Together in the same direction

It’s sometimes difficult to explain the nature of global collaboration in particle physics: how fierce competition coexists with collaboration, and how, whatever our differences, we all pull in the same direction. But this week gave us two strong examples.


Firstly, on Wednesday, the Technical Design Report (TDR) for the International Linear Collider (ILC) was officially delivered to the International Committee for Future Accelerators, ICFA, the global body that oversees the development of major projects in particle physics.

This event marks the culmination of years of effort through close global collaboration between labs around the world. It has seen tough collective decisions being taken between competing technologies, with all participating labs lining up behind the chosen option. And on Wednesday this week, it saw the linear collider community choosing CERN as one of the three venues for the official handover, despite the fact that CERN was not one of the original core labs developing ILC technology. What better example could you wish for to illustrate the fact that particle physics is one global family?

Of course, the TDR is just a step, albeit an important one, on the road to this possible future machine. What it means is that the ILC is ready to be built, if the physics motivation is there along with the political will. Thanks to the great performance of the LHC, there is now a strong physics case. And in Japan, there have been encouraging noises from both scientific and political circles about hosting the ILC. So, for now, we will have to wait and see. Whatever the case, it will be well into the next decade before an ILC could start to take data. And wherever such a machine might be built, it is certain that it will be built through the same kind of global partnership that led to the delivery of the TDR this week.

This week’s other milestone came on Thursday, when the extension of CERN’s data centre was inaugurated at the Wigner Centre in Budapest. Not only does this show that a major computer centre for particle physics can literally be in two places at once, but it serves as a reminder of how particle physics deals with its data analysis. The CERN data centre is the hub of the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid (WLCG), whereby over 150 computer centres around the world have pooled their resources for the common good. WLCG is the physical embodiment, in disk servers, optical fibres and CPUs, of the guiding spirit of particle physics. And the ILC TDR is evidence in black and white that great things can be achieved when the people of the world work together.

Rolf Heuer