LHC to run in 2012 – an interview with Rolf Heuer and Steve Myers

Following the annual LHC Performance Workshop held in Chamonix last week, and a report from the CERN Machine Advisory Committee on Monday, CERN management took some important decisions about the upcoming LHC run. The Bulletin spoke to Director General, Rolf Heuer, and Director for Accelerators and Technology, Steve Myers.


First of all, what’s the big news from Chamonix this week?
Well, the worst kept secret in particle physics has been confirmed: the LHC will run in 2012. We’ve been fairly confident for some time now that postponing the long shutdown by a year was the right thing to do, but we couldn’t confirm it until after everything had been carefully considered in Chamonix this week.

So what was the main argument for postponing the long shutdown?
With the LHC running so well in 2010, and further improvements in performance expected to come, there’s a real chance that exciting new physics may be within our grasp by the end of the year. If nature is kind to us and the Higgs particle has a mass within the current range of the LHC, we could have enough data in 2011 to see hints, but not enough for a discovery. Running through 2012 will give us the data needed to turn such hints into discovery. It’s a similar story for supersymmetric particles: the data we expect to collect in 2011 and 2012 will allow us to explore a large part of the energy range available for supersymmetry before we move to higher energy.

The other thing our readers will want to know is what energy we’ll be running at this year and next.
We decided to stay at 3.5 TeV. That’s a simple statement, but a lot of hard thought went in to it. Essentially, the reason boils down to this: although increasing by 0.5 TeV would increase our sensitivity to new particles, a careful objective analysis of the situation showed that the risk is too high for the expected increase in sensitivity.

Is there any other way of increasing the rate of data collection?
That’s certainly what we hope to do. The experience we gained running the machine last year suggests that we should be able to run with three times more bunches of protons in the beam, and further squeeze the beam by a factor of more than two at the collision points. Improvements like these should allow us to increase the intensity by a factor of three at least.

Any final words?
Well, with the first beams of 2011 due to be circulating by the 21st of February and with the LHC running through to mid-December, I think we’re in for a very exciting year of physics.
Myers: Anyone who wants to know the full details can come to the post-Chamonix briefing in Building 222 on 9 February.

by CERN Bulletin