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Particle Physicists Offer a Road Map For the Next Decade

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“The U.S. will have to cede leadership in certain areas in particle physics,” said Karsten Heeger, a physicist at Yale University who is the P5 deputy chair. “That would be an impact that would be felt in the field, and beyond.”

Failing all of that, the draft report urges the federal government to stay the course on projects to which it is already committed, including cranking up the luminosity, or collision rates, of the Large Hadron Collider for deeper studies of the Higgs and other rare phenomena; continuing construction of the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, a telescope in Chile designed to create time-lapse movies of the cosmos; and a limited version of DUNE.

Because the lifetimes of these projects span decades, the committee emphasized support for early-career scientists who will eventually take over the projects. “They are the future,” Dr. Murayama said.

The Department of Energy’s High Energy Physics Advisory Panel will vote on the draft report Friday afternoon. If the report is accepted, the committee will pivot its focus to gaining support for the plan, both within and outside of the physics community. In particular, Dr. Murayama hoped it would grab the attention of staff members who communicate with members of Congress about how to vote on the department’s budget.

“Basic research is a tough sell,” Dr. Murayama said. “It’s not an immediate benefit to society.” But the payoff is worth it, he added: Particle physics has led to revolutions in medical applications, materials science, and even the creation of iPhones and the World Wide Web.

But according to Dr. Murayama, the benefits transcend the impact the field has on society. “Particle physics is really at the heart of what we are, who we are,” he said, adding that all of us, physicist or not, “would like to understand why we exist, where we came from and where we’re going.”

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