Friday, 16 January 2009

Into 2009

With two weeks delay I'm entering the 2009 blogging. This is going to be a very important year for particle physics since it is the year of the first collisions at the LHC. If you're feeling deja vu, that's OK, I wrote the same thing in January 2007 and 2008 :-) I'm afraid I may have to write it once more next year...

Meanwhile, two important events have happened in the world of particle physics. One is that Resonaances has turned two years old, which is the age when children start forming simple sentences. The other is the peaceful handing of power at CERN. The former Director General Robert "Cauchemar" Aymar stepped down to the applause of a crowd waving white handkerchiefs. The professional handling of the LHC meltdown crisis earned him a lot of esteem and should open him the door to a political career. The rumor is that he will head the Ministry of Disinformation and Denial at the French government.

What do I hope for in 2009? It is clear that even if the LHC is switched on this summer there's no chance for interesting results by the end of the year. Since there's no hope here on Earth once again we should look to Heaven, as there are long-expected results in astroparticle physics due in 2009. Personally, I'm dying to see the first GLAST results. GLAST is a satellite gamma-ray observatory whose name, for conspiracy reasons, was recently changed to FERMI, and now it is often referred to as GLAST-now-FERMI, or as FERMI-former-GLAST, or as G-FERMI, or otherwise (though, interestingly, almost never as FERMI). The high expectations for that mission got even more amplified by the positron excess reported last year by PAMELA and ATIC. If that is due to dark matter, there may well be signatures in high-energy photons too. In fact, previous gamma-ray experiments like EGRET and HESS have reported some unexplained excess. GLAST-now-FERMI will probe the gamma rays in the range 30 MeV - 300 GeV with a better sensitivity than the previous experiments. Furthermore, to some extent they can also confirm or rule out the positron excess reported by PAMELA/ATIC. The rumors that are currently flying in the air are a bit disappointing ... but let's wait. Whatever the outcome, the name of FERMI/GLAST will make a lot of appearance on blogs this year. Unless they change the name to Lancelot-of-the-Lake.

Apart from indirect detection in cosmic rays experiments, there is going to be some progress in the direct detection experiments. In the recent two years a tremendous jump in sensitivity was achieved by the XENON experiment at Gran Sasso and the CDMS experiment at Soudan mines. The XENON experiment is expected to publish new results this year that will push the sensitivity down by another factor of ten, probing the spin-independent dark-matter-nucleon cross section of order $10^{-45} cm^2$. Since dark matter is certainly out there we must it one day. So why not this year?

Finally, don't forget to cross your fingers on April 12, as the PLANCK satellite is going to be launched on that day. Interesting times ahead.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I talked to an informed person - Glast will most likely show agreement with models and the electron and positron excesses will start looking fishy.

Michael Schmitt said...

You're right that a late start of the LHC (we are supposed to get collision data in September) means no claims of discovery in 2009. Presumably. But the collider community will nonetheless be very happy to make some basic physics measurements at high energies, and the winter conferences of 2010 will be filled with short report on those (I predict). So we can all be happy to stop hearing projections based on simulations and to start seeing the first warm-up exercises from the LHC experiments...

Anonymous said...

"Since dark matter is certainly out there we must it one day. So why not this year?"

Bwahaha.. Comedy gold; you're clearly wasted on physics.