Hats off to the particle suppliers

A couple of weeks into the LHC’s first high energy physics run, and we’ve already got an impressive story to tell. Long fills for physics are becoming routine, luminosity scans have increased the collision rate. The operators are becoming adept at squeezing the beams ever smaller, and higher intensity studies are progressing well. With the experiments, it’s the same story.

Following the plots that the spokespersons were able to show on 30 March after just one hour of running, the experiments have already made significant inroads into re-measuring all the Standard Model parameters necessary to ensure that they fully understand their detectors before any new discoveries can be announced. It’s impressive stuff, and the attention is rightly on the LHC and its experiments. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that all this relies on the seamless operation of many other systems.

Starting from a deceptively simple bottle of hydrogen, an LHC proton beam embarks on its voyage through the CERN accelerator chain. By the time it reaches the LHC, it has been manipulated and cajoled through no fewer than six accelerators and many kilometres of transfer line. At CERN, we have long celebrated the PS complex as the world’s foremost particle juggler. Now, at the age of 50, it has added yet another skill to its repertoire: not a bad achievement for any acrobat.

Each of CERN’s accelerators also comes with a plethora of support systems from power supplies to vacuum and cryogenics, all of which need to work as a seamless whole for the LHC to bring its beams together at points 1, 2, 5, and 8. In short, the CERN accelerator complex is a hugely complex system that relies on the skill and professionalism of many. As we celebrate the LHC’s successful beginnings, let the first toast be to them.

by Rolf Heuer