Friday, 6 September 2013

Looking back at SUSY 2013

It's been a busy few days, but I want to take the time to look at SUSY 2013 as a whole.  I'll start by saying that I enjoyed it.  The selection of speakers was excellent, even by the standards you'd expect of such a major conference.  I particularly enjoyed some of the more surprising choices in the first couple of days.  The organisation of the conference was generally good, the food enjoyable and even the coffee above average.  (Though we were in Italy, so perhaps that should have been anticipated.)

One thing that struck me about this conference was how it compared to Planck.  At Planck, there seemed to be a very pro-SUSY mood, especially to the plenary speakers.  SUSY was much more pessimistic.  To be sure, we had old supporters like John Ellis and Gordy Kane, but there were quite a few talks openly questioning the very model for which the conference was named.

Among plenary talks, the one that stood out the most to me was from the first day.  Asimina Arvanitaki talked about using the advances in laser technology and cooling to open up new ways of probing BSM physics.  The emphasis on the talk was on gravity wave detection, but I got the definite feeling that a new era of fundamental physics experiments might be about to open up.  Before this talk, I'd looked at laser cooling techniques as confined to Condensed Matter.

Another talk that deserves mention was one I did not live-blog.  Jeff Richman presented the results of SUSY searches at CMS in what I feel should be the go-to reference for experimentalists talking to theorists.  Far too many of these review talks end up being little more than a presentation of one result after another; Jeff managed to structure things into an actual narrative that made sense.  To be fair, most conferences don't grant 45 minutes to their plenary speakers, but Jeff made full use of his time.

The final plenary talks I want to bring particular mention to were from the last day.  John Ellis and Nima Arkani-Hamed gave talks which looked to the future of the field, advocating that now is the time to push for the next generation of colliders and that we should aim big.  Nima, in particular, rejected the idea of political compromise, and argued that a 100 TeV proton-proton machine is necessary to fully resolve the ambiguities related to naturalness that we must currently face.  I'm more inclined towards John's idea of a new electron-positron machine, TLEP.  Like LEP, TLEP would involve building a new tunnel that we might later use for a proton-proton collider; but first we take the opportunity to do some precision studies that are guaranteed to bring results.

Looking at the parallel talks, there are a few I want to note.  Ben O'Leary's vevacious program is something I still want to play with, but as I said at the time, could become a standard tool for model scans.  A good experimental talk was Alessio Bonato's discussion of resonance searches in the non-SUSY session, which also demonstrated how the experimental collaborations are making increasing use of substructure techniques.  And Alexandre Arbey revealed how, in the pMSSM, you can have sbottoms as lights as a few GeV, which superficially seems absurd.

Oh, and Sho Iwamoto's penis plot grabbed the attention of the more juvenile among us.

If I had any complaint with the conference, it came at the start and end.  The conference arranged transportation to Trieste from nearby airports through a local shuttle company.  However, this company did not deliver to all of the conference hotels, and as far as Venice airport was concerned, inferior to and more expensive than public transport.  I flew from Venice, and the day before they told me they could only get me to the airport 6 hours before the flight.  Sadly, I'd already paid when I booked.  It did see me leave Italy on a bit of a sour note.

But I don't want to end this post on that point.  I'll simply say that ICTP is an excellent institute in beautiful surroundings who hosted an exciting, active conference.  I don't know when I'll next visit them, but I do hope to at some point.

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