“The technological developments for the CERN experiments are made at numerous institutes all over the world. Smaller countries such as Austria also play leading roles. So, over the past years the Institute of High Energy Physics of the Austrian Academy of Sciences has been making contributions for the development and construction of tracking detectors that have been highly acclaimed by the international community“, said Jochen Schieck, the director of the Institute of High Energy Physics of the Austrian Academy of Sciences at the press conference. Tracking detectors are important instruments for the work at CERN. Their task is to record the signals left by particles, which allows to accurately measure the tracks and vertices of particles.
The fundamental research conducted at Austrian research institutions and at CERN is not only important for science. The Austrian economy profits from the know-how on newly developed technologies as well as from the financial backflow to Austrian companies. Moreover, the Austrian institutes for nuclear and particle physics also offer excellent training programs for undergraduate and postgraduate students. The young scientists are thus involved in international research projects from the very beginning.
THE NEWEST LHC RESULTS
One highlight of the press conference was the update given by CERN on the LHC restart. The world’s fastest and most powerful particle accelerator, which has also been dubbed a “world machine”, has been operating at almost twice its previous collision energy since it was restarted. Before the technical stop this energy was about eight teraelectronvolts, now up to 13 teraelectronvolts can be reached. Translated into temperature, this energy corresponds to a billion times the temperature in the center of the sun. The advantage of using such high energies is that the more powerful the collisions between protons are the more exotic particles that are unknown so far can appear.
Even the data from Run 1 of LHC are still full of surprises, as we have recently seen again. For a long time, since the 1960ies, scientists have been speculating about something that has now been finally observed: the "pentaquark", a conglomerate of five quarks, which constitutes a further milestone for particle physics.
"The high energies achieved by the LHC since 2015 allow physicists to step on new territory", said Rolf Heuer at the press conference. "Such energies have never been reached before", added CERN's director general.
The underground ring tunnel of the LHC at CERN near Geneva is 27 kilometers long. Two beams consisting of bunches of 100 billion protons each are accelerated almost to the speed of light in opposite directions and collide head-on in the detector centers every 50 nanoseconds. The number of bunches is being gradually increased and over the next few days the time between collisions should even be reducedto half its present value. The accelerator's ambitious target is to achieve 2000 bunches per beam by the end of the year. This will further increase the chances of finding new particles of which we do not know anything until now.
MOST IMPORTANT PRIZE IN PARTICLE PHYSICS HAS BEEN AWARDED
The particle physics conference, which will continue until Wednesday, is also the venue where one of the most prestigious prizes in today's physics has been awarded for the first time in Vienna: This is the "High Energy and Particle Physics" prize of the European Physical Society. Its significance is underlined by the fact that many of the winners of this prize were later awarded the Nobel prize in physics. The winners of the 2015 EPS prize are the theoretical physicists James D. Bjorken (Stanford), Guido Altarelli (Rome), Yuri L. Dokshitzer (Paris and St. Petersburg), Lev Lipatov (St. Petersburg) and Giorgio Parisi (Rome).
One of the EPS prizes, the "Giuseppe and Vanna Cocconi Prize" for outstanding achievements in the field of astrophysics has this year been awarded to Francis Halzen. Halzen is the spokesman of one of the astrophysical experiments that receive the most attention at present: this is the IceCube project, which uses a gigantic telescope in Antarctica to look for cosmic neutrinos. Halzen has been awarded the "Giuseppe and Vanna Cocconi Prize" in recognition of his vision and his leading role in the discovery of high-energy extraterrestrial neutrinos. He explained at the press conference: "The detection of very high- energy extraterrestrial neutrinos opens a new observational window on the Universe. Early results show that neutrinos reach us from sources throughout the Universe and suggest an overlap with those observed in highest energy gamma rays." Halzen's research results open up a new window in astro- particle physics and our understanding of the universe.
THE PARTICLE PHYSICS OF THE FUTURE
Also over the next two days the universe will be the center of interest of researchers working on many other topics of present-day physics. Apart from the search for dark matter and the origin of the universe in the big bang, the higher collision energies achieved at LHC and the by now breath-taking precision of results from cosmological research yield more and more accurate information about the building blocks and the structure of the universe.
The fascinating secrets at the very root of our existence were also the topic of the joint strategic meeting of the European Physical Society and the European Committee on Future Accelerators, which took place during the conference. Researchers hold their breath while confronted with the question if there is a connection between the physics of the very small and the very big, between particle physics and cosmology, the science about the origin, the development and the basic structure of the universe. We may well expect that in future particle physics and cosmology will have even closer connections, and this will yield results for many further summit meetings on particle physics.
The world's largest conference on particle physics will be concluded on July 29 by the presentation of CERN's future director general Fabiola Gianotti. She will give an outlook on the future of particle physics and the next generation of accelerators.