by Ian Randall. Published: 21 December 2010

The operation and continued development of the ALICE experiment is a major priority in the field of nuclear physics, according to a report by the European Science Foundation. The NuPECC ‘Long Range Plan 2010 – Perspectives of Nuclear Physics in Europe’, which was published earlier this month, details a ten year outline for developing both new and existing particle accelerators; which will be needed to keep Europe at the forefront of nuclear physics research.

“Nuclear physics projects are ‘big science’, with large investments and long lead times that need careful planning and strong political support,” said Guenther Rosner, the Chair of the ESF’s Nuclear Physics European Collaboration Committee (NuPECC). “We can already see where Europe needs to be targeting funds to stay at the forefront. In particular, we need to both upgrade our major facilities and invest in new central research infrastructures.”

Among the NuPECC’s recommendations was the continuation of upgrades to the ALICE detector, in order to expand our capacity for studying quark-gluon matter. Central questions are connected to understanding the symmetry breaking mechanisms that determine the properties of various phases, for example the masses of quarks and the masses of hadrons, via chiral symmetry breaking.

Maximilien Brice/CERN

The ALICE detector - a central priority in the future of European Physics?

“The experimental programme with ALICE at the LHC has just started and it is a central priority that the long-term continuity of the programme is assured,” the report stated, emphasizing the need to support a comprehensive physics programme involving nucleus-nucleus and proton-nucleus collisions at several energies. “This entails a long-term investment in a vigorous programme with nuclear beams at the highest possible luminosities for the next decade.”

Europe is presently a world leader in the field of particle physics, playing host to such physics centers as CERN, GANIL and GSI, It is hoped that the roadmap for development of accelerator facilities outlined in the report will secure Europe’s standing in nuclear research, whilst also assisting funding agencies in directing their support to these future endeavors.

“This is an immensely important and challenging task that requires the effort of both theoretical and experimental scientists, funding agencies, politicians and the public,” says Rosner.

The NuPECC ‘Long Range Plan 2010 – Perspectives of Nuclear Physics in Europe’ is available on the ESF website.



Political support?

Interesting that you mention that political support is required because I would have assumed that political support was implicit. Yes, this is a long term investment, but the benefits are without parallel. Considering the sociodemographic background of the member nations, one would imagine that, given the current planetary resource constraints, this would be an area of hard hitting research? I would be surprised to find a European politician who is not aware of the ramifications that these experiments are capable of, never mind what has already been achieved.