The Personal Blog of Stephen Sekula

ICHEP Journal – V

The plenary sessions at ICHEP were what I was most looking forward to, but they didn’t really deliver. I expected to catch some results that I missed during the parallels in the summary talks, but there wasn’t too much “hot stuff” that I hadn’t already seen. What was very clear to me was that this ICHEP was a transitional conference, wedged between the flavor era of the factories (BaBar/PEP-II, Belle/KEK-B, CLEO-c/CESR) and the energy frontier (Tevatron with full dataset, LHC). A lot of results were either very precision-oriented (measurements of Standard Model parameters, branching fractions, etc.) or prep-work for the energy frontier (GRID development for LHC data, Tevatron searches for Higgs and supersymmetry, LHC analysis tests and detector deployment). ICHEP08 will be quite something, coming just half a year after the LHC begins serious collisions.

There were some notables during the plenaries. I thought that the plenary that tried to connect QCD and string theory was bad – it assumed the audience knew all about both String Theory and QCD, and just talked about specific subtopics. It wasn’t until much later in the plenaries when a younger theorist really gave the audience the necessary introduction, which made the topic much more interesting.

Although many of my colleagues seem to poo-poo it, RHIC and its detailed particle/nuclear physics program is quite fascinating. I love thinking about the high-energy collision of two huge nuclei, deforming like liquid drops as they pass into one another and create an opaque, glass-like state of matter whose properties continue to induce wonder. I thought the two RHIC talks, one on experiment and the other on theory, were very good.

Overall, the plenaries left me with a sense of incompleteness, a yearning for a time two or three years from now when the flavor era will come to a lull and the energy frontier will be breached.