John Womersley appointed director of ESS

The European Spallation Source (ESS) under construction in Lund, Sweden, has named John Womersley as its next director general. Womersley, who is chief executive of the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), will take over from current ESS director general Jim Yeck on 1 November.

More than 40 institutions from 15 countries are participating in the €1.84bn ESS, which will be the world’s most powerful source of neutrons when it enters full operation in 2025. Womersley, a particle physicist who worked at Fermilab and later became a scientific adviser to the US Department of Energy, was directly involved in the UK’s decision to join the ESS project in 2014. He has led STFC, which manages the UK’s contribution to CERN and other international projects, since 2011 and is also the current chair of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures.

"I’m excited to join ESS. It’s one of Europe’s largest and most visible new research projects. Scientists, staff, partner institutions and countries across Europe have come together to build what will be the world’s leading neutron source for research on materials and life sciences," says Womersley. "The impressive progress at ESS can be seen in the construction site in Lund and I am determined to keep up the momentum."

Yeck, who was previously director of the IceCube neutrino telescope project, joined ESS as CEO and director general at the beginning of 2013 and successfully led ESS into construction. The ESS ERIC (European Research Infrastructure Consortium) was established in August 2015.

TRIUMF welcomes new associate director

Oliver Kester has been appointed associate laboratory director for the Accelerator Division at TRIUMF in Canada, succeeding Robert Laxdal. An accomplished accelerator physicist and scientific leader, Kester is currently a professor at Goethe-Universität Frankfurt and director at FAIR (Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research) under construction in Darmstadt, Germany. He has also held faculty and administrative positions at CERN, the University of Munich and Michigan State University.

Kester’s research interests focus on the production and transport of intense charged-particle beams, the development of accelerator cavities, beam instrumentation and electron targets for heavy-ion storage rings. In his new role, effective from 12 September, he will be responsible for the operation of the accelerator facilities, the construction of the ARIEL project and the advancement of accelerator research at TRIUMF. "I couldn’t be more thrilled to join TRIUMF at such an exciting time for accelerator science at the laboratory," said Kester.

Markov prize for black-hole theory

The Institute for Nuclear Research (INR) of the Russian Academy of Sciences has awarded its 2016 Markov prize to Victor Berezin of INR RAS and Valery Frolov of Alberta University in Canada for their outstanding contributions to the theory of black holes. Berezin is a well-known specialist in the field of gravity theory and cosmology. He contributed much to the theory of quantum and quasi-classical gravitational collapse, and carried out pioneering research in the properties of black holes, the spectra of their masses and radiation parameters. Frolov, who was unable to attend the ceremony due to other commitments, has made advances in our understanding of interior space and black-hole entropy, extra-dimensional models and the interactions between black holes and strings or branes.

The award was presented at the 14th Markov Readings in Moscow on 13 May. These are a series of international seminars held in commemoration of the prominent Russian scientist Moisey Markov (1908–1994).

Prizes galore for LIGO discovery

Following the discovery of gravitational waves by LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory), which was announced in February this year, the breakthrough has been recognized by three major awards.

On 2 May, the selection committee of the new $3 million Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics announced that LIGO founders Ronald Drever and Kip Thorne of Caltech and Rainer Weiss of MIT would share one third of the award, with the remaining amount being shared equally between LIGO and VIRGO's 1005 authors and seven other scientists who made important contributions to the field. The laureates will be recognized at the 2016 Breakthrough Prize ceremony in autumn, where the annual Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics (which is distinct from the special prize) will also be presented.

Just two days later, on 4 May, the same founding LIGO members and the LIGO discovery team received the $0.5 million Gruber Cosmology Prize for the detection of gravitational waves, which the prize announcement described as "a technologically herculean and scientifically transcendent achievement". Drever, Thorne and Weiss will also receive a gold medal recognizing their dedication and work. Finally, on 2 June, the pioneering LIGO trio was awarded the 2016 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics. The $1m prize, which is presented once every two years, recognizes their instrumental role in establishing the experiment.

"The lion’s share of the credit for LIGO’s gravitational-wave discovery belongs to the superb 1000-member LIGO team, who pulled it off," said Thorne. "They have made Weiss, Drever and me look good. And my deep thanks go out, also, to the succession of outstanding LIGO directors who provided the leadership required for success – Robbie Vogt, Stan Whitcomb, Jay Marx, David Reitze, and especially Barry Barish, who designed and led the transformation of LIGO from the small R&D project that Weiss, Drever and I created."

• LIGO’s announcement in February was based on the detection of waves from a single cosmic event that arrived at the interferometer sites on 14 September 2015. The waves were generated 1.3 billion years ago by the merger of two orbiting black holes, which caused tiny displacements (on the order of one part in 1021) in LIGO’s twin interferometers located on either side of the US. In June, however, LIGO reported a second event, also from colliding black holes, which was detected on 26 December. Named "GW151226", it marks the beginning of gravitational-wave astronomy, said LIGO spokesperson Gabriela González. "It takes a lot of people, physics and engineering to build these exquisite instruments, and they detected these gravitational waves very clearly."

Winners of the 2016 Beamline for Schools announced

Sixteen students have won the chance to conduct their own experiments at CERN, having been named as the winners of CERN’s 2016 Beamline for Schools competition. Two teams of high-school students were selected from a total of 151 teams from 37 countries to come to CERN in September. The "Pyramid Hunters", from Marshal Stanisław Małachowski High School in Poland, propose to measure the muon absorption of limestone to help understand muon-tomography images of the Chephren pyramid recorded many years ago. The other winners, "Relatively Special" from Colchester Royal Grammar School in the UK, aim to test the validity of the Lorentz factor by measuring the effect of time dilation on the decay rate of pions.

The Beamline for Schools competition enables high-school students to run an experiment in the same way that researchers do at the Large Hadron Collider and other CERN facilities. Students were asked to submit a written proposal and video explaining their experiment’s methods and goals. "This competition is very effective in triggering motivation for fundamental physics in young, brilliant students at a moment that is crucial for their future career choices", said Claude Vallee, chairperson of the CERN SPSC committee that chose the winning teams.

The first Beamline for Schools competition was launched two years ago to coincide with CERN’s 60th anniversary, and has so far seen winning teams from the Netherlands, Greece, Italy and South Africa perform experiments at CERN. "We are very happy to be able to offer this experience to high-school students, thanks to the support received via donations to the CERN & Society Foundation," said Markus Joos, Beamline for School project leader.

Celebration marks 40 years of SPS service

An event at CERN held on 17 June celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS), which has been at the centre of some of CERN’s most famous discoveries. The 6.9 km-circumference SPS operated as a hadron collider from 1981–1984, flushing out the W and Z bosons, before going on to feed particles to LEP and the LHC. The image (on the right) shows the original scope trace of the first beam accelerated to 300 GeV (the SPS was originally called the "300 GeV Project", although it soon reached higher energies). It was taken during the meeting of the CERN council in June 1976, recalls Lyn Evans, who is director of CERN’s Linear Collider collaboration. Aged 30 at the time, Evans was a junior physicist and was sent over to the council chamber to show the trace to the director general, John Adams, so that he could announce the exciting news at the council meeting. When he got there, however, he found the chamber empty. "They had broken for lunch, so I just left it on the DG’s desk," says Evans. "The rest is history!" (See "Inside Story: Super Proton Synchrotron turns 40".)

CERN openlab: supporting the LHC community for 15 years

CERN openlab held an event on 8–9 June to showcase CERN’s collaboration with leading ICT companies and research institutes, which are a key source of support for the worldwide LHC research community. The event marked 15 years since CERN openlab was established, and more than 100 people attended.

"Since 2001, this unique public-private partnership has worked to ensure that members of CERN’s scientific community have access to the very latest ICT solutions to help them carry out their ground-breaking physics research," said Alberto Di Meglio, head of CERN openlab.

Celebrating 40 years of supergravity

With 2016 marking 40 years since the formulation of supergravity (SUGRA), a celebration took place at CERN on 24 June, attended by SUGRA pioneers Sergio Ferrara, Dan Freedman and Peter van Nieuwenhuizen. Supergravity is central to the scientific heritage of the CERN Theory Department, and has inspired and continues to inspire generations of physicists, theorists and experimentalists alike.

Netherlands firms exhibit products at CERN

The biennial Holland@CERN event took place on 30 May–2 June, attracting 36 firms from the Netherlands to exhibit their products. The Netherlands has been a contributor to big-science projects for 60 years, ranging from major particle accelerators like the LHC and fusion reactors such as ITER to telescopes such as the E-ELT and various light sources.

"The Dutch firms were very happy with the many new contacts they have been able to make with people at CERN, and received many visitors to their stands," said Rob Klöpping, Dutch Industrial Liaison Officer, Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).

Third European Cryogenics Days focuses on HEP

Cryogenics has contributed widely to the successes of high-energy physics (HEP). Conversely, HEP has pushed cryogenic engineering developments to a high level of technical excellence. The third European Cryogenics days, hosted by CERN on 9–10 June, focused on the latest developments in this area. Organized by the Cryogenics Society of Europe, together with the High-Energy Physics Technology Transfer Network (HEPTech) and CERN, the event attracted 176 participants from industry and academia, mostly from Europe.

Cryogenics are not just crucial for machines such as CERN’s LHC and the Wendelstein-7X stellarator in Germany, but also for state-of-the-art light sources such as the European X-ray Free Electron Laser at DESY and also the central solenoid module of the ITER fusion experiment. Lessons learnt from ATLAS and CMS, which both use dedicated cryogenic equipment, addressed noticeable shortfalls such as oil contamination. Cryogenics for the European Spallation Source (ESS) target was also explored, as were the novel membrane cryostats for the large-volume neutrino detectors under development as part of the CERN Neutrino Platform (see "Neutrinos take centre stage").

Regarding future cryogenic applications for HEP, efforts will be concentrated on the development of dedicated cryogenic systems for the high-luminosity LHC and the Future Circular Collider (FCC). It is clear already that the FCC cryogenic system will require cryoplants far beyond the present state-of-the-art, with unit capacities of 100 kW at 4.5 K.

The event also addressed instrumentation for cryogenic systems, research in the cryogenic field, and future developments in cryotherapy and space applications. The event was accompanied with an industrial exhibition and bilateral brokerage meetings organised by the Enterprise Europe Network.

Beauty on show in the south of France

The 16th International Conference on B-physics at Frontier Machines, Beauty 2016, was held in Marseille, France, from 2–6 May. The conference, which saw 66 invited talks divided between 18 theoretical and 48 experimental topics, covered a wide range of subjects including studies of CP violation and rare decay properties of beauty and charm hadrons.

Heavy flavour physics, in particular decays of b-hadrons, offers a powerful probe of physics beyond the Standard Model because new particles may manifest themselves in observables that can be calculated and measured with high precision. Run 1 of the LHC has resulted in the discovery of the rare decay B0→ μ+μ and new constraints for CP violation in B0s → J/ψφ decays, for instance, and several puzzling patterns in data for rare b-hadron decays have emerged.

Highlights of Beauty 2016 include the world’s best measurement of the semi-leptonic CP asymmetry in B0s – B0s mixing by the LHCb experiment. The corresponding observable, asSL = [0.39±0.26 (stat)±0.20 (syst)]%, which probes the difference between B0s → B0s and B0s → B0s transitions, is in agreement with the Standard Model expectation (which predicts asSL at the 10–5 level) and therefore does not confirm a previous intriguing result by the D0 Collaboration at Fermilab. ATLAS also presented the world’s best measurement of the decay-width difference of the B0d-meson system, while CMS reported the double upsilon-production result at √s = 8 TeV and the BaBar collaboration released the first study of the rare decay B+ → K+τ+ τ, which is experimentally challenging.

Some of the most interesting current results concern "flavour anomalies". In particular, the ratio BR(B → D*τν)/BR(B → D* ℓ ν), where ℓ = μ, e, is measured to be approximately 4σ away from Standard Model expectations, providing a test of lepton flavour violation. The rare decay B0 → K*0μ+μ also shows deviations from expectations, with the angular distribution of its decay products (namely the "Pʹ5" observable) looking particularly intriguing. In order to interpret these and further data from LHC Run 2, it is crucial that we have a point of reference from the Standard Model. In the case of Pʹ5, the situation is complicated due to effects from strong interactions, for instance. Impressive progress on lattice QCD has enabled calculations that are crucial inputs for theoretical predictions, such as the decay constant of the B0s and hadronic form factors.

LHCb also reported new world-best measurements of the angle γ of the unitarity triangle from pure tree-level decays, which still has a significant uncertainty, 70.9+7.1–8.5 degrees, and leaves a lot of space for future improvement. Concerning possible CP violating effects in the B0s → J/ψφ decay, the experimental precision has reached a level where effects from so-called penguin topologies have to be included. The pentaquark state observed by LHCb has also put hadron spectroscopy and exotic states under the spotlight, although LHCb data do not confirm the udsb "tetraquark" state recently reported by D0.

Whilst CP violation in the charm sector has not yet been observed, LHCb is close to approaching the Standard Model expectations. Recent theoretical progress has also resulted in new analyses of direct CP violation in the neutral kaon system, which are not in good agreement with experiment, thereby adding yet another flavour anomaly that has to be understood. Finally, the NA62 experiment raises the exciting prospect of testing the Standard Model via the rare decay K+ → π+νν.

Beauty 2016 was a great success. The future experimental programme for heavy-flavour physics is very bright, with the super-B factory at KEK under construction and further LHC data to come.


Highlights of IPAC 2016 in Korea

The 7th International Particle Accelerator Conference, IPAC16, was held in Busan, Korea, from 8–13 May, attracting more than 1200 participants from 37 countries.

Lepton and hadron colliders continue to push performances to serve research in particle physics. The LHC is back in action after a major shutdown and has successfully restarted operation at the unprecedented energy of 6.5 TeV per beam, while the commissioning of the SuperKEKB collider in Japan is progressing firmly after a major upgrade to increase its luminosity. At RHIC in the US, electron lenses have been used to enhance the collider’s performance by compensating for beam–beam effects.

Meanwhile, several upgrade programmes and new storage rings for the synchrotron X-ray community are in full swing, led by MAX IV in Sweden, which is the first synchrotron light source based on a multi-bend achromat cell. Novel optimization techniques based on genetic algorithms are taking the horizontal emittance of storage rings towards the X-ray diffraction limit, which allows smaller and more stable beams for users. More than a dozen contributions at IPAC16 focused on the development of linear optics measurement and correction techniques, with recent studies of beta functions opening the door for light sources to replace the traditional and lengthy orbit response techniques with fast turn-by-turn-based optics corrections.

At the high beam-power front, the Spallation Neutron Source in the US has reached 1.4 MW and launched a study to double the power at 1.3 GeV. Meanwhile, the European Spallation Source in Sweden, which is based on an unprecedented 5 MW linear accelerator that will reach an energy of 2 GeV using superconducting RF cavities, is well into construction and progressing towards first beam in June 2019. Accelerating superconducting cavities based on Nb3Sn (the same material being explored for the HL-LHC and FCC magnets) have now been shown for the first time to outperform Nb cavities, defining the next generation of superconducting RF technology.

Other highlights from the Korea event included developments at J-PARC in Japan, where the rapid-cycling synchrotron is approaching routine 1 MW operation and the main 50 GeV ring is delivering a 400 kW beam for long-baseline neutrino experiments. There was also a session devoted to engagement with industry, which is crucial for the high-luminosity LHC, and a report from PACMAN – a Marie-Curie network based at CERN that is pushing the limits of technology in component alignment, in addition to training qualified engineers and creating synergies between institutes.

The Xi Jalin Prize for outstanding work in the accelerator field was awarded to Derek Lowenstein from Brookhaven National Laboratory in the US, while the Nishikawa Tetsuji Prize was awarded to Gwo-Huei Luo at the NSRRC in Taiwan. Sam Posen of Fermilab in the US received the Hogil Kim Prize, and the Mark Oliphant Prize was awarded to Spencer Jake Gessner of SLAC for his PhD thesis work on hollow-channel plasma wakefield accelerators.

The eighth IPAC will take place in Copenhagen, Denmark, on 14–19 May 2017.


Swedish MAX IV light source inaugurated

On 20 June, coinciding with the Northern Hemisphere’s brightest day, the new MAX IV light source in Lund, Sweden, was inaugurated by Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven, in the presence of the King of Sweden. This state-of-the-art synchrotron light source will deliver narrow beams of intense X-rays towards samples placed in numerous beamlines fanning out tangentially from the ring. The 3 GeV storage ring has a circumference of 528 m, the 1.5 GeV booster a circumference of 9 m and the injector is a 300 m-long linac.

Construction started in 2010 and the project has received several prizes and awards for its environmental credentials. When fully operational, the facility, which marks Sweden’s largest single investment in research, will be able to receive about 2000 researchers a year working across 25 beamlines. Two beamlines are already operational, with a further three experimental stations to be connected to the large ring in the autumn.

Event spotlight

CERN management has launched a Beyond Collider Physics study, a kick-off workshop for which will take place at CERN on 6–7 September 2016. The aim of the study is to explore the opportunities offered by CERN’s accelerator complex and infrastructure via projects complementary to high-energy colliders. Although the scientific focus is on fundamental physics questions that are similar in spirit to those addressed by high-energy colliders, the goal of the Beyond Collider Physics study is to survey the possibilities and stimulate new ideas that might require different types of experiment. Details about the programme, registration and abstract submission, as well as the mandate of the group, can be found on the workshop website at:


Austria’s minister for labour, social affairs and consumer protection, Alois Stöger, visited CERN on Wednesday 8 June, during which he toured the ATLAS cavern with experiment spokesperson Dave Charlton (right).

The Rt Hon Hugo Swire MP, minister of state, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK, in the LHC superconducting magnet test hall with head of the beams department Paul Collier (right) on 9 June.

On 14 June, the Japanese minister for education, culture, sports, science and technology, Hiroshi Hase, signed the guestbook with the director for research and computing, Eckhard Elsen, and the director for international relations, Charlotte Warakaulle, during a visit that took in the ATLAS visitor centre and the LHC magnet test hall.

Under secretary for science and energy at the US Department of Energy, Franklin (Lynn) M Orr, pictured at CMS on 16 June with CMS scientist Isobel Ojalvo from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.