November 2009 News Archive

November 27, 2009
Steve Myers video interview on seven remarkable seven days for CERN

November 23, 2009
Webcast of CERN press conference 23 November

November 23, 2009
Two circulating beams bring first collisions in the LHC

Geneva, 23 November 2009. Today the LHC circulated two beams simultaneously for the first time, allowing the operators to test the synchronization of the beams and giving the experiments their first chance to look for proton-proton collisions. With just one bunch of particles circulating in each direction, the beams can be made to cross in up to two places in the ring. From early in the afternoon, the beams were made to cross at points 1 and 5, home to the ATLAS and CMS detectors, both of which were on the lookout for collisions. Later, beams crossed at points 2 and 8, ALICE and LHCb.

“It’s a great achievement to have come this far in so short a time,” said CERN Director General Rolf Heuer. “But we need to keep a sense of perspective – there’s still much to do before we can start the LHC physics programme.”

Beams were first tuned to produce collisions in the ATLAS detector, which recorded its first candidate for collisions at 14:22 this afternoon. Later, the beams were optimised for CMS. In the evening, ALICE had the first optimisation, followed by LHCb.

“This is great news, the start of a fantastic era of physics and hopefully discoveries after 20 years’ work by the international community to build a machine and detectors of unprecedented complexity and performance,” said ATLAS spokesperson Fabiola Gianotti.

“The events so far mark the start of the second half of this incredible voyage of discovery of the secrets of nature,” said CMS spokesperson Tejinder Virdee.

“It was standing room only in the ALICE control room and cheers erupted with the first collisions,” said ALICE spokesperson Jurgen Schukraft. “This is simply tremendous.”

“The tracks we’re seeing are beautiful,” said LHCb spokesperson Andrei Golutvin, “we’re all ready for serious data taking in a few days time.

These developments come just three days after the LHC restart, demonstrating the excellent performance of the beam control system. Since the start-up, the operators have been circulating beams around the ring alternately in one direction and then the other at the injection energy of 450 GeV. The beam lifetime has gradually been increased to 10 hours, and today beams have been circulating simultaneously in both directions, still at the injection energy.

Next on the schedule is an intense commissioning phase aimed at increasing the beam intensity and accelerating the beams. All being well, by Christmas, the LHC should reach 1.2 TeV per beam, and have provided good quantities of collision data for the experiments’ calibrations.

November 23, 2009

The LHC’s next milestone – two simultaneous circulating beams

November 20, 2009
Regular operations with beam 2 have been achieved.

CERN on Twitter

November 20, 2009

Large Hadron Collider ready to restart – Telegraph

November 20, 2009

Looking forward to beam in the LHC

Earlier this week, the LHC was handed over for operation, and I rediscovered the long lost reflex of glancing at the status screens of CERN’s flagship accelerator at every opportunity. All being well, we’ll start injecting particles into the LHC tonight.

We’ve been here before, in September 2008. This time, however, it’s different. The LHC is a much better understood machine than it was a year ago, and we can look forward with confidence to a smooth transition into physics. There will undoubtedly be hitches along the way, there always are. Magnets will trip, and there’ll be power outages, but this is all normal in the operation of a major particle accelerator.

By the time you come into work next week, I hope we’ll have beams circulating in the LHC. Whatever happens over the weekend, you will be able to follow progress on the CERN website, or at

Circulating beam is an important milestone on the way to physics, but there is still much to do. In 2008, we showed that the LHC works beautifully as a particle storage ring, but we’ve yet to operate it as an accelerator and a collider. With luck, we should accomplish those objectives before the end of 2009, setting us up nicely for physics early in the New Year.

Rolf Heuer

November 16, 2009
Media Training – for US colleagues at CERN in December

With the LHC starting up soon, the world’s media are again turning their attention to CERN. The press office recently sounded out journalists’ interest in coming to CERN for the LHC’s first high energy collisions. So far, over 100 news agencies, TV and radio stations, newspapers and magazines have said they want to be here. It’s not only the media who are going to ask us about the LHC, we’re all likely to be called upon to explain what is happening at CERN to friends and neighbours.

That’s why I’d like to invite you to a seminar on communicating about the LHC, to be held in the Globe at 10:00 am on 11 December. The seminar will be given by BBC television news journalists Nisha Pillai and Liz Pike, and will deal with the kind of questions we’re likely to be confronted with through the restart period. If you cannot make it on that day here is a link to a recording of a similar seminar given in 2007:

This seminar will also be recorded and made available for viewing.

 This time the main event will be the first collisions at high energy rather than the restart of the machine. The CERN press office has invited journalists and is focusing media activity on the first high energy collisions, likely to happen early next year, and is not inviting journalists to come to CERN for the earlier stages of the start-up process. If journalists contact you directly asking to visit CERN, please therefore refer them to the press office – they will handle the requests.

I hope that many of you will be able to attend the seminar on 11 December. In the meantime, if you have any media related questions, the press office is there to help.

Rolf Heuer

November 13, 2009
William Brinkman CERN Visit

Members of the US community at CERN were invited to meet with Dr. William Brinkman, Director of the Office of Science, Department of Energy, on Friday, November 13.

November 12, 2009
AIP FYI #136: Senate Clears NASA, NIST, NSF Funding Bill

Last Thursday, after many weeks of delay, the Senate leadership succeeded in clearing the way for the full Senate to consider the FY 2011 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Bill. By a vote of 71 to 28, the Senate passed this bill and appointed its conferees to a House-Senate conference that will write the final version of H.R. 2847. The vote on this bill providing funding for NASA, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Science Foundation comes none-too-soon, as the Senate takes up the health care bill next Monday, which is expected to occupy almost all of the Senate’s time and attention.

The parameters for the three agencies’ FY 2010 budgets were set in the House and Senate versions of H.R. 2847. Total NSF funding in the two bills is similar: the House bill has a 6.6 percent increase; the Senate a 6.9 percent increase (the request was for an 8.5 percent increase.) NASA funding would increase by 2.4 percent in the House bill and 5.1 percent in the Senate bill (the request was a 5.1 percent increase.) The difference in the two bills for total NIST funding is significant: the House would reduce funding by -4.6 percent, while the Senate bill has a 7.3 percent increase (the request was for a 3.3 percent increase.)

While the House has not named its conferees, staff on the two appropriations subcommittees are working to resolve differences in the two versions of the $64 billion bill. When the final bill (or conference report) comes back to both floors it will be for an up-or-down vote; amendments will not be permitted. Since the House passed its version of the bill in June by a vote of 259 to 157, the conference report should pass without difficulty when it comes back to both chambers.

The Senate debate on the legislation was quite extensive, with considerable discussion about NASA’s human space flight program. There was also debate about an unsuccessful amendment offered by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) to prevent National Science Foundation funds from being used for the Political Science Program in the Division of Social and Economic Sciences of the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences. The importance of NIST research was mentioned several times by different senators.

The debate offers important insight into the thinking of several key “space senators” (as self-described by Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)) about NASA’s human space flight program. All of the senators support human space flight, signaling their opposition to any move to substantially change the thrust of the agency’s programs. The first senator to comment was Richard Shelby (R-AL) the subcommittee’s Ranking Republic Member, who told his colleagues:

“As NASA moves toward retiring the shuttle and leaving the Nation without our own human launch vehicle, I believe we must continue to develop our own capabilities, not only for missions to the space station but for future expeditions as well. While I commend the Augustine Commission for their hard work, I find many of the aspects proposed in their summary report to be unsatisfactory and perhaps disappointing. I am baffled by NASA’s path forward on the Constellation Program. This program is built on a foundation of proven technologies using existing capabilities and infrastructure. The Ares I team will soon launch the first test flight, and the groundwork for the Ares V heavy lift vehicle is well underway. And yet, instead of simply providing Constellation with funds to move forward, it is delaying the current mission while seeking to have a do-over on plans that have been authorized by both a Republican and Democratic Congress. NASA and this administration should never forget that the support of Congress will still be necessary to authorize and provide funds as we move forward. Given the challenges and high cost of access to space, I agree that it is beneficial for NASA to look at all viable options that could be provide! d by U.S. industries to support operations on the International Space Station and future exploration. However, we must do so, I believe, in a realistic way. NASA must support the program that has the greatest likelihood of success. The benefits that our society has gained from the human spaceflight program are immeasurable. Almost every facet of our lives that we know today has been touched by discoveries with human spaceflight. Beyond the direct tangible benefits, there is also the intangible benefit that comes with knowing that America is leading the world in discovering and exploring new frontiers. I will not support any future NASA budget request that does not have a robust human exploration program. It must be a program that inspires, yet is also a program grounded in what is possible and not wishful thinking. If we no longer prioritize space exploration, we can be certain that others on this planet will. A number of the findings by the Augustine Commission woul! d guarantee that other nations, such as Russia, China, and India, will be waving to us as they fly by the space station on their way to the Moon and other planets if we are not careful. We cannot cede our leadership in space, and we must have a viable human space exploration program. As we are losing global market shares in most industries, we are still the world leader in human spaceflight. I will not support a NASA that squanders that lead, and I hope the Senate will not. Simply put, if that were to happen, I would not support a visionless NASA, and I do not believe the Congress would.”

Subcommittee chairwoman Barbara Mikulski managed the bill on the Senate floor, making several comments about NASA during the two different periods during which the bill was considered. Speaking of the House appropriators’ decision not to fully fund the request for the exploration program pending the Augustine report, she said:

“This bill also funds our space program: $18.7 billion for NASA. In the space program, we don’t agree with the House strategy; we agree with the White House strategy. The House strategy includes $500 million for the NASA exploration program. We believe we need to meet our obligations to fully fund the space shuttle and the space station. For the space shuttle, we need to make sure we keep our astronauts safe and our space station is able to continue the work we have begun. We also need to invest in the next generation of space vehicles at $3.6 billion. It is very important we meet our obligations, our international obligations, as well as our obligations to our astronauts and to our Earth-bound scientists. However, if you meet those scientists, they are not bound by Earth very much. They are continually breaking barriers. We know the House withheld money while waiting for the Augustine report. Well, we have the Augustine report. We know where the President wants to go. We know what the key advisers in the astronaut community have recommended to us – the gallant leaders from the past, such as Buzz Aldrin and John Glenn, to the most contemporary right now.”

Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT) also commented on the Augustine report:

“NASA is at a very difficult crossroads right now in determining the future of human space flight, and I would like to talk about that. NASA is in the process of deciding where to put its full support and funds – whether it should be behind the current Constellation Program or whether it should change course and go in another direction. The Augustine Commission has announced some recommendations and described them both but leaves it up to NASA to make the decision as to where it will go. I am very concerned NASA will agree with those recommendations that will relate to access to the International Space Station and will affect low-Earth orbit in these difficult budgetary times. We have just finished the space station. So the time comes now to decide how to use it to its greatest advantage. The space station was built with the shuttle program, and it has always will be retired next year. After that happens, we will be relying upon Russia to get ou! r astronauts into space. The original plan was that once the shuttle was retired, the next vehicle to get us into space would be the Ares I. That is the pivotal point where the decision has to be made: Shall we go ahead with Ares I? I am very concerned that NASA may want to divert precious resources from the Ares I program in the hope that the commercial space industry can fill the void. Well, it is disconcerting to me because we have a successful track record of the Ares program but a less than desirable record of the commercial space industry. We have invested over 4 years and $6 billion in the Ares I and Orion programs, and it is on track.”

In later extensive remarks, Mikulski again spoke of the Augustine report, and the reasons for space exploration:

“We have the Augustine report, on which there has been a hearing, and our bill, the CJS [Commerce, Justice, Science] bill, we fully fund the reliable [space] transportation system that would be developed by our government. If the President were to change that, that would be a new direction and a new appropriation on which there would be tremendous debate and discussion.”

She later said:

“But I only want to reiterate how, when we work together, it is bipartisan, it is in the interests of our country, it is about the stars and the galaxies and the planets, but it is also about developing that new technology that creates the new jobs.”

Another senator who is keenly interested in NASA, Bill Nelson (D-FL), reviewed the current and last administrations, saying:

“What we know is, over the course of the last several years, the Office of Management and Budget and the White House have not given adequate resources to those of us in this Chamber who want a vigorous human space program. We simply, over the last several years, have not been able to get the resources we need for NASA to do everything it has been asked to do, with the result that NASA is now at a crossroads.”

Later he said:

“But no matter how much [money] we find by scraping the bottom of the barrel, it is still going to come down to one thing: It is going to be the President’s decision. If we remember, similar to President John Kennedy before him, a President has to decide and has to commit the resources. If this President will do it, it will commit the space program that will keep America a global leader in science and technology.”

Another issue which attracted attention was an attempt – ultimately unsuccessful – by Senator Coburn to prohibit the National Science Foundation from spending money on its political science program. In explaining his amendment, Coburn said:

“So the political scientists in the country, those who get this money, $91.3 million over the last 10 years that we have doled out to political scientists, that $91 million could have gone to the study of biology or chemistry or pharmaceutical science or fields of endeavor such as micronutrients or cellular metabolism or genetic manipulation so we can cure a disease. Instead, where do they spend the money? Campaigns and elections, electoral choice systems, political change, domestic conflict, party activism, political psychology, and political tolerance.”

Later Coburn said:

“We are going to increase NSF’s budget in this bill 8 percent, the National Science Foundation. It is the one we ought to be increasing 12 or 15 percent, but it ought to be on real science, on pure science, on science that has an outcome we can measure that is not related to the observation of common fact but is new research that will derive great benefits for the people of this country.”

No other senator spoke in favor of Coburn’s amendment. Mikulski used strong language in describing her opposition to his amendment:

“I oppose, as you can see, the amendment of the Senator from Oklahoma. He wants to eliminate $9 million from the political science program at the National Science Foundation. I don’t like targeting an individual science area. Today it might be political science. Another Senator might target biology. Remember how we stifled science under the gag rules and gag guidelines of stem cell research? Also, I don’t like trivializing academic research and academics, that somehow or another there is worthwhile science and then there are others that can be minimized or trivialized.”

She later said:

“This amendment is an attack on science. It is an attack on academia. We need full funding to keep America innovative, and I urge my colleagues to vote no on this amendment.”

Mikulski’s colleagues agreed with her, voting 36 yes to 62 no votes in opposition to the Coburn amendment.

November 11, 2009
In SUSY we trust: What the LHC is really looking for

in New Scientist

November 11, 2009
Huge $10 billion collider resumes hunt for ‘God particle’

from CNN

November 9, 2009
LHC rebounds from baguette attack; sends beam around half the ring

in Symmetry Breaking

November 5, 2009

Notes from a Large Hadron Collider

by Bill Bryson in the London Times Online Eureka magazine

More from Eureka:

Black holes and bunkum

Where is God at the LHC?

LHC: A force to be reckoned with

Back to the beginning: a history of CERN

November 5, 2009

Symposium “Accelerators for America’s Future”

There was a large turnout last week on the first day of a three-day symposium entitled “Accelerators for America’s Future.” The attendance, as well as the presentations from a diverse range of speakers, demonstrated the great interest there is in the potential of accelerators in areas such as medicine, industrial applications, and energy, as well as in new accelerator technologies.

Most people, if they are aware of particle accelerators, associate them with highly esoteric research at large and expensive machines such as the Tevatron or Large Hadron Collider. Indicative of this were remarks at a House Science and Technology Committee subcommittee hearing last month at which the chairman criticized the SSC and the LHC, later calling them “big gizmos.” He told the witnesses who were testifying on the DOE’s high energy physics and nuclear physics programs “you get to skate, partially because you know stuff that we don’t have a clue [about] what you are doing.” The chairman questioned whether taxpayers’ money could have been better spent on more immediate and practical needs.

The symposium was sponsored by the DOE Office of Science’s Office of High Energy Physics, and was co chaired by Walter Henning and Charles Shank. The first speaker was Dennis Kovar, Director of the Office of High Energy Physics. He explained that five working groups that were to met on the second and third days of the symposium would advise the Office of Science on “opportunities for advancements in accelerator technologies.” The groups would also review impacts accelerators would have in basic research and applications “so that investments in accelerator R&D can be directed to best meet the needs of the Office of Science and the Nation.” The working groups will issue a report that will, as shown in an exhibit Kovar presented, “identify current and future needs of stakeholders, seek out crosscutting challenges – technical, cost, policy – whose solutions may have transformative impacts on opportunities for the future, i! dentify the areas of accelerator R&D that hold greatest promise, [and] provide guidance to bridge the gap between basic accelerator research and technology deployment” in basic research, medicine and biology, energy, environment, national security, and industrial applications and production. The Director of the Office of Science, William Brinkman, was the second speaker, telling the symposium that his office spends approximately $500 million annually on the Tevatron, LHC, and R&D on advanced accelerator technology. Speaking of the proposed International Linear Collider, which reports indicate could cost $25 billion, Brinkman said “the science community can’t afford this thing.” His words echoed his comment two weeks ago to the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel that “in my opinion, the price pushes it way out . . . onto the back burner.” New accelerator approaches are needed, Brinkman said, listing five “promis! ing emerging accelerator technologies” supported by the Office o f Science, focusing on the Wakefield technology in two of his exhibits.

“Science in the U.S. faces an asteroid” Norman Augustine warned the symposium. He worries about a drop in physical sciences funding after the economic stimulus funding is spent, warning that science could be worse off than it was before these one-time funds were made available. Federal funding of basic research is especially important, he exclaimed, since private industry concentrates its spending on applied research. Great nations, such as the United States, should support accelerators, Augustine said.

The remainder of the symposium’s first day program was devoted to accelerators and their applications. Frederick Dylla, Executive Director and CEO of the American Institute of Physics, introduced the first set of speakers. Dylla described the unique role that accelerators play as a discovery tool, with benefits that are less obvious to the general public. The accelerator community needs to do a better job of communicating the value of accelerator research to the public, he said, citing the comments made during the House hearing. Dylla spoke of the importance of new technologies in lowering the cost of accelerators, citing the average $150 million cost to build a medical accelerator that is based on a fifty-year-old design.

The common theme running through the presentations by the other eight speakers was the important role that accelerators currently play as well as their potential in making advancements in what one called “Society’s Grand Challenges of the 21st Century,” such as the prevention of nuclear terrorism, fusion, clean water, and better medicines. While there are many opportunities, there are also challenges. As an example, one speaker described concerns about the decreasing number of university accelerators and the impact this is having on the future accelerator workforce. A list of all the speakers and their exhibits can be accessed here.

The next two days of the symposium were devoted to working groups in discovery science, medicine and biology, industrial applications and production, energy and environment, and national security. Participants in these closed working groups will draft a report that will be presented to the Office of Science and its Office of High Energy Physics. Further information about these working groups is available here.