Monday, 13 May 2013

Brookhaven and Pheno Review

With these two conferences behind me, and my trusty laptop back in my hands, I'd like to briefly reflect on them as a whole.  Both conferences were, unsurprisingly, quite similar; same general area, same length, same structure, even a few of the same talks, most notably from Marc Kamionkowski on cosmology.  The biggest difference between the two was size, Pheno having at least twice as many participants.

What, then, can we take away?

I found a few common themes.  There were a lot of Higgs talks at both conferences, but especially Pheno where all four parallel sessions including one on the Higgs.  This is hardly surprising given its discovery, and the fact that it gives us a new tool to play with.  Anyone who's been following the literature since last July (or even November 2011) will have seen numerous papers all using the Higgs measurements to try and say something about BSM physics; hell, I'm in the middle of one myself!  Pheno in particular seemed to be fond of two-Higgs doublet models, although maybe that was just the session I was in.

There seemed to be fewer talks on model building than in previous years, although again that's not too much of a surprise.  All the easy fruit was picked off years ago, and with no data there's a certain amount of questioning about whether it's worth pushing ahead yet.  We all are facing the scary prospect of finding nothing beyond the Higgs.

There seemed to be quite a few talks about flavour at Pheno.  I'm not quite sure what to make of that.  On the one hand, flavour is a big question; completely unexplained in the Standard Model, by no means trivial in anthropic arguments and the measurement of θ13 last year is another new thing to play with.  Flavour has also long been both a probe of high energy scales.  However, it also seems to show that the Standard Model still works at those scales, and the best chances of seeing something different anytime soon are all fading.

Perhaps the most optimistic talk in this latter area came from Amarjit Soni.  After noting that RS models can explain flavour and hide from the LHC, he pointed out that the SSC was technologically possible twenty years ago; it was cancelled due to a lack of political will.  But given advances in technology, we should build a Gigantic International Hadron Collider operating at energies ten times higher, to truly probe those models.  I'd like to see it happen, hard to believe it though.

There seemed to be quite a few talks at Brookhaven on low-energy hidden sectors and low scale constraints.  I've wandered into this area myself recently, and was a little surprised to see it get the attention that it did.

In all, though, I had a feeling of treading water.  The LHC is shut down now for two years, and even though new results will come out as analysis is done it is highly unlikely we'll get any more than a two or three sigma hint, if that.  We haven't had the discoveries the optimists were looking for, and so we wait.

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