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From the Director: The World Watches as the LHC Revs Up

(Photo - Persis Drell)
(Photo by Linda Cicero.)

The recent news from the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva is impressive. After a cautious and measured restart in the fall, they have ramped the machine up to 7 TeV (center of mass energy) and are now running the highest energy colliding beams in the world. And while it will take some time to get to the machine's full design energy, there is optimism that this first long 18-24 month run will already show us signs of new physics at the TeV scale. Particle physicists have been waiting decades for this moment and we eagerly await the first LHC results. What is truly wonderful to see is that it seems the whole world is excited and engaged in what we will learn from this wonderful machine.

Particle Physics is an abstract subject far removed from everyday life and yet it continues to capture the curiosity of people around the world. I am stunned by the number of people outside physics who know about the LHC and know something about what it hopes to accomplish. The LHC always passes the airplane test (when you talk to your seat mate on the airplane about particle physics, do they know about the LHC)? Even the people I meet hiking on mountain tops, boating on the ocean or chatting in line at the supermarket know about the LHC. It is even more encouraging that people are really interested in what we will learn about the Universe we live in from the LHC experiments.

With the original startup difficulties, and having to endure front-page New York Times headlines such as "Giant Particle Collider Fizzles" as recently as last August, CERN has had its share of challenges in the past two years. CERN has responded impressively to those challenges and with the recent good news from the restart, the press seems to be as excited as everyone else about what we will learn from this great venture. We all know there is a huge amount of work as the giant LHC collaborations ATLAS, CMS, LHC-b and ALICE start to look at their new data. Even if we see signs for new physics, it may be months and years before we fully understand what the LHC data is telling us. However we are opening a frontier like no other. The results from the LHC will drive the future of particle physics for decades to come.

—Persis Drell
SLAC Today, April 16, 2010