Shining light on the precision frontier

2 February 2022
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The 30th International Symposium on Lepton Photon Interactions at High Energies, hosted online by the University of Manchester from 10 to 14 January, saw more than 500 physicists from around the world engaged in a broad science programme. The Lepton Photon series dates to the 1960s and takes place every two years. This was the first time the conference was meant to return to the UK in over 50 years, with its original August time slot moved to January due to Covid-19 restrictions. The agenda was stretched to improve accessibility in different time zones. Posters were presented via pre-recorded videos and three prizes were awarded following a public vote.

With 2022 marking the ten-year anniversary of the Higgs-boson discovery, it was appropriate that the conference kicked-off with an experimental Higgs-summary talk. Both the ATLAS and CMS collaborations showcased their latest high-precision measurements of Higgs-boson properties and searches for physics beyond the Standard Model using the Higgs boson as a portal. ATLAS presented a new combination of the Higgs total and differential cross-section measurements in the two-photon and four-lepton channels, while CMS shared the first full Run-2 search for resonant di-Higgs production in several multi-lepton final states.

The LHC experiments continue to demonstrate the power of hadron colliders to test the electroweak sector. Notable new results included the first observation of opposite-charge WWjj production at CMS, the first tri-boson (WWW) observation at ATLAS, and LHCb entering the game of W-boson mass measurements. A highlight of the talks covering QCD topics was a combined fit of the parton distribution function of the proton to differential cross-section measurements from ATLAS and HERA data. A wide range of new-physics searches were presented, including a dark-photon search from ATLAS with the full Run-2 data, and a CMS search for new scalars decaying into final states with Higgs-bosons.

In flavour physics, the pattern of anomalies in rare leptonic and semi-leptonic processes continues to intrigue. Highlights in this area included new tests of lepton universality from LHCb in Λb0 Λc+𝜈 decays (ℓ=e, μ, τ) , where the decay involving a τ lepton was observed for the first time, and from Belle in Ω𝑐0→Ω+𝜈 decays, where the ratio of the e-μ final-state branching ratios was found to be in agreement with the expectation of unity and where the μ decay had been measured for the first time. Similar studies of rare leptonic decays are now also taking place in the charm sector. The BESIII collaboration tested in one study the e-μ universality in a second decay mode and confirmed its agreement with the Standard Model. Participants also heard about the latest searches for the ultra-rare decay K→π𝜈𝜈 from KOTO, searching for the neutral kaon decay mode, and from NA62, which now has a 3.4σ evidence for the charged kaon decay mode.

With the 2021 update on muon g-2 from Fermilab, and with the MEG-II, DeeMe and Mu3e experiments getting ready to search for muon-to-electron transitions, there is much excitement about charged-lepton physics. CP violation in beauty and charm remains a hot topic, with updates from LHCb, Belle and BES-III on D0 and Bs oscillations and the CKM angle γ. In all these areas, the theoretical community continues to push the boundaries to make improved predictions. Among other things, theorists presented the latest global fits of Wilson coefficients, and several welcome developments in lattice QCD. 

The highlights from the neutrino sector included the low-energy excess search by MicroBooNE and the observation of the CNO cycle of solar neutrinos by Borexino. The latest results from the long-baseline experiments – T2K and recently NovA– are starting to hint at large CP violating effects in neutrino oscillations.

A series of talks on dark-matter searches spanned collider experiments, direct detection and astrophysical signatures. Some interesting anomalies persist, such as the DAMA annual modulation and the XENON1T low-energy excess. These will be challenged by a suite of next-generation detectors, such as PANDAX-4T, XENONnT, LZ and DarkSide-20k.

The conference also included a rich programme of talks covering astrophysics with an emphasis on gravitational waves and multi-messenger astronomy. Hot-off-the-press was a combined search for spatial correlations between neutrinos and ultra-high energy cosmic rays, using data from ANTARES, IceCube, Auger and TA collaborations, with no sign yet of a connection.

As well as many new results from experiments in operation, the conference included sessions devoted to R&D in accelerators, detectors, software and computing, covering both collider and non-collider experiments. With many new facilities proposed in the medium and long terms, technological challenges, which include power consumption, data rates and radiation tolerance, are immense and demand significant efforts in harnessing promising avenues such as high-temperature superconductors, quantum sensors or specialised computer accelerators. Common to all areas is the need to train and retain highly skilled people to lead these efforts in future.

A firm part of the Lepton Photon plenary programme are discussions around diversity, inclusion and outreach. A lively panel discussion covered many aspects of the former two topics and ended with a key message to the whole community: be an ally and take an active stance in support of minorities. The conference ended with traditional reports from the IUPAP commission on particles and fields and from ICFA, followed by strategy updates from Snowmass and the African Strategy for Fundamental and Applied Physics. While Snowmass is an established process for regular updates of the US strategy for the field based on wide-spread community input both from the US and internationally, the African strategy is the first of its kind and is testament to the continent’s ambition and growing importance in physics research. The next conference will take place in Melbourne in July 2023.

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