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Fundamental interactions: at the boundary of theory, phenomenology and experiment

Research project P5/27 (Research action P5)

Persons :

Description :

To improve our understanding of Fundamental Interactions through a closer collaboration between Belgian research teams engaged in theoretical or experimental approaches.

Fundamental interactions include electroweak forces, strong interactions and gravity. Their study aims at unravelling Nature’s mechanisms at their most intimate level, including the origin of the Universe, through work at the cutting edge of knowledge. The teams presenting this project are all internationally recognised in their field. While common interests already generate a number of bilateral activities (joint seminars and schools, punctual collaborations,...), a tighter collaboration, especially between theorists and experimentalists, will clearly bring a large increase in the efficiency of the research programs.

- Some groups follow a theoretical approach, (including phenomenological models), trying to understand, or predict the interactions of elementary particles. A fundamental unification of gravity and gauge theories (e.g. through strings) might be the ultimate goal. The predictions of the new theories, notably in what touches extra space dimensions and supersymmetry, are now just entering our experimental possibilities, and it is important to be aware of the latest developments in experiment and in theory to suggest the channels where they will be the most efficiently tested.

- The experimental groups work in large international collaborations, using the most powerful accelerators and the latest observational devices to gather the information to confirm such theories, or force a new approach.

Powerful mathematical tools (string and brane theory), and theroretical levers (like the search for a fundamental origin of CP violation), will be used. At the same time, the experimental approach will benefit from interaction with theorists. We give just two examples.

After the LEP program, which studied the vectors of fundamental interactions, the next step at CERN is the Large Hadron Collider, which will search for the unification mechanisms. The prime target, the "Brout-Englert-Higgs" boson, is both the still missing keystone of the electroweak unification, and the latch to open research into more fundamental extensions: supersymmetry, large extra dimensions... While data taking will start in 2006, it is now high time to determine the search strategy. Among others, the difficult part is to extract the crucial piece of information in an enormous background. Such selection, as well as the interpretation of the data must be planned early, often years before the actual start of data taking, and is necessarily guided by theory. A similar situation prevails with the AMANDA neutrino detector, located in the Antarctic ice to detect high energy signals from cosmic events.
While the "hardware" part of the experimental activities is covered by other sources of financing (FNRS, FWO, and associated funds), considerable effort in the interpretation of data must be pursued. In this, the contribution of theory groups to help single out the key signals will be developed through the present research contract.

Postdoctoral researchers are an essential link in this research as they bring collaboration and exchange between teams. The structural lack of such postdoctoral positions is however a common obstacle that the present request will help remove.

The ultimate purpose is to improve our understanding of fundamental interactions; for this, we need

- To develop each group’s potential by additional means, mostly in personnel (postdocs);
- To tighten the collaboration and links between the activities of the groups;
- To train a significant number of young scientists with excellence in their own field and sufficient knowledge in the others to pursue the quest for our understanding of the physical laws.

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