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Particle Physics Roadmap Includes SLAC Projects

How did the universe come to be? Are there extra dimensions of space? What is dark matter? These are just a few of the key questions the field of particle physics must answer in the future to determine what the universe is made of and how it works.

Now, a recent report by the Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel (P5) lays out a roadmap for pursuing the answers to these questions. The report includes recommendations for developing and using new, more powerful scientific instruments, several of which have connections to SLAC and Stanford.

"It's an important document and an important panel," says Steve Kahn, deputy director of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, "and it demonstrates that the field's priorities closely match SLAC's own priorities."

The Particle Physics Roadmap, released in October, identifies the most compelling opportunities for research in particle physics today, and prioritizes the projects to be undertaken by the U.S. high energy physics program in the next decade. The report was prepared by physicists, from 17 U.S. and international research institutions, who comprise the P5 committee of the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel (HEPAP). HEPAP advises the federal government on high energy physics and reports to the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Energy frontier projects, programs in dark matter and dark energy, neutrino science investigations, and precision measurements for charged leptons and quarks are the major research opportunities identified in the Roadmap.

To pursue these projects as effectively as possible, the report advises that the U.S. high energy physics program place highest priority on supporting the activities of CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC), scheduled to begin full operations in 2008, and on research and development for the proposed International Linear Collider (ILC).

The two projects will complement each other, with the ILC providing ultra-precise measurements for the new energy regimes expected to be explored at the LHC. SLAC researchers are significantly involved in both projects, collaborating on the development of the LHC's ATLAS detector and providing leadership in designing the ILC machine and its detectors.

The Roadmap recommendations place the next highest priority on a group of smaller projects that include the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, the Supernovae/Acceleration Probe, and the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search experiment. The report also advises that a neutrinoless double beta decay experiment be performed; a joint SLAC/Stanford project—the Enriched Xenon Observatory—is among the contenders for this experiment.

The DOE and NSF will take the P5 recommendations under advisement as they make budget plans for the 2008 through 2011 fiscal years. In the meantime, the Roadmap suggests that SLAC has a significant role to play in particle physics in the future. "It's encouraging that a survey of the whole field of particle physics came up with these priorities," says Kahn. "We're delighted with the report."

—Jennifer Yauck
    SLAC Today, November 9, 2006