pseudo-Science, pages 96-102 of Godfrey Vesey (editor), Philosophy in the Open, Open University Press, Milton Keynes, 1974.

  • Garth

    Happy 2007 – The Gravity Probe B results are to be finalised and published in April.


  • Brian

    2007 and 2008 will both be very exciting years because of a number intiguing experimnents. True, the LHC will be the crown jewel, but as Garth points out, for instance, we will hear the results from Gravity Probe B.

    I am also very interested in following GLAST, Planck, Herschel, EUSO, MINIBOONE, MINOS, CNGS, IceCube, Antares, Anita, BOREXINO, LMT, 21cma, and the improved Hubbel.

    This should be a lot of fun!

  • Bob

    Seth: I can assure you that there will be at least a few thousand people who will get very excited if we have collisions by the end of 2007. As JoAnne said, there are a lot of people who have been waiting for this moment. Yeah, it might only be at 900 GeV for the first run, but eveyone who has worked on getting the accelerator and the detectors up and running will be very excited.

    Before we will be able to say that we are seeing something new we will have to be able to see the “old” physics. Well, at 900 GeV it is pretty much guaranteed to be old. Thus the data that we will record at the end of this year will serve as a very good testbed. This should help the rapid analysis of the 14 TeV data in early 2008.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/joanne/ JoAnne

    Brian: right on! We are expecting many great experimental results this year! I am especially anxious to hear the long-awaited results from MiniBoone….I will also be especially anxious during the launch of GLAST.

  • Seth

    Bob: I’m one of the people working on one of the detectors, so you can bet I’ll be excited. The 900 GeV run will certainly be very useful, although it won’t let us do all the calibration we would like—for example, there won’t be enough W’s to do anything useful with, so that’ll have to wait for full energy.

    What I’m trying to talk people out of is the impression that the accelerator will start up and data will come pouring out. I’ve heard a lot from various theorists about the accelerator starting in 2007, and the fact that no data is coming with it immediately is usually a footnote at best. We’re already hearing jokes about the LHC being delayed; I’m hoping those don’t turn into complaints if it gets to May 2008 and we’re still waiting to make sense of the detectors before we publish.

    Getting this stuff up and working takes time. How much, exactly, we have no way of knowing.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance JoAnne

    Seth: Frankly, I don’t expect any results on searches for new physics from the LHC until 2009. The 14 TeV run is now slated to begin in summer 08 – it might be delayed, and even if not it will take you guys most of the 08 run to calibrate the detectors. For example, we’ve never seen 3 TeV jets before and it’s going to take awhile to learn how to measure them! So, contrary to your belief, there are many of us theorists who are completely realistic about the start-up.

    Nonetheless, this realism does not diminish my excitement that the LHC is turning on! This year!


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