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Major new roadmap charts course for US particle physics research

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Dec 9, 2023

The future direction of particle physics research in the United States has been mapped out in a major new report from the Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel (P5). The comprehensive roadmap outlines key facilities, experiments and projects that should be pursued over the next decade to maintain US leadership in uncovering fundamental particles and forces of nature.

New particles and forces to be probed

The P5 report identifies several high-priority areas where significant discoveries may emerge in the coming years. These include hunting for dark matter, understanding the dominance of matter over antimatter in the universe, pursuing mysteries of neutrino physics, and probing cosmic origins through gravitational waves.

“New particles and forces beyond those we know may reveal themselves for the first time,” said University of California physicist Hitoshi Murayama, co-chair of the panel behind the report. “Discoveries could expose cracks in the foundation of the Standard Model of particle physics and completely change our understanding of how the universe works at the most elementary level.”

Dark matter experiments get boost

Dark matter is one of the top priorities highlighted for investment in the roadmap. This mysterious invisible substance makes up over 80% of matter in the universe, but has so far evaded all attempts at direct detection.

The P5 report recommends continued funding to expand search efforts for weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs) as a dark matter candidate at the Sanford Underground Research Facility. It also backs development of new experiments at this and other underground labs to hunt for dark matter more broadly, even beyond WIMPs.

“The ever-improving sensitivities of our detectors gives us a very good chance that we may finally observe dark matter particles before too long,” said panel member Dan McKinsey, a physicist at Yale University.

Global neutrino observatory moves forward

Another major initiative endorsed in the report is the Global Neutrino Observatory (GNO). This giant facility proposed for construction over the next decade would detect neutrinos from cosmic rays, the sun, supernovae and other sources to study these ghostly particles with unprecedented precision.

The observatory would consist of a next-generation neutrino telescope at the South Pole called IceCube-Gen2, along with an array of neutrino detectors across the US. It aims to shed light on neutrino mass ordering, search for new physics, and pin down whether neutrinos are their own antiparticles.

“Measurements with GNO will allow neutrino physics to advance in completely new ways – we could be on the brink of groundbreaking discoveries,” said Francis Halzen, principal investigator for IceCube and GNO.

Timeline of key future facilities

The P5 roadmap sets out an ambitious vision that will require strategic investments to develop the following sequence of priority particle physics projects over the next 10-15 years:

2026: LBNE neutrino experiment begins operations
2028: Muon Collider construction starts
2029: SuperCDMS SNOLAB dark matter experiment detects first particles
2031: Higgs Factory feasibility study complete
2035: Muon Collider fully commissioned
2037: Global Neutrino Observatory detects first neutrinos
2039: Higgs Factory groundbreaking

“This timeline will ensure the next generation of physicists has access to the facilities needed to drive breakthroughs in our understanding of particle physics,” said James Siegrist, Associate Director of Science for High Energy Physics at the Department of Energy.

International collaboration key for realizing goals

Many of the ambitious experiments and facilities outlined in the P5 report rely on global cooperation between scientists across borders. For example, the Higgs Factory – a proposed circular electron-positron collider to study Higgs boson properties in detail – would be the most complex particle collider ever constructed. Making it a reality would require collaboration between physicists in the US and worldwide.

Similarly, most large-scale particle physics endeavors today involve scientists from many nations working together, including the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and the planned International Linear Collider. Continued partnership internationally will be essential for achieving the roadmap’s vision and advancing particle physics discoveries.

Next steps: Securing support and funding

With the new decadal plan now hammered out by scientific consensus, attention turns to garnering political and financial backing. Carrying out the full program laid out would cost an estimated $8 billion over the first 5 years.

Outreach campaigns are already underway to communicate with policymakers about the importance of funding the Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel’s recommendations. Supporters stress how discoveries in particle physics often lead to benefits for society in medicine, energy, computing and industry.

“Investment in the field has immense value beyond just satisfying our curiosity about nature’s basic building blocks,” said James Beacham, particle physicist at Ohio State University. “Commitment today to this plan will pay dividends economically and technologically for decades to come.”

Funding uncertainty remains

Even with strong advocacy, funding the roadmap is not guaranteed in the current economic climate. If budgets tighten further, full implementation could hit roadblocks and force re-prioritization.

“We will have to take things year by year and be ready to adapt if needed,” said Amber Stuver, physicist at University of California, Irvine and P5 panel member. “But this report charts an ambitious course we feel is critically important to deliver on if at all possible.”

With the P5 decadal survey now approved, particle physicists will continue applying for grants, constructing experiments, analyzing data and searching for breakthroughs – all in hopes of unveiling deeper mysteries about the quantum origins of our universe.

Table summarizing key P5 recommendations

Facility/Project Description Timeline Cost Estimate
Sanford Underground Research Facility Expand dark matter search experiments 2026-2031 $160 million
Global Neutrino Observatory Next-gen neutrino telescope + US detector array 2031-2037 $1.6 billion
Muon Collider New particle collider for precision Higgs studies 2028-2035 $3 billion
Higgs Factory Proposed circular electron-positron collider Planning until 2031, operations in 2039 $10+ billion
SuperCDMS SNOLAB New dark matter experiment in Canada 2029 first results $60 million
LBNE Neutrino Experiment Long-baseline neutrino experiment Starts 2026 $1.5 billion
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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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