Broadening our horizons

There’s more to CERN than the LHC, and there’s more to particle physics than CERN. This has always been true, but with the LHC on the verge of collecting its first data, now is the right time to consider carefully what that means for us.

In a couple of weeks’ time, we’ll be hosting a workshop to identify new opportunities in the physics landscape at CERN. As well as embarking upon the LHC research programme, we’re also building up new infrastructure for the future. This has already begun with the civil engineering for Linac 4, and will hopefully continue with a new superconducting proton linac, SPL, and proton synchrotron, PS2, to replace the existing Booster and PS. Will such machines simply serve as an injector for the LHC, or could they support their own research programmes? I don’t know the answer yet, but if there’s valuable research to be done with the SPL and PS2, it would be better to know before we start building so that appropriate experimental areas can be designed in from the start. This is the kind of question the workshop will address. It will not be looking at existing research programmes. It will be generating new ideas for the optimal use of CERN’s facilities in the future.

Looking for opportunities presented by upgrades to CERN’s basic infrastructure is an important part of the workshop, but it’s not the only thing we’ll be discussing. CERN already has unique facilities that allow research to be done here that can’t be done anywhere else in the world. Although such experiments may go beyond our usual remit, their intrinsic value is sometimes important enough for us to make exceptions. Two examples that spring to mind are the Antiproton Cancer Experiment at the AD, and the Cloud experiment at the PS. Both are applied research projects, studying aspects of subjects that are of vital importance to society – public health and climate change. Are there more opportunities of this kind waiting to be identified?

The workshop will look beyond the walls of this laboratory. While preparing solid foundations for CERN’s future, we do not aim to duplicate excellent research that is already happening elsewhere – the FAIR project at GSI, Project X at Fermilab, or JPARC in Japan, to name but three examples. If there’s a follow up to the ACE experiment, FAIR may be the place to do it. While CERN is pursuing the high-energy frontier, Project X will be pushing the intensity frontier. And there are bound to be complementarities between JPARC and a potential SPL and PS2 programme.

The workshop will take place from 10-13 May, and there will be more to follow. A follow-up dedicated to neutrino physics, for example, is already scheduled for October. I’m looking forward to a rich harvest of exciting ideas for the future of particle physics and of CERN.

Rolf-Dieter Heuer