Japanese Delights at HCP2012

This is the last of the Hadron Collider Physics Symposia.  I learned that during the first day of HCP2012.  Its spirit, thankfully, will continue, as HCP merges with PLHC (Physics at the LHC), to form a conference series entitled LHCP(Large Hadron Collider Physics Conference).

I prefer these sorts of conferences.  There are over 200 participants, which ensures that there are a good number of people from a wide variety of experiments, working on a diverse range of research topics, from theorists and experimentalists from the LHC and the Tevatron.  But they’re not too large, and are able to retain an intimate atmosphere.

Impressions of Japan

Kyoto is an awesome place to hold a conference!  Aside from the physics, I was really looking forward to visit this area of the world.  Being of Taiwanese origin, I am keenly aware of the deep cultural ties existing between Japan and Taiwan, and so visiting here was somehow connecting me to my roots.  The few phrases of Japanese that my grandparents taught me (they were educated in Japanese) definitely came in handy!  With my East Asian appearance, however, it wasn’t obvious to the Japanese that I actually don’t speak their language…and I contemplated ways to make that more obvious: maybe I could dye my hair blond, but that wouldn’t help, since many of them do that themselves!

Kyoto really exhibits the contrasts of Japan well.  From traditional Japan, one is awestruck by the beauty of the many temples, with their picture-perfect gardens nestled in front of the sublime backdrop of the surrounding mountains. The autumn foliage just adds to the beauty and elegance these scenes provide. My favourite is the serene Shoren-in temple (whose garden is shown), frequented slightly less by the tourist hordes….


As one comes back into the city, modern Japan, with its hustle-and-bustle, neon lights, and an entire populace armed with smart-phones, one really perceives the differences between these contrasting worlds of traditional and modern.  The prevalence of heated toilet seats is a testament to how ingrained technology is in this land.

It’s also a joy to be among the Japanese people.  They are unbelievably polite and courteous. And as foreigners in their country who don’t speak their language, I feel very awkward when they are the ones appearing apologetic for not speaking better English to me……”no, it’s I that must apologize for not speaking any Japanese,” I wish I could reply!

Victory for the Standard Model

The first day of the conference (Monday) kicked off with a very nice result from LHCb, the first experimental evidence of B_s ->μμ decays.

Below: CLs upper limits on the B_s->μμ branching ratio, as a function of the branching ratio itself.  One sees clearly that the observed limits correspond to the SM prediction+background hypothesis, and that the result is inconsistent with the background only hypothesis.

This is a process that has been looked for over many decades, and this result is really a milestone in the field of B physics.  This particular process is sensitive to new particles beyond the Standard Model, and deviations of the branching ratio from the Standard Model prediction would have pointed strongly to the existence of non-Standard Model phenomenology.

Seeing the first experimental evidence for this process is indeed exciting, but it was a bit of a pity that the measured value corresponded very well to the Standard Model value.

As many searches for new phenomena were presented on Tuesday, one couldn’t help being a bit disappointed, as limit after limit was presented, with no sign of any physics beyond the Standard Model.  Note that it was great to see such a variety of searches, with ever increasing discovery reach, and I wasn’t disappointed at all with the quality of these analyses.  But it would have been nice to see some sort of effect that would have gotten the room abuzz……..

Below: CMS limits on a heavy resonance decaying to lepton pairs, as a function of the resonance mass; and ATLAS limits on 3rd generation Leptoquark production as a function of Leptoquark mass.







But I think one just needs to be patient with the quest to discover something beyond the Standard Model.  After all, the LHC is a huge project that spans many decades, and will have many more years of operation to come.

A new era for Higgs boson measurements

In fact, I was amazed by how much sensitivity ATLAS and CMS now have to the new Higgs boson-like particle with a mass of 126 GeV.  From talks on Wednesday and Thursday, it was clear that we are in a new era, going from discovery mode of this new particle to a time where we will be looking at measuring its properties with ever increasing precision.  There will be certainly much we will be able to learn from this new creature in the particle physics zoo.

So even with Standard Model predictions holding strong thus far, there is still much to explore, and many more exciting results in the future to come!

Last thoughts

Usually, five days of talks at a conference are more than enough for me.  For the first time, I found myself wondering why time passed so quickly during HCP2012. The quality of analyses, and the sensitivity of the experiments with the data they have accumulated is mind-boggling.

Below: Okonomi-yaki, delicious Japanese goodness!

And Kyoto was the perfect backdrop to such discussions. Where else could one mull over the implications of these results, whether over Oyako-donburi, Nigiri, Tempura, or Okonomi-yaki?  What a shame to leave the land of the rising sun so soon………

To the HCP conference organizers:



Stan Lai Stan Lai is a Canadian in Germany, and enjoys hiking, cycling, and looking for good traditional local food wherever he happens to be at the moment. In his spare moments, he also dabs in experimental particle physics research with the University of Freiburg.

1 Comment

  • By PrecioLandia, March 8, 2013 @ 7:07 pm

    I certainly felt the same way when I was in Japan. Their courtesy is something we westerners should learn about.

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