Highlights from CERN in 2013

Higgs boson decays, a Nobel prize for Higgs and Englert and a huge Open Days event were among the big stories at CERN this year


Highlights from CERN in 2013

This year saw a busy programme of maintenance and consolidation across the accelerator chain. Here, an engineer works on the CMS detector (Image: Anna Pantelia/CERN )

It's been a fruitful year for CERN. In his end-of-year message to everyone at CERN, Director-General Rolf Heuer writes:

"[This year] has shown how decades of diligent groundwork, a hallmark of CERN and particle physics, along with a deep-seated sense of the values of the organization, lay the foundations for success."

This success has come in 2013 in many forms.

The Large Hadron Colllider (LHC) came to the end of its highly successful first three-year run in February, giving way to a busy programme of maintenance and consolidation of CERN's entire accelerator chain that will enable the LHC to restart at higher energies in 2015. CERN’s experimental teams have continued to analyse data during this period, and many of them have embarked on upgrades of their own.

The LHC experiments ATLAS and CMS confirmed in March that the new boson found in 2012 is indeed a Higgs boson and continued to probe its properties. ALICE took data from lead-proton collisions and continued its steady programme of upgrade and consolidation work. LHCb observed a new matter-antimatter asymmety in the decays of the B0s meson and measured one of the rarest processes in physics. After reaching the remarkable figure of 100 petabytes of stored data early in the year, CERN’s computing capacity was expanded significantly with an extension to the Data Centre at CERN as well as the establishment of a new data centre in Budapest, Hungary – ready to deal with the torrent of data to come when the LHC starts up again.

The year was busy for the rich research programme beyond the LHC. Teams at ISOLDE showed that atomic nuclei can be pear shaped and measured the ionization potential of the rarest element on Earth; antiproton experiments made world-beating measurements on the antiproton and looked at the effects of gravity on antimatter and the CLOUD collaboration shed new light on the effect of cosmic rays on the formation of clouds in the atmosphere.

The laboratory hosted its first ever TEDxCERN event, and opened the local tourist trail "Passport to the Big Bang". Some 70,000 people visited in September for the Open Days, which provided a rare opportunity for many to see the LHC underground. A collection of CERN photographs were put under a creative commons licence and CERN celebrated 20 years of putting World Wide Web software in the public domain by restoring the first website to its original URL [here] and recreating the world's first widely available web browser, the line-mode browser.

CERN continued to strengthen ties around the world. Israel is to become CERN’s 21st Member State – the first new member since 1999 – and Ukraine is set to join as an Associate Member. For the future, the programme to upgrade the LHC to deliver more collisions was recognized as the top priority in the updated European Strategy for Particle Physics, approved by CERN Council in May. 

Finally, the year 2013 saw a number of prestigious awards. In October, Peter Higgs and François Englert shared the Nobel prize in physics for "the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.” Other prizes for the laboratory included the Prince of Asturias award, the UNESCO Niels Bohr gold medal, and the Edinburgh medal awarded to CERN and to Peter Higgs.