Archive for December 26, 2008

Experimenters and Theorists really can talk together!

Mt. Rainer from UW campus

Mt. Rainer from UW campus

About three weeks ago, I was privileged to attend the final week in the INT 08-3 workshop on Low Energy Precision Physics in the LHC Era. (INT is the Institute of Nuclear Theory at U. Washington.)  This excellent series should be a good model for other workshops which seek to bring together experimenters and theorists to really work together, exchanging real information and bridging gaps in understanding.  Hats off to Jens Erler and the other organizers for an extremely well conceived, well planned and well executed workshop.

A workshop should be focused but not narrow.  The material should pull you out of your comfort zone without making you feel totally ignorant and stupid.  The setting should be nice, even beautiful, and conducive to fun discussions and nascent friendship.  Theorists may enjoy conferences like this, but experimenters generally don’t have the pleasure.  A workshop like INT 08-3 which is good for both experiments and theorists is golden!

Our group for the last week was small but we meshed very well.  David Mack knows all about low-energy probes of electroweak physics, and he told us a lot about QWEAK at JLAB. Shufang Su explained the theoretical underpinnings of low-energy precision measurements, as regards physics beyond the standard model. These two talks sparked several discussions on how to combine future precision information with LHC discoveries to infer which theory beyond the standard model is likely the right one. (For example, if the LHC experiments find anomalous events with jets and missing energy, is it SUSY or extra dimensions? Perhaps QWEAK or MOELLER can give us a hint.) I tried to make predictions about when new physics might be observed at the LHC and I will summarize my thoughts about that some other time. At the end of the week, George Hou gave a fascinating talk-and-a-half on heavy quarks, combining theory and experiment in a remarkable way. I wanted to run out and look for them immediately – though he and his group in Taiwan are already well prepared…

If discoveries are made at the LHC which can revolutionize particle physics, then high-quality communication between the theory and experimenter communities will play a crucial role. Many people recognize this – witness the spate of invitations to theorists to speak directly to analysis groups in collider collaborations, and of leading experimenters to provide information at traditionally theory-oriented summer retreats. My hope is that these bridges grow rapidly to meet a soaring demand. And perhaps the blogosphere will help sow further seeds of discourse…


December 26, 2008 at 11:25 pm Leave a comment

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