Onward to the Higgs!

As part of a series of exchanges between CERN and other laboratories world-wide, this issue’s message is by TRIUMF Director, Nigel Lockyer. In exchange, CERN Director-General Rolf Heuer, wrote a message to TRIUMF personnel (see page 4).

Particle physics has made real progress in communicating its message to the world: 20 years ago when I referred to "CERN" in a conversation with my seatmate on an Air Canada flight, it would take me a good 10 minutes to explain what and where the laboratory is and what particle physics is all about. Just recently, I mentioned "CERN" on another long-distance flight, and my neighbour said instantly, "Oh, isn’t that the big machine in Europe that may end the universe?" Progress of sorts!

If it’s a Canadian seatmate, I’ll tell them about how TRIUMF and Canada contributed to the construction of the LHC and the ATLAS detector. I explain the excitement of the science of the LHC. That always gets them interested. People in general certainly enjoy learning about particle physics. The mind bending questions and lofty goals are indeed exciting. True to Canadian form, they politely ask "But what’s it all good for?" Although people are aware the LHC competes for the most spectacular technological marvel ever built, the link to their livelihood or benefits to society are not clear to them. This probing question is usually my chance to revert back to TRIUMF and describe to them our "spin off" success with making millions of medical isotopes per year with a private sector partner. That hits home. Then they are sold! OK,.... back to talking about extra dimensions.

Canada’s work at CERN spans many decades, but let me comment on work related to the LHC. Initially the accelerator contributions made by TRIUMF involved upgrades to the injector synchrotrons (Proton Synchrotron and PS Booster) to provide proton beams with the necessary brightness and time structure for the LHC. This work was completed in March 2000. The other main responsibilities have been in providing warm "two-in-one" quadrupoles for the LHC beam-cleaning insertions and components for the LHC injection kickers. TRIUMF also contributed to a number of beam modelling, diagnostic, and control systems through the entire accelerator complex. And, of course, the ATLAS Canada team has played a major role in ATLAS with the endcap calorimeters and leadership roles in some of the physics-analysis working groups. And our partnership will continue. TRIUMF and CERN are finalizing an agreement to collaborate on developing superconducting cavities for elements of the SPL project—a proton injector linac that forms part of the upgrade of CERN’s proton injector chain.

In my mind, these activities that join CERN and Canada are absolutely critical—and not just for the cutting edge accelerator technology, and for Canadians to participate in what will hopefully be the discovery of the century at the LHC. Rather, what makes these partnerships so valuable is that they bring together people—scientists, students, opinion leaders, the media, and even politicians—from separate parts of the world to pursue a common quest. That’s what CERN is about and that’s one reason why Canadians are committed to the success of the LHC and its detectors. Now, onward to the Higgs! Eh?

Nigel S. Lockyer, Director of TRIUMF

TRIUMF is Canada’s National Laboratory for Particle and Nuclear Physics and one of the world’s leading subatomic physics laboratories. In August it will celebrate its 40th anniversary. Rolf Heuer’s message to TRIUMF is available here.For more information on TRIUMF, visit: http://www.triumf.ca/