If you stand in the middle of Place de la Porte Maillot in Paris you can see L’Arc de Triomphe to the East, La Défense to the West and Palais des Congrès to the North. This is where the ICHEP conference will begin on Thursday. The International Conference on High Energy Physics is a biennial conference that has been held since 1950 as the largest gathering of experimenters and theorists in particle physics. This year it is billed as a special event because it is the first time that results from the Large Hadron Collider can be presented.
Of course, that is not quite true, some results were already presented a few weeks ago at the “Physics at the LHC” conference in Hamburg. In any case, we do not expect too much from the LHC just yet. It has only gathered 350 inverse nano barns worth of data whereas its rival the Tevatron has 9 inverse femtobarns. That’s 25000 times as much. Also, most of the LHC data comes from the last few weeks and it will be hard to get results ready fast enough for the conference using such recent data. Even the most optimistic studies suggest that about 30 times more data is needed before there is a possibility of seeing something new at energies beyond the reach of the Tevatron. Luckily there are other experiments that may report some new physics.
The conference starts with three days of parallel sessions from Thursday until Saturday. With seven talks going on at any one time it will be hard to follow everything. After a break on Sunday there will be three more days of plenary session talks. Counting all the talks and posters there will be an incredible 1247 presentations at the conference. For those of us who can’t make it in person there will be live webcasts. They only have one video stream so only a limited number of the parallel sessions will be shown. To find out in advance which ones can be seen you should consult this timetable . For other talks we will have to just look at the slides.
Following the rumours of the last week, there will be a lot of attention focused on the Tevatron Higgs searches. The individual CDF and DZero collaborations have already given us a preview of what they intend to present, and they took the opportunity to pour scorn on our favorite ICHEP blogger Tomasso Dorigo for blogging about the rumours, but who will have the last laugh? According to Fermilab Today they have kept back one presentation in which they will tell us the result of combining their data from the two experiments. This sounds like a desperate attempt to get a signal that would encourage their sponsors to keep them going a bit longer. Will it correspond to the three sigma observation the Tommaso suggested? If it does then some Fermilab people are going to look a little silly over what they said about the rumour, but it will still be a mouth-watering result to announce. Even if there is no signal there remains a good chance that they will exclude a larger mass range for a possible Higgs and that should be very interesting too. All will be revealed on Monday at 16:00 European Time.
In case you haven’t given up hope of something unexpected from the LHC, the plenary sessions will open with a talk by Steve Meyers to say how many bunches he can now spin at once, followed by updates from the LHC experiments, ATLAS, CMS, and LHCb. The more savvy people will probably be looking beyond the accelerators to what is being seen in the multitude of static detectors for neutrinos, cosmic rays, dark matter and the like. In addition there will be some theory talks and finally some discussion on the future of particle physics. I’m not sure what that will cover but it has to be worth watching.
What about the gravitational wave detectors? When they started building LIGO in the 1990s the blurb that came with them made it sound like they should have detected gravitational waves by about 2003. Now they are looking towards an upgrade that will give a factor of ten improvement in sensitivity by 2015. The problem with such detectors seems to be that they are not too good at frequencies below something like 100Hz due to thermal noise and environmental vibrations. Cosmic events that are likely to give off gravitational waves tend to work at lower frequencies just because of their size. Hopefully this talk will tell us what we want to hear about future prospects.
If neutrino physics is your thing you will want to pay attention to the Status Update for the MINERvA Experiment, Latest results from the MINOS experiment, Results from the first T2K physics run, The ANTARES neutrino telescope and The ArgoNeuT Experiment. For cosmic rays there’s Results from the Telescope Array Experiment, Recent Results from the Pierre Auger Observatory and Recent Results From VERITAS.
Of course there is much more but for the rest you should look at the timetable yourselves.