Looking ahead

As I write this, I’m on my way to India for a meeting of the funding agencies for large colliders (FALC), and then on to Korea where I’ll be discussing Korea’s role in our increasingly globalized field. It’s a fitting start to 2010, and to this message, in which I’d like to take a look forward to what we can expect in the year ahead.

Enlargement is certainly an issue we’ll be hearing more about this year, with fact-finding missions to the five states that have applied for membership, several countries expressing an interest in associate status and Council due to reach a conclusion on the recommendations of the working group on enlargement. Twelve months from now, CERN will be a different organisation to what it is today. It will have evolved into a form well adapted to carry Europe’s particle-physics banner, coordinating Europe’s involvement in future projects outside the European region while continuing to welcome physicists from around the world.

The LHC ended 2009 on a high note, having established itself as the world’s highest energy particle collider in December. And with preparatory work for running at a collision energy of 7 TeV going to plan, the machine is set to start up again next month. Although papers from LHC experiments have already been accepted for publication, this is where the real physics starts. The details of the 2010 run will be finalised at the Chamonix workshop later this month, but I think we can foresee a reasonable period of 7 TeV collisions starting late February or early March before moving up a gear later in the run and closing the year with a few weeks of heavy-ion running.

While the LHC monopolises the headlines, it’s easy to overlook the fact that CERN hosts a wide range of cutting edge fixed-target experiments at the PS, SPS, Isolde and AD, as well as non-accelerator experiments. In 2009, it was not only the LHC that set records : our other accelerators also excelled, delivering a record number of protons on target, which augurs well for this year’s fixed-target programme.  Looking further ahead, the ideas that were aired at last year’s workshops on fixed-target and neutrino physics should start to take shape, helping us to map out a long-term vision for CERN.

All in all, I think we’re set for another memorable year at CERN: one that will mark a watershed for this organisation as the LHC begins routine operation and particle physics worldwide configures itself for a robust and healthy future.

Rolf Heuer