Summertime for physicists

Summer for particle physicists is the season for “summer conferences” and the past week saw two big meetings in full swing. The 2013 European Physical Society High-Energy Physics (EPS-HEP) conference took place in Stockholm, Sweden, while the Strangeness in Quark Matter conference visited Birmingham in the UK for its 2013 edition.


Such conferences usually mark the culmination of months of hard work to prepare new results and, if nature is kind, they also provide the stage for the announcement of discoveries. But more than that, they allow people to network with colleagues from far and wide. I was at EPS-HEP, which belies its name and, like particle physics itself, has a global reach, with people attending from Asia and the Americas. This year there were some 750 attendees, including many young people. The programme of parallel sessions allowed many of them to present results they had worked on in what can be huge collaborations. It’s impressive to see their efforts encouraged this way.

At CERN, the discovery of a Higgs-Boson and the subsequent investigations have dominated much of what we’ve talked about recently. This was reflected at EPS-HEP. There were many results from the LHC, including the recent observation of the very rare decay of the Bs to two muons. However, there was much else besides, from many other facilities, large and small, around the world.

Moving beyond the Standard Model, the world-wide search for dark matter has progressed with experiments that are becoming increasingly precise, gaining a factor of 10 in sensitivity every two years. There are also improved results from experiments at the intensity frontier, in the study of neutrinos and in particle astrophysics. In addition, there were presentations of studies on novel ideas for future particle accelerators and detection techniques. These also featured in the special session for the European Committee for Future Accelerators, which looked at future developments in the context of the European Strategy Update – and where I presented the CERN programme.

These meetings nicely show how global the field has become. They also remind me of the essential resource we have:  the young people in the field, who are vital for its future.

Rolf Heuer