Hello from Valparaíso, where I continue this year's hectic conference circuit at the 7th International Conference on Quarks and Nuclear Physics (QNP 2015). Except for some minor inconveniences and misunderstandings, the long trip to Valparaíso (via Madrid and Santiago de Chile) went quite smoothly, and so far, I have found Chile a country of bright sunlight and extraordinarily helpful and friendly people.
The first speaker of the conference was Emanuele Nocera, who reviewed nucleon and nuclear parton distributions. The study of parton distributions become necessary because hadrons are really composed not simply of valence quarks, as the quark model would have it, but of an indefinite number of (sea) quarks, antiquarks and gluons, any of which can contribute to the overall momentum and spin of the hadron. In an operator product expansion framework, hadronic scattering amplitudes can then be factorised into Wilson coefficients containing short-distance (perturbative) physics and parton distribution functions containing long-distance (non-perturbative) physics. The evolution of the parton distribution functions (PDFs) with the momentum scale is given by the DGLAP equations containing the perturbatively accessible splitting functions. The PDFs are subject to a number of theoretical constraints, of which the sum rules for the total hadronic momentum and valence quark content are the most prominent. For nuclei, on can assume that a similar factorisation as for hadrons still holds, and that the nuclear PDFs are linear combinations of nucleon PDFs modified by multiplication with a binding factor; however, nuclei exhibit correlations between nucleons, which are not well-described in such an approach. Combining all available data from different sources, global fits to PDFs can be performed using either a standard χ2 fit with a suitable model, or a neural network description. There are far more and better data on nucleon than nuclear PDFs, and for nucleons the amount and quality of the data also differs between unpolarised and polarised PDFs, which are needed to elucidate the "proton spin puzzle".
Next was the first lattice talk of the meeting, given by Huey-Wen Lin, who gave a review of the progress in lattice studies of nucleon structure. I think Huey-Wen gave a very nice example by comparing the computational and algorithmic progress with that in videogames (I'm not an expert there, but I think the examples shown were screenshots of Nethack versus some modern first-person shooter), and went on to explain the importance of controlling all systematic errors, in particular excited-state effects, before reviewing recent results on the tensor, scalar and axial charges and the electromagnetic form factors of the nucleon. As an outlook towards the current frontier, she presented the inclusion of disconnected diagrams and a new idea of obtaining PDFs from the lattice more directly rather than through their moments.
The next speaker was Robert D. McKeown with a review of JLab's Nuclear Science Programme. The CEBAF accelerator has been upgraded to 12 GeV, and a number of experiments (GlueX to search for gluonic excitations, MOLLER to study parity violation in Møller scattering, and SoLID to study SIDIS and PVDIS) are ready to be launched. A number of the planned experiments will be active in areas that I know are also under investigation by experimental colleagues in Mainz, such as a search for the "dark photon" and a study of the running of the Weinberg angle. Longer-term plans at JLab include the design of an electron-ion collider.
After a rather nice lunch, Tomofumi Nagae spoke about the hadron physics programme an J-PARC. In spite of major setbacks by the big earthquake and a later radiation accident, progress is being made. A search for the Θ+ pentaquark did not find a signal (which I personally do not find surprising, since the whole pentaquark episode is probably of more immediate long-term interest to historians and sociologists of science than to particle physicists), but could not completely exclude all of the discovery claims.
This was followed by a take by Jonathan Miller of the MINERνA collaboration presenting their programme of probing nuclei with neutrinos. Major complications include the limited knowledge of the incoming neutrino flux and the fact that final-state interactions on the nuclear side may lead to one process mimicking another one, making the modelling in event generators a key ingredient of understanding the data.
Next was a talk about short-range correlations in nuclei by Or Henn. Nucleons subject to short-range correlations must have high relative momenta, but a low center-of-mass momentum. The experimental studies are based on kicking a proton out of a nucleus with an electron, such that both the momentum transfer (from the incoming and outgoing electron) and the final momentum of the proton are known, and looking for a nucleon with a momentum close to minus the difference between those two (which must be the initial momentum of the knocked-out proton) coming out. The astonishing result is that at high momenta, neutron-proton pairs dominate (meaning that protons, being the minority, have a much larger chance of having high momenta) and are linked by a tensor force. Similar results are known from other two-component Fermi systems, such as ultracold atomic gases (which are of course many, many orders of magnitude less dense than nuclei).
After the coffee break, Heinz Clement spoke about dibaryons, specifically about the recently discovered d*(2380) resonance, which taking all experimental results into account may be interpreted as a ΔΔ bound state
The last talk of the day was by André Walker-Loud, who reviewed the study of nucleon-nucleon interactions and nuclear structure on the lattice, starting with a very nice review of the motivations behind such studies, namely the facts that big-bang nucleosynthesis is very strongly dependent on the deuterium binding energy and the proton-neutron mass difference, and this fine-tuning problem needs to be understood from first principles. Besides, currently the best chance for discovering BSM physics seems once more to lie with low-energy high-precision experiments, and dark matter searches require good knowledge of nuclear structure to control their systematics. Scattering phase shifts are being studied through the Lüscher formula. Current state-of-the-art studies of bound multi-hadron systems are related to dibaryons, in particular the question of the existence of the H-dibaryon at the physical pion mass (note that the dineutron, certainly unbound in the real world, becomes bound at heavy enough pion masses), and three- and four-nucleon systems are beginning to become treatable, although the signal-to-noise problem gets worse as more baryons are added to a correlation function, and the number of contractions grows rapidly. Going beyond masses and binding energies, the new California Lattice Collaboration (CalLat) has preliminary results for hadronic parity violation in the two-nucleon system, albeit at a pion mass of 800 MeV.