Did you know that another name for Minneapolis, Minnesota is “Snowmass”? Just ask a large number of my colleagues, who are in the midst of a once-every-few-years exercise aimed at figuring out what should be the direction of the U.S. particle physics program. I quote:
- The American Physical Society’s Division of Particles and Fields is pursuing a long-term planning exercise for the high-energy physics community. Its goal is to develop the community’s long-term physics aspirations. Its narrative will communicate the opportunities for discovery in high-energy physics to the broader scientific community and to the government.
They are doing so in perhaps the worst of times, when political attacks on science are growing, government cuts to science research are severe, budgets to fund the research programs of particle physicists like me have been chopped by jaw-dropping amounts (think 25% or worse, from last year’s budget to this year’s — you can thank the sequester).. and all this at a moment when the data from the Large Hadron Collider and other experiments are not yet able to point us in an obvious direction for our future research program. Intelligent particle physicists disagree on what to do next, there’s no easy way to come to consensus, and in any case Congress is likely to ignore anything we suggest. But at least I hear Minneapolis is lovely in July and August! This is the first Snowmass workshop that I have missed in a very long time, especially embarrassing since my Ph.D. thesis advisor is one of the conveners. What can I say? I wish my colleagues well…!
Meanwhile, I’d like to comment briefly on a few particle physics stories that you’ve perhaps seen in the press over recent days. I’ll cover one of them today — a measurement of a rare process which has now been officially “discovered”, though evidence for it was quite strong already last fall — and address a couple of others later in the week. After that I’ll tell you about a couple of other stories that haven’t made the popular press…