Breaking the Rules

This week it's the turn of heavy-ion physics to take the spotlight as the Quark Matter 2015 conference takes place in Kobe, Japan. This is the year’s most important conference for the ALICE collaboration, but there have also been many results presented by ATLAS, CMS and LHCb.


ALICE presented a wide range of results elucidating the behaviour of the hot, strongly interacting state of matter produced when conditions mimicking those present in the first instants after the Big Bang are recreated in lead-ion collisions at the LHC. Taken together with the lead-ion studies carried out by the other LHC experiments, these have significantly advanced our understanding of the nascent Universe. Further details can be found here.

Next week sees a very different kind of conference with the third edition of TEDxCERN. As with previous editions, this is CERN’s chance to showcase science and the essential role it plays, and must continue to play, in all areas of society. This year, we have chosen the theme “Breaking the Rules”, and have put together a line-up of speakers who really are pushing the boundaries of their fields. If you were lucky enough to get a ticket, I look forward to seeing you there. If not, then you might be near to one of the many watching parties around the world, or you can follow the event by webcast through

The final topic that I wish to touch upon this week is the subject of one of the talks at TEDxCERN. One of the SESAME laboratory’s first staff scientists will be giving us a glimpse of her aspirations for this new regional light source for the Middle East as it approaches its 2016 commissioning.

CERN has a significant stake in the new laboratory. CERN theorist Sergio Fubini was an early promoter of Middle Eastern scientific collaboration. Thanks to an EU grant, we are coordinating the construction of SESAME’s main ring magnets. The first President of the SESAME Council was former CERN Director-General Herwig Schopper, and when the current President, Chris Llewellyn Smith, also a former CERN Director-General, reaches the end of his term, I will succeed him in the role. It is a vitally important role, since SESAME will bring excellent science to the region and show how a different, collaborative reality is possible. For this reason, we have added a SESAME strand to our high-school programmes, and it was my pleasure to welcome high-school teachers and students from SESAME member states to CERN this week.

With 2015 being the International Year of Light, there is a deep symbolic significance to this. One of the main reasons that UNESCO declared this year to be the year of light is to celebrate the thousandth anniversary of a very significant scientific text on optics, penned by the Middle Eastern scholar Alhazen in an age of scientific enlightenment in that region. If ever proof that a different reality is possible were needed, there it is: such a reality has already existed.

Rolf Heuer