Moriond day 1: The outer limits

5 March 2012 | By

Rencontres de Moriond logo. (Image: Rencontres de Moriond)

Not many trips take you to all ends of the world in one day, but that was nevertheless how it felt after the first talks at Moriond. Sunday and Monday have mainly featured presentations on neutrino and dark matter physics. Many of these experiments are placed in remote regions or deep under ground. We have heard reports from the OPERA collaboration (of [perhaps] faster than light neutrino fame), Ice Cube, a wonderful neutrino detector located at the South-pole, the Japanese T2K neutrino experiment and many many others. For someone working on a LHC experiment it is very refreshing to learn about other experiments in the field, we might be the biggest game in town, but not the only one.

Monday morning was all about Dark Matter. A very interesting subject connecting astrophysics with particle physics. In short, we believe that some new, unexplained type of particle causes the galaxies to be five times heavier than expected from what we see from visible light alone. A possible explanation comes from Supersymmetry (SUSY), which predicts a stable particle that is supposed to interact only through the weak force and gravity, the lightest supersymmetric particle or LSP. Most of the dark matter experiments are reporting negative or inconclusive results, except one, DAMA. So the talks have been focused on how each experiment either confirms or disagrees with DAMA. With the ATLAS experiment, we also search for SUSY dark matter, but in a very different way than the dedicated experiments. In ATLAS, dark matter could show itself as "missing energy" that makes the rest of the particles coming from the collision not quite add up energy wise. Depending on the model, it is possible to search for dark matter indirectly by looking for this missing energy together with other particles decaying in a specific pattern.

The LHC talks have been moved to the end of the week to give us more time to approve the latests results from the 2011 run. Everyone I've talked to here (especially the theorists) are interested to learn what we might have discovered, patience can be difficult with potential discoveries just around the corner :)