[Reblog]: The world of physics in 2014

Dec 19, 2013

So 2013 will go down as the year that the Nobel Prize for Physics went to Peter Higgs and François Englert for their theory of how some particles acquire mass. It was an award that had been widely expected, following the discovery of a particle that looks pretty much like the Higgs boson at CERN in 2012. But the prize was not without controversy – several other theorists missed out, while the announcement itself was unexpectedly delayed by an hour, hinting that the Swedish Academy of Sciences required the extra time to thrash out who exactly to honour.

But what of next year? What will be the key events in physics and who will have taken the accolades in 12 months’ time?

Over at CERN, physicists and engineers will still be basking in the glory of this year’s Nobel prize, but they will also be hard at work upgrading the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and its main experimentsATLAS and CMS. The collider, which was turned off in February at the end of its first main run, is currently undergoing a refit that will let it smash protons together with a total energy of 13 TeV – almost double the previous value – when it switches back on in 2015.

But there will be lots of new activities at CERN too. The accelerators that feed protons into the LHC – the Proton Synchrotron (PS) and the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS) – will both be fired up in the second half of 2014, enabling several entirely new experiments to come on line at the Geneva lab. One intriguing new project is NA62, so named because it is located in CERN’s “North Area” and 62 is the next number up. Like CERN’s main experiments, it will be seeking “new physics”, but it will use a very different approach. Instead of smashing protons together and scouring through the vast numbers of particles flying off in all directions, NA62 will instead search for tiny “quantum fluctuations” in one particular type of particle decay…

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