From Madtown to Exurbia

I haven’t been back to Naperville since I last attended a Braidwood collaboration meeting, a few months before the project was canceled by the Department of Energy without peer review. Yeah, I’m still harping on that, but it’s a point worth making (over and over). I’m here now to present the latest, hottest BaBar results in searches for leptonic decays of heavy flavor – B and D mesons. Delightful stuff . . . so tasty, and goes great with MILC (those of you in the lattice community – you know what I’m talkin’ about).

We left Madison as late as possible today, to drain every last happy moment out of the town. We hit some favorite lunch and coffee spots, then jumped on I-90E and started to Illinois. The award for “most amusing moment of the day” came after we hit the “welcome center” just over the Illinois border. The new ad campagin for Illinois is a series of posters, listing distances to attractions and sporting the slogan “Mile after glorious mile”. I quipped that it would be more honest if they just came out and said instead, “Toll after glorious toll.” All those tollways and off-ramp pay stations, and you can always tell when you cross from Wisconsin-maintained roads to Illinois-maintained roads. Want a hint? It’s the sudden jarring as even the most high-tech shocks give out, subjected to the ill-managed roadways of this state.

We’re in Naperville now, staying at a hotel sporting studio suites. Jodi and I each have space to whack away at our laptops!

ICHEP Journal – IV

On the last night of the parallel sessions at ICHEP, a group of us went out for dinner. We were under the leadership of one of our Russian BaBar colleagues, Dmitriy, who wanted to do something a little “touristy” and go to a tram restaurant – a restaurant on rails. However, our party of 11 proved too much for the small tram, so instead we went to the Arbat district near Red Square and “ate at restaurant there”:http://steve.cooleysekula.net/photos/Moscow/img017.jpeg.html. After dinner, many of us wanted to see “Red Square at night”:http://steve.cooleysekula.net/photos/Moscow/img024.jpeg.html. We entered through the gate facing out toward Arbat, near the *Revolyutsii* Metro station.

Standing in Red Square on a cool Russian night in summer was, perhaps, one of the most humbling experiences of my life. It occurred to me rather quickly that this broad expanse of cobblestones on which I was walking was also home to the treads of “mobile ICBM launchers”:http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nsa/cuba_mis_cri/16.jpg, parading in front of party officials reviewing from the “Savior Gate Tower”:http://steve.cooleysekula.net/photos/Moscow/img034.jpeg.html.

The next day, Sunday, was a day off from the sessions. Three of us – Joe, Hiro, and I – made our way to “ulitsa Arbat”:http://steve.cooleysekula.net/photos/Moscow/img043.jpeg.html for some shopping, cafes, and a walking tour of architectural highlights. We earned some blisters, zigging and zagging through small side streets lined with old stone apartment buildings. We all agreed that until that walk, Moscow felt very alien to us. Suddenly, we were away from crowds of tourists and shopping Muscovites, along quiet streets and standing near “old churches”:http://steve.cooleysekula.net/photos/Moscow/img050.jpeg.html. That night, we ate dinner at *Tiflis*, a Georgian restaurant south of the Arbat district. The food was delicious, the waiter serious and stern, and the conversation alternating between light and deep. We made it home late that night, full of good food and a little dreamy from the Vodka.

Getting to Soudan

Our trip to Soudan began in San Francisco, hours after the TSA changed the carry-on rules for domestic and international flights. The arrest of 21 (now 24) suspects in and around London, England ignited a knee-jerk blanket ban on all liquids and gels on flights. People who didn’t wake up to NPR like me and Jodi arrived at the airport and had two choices: stow all such items in checked luggage or throw out every last one of them.

The butterfly of arrested terrorism suspects flapped its wings in England, and we felt the hurricane in the U.S. The lines to get through security “stretched across all three terminals of SFO, spanning about 1/2 mile in total”:http://steve.cooleysekula.net/photos/Soudan-Aug-2006/img000.jpeg.html. As we moved back into Terminal 1, where Northwest flights depart, we “passed small piles of beverage and toiletry containers lying about where no disposal containers were available”:http://steve.cooleysekula.net/photos/Soudan-Aug-2006/img001.jpeg.html.
What was particularly shocking about this was the number of alcoholic beverages we saw on the floor. I’m not talking about cases of fine California wine, now unable to make their way to distant dinner tables. I’m talking about single cans of Budweiser or a tall-boy of MGD, the kind of thing a person would only carry if they intended to consume it personally. And this was at 7:30 in the morning! I think that this was the most shocking part of this whole affair: a brief peeling back of the thin veneer over acceptable behavior in our society, a realization that in all of the hundreds of people in line there were a few hardcore alcoholics who couldn’t make it through one morning flight without a beer.

Our arrival in Minnesota was only delayed an hour, as our plane waited for all passengers to get through security. As Jodi and I made our way north from St. Paul to Soudan, we passed “a gas station designed by Frank Lloyd Wright”:http://steve.cooleysekula.net/photos/Soudan-Aug-2006/img002.jpeg.html. Jodi’s not a big fan of the guy, and I have to say that this is one bored architect to have designed a gas station in Minnesota.

Catch a sketch

I’ve avoided the blog for the last few weeks, pretty much on purpose. The March 7-9 trip to Washington D.C. was one of the most singular and draining experiences of my life. It was terribly stressful and exhilarating, all at the same time. All in all, 29 of us spent two days and met with almost 145 Congressional offices, not including meetings we had with members of the Executive branch and Congressional subcommittee staffers. Pack in the debriefings at the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy, where we inform members of those agencies about the mood on the Hill, and you’ve got one seriously exhausting trip. By the Friday of that week, I found myself on a MARC train speeding north to BWI rail station, where I planned to make the short trip to my Grandmother’s house for some much needed rest.

Despite my decompression at Nana’s that weekend, I found myself sore and congested with what would be the first of two successive colds. I also found myself desperate to dive back into my research and get serious progress on some of the major projects I hadn’t been able to address, namely the study of b→sγ and B+→τ+ν. My search for invisible decays of bottomonium is also looking pretty good, but Ihave to make progress on these other things or I’ll never forgive myself.

88 days. That’s how much time I have left, along with my excellent colleagues, to get a paper into review by the collaboration on each of the aforementioned physics topics. Any later than that, and the deadlines for the summer conferences close.

What else has been on my mind? Increasingly, I worry about my field. Not that there aren’t fantastic questions of structure and origin that abound in particle physics, begging to be addressed. No, I worry that we have this year a huge opportunity to sustain the current program of flavor physics and neutrino physics (one ramping down in 3-4 years, the other ramping up on the same timescale) while making serious inroads to the International Linear Collider (“http://www.linearcollider.org”:http://www.linearcollider.org). If the LHC is the dynamite that will smash open the vast but hidden vein of rich physics ore, it is the ILC that will make sense of it all. The LHC is what is called a “discovery machine” – a machine designed not to make precision measurements of rare phenomena, but rather a machine to lay waste to the energy barrier that has long plagued my field, a barrier that left uncrossed will prevent particle physics from making serious progress. It’s a machine that turns on in just over one year, a fact that makes every nerve in the body of every particle physicist tingle with anticipation. But it’s also a machine whose waking will sound the call to start work on the ILC; whatever we find at the LHC in the next 20 years, we will only really make sense of it with a machine like the ILC.

So I am worried. For years, my field was told the ILC was a distant dream, that we should focus on other priorities. Now, with the President’s commitment to the physical sciences, the R&D budget for the ILC is expected to double. This gives my community, largely unprepared for action, an opportunity that if squandered may never come again.