The Sciences

Panning for Gold

Cosmic VarianceBy JoAnne HewettJul 19, 2006 9:51 PM


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The 2006 SLAC Summer Institute est arrivé!

This is the 34th SLAC Summer Institute and the topic this year is the physics of the Large Hadron Collider. The LHC begins operations next year and we are riding the wave of excitement and expectation as the field gears up to explore the next high energy frontier. Everyone is full of anticipation for the discoveries that are waiting for us at the Terascale, which hold the promise of addressing some of our most basic questions about the nature of matter, space, time, and energy. Anticipated particles such as Higgs bosons are produced in roughly one out of every 10^12 collision events, and hence the analogy of panning for gold. This topic is also very timely for SLAC; last Friday we were officially admitted into the ATLAS Collaboration! ATLAS is one of the two (high pT) experiments designed to probe the TeV energy scale. SLAC will be one of the tier-2 computing centers in the ATLAS grid and will be a major physics analysis center on the West Coast. We are in our 3rd day of the Institute and, speaking from an organizors point of view, all is running smoothly (except for the usual MAC-PC issues). We have an exciting program of lectures and topical talks. We opened with an overview of the physics anticipated at the Terascale, expertly given by Guido Altarelli of CERN. We had two lectures on the most important aspect of the LHC: the accelerator! The LHC accelerator is very complex and let's face it, without a working accelerator, we can't do our science. This series was given by Lyn Evans of CERN, who is basically the guy in charge of the LHC accelerator complex. James Stirling of Durham, the guy who literally wrote the book on his lecture topic, beautifully explained the theory behind proton proton collisions. Lance Dixon of SLAC will continue on this topic, outlining the details of higher precision calculations. We have a series of detector talks, introduced by Jos Engelen (deputy director of CERN), where we focus on a specific detector component each day. Michael Peskin of SLAC will discuss the connections between colliders and cosmology. And that's just the first week! Next week, we will separately explore specific physics topics in depth (Higgs, Supersymmetry, top-quark, extra dimensions, etc), taking a look at both theory and how the signatures will actually be observed in the demanding experimental environment at the LHC. We have a variety of other activities as well. There are 5 afternoons of topical talks, one each on results from the Tevatron, B-physics, astrophysics, neutrinos, and heavy ions. Alternating afternoons we hold discussion sessions where the students get to grill the lecturers. This evening is the first of 2 poster sessions where the students will present their work. Next week is the annual SLAC versus Summer Institute soccer game. And we have 3 dinners which give the students the chance to mingle with each other and the lecturers and drink good wine. Last night was Hawaiian night, unfortunately SLAC's resident hula dancer had broken her ankle and could not perform. Over 200 participants have registered and seem to be enjoying the school so far. We are one of five LHC-themed summer schools this year (Fermilab, TRIUMF, Warsaw, and Trieste being the other 4) and we thank our participants for coming to the SLAC Summer Institute!

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