Stable beams

Stable beams: two simple words that carry so much meaning at CERN. When LHC page one switched from "squeeze" to "stable beams" at 10.40 a.m. on Wednesday, 3 June, it triggered scenes of jubilation in control rooms around the CERN sites, as the LHC experiments started to record physics data for the first time in 27 months. This is what CERN is here for, and it’s great to be back in business after such a long period of preparation for the next stage in the LHC adventure.


I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. This was a great achievement, and testimony to the hard and dedicated work of so many people in the global CERN community. I could start to list the teams that have contributed, but that would be a mistake. Instead, I’d simply like to say that an achievement as impressive as running the LHC – a machine of superlatives in every respect – takes the combined effort and enthusiasm of everyone involved. For the LHC and its detectors to work, everything has to work. And that means I take my hat off to everyone. It is a fantastic achievement.

What comes next will, without a doubt, change the way we see the Universe we live in. That much is clear. How it will change things is less clear. If nature is kind, we could find ourselves announcing another major discovery before Run 2 is over. If nature guards her secrets more closely, then we will still have learned things of importance, not least about the Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism. Whatever the case, Run 2 has much to deliver.

Personally, this important milestone serves as a reminder that my tenure as CERN’s Director-General will soon be coming to an end. It’s far too early today for me to say farewell, yet what happened on Wednesday is what Council expected when they offered a two-year extension to the mandate of CERN’s management team.

While applauding the start of LHC Run 2 in the CERN Control Centre, my thoughts therefore turned to the meeting of Council in March 2012 at which that offer was made. Council’s argument was that the LHC’s first long shutdown was not the time for a management change: they wanted stability. And they were right. Stability has allowed CERN to be a force for science for over 60 years, and a role model for Europe. And although we’ll be changing management at the end of this year, stability is what the new management will need to steer CERN to future achievements.

On behalf of my management team, I accepted Council’s offer with humility - I know that extensions are rare - and a sense of the responsibility that came with it. I’m pleased that we have fulfilled Council’s confidence, and I’m proud of everyone who made Wednesday’s success a reality. Now let’s go and do some physics!

Rolf Heuer