Tag Archives: cern

CERN found a new particle — a tetraquark

Four quarks’ the charm, it seems, as CERN reported the discovery of a new physical particle created from four charm quarks — the ‘tetraquark’

Illustration of a tetraquark composed of two charm quarks and two charm antiquarks.
Image credits CERN.

Although the discovery marks a major breakthrough in a decades-long research effort, the paper describing it has not yet been peer-reviewed, so take it with a grain of salt. It is, however, signed by over 800 researchers, part of the LHCb collaboration at CERN and was “presented at a recent seminar”.

Being newly-discovered, we don’t really know much about the tetraquark itself. However, it should help us better understand how quarks bind themselves together to form particles such as protons or neutrons.

Old particles, new tricks

Quarks are elemental particles — as far as we can tell, they are what everything is made of. We’ve observed them coming together into groups of two and three to form hadrons. We’ve also theorized that four- and five-quark hadrons exist.

“Particles made up of four quarks are already exotic, and the one we have just discovered is the first to be made up of four heavy quarks of the same type, specifically two charm quarks and two charm antiquarks,” says the Giovanni Passaleva, spokesperson of the LHCb collaboration.

“Up until now, LHCb and other experiments had only observed tetraquarks with two heavy quarks at most and none with more than two quarks of the same type.”

Such unusual particles are an ideal “laboratory” in which to study the strong interaction, one of the four known fundamental forces of nature. The strong interaction is what binds elemental particles together to form atoms and matter. A better understanding of the strong interaction could let us better estimate what particles should and shouldn’t be able to form under normal conditions.

The new tetraquark is ideal from this point of view as its a relatively simple particle against which we can test our current models. It is as of yet still unclear whether it’s a “true tetraquark” or not — that is, whether it’s a four-quark particle or two two-quark particles interacting in a molecule-like state.

The team found this tetraquark by looking for “bumps” — an excess of collision events over a known background value — in records from the first and second runs of the Large Hadron Collider, taken from 2009 to 2013 and 2015 to 2018 respectively. The bump has a statistical significance of more than five standard deviations, which, the authors explain, is the usual threshold for claiming the discovery of a new particle. The bump also corresponds to the predicted mass of four-charm-quark-particles.

The paper “Observation of structure in the J/ψ-pair mass spectrum” has been published in the pre-print level ArXiv.

Credit: CERN.

CERN draws up plans for new particle accelerator four times bigger than the LHC

Credit: CERN.

Credit: CERN.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is, at present, the largest scientific instrument in the world. One hundred meters underground, beneath the border between France and Switzerland, the LHC uses intense magnetic fields generated by superconductivity to accelerate hadrons (i.e. protons) in a circular path 27 kilometers (17 miles) in circumference. The European Organization for Nuclear Research, also known as CERN, has now announced plans for an even bigger particle accelerator — a 100 kilometers (62 miles) circular tunnel set to dwarf the LHC.

The concept for the proposed ‘Future Circular Collider’ appeared in a CERN report released on Tuesday. According to the document, the €20bn mega-science project will ultimately be able to accelerate protons and slam them together with 100 teraelectronvolts of energy, or nearly 10 times that of the Large Hadron Collider.

However, this might not happen until 2050. Until then, the FCC will be built and operated in stages, slowly ramping up its energy. At first, CERN scientists say that the FCC will only collide electrons and positrons (their antimatter counterparts), and slowly progress towards electron collisions with much heavier nuclei of lead atoms.

“It shows the tremendous potential of the FCC to improve our knowledge of fundamental physics and to advance many technologies with a broad impact on society,” said Prof. Fabiola Gianotti, CERN’s Director-General.

Artist impression of the FCC. Credit: CERN.

Artist impression of the FCC. Credit: CERN.

The stupendous energy involved in these collisions will enable scientists to study the Higgs boson with more precision but also generate new particles predicted by the Standard Model of physics. The Higgs is the particle which gives other particles their mass, making it both centrally important and seemingly magical. Its existence was predicted by British physicist Peter Higgs in 1964 and was not discovered until 2012. The following year, Peter Higgs was awarded the much deserved Nobel Prize in Physics.

The FCC should also lead to the discovery of completely new particles that aren’t included yet in the Standard Model. This is our best model that explains the inner workings of the physical world — but it’s far from perfect. For instance, galaxies are spinning faster than the Standard Model predicts, the Universe’s expansion is accelerating rather than slowing down — and, to top it all off, the Standard Model doesn’t even include gravity.

The ambitious conceptual design will be submitted for consideration for the upcoming 2020 European strategy for particle physics. Financing such a behemoth science project won’t be easy, though. In 1993, the United States canceled the Superconducting Super Collider, which was designed to be a bit smaller than the FCC. Last year, Japan put its $7bn Linear Collider on hold because a committee concluded the costs were running too high. FCC’s fate will depend on a complex cost-benefit analysis which will have to determine to what extent such a massive undertaking will benefit humanity.


What the proposed new particle accelerator's size could look like compared to the LHC. Credit: CERN.

Physicists dream up LHC 2.0: a new particle accelerator three times bigger than the current LHC

The new particle accelerator will allow physicists to smash particle beams together with a power equivalent to 10 million lightning strikes. Image credit: CERN

The new particle accelerator will allow physicists to smash particle beams together with a power equivalent to 10 million lightning strikes. Image credit: CERN

The Large Hadron Collider at the European particle physics laboratory CERN, near Geneva in Switzerland, is the most complex experimental facility ever built. Its 27-kilometre ring of superconducting magnets makes it the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator in the world. Since it first started up in 2008, the LHC has already made monumental contributions to physics. Without the LHC, it would’ve been impossible to confirm the existence of the now famous Higgs boson, the so-called ‘God particle’ thought to be responsible for lending things mass.

Surely, the future has many other scientific discoveries in store for the $4 billion scientific facility. But meanwhile, some of the world’s foremost physicists are already drafting plans for a new, improved LHC 2.0.

This week in Berlin, 500 scientists met to hammer out the new LHC or the Future Circular Collider (FCC), as they’ve named it. EuroCirCol, a four-year European-funded study, is responsible for tracing out the new particle accelerator. Some of the proposed upgrades so far include:

  • An 80-100 kilometre-long circuit (50-62 miles) instead of the LHC’s 27 kilometres (17 miles). That’s three times bigger.
  • It will be located so close to its predecessor on the France-Switzerland border that the two rings will literally overlap.
  • Double-strength magnets will help smash protons and other particles with a strength of up to 100 Tera electron Volts, which is equivalent to 10 million lightning strikes all firing at the same point and seven times more powerful than the LHC.
  • The number of Z bosons produced by FCC-ee (up to 1013),  is expected to be almost six orders of magnitude larger than the number of Z bosons collected at LEP (2×107), and up to four orders of magnitude larger than that envisioned with a linear collider (a few 109).

What the proposed new particle accelerator's size could look like compared to the LHC. Credit: CERN.

What the proposed new particle accelerator’s size could look like compared to the LHC. Credit: CERN.

The FCC will also likely require immense computing power and storage hardware. The LHC collides beams at 20 MHz and every collision is measured and is temporarily stored on hardware to be analyzed. Each recorded event is around 10 MB in size resulting in roughly 5 Zettabytes per year of data being processed. For comparison, the total permanently recorded data on Earth is 0.5 Zettabytes and the total amount of information analyzed by the entire planet is 10 Zettabytes per year.

“5% of the Universe is directly observable. The Standard Model of Particle Physics describes it precisely. What about the remaining 95%?,” a statement on the FCC website reads.

“Yet many questions about our Universe remain unanswered. Is there more matter in the Universe than what is visible? What is dark matter made of? What happened to antimatter after the Big Bang? Are there extra dimensions in the Universe and, if so, can we explore them? To get answers and find out more about our Universe, scientists have to carry out experiments in more powerful particle accelerators. The higher energy frontier will expand our horizons and may shed light to the missing pieces of the puzzle of Nature.”

The physicists reckon the upgrade that will smash particles at dazzling energies will help them find hidden particles that are possibly even heavier than the Hiss boson which LHC confirmed in 2012. On a more practical level, the FCC could lead to more radiation-resistant materials that can be used in nuclear reactors.

It took the LHC about 30 years to switch on since the first sketches on the drawing board in the 1980s to the last nut and bolt. The FCC team hopes to have a thorough plan worked out by next year but no one hopes to see it operational any sooner than 20 years from now.

Meanwhile, the LHC will be busy churning out particles and, in the process, advance our understanding of fundamental physics. Just earlier this year, it found five new subatomic particles. And the LHC is slated for an upgrade of its own when sometimes in the mid-2020s it will see new hardware meant to boost particle collision rate and accuracy. After the new upgrade is ready, it will change its name too into the High Luminosity Large Hadron Collider (HL-LHC).

Liniac 4.

CERN celebrates completion of Liniac 4, its most powerful linear accelerator

In about three years from now, the LHC will receive its most powerful linear accelerator yet.

Liniac 4.

Image credits CERN.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is set to get an upgrade. During a ceremony today, CERN inaugurated its newest linear accelerator, Linac 4. By 2021, it will feed CERN’s accelerator complex with higher-energy particle beams than currently possible, allowing the collider to reach higher luminosity levels.

“We are delighted to celebrate this remarkable accomplishment. Linac 4 is a modern injector and the first key element of our ambitious upgrade programme, leading up to the High-Luminosity LHC. This high-luminosity phase will considerably increase the potential of the LHC experiments for discovering new physics and measuring the properties of the Higgs particle in more detail,” said CERN Director General Fabiola Gianotti.

While there’s a lot of enthusiasm around Liniac 4, CERN researchers will have to be patient until they can start toying with the new gear. The accelerator will have to pass an extensive period of testing before it’s connected to the accelerator complex at CERN, which will take place during the upcoming technical shut down scheduled for 2019-2020.

During the shutdown, Liniac 4 will replace Liniac 2, which has been in service since 1978, becoming the first part of CERN’s accelerator chain and supplying proton beams for all the facility’s needs. Liniac 4 measures in at about 90 meters long (295 feet), and will be installed 12 meters underground. The device took almost 10 years to build.

What does it do, though?

The linear accelerator is the first essential component of an accelerator chain. It’s the bit where the particles are produced and given initial acceleration, and it’s here that the researchers can tweak the density and intensity of the beams.

The plan is to have this new accelerator send negative hydrogen ions (a regular hydrogen atom with one extra electron) to the Proton Synchrotron Booster (PSB), which will further accelerate these ions and strip them of the electrons in the process. Liniac 4 is designed to bring the beam up to 160 MeV energy, over three times more than its predecessor could churn out. By using hydrogen ions in the process together with this increase in energy output, the researchers will be able to double the intensity of the final beam delivered to the LHC, which should help increase its luminosity (the number of particles colliding withing a standard length of time) almost five-fold by 2025.

Armed with the Liniac 4, the LHC should be able to churn out about 10 times as much data in 2025-2035 than before. The so-called High-Luminosity LHC will help scientists glean more accurate measurements of the fundamental particles than ever before and allow them the possibility of observing rare processes that occur beyond the machine’s present sensitivity level.

CERN just released 300 TB of LHC data online

For the amateur physicists out there, I have some great news: CERN just made the biggest data dump in the history of particle physics, sharing 300 TB of Large Hadron Collider (LHC) data online. It’s completely free, and it’s high quality data too, from the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment at the LHC. Anyone can access it, and if you’re into particle physics – yes, you should.

CERN data visualization.

The Large Hadron Collider is the largest, most complex experimental facility ever built, and the largest single machine in the world. It’s a fitting construction for a machine built to unravel the very fabric of the Universe – the subatomic particles which make out elementary particles and atoms.

As you’d expect from such a large project, it came up with a trove of data – valuable, high quality data – and in the spirit of good science, the lead researchers decided to make it available for everyone, for free.

“[O]nce we’ve exhausted our exploration of the data, we see no reason not to make them available publicly,” says Kati Lassila-Perini, who works on the CMS experiment.

“The benefits are numerous, from inspiring high-school students to the training of the particle physicists of tomorrow. And personally, as CMS’s data-preservation co-ordinator, this is a crucial part of ensuring the long-term availability of our research data.”

Of course, the data isn’t going to be easy to understand – this isn’t your average pretty picture with a caption beside it. The good thing is that if you really want to start looking through it, you can do it with a regular computer or a laptop, which means it can be addressed at a university or even high school level.

This data can spark new interest in physics, but it can even lead to new discoveries. It’s quite possible that researchers might have missed some things, and people looking over open-source data is a great possibility to re-check that data. New findings are constantly being made with open-source data in archaeology and medicine, among others.

Hints of Higgs Boson spark floods of science papers

Almost 100 manuscripts have been submitted following last week’s tantalizing announcement from CERN.

Paul Ginsparg/arXiv

Paul Ginsparg/arXiv

Social media started going crazy on the 15th of December, abuzz with the rumor of finding a boson heavier than the elusive Higgs Boson. Something must be up because since then 95 research manuscripts have been posted to the preprint server arXiv discussing the hypothetical particle.

It all started when scientists working at the particle accelerator reported a very interesting signal, although we’re not quite sure what to make of it yet. Tiziano Camporesi, a spokesperson for the LHC’s CMS experiment, told Nature that he expects even more papers to come up in the near future.

“I am extremely curious to see what our theorist friends will cook up,” he said.

Gian Francisco Giudice, a physicist from CERN published a 32-page paper analyzing the findings from CERN at the same time public announcements were made. His paper already has 68 citations, although the statistical significance of these findings seems relatively low.

Pairs of photons (green) produced in LHC collisions suggest the existence of a boson with a mass of 750 gigaelectronvolts. Image credits: CERN.

Lisa Randall of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts says that studying this signal is time well spent.

“It doesn’t necessarily hurt for people to think about what would give you such a signal,” she says. “Even if the signal goes away, you often learn a lot about what’s possible.”


The world’s first website is now 25

Some 25 years ago, on December 1990, Tim Berners-Lee, then a scientist at the CERN facility in Switzerland launched what was the world’s first website – the forefather of everything that we today call ‘The Internet’.

The first website

World’s first website, by CERN.

Hosted by the World Wide Web (you know, the “www”) on Berners-Lee’s NeXT computer, the site was used by CERN researchers internally until August ’91, when it became available for everyone with an internet connection (which of course, wasn’t that many people).

It was mostly a ‘How To’ guide to the web, telling you how to access documents and set up your own server to share with others. In 2013, CERN made an effort and returned it to its original address, where you can still view it, although in a stripped-down form. Like most computer scientists working on the web in its early days, Berners-Lee believed functionality and clarity was much more important than graphics:

“Where facilities already exist, we aim to allow graphics interchange, but in this project, we concentrate on the universal readership for text, rather than on graphics,” he wrote in his initial proposal for the world wide web.

Internet history

Today, there are almost 1 billion websites and over 4 billion web pages, but things were very different in the good old days. In 1992, there were only a handful of websites, mostly university or research centers, and by the end of 1993, there were 623 websites, according to a study by MIT Researcher Matthew Gray. Many of them have been abandoned and mostly forgotten, but some still exists, and I’m quite sure you head of them.

Bloomberg and Wired were among these first 623 websites, probably the first online media companies; coincidentally or not, Wired’s website was also the first in history to allow banner ads.

Ali Express, the world’s first search engine.

IMDB was also launched in the 1993, hosted by the computer science department of Cardiff University in Wales. Perhaps the most interesting website launched that year was PARC Map Server, the earliest predecessor of MapQuest and Google Maps. PARC Researcher Steve Putz tied an existing map viewing program to the web – but unfortunately, it didn’t take off. The world’s first search engine, Aliweb was launched the same year also at CERN, but it had a very limited lifespan. You can still access it here.

Yahoo dominated the internet for years.

By the end of 1994 the web was already starting to grow exponentially, and many of the big websites were launched. WhiteHouse.gov gave a sense of seriousness to the internet. Yahoo was also launched in 1994, dominating the web for many years. Several precursors of social media also emerged, with the notable example of Cool Site of the Day. The site had an incredible growth, attracting 20,000 daily visitors less than a year after its launch and the site’s founder, Glenn Davis, became a celebrity. But it wasn’t all the good stuff – the internet was brewing its own type of humor too: The Useless Pages was an example of early web humor, gathering bad or strange websites as opposed to good ones. Megadeth was the first band to have a website, and of course, Sex.com was also launched – spurring a 12-year legal battle for ownership. The internet was starting to take shape.

Other notable examples were Rant.com, the first news website (and print magazine) to offer serious news analysis while satirizing only real news stories, Birmingham City Council, one of the first government websites, and VirtuMall. Created by two MIT flatmates, VirtuMall pioneered shopping cart technology, online card payments sent via fax to mail order catalogs, created the first pooled-traffic site, and helped foster standards for security.

Google, in the early days.

Google was launched in 1996, while Facebook, which today boasts 1.2 billion users, only came along in 2004, ten years after Yahoo.

Pentaquark particle discovered by CERN scientists

After taking a short break in activity to be upgraded, the biggest atom smasher currently in use, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider came back in business, and it did so with a bang. Using it, researchers have discovered yet another new kind of particle dubbed “pentaquarks” -that amounts to a new form of matter.

Image via: zastavki.com

The European Organisation for Nuclear Research, or CERN, said the discovery was made by a team working on one of the four experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) beneath the Swiss-French border.

The existance of quark-type particles was independently predicted by American physicists Murray Gell-Mann and Georg Zweig in 1960. They theorised that key properties of the particles known as baryons and mesons were best explained if they were in turn made up of other, smaller particles. Zweig coined the term “aces” for the three new hypothesised building blocks, but it was Gell-Mann’s name “quark” that stuck.

Their model also allows for other particles such as the pentaquark, made up of four quarks and an anti-quark (they’re just like matter and anti-matter). Mr Gell-Mann was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 1969.

A meson (one quark and an anti-quark) and a baryon (three quarks) particles weakly bonded together.
Image via: bbc.com

“There is quite a history with pentaquarks, which is also why we were very careful in putting this paper forward,” Patrick Koppenburg, physics co-ordinator for LHCb at Cern, told BBC News.

During the mid-2000s, several teams claimed to have detected pentaquarks, but their discoveries were subsequently undermined by other experiments.

“It’s just the word ‘pentaquark’ which seems to be cursed somehow because there have been many discoveries that were then superseded by new results that showed that previous ones were actually fluctuations and not real signals.”

Previous experiments had measured only the so-called mass distribution where a statistical peak may appear against the background “noise” – the possible signature of a novel particle. But the collider enabled researchers to look at the data from additional perspectives, namely the four angles defined by the different directions of travel taken by particles within LHCb.

“We are transforming this problem from a one-dimensional to a five dimensional one… we are able to describe everything that happens in the decay,” said Dr Koppenburg who first saw a signal begin to emerge in 2012.

“There is no way that what we see could be due to something else other than the addition of a new particle that was not observed before.”

Guy Wilkinson, a spokesman for the LHC team, said studying pentaquarks may help scientists gain a better understanding of “how ordinary matter, the protons and neutrons from which we’re all made, is constituted”.

The findings were submitted to the journal Physical Review Letters.


New Particles Found at Large Hadron Collider

It’s really awesome when the practice confirms the theory! Experiments at the Large Hadrdon Collider have revealed two never before seen particles – exotic types of baryons which were previously predicted by theoretical research. The new measurements serve to confirm and refine the existing theory of subatomic particles and help pave the way for the discovery of more particles predicted by the Standard Model.

The LHCb experiment at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.

The LHC is the world’s largest and most powerful particle collider, and actually the largest single machine in the world. Its goal is to test if theoretical predictions are correct and either confirm or infirm the Standard Model – a theory that classifies all the subatomic particles.

In this case, they discovered two types of baryons – Xiband Xib*(pronounced “zi-b-prime” and “zi-b-star”), February 10 in Physical Review Letters. (They posted a preprint of their paper in November on the arXiv server).

“These were two things that very much should have existed,” says Matthew Charles of Paris 6 University Pierre and Marie Curie, a co-author of the study. “Of course, you still have to check because every now and then you get a surprise.”

Baryons are composite subatomic particles made up of three quarks. The most familiar baryons are the protons and neutrons that make up most of the atoms, but some baryons are more exotic, depending on the quarks they are made from. Quarks are elementary particles (as opposed to composite particles, like baryons); there are  six types of quarks, known as flavors: up, down, strange, charm, top, and bottom.

The two newfound baryons are higher-energy configurations, and their masses had been estimated on a theory called quantum chromodynamics (QCD), which describes the strong force – one of the four fundamental forces, responsible in part for nuclear attractions. The fact that the theoretical predictions fitted perfectly with what was observed in experiments is remarkable.

“This is a validation that the theoretical approach is the correct one and that we have the calculation under control,” says theorist Richard Woloshyn of the Canadian particle physics laboratory TRIUMF, who published a prediction of the Xib masses in 2009.


View of the CMS detector at the end of 2007. (Maximilien Brice, © CERN)

Two new subatomic particles discovered at CERN, as predicted by Standard Model

While the LHC at CERN is gearing up for its long-awaited restart, following an overhaul, scientists aren’t standing idle. After analyzing collision data made during 2011-2012, physicists have identified two new baryons, known as the Xi_b‘- and Xi_b*-. The new subatomic particles’ properties match predictions based on the theory of Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD), a subset of the Standard Model of particle physics – the governing theory that describes the fundamental particles of matter, how they interact, and the forces between them.

Three quarks, one baryon, two new particles

View of the CMS detector at the end of 2007. (Maximilien Brice, © CERN)

View of the CMS detector at the end of 2007. (Maximilien Brice, © CERN)

Baryons are composite particles comprising three quarks bound together by the so-called strong force. As such, protons (two up and one down) and neutrons (one up quark and two down quarks) are also baryons. Since there are six flavors of quarks (and six anti-quarks), baryons can combine in numerous renditions. It’s no surprise, with this in mind, that baryons comprise most of the visible matter.

The new Xib particles confirmed at CERN, being baryons, are also comprised of three quarks as follows:

  • both contain one beauty (b), one strange (s), and one down (d) quark;
  • yet they differ by spin – a fundamental attribute for any particle;
  • in the Xi_b‘- state, the spins of the two lighter quarks point in opposite directions, whereas in the Xi_b*- state they are aligned. This difference makes the Xi_b*- a little heavier.
  • each of the Xib particles is, on average, six times as massive as the proton.

“Nature was kind and gave us two particles for the price of one,” said Matthew Charles of the CNRS’s LPNHE laboratory at Paris VI University. “The Xi_b‘- is very close in mass to the sum of its decay products: if it had been just a little lighter, we wouldn’t have seen it at all using the decay signature that we were looking for.”

“This is a very exciting result. Thanks to LHCb’s excellent hadron identification, which is unique among the LHC experiments, we were able to separate a very clean and strong signal from the background,” said Steven Blusk from Syracuse University in New York. “It demonstrates once again the sensitivity and how precise the LHCb detector is.”

Why this is important for physics

The mass difference spectrum: the LHCb result shows strong evidence of the existence of two new particles the Xi_b'- (first peak) and Xi_b*- (second peak), with the very high-level confidence of 10 sigma. The black points are the signal sample and the hatched red histogram is a control sample. The blue curve represents a model including the two new particles, fitted to the data. Delta_m is the difference between the mass of the Xi_b0 pi- pair and the sum of the individual masses of the Xi_b0 and pi-. INSET: Detail of the Xi_b'- region plotted with a finer binning.

The mass difference spectrum: the LHCb result shows strong evidence of the existence of two new particles the Xi_b’- (first peak) and Xi_b*- (second peak), with the very high-level confidence of 10 sigmas. The black points are the signal sample and the hatched red histogram is a control sample. The blue curve represents a model including the two new particles, fitted to the data. Delta_m is the difference between the mass of the Xi_b0 pi- pair and the sum of the individual masses of the Xi_b0 and pi-. INSET: Detail of the Xi_b’- region plotted with a finer binning.

Besides mass, the researchers also looked at important decay parameters like width, which is a measure of how unstable the particle is. The most important part of the experiment is that scientists have confirmed the subatomic particles’ existence in the first place.

“If we want to find new physics beyond the Standard Model, we need first to have a sharp picture,” said LHCb’s physics coordinator Patrick Koppenburg from Nikhef Institute in Amsterdam. “Such high precision studies will help us to differentiate between Standard Model effects and anything new or unexpected in the future.”

Scientific reference

Image: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Particle accelerator only 30cm in size is hundred times faster than LHC

Researchers at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have devised a particle accelerator that can increase the kinetic energy of particles passing through it hundreds of times faster than the LHC. While the latter is comprised of a 27km ring, the device made by the US scientists is only 30cm in size. This massive leap in miniaturization could drastically reduce the cost of bulky and expensive medical devices like X-rays, lasers or radiotherapy. Some of these sell for more than a million dollars, and a big chunk of the cost and storage size is reserved to the particle accelerators.

Cheaper, faster particle accelerators

Image: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Image: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Particle accelerators transfer energy so that protons, electrons or positrons (anti-electron) can reach ever higher energies. When these particles are collided at these tremendous speeds, funny things start to happen. If billions of collisions are made, chances have it that all sorts of elementary particles, some lasting only a fraction of a second, can be seen. This is how the famed Higgs boson was confirmed at CERN only a few years ago. In a way, a high-energy particle accelerator like the LHC at CERN is a time machine, because it replicates conditions similar to those in place mere moments following the Big Bang.

[RELATED] Large Hadron Collider creates mini big bangs and incredible heat

Now, the LHC is a lot different than smaller particle accelerators like those used in medicine. For one, the LHC accelerates hadrons (protons, neutrons and subatomic particles) in a huge energy flux (luminosity) by “rf cavities” – a sort of black box that  transfers electromagnetic energy into the kinetic energy of particles, accelerating them. Multiple such cavities are used, but they have to be carefully placed to avoid lightning-like discharges of energy.This is mainly why the LHC needs such a large accelerating ring.

Other applications, however, don’t require a high luminosity. In medicine, particle accelerators use electrons (instead of hadrons) and don’t require high luminosity, which is helpful to generate multiple collisions. Instead of rf cavities, the accelerator made SLAC uses  a short column of lithium vapour “plasma” in rapid succession, whose electric field is able to transport energy to electrons hundreds of times faster than the LHC – all with a device 30cm in size.

[INTERESTING] Particle accelerator on a chip

Plasma is considered the fourth state of matter.  Plasma is a cloud of protons, neutrons and electrons where all the electrons have come loose from their respective molecules and atoms, giving the plasma the ability to act as a whole rather than as a bunch of atoms. A plasma is more like a gas than any of the other states of matter because the atoms are not in constant contact with each other, but it behaves differently from a gas. Between particles in plasma, the electric field can be very high and as electrons pass through the plasma in the SLAC experiment, they acquire energy.

So, how could this translate into practical applications? Well, the prime candidate, as already mentioned, is the field of medicine. Handheld particle weapons might also be possible. Whatever we’ll see happening, the LHC won’t become obsolete any time soon. On the contrary, ever bigger hadron accelerators are being considered, like the 100 TeV machine in China.

Findings appeared in the journal Nature. The paper’s abstract:

“High-efficiency acceleration of charged particle beams at high gradients of energy gain per unit length is necessary to achieve an affordable and compact high-energy collider. The plasma wakefield accelerator is one concept1, 2, 3 being developed for this purpose. In plasma wakefield acceleration, a charge-density wake with high accelerating fields is driven by the passage of an ultra-relativistic bunch of charged particles (the drive bunch) through a plasma4, 5, 6. If a second bunch of relativistic electrons (the trailing bunch) with sufficient charge follows in the wake of the drive bunch at an appropriate distance, it can be efficiently accelerated to high energy. Previous experiments using just a single 42-gigaelectronvolt drive bunch have accelerated electrons with a continuous energy spectrum and a maximum energy of up to 85 gigaelectronvolts from the tail of the same bunch in less than a metre of plasma7. However, the total charge of these accelerated electrons was insufficient to extract a substantial amount of energy from the wake. Here we report high-efficiency acceleration of a discrete trailing bunch of electrons that contains sufficient charge to extract a substantial amount of energy from the high-gradient, nonlinear plasma wakefield accelerator. Specifically, we show the acceleration of about 74 picocoulombs of charge contained in the core of the trailing bunch in an accelerating gradient of about 4.4 gigavolts per metre. These core particles gain about 1.6 gigaelectronvolts of energy per particle, with a final energy spread as low as 0.7 per cent (2.0 per cent on average), and an energy-transfer efficiency from the wake to the bunch that can exceed 30 per cent (17.7 per cent on average). This acceleration of a distinct bunch of electrons containing a substantial charge and having a small energy spread with both a high accelerating gradient and a high energy-transfer efficiency represents a milestone in the development of plasma wakefield acceleration into a compact and affordable accelerator technology.”

Artist's impression of a proton-proton collision producing a pair of gamma rays (yellow) in the ATLAS detector (Image: CERN)

Human eye inspired processor is 400 times faster at detecting sub-atomic particles

Artist's impression of a proton-proton collision producing a pair of gamma rays (yellow) in the ATLAS detector (Image: CERN)

Artist’s impression of a proton-proton collision producing a pair of gamma rays (yellow) in the ATLAS detector (Image: CERN)

Inspired by the properties of the human eye, physicists have created a processor that can analyze sub-atomic particles 400 times faster than the current state of the art. The prototype might significantly speed up the analysis of data from the collisions of particles in high-end particle accelerators like the Large Hadron Collider, at CERN, as early as 2020.

Faster than the blink of an eye

The processor employs a detection algorithm that works much in the same way as the human retina. In our retinas,  individual neurons are specialized to respond to particular shapes or orientations and locally analyze these patterns. This way, the brain is never consciously aware of the processing itself and only interprets the results. Analogously, the “artificial retina” detects a snapshot of the trajectory of each collision which is then immediately analysed, according to CERN physicist Diego Tonelli, one of the collaborators who was involved in the project.

During these collisions, particles are accelerated near the speed of light and smashed together. At these extremely high energies, peculiar things start to happen and new matter is born. Each second the LHC generats some 40 million collisions and each can result in hundreds of charged particles, which are the only kind whose trajectories can be mapped. Clearly, speed is of the essence and the ‘artificial retina’ will definitely come in handy.

“It’s 400 times faster than anything existing or foreseen for high energy physics applications. If implemented in a real experiment it will allow us to collect more interesting data more quickly,” the researchers write.

The LHC received a lot of hype in recent years, after the breakthrough moment of modern physics when the Higgs boson was confirmed using the particle accelerator.  However, the ‘artificial retina’ won’t be employed for experiments that probe elementary particles, like the Higgs boson. Instead, it will be mostly used for ‘flavor physics’, which deals with the interaction of the basic components of matter, the quarks.

“When our detectors take these snapshots of the collisions – to us that’s like the picture that your eye sees and when your brain is scanning that picture and making sense of it, well we try and codify those rules into an algorithm that we run on computers that do the job for us automatically,” Prof Shears said.

“When the LHC continues… we will start to operate with a more intense beam of protons getting a much higher data rate, and then this problem of sifting out what you really want to study becomes really really pressing,” she added.

“This artificial retinal algorithm is one of the latest steps in our mission to [understand the Universe], and it’s really good, it does the job vast banks of computers normally do.”

Right now, the LHC is shutdown for maintenance, but it’s due to come back online in 2015 and resume its hunt for elusive particles. The algorithm won’t be introduced before 2020, however, when an upgrade is slated. The findings were documented in a paper published in the pre-print arXiv server.



Higgs Englert

2013 Nobel prize in physics awarded to ‘God particle’ scientists: Peter Higgs and Francois Englert

Higgs Englert

Francois Englert (left) and Peter Higgs (right)

Just a few moments ago, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics to Francois Englert and Peter Higgs on Tuesday for their 1964 postulation of the existence of the Higgs boson. The elementary particle was finally confirmed in 2012 by a team of international researchers using the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

The July 2012 discovery of the particle in the most powerful particle accelerator in the world, the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland, has been billed as one of the biggest scientific achievements of the last 50 years. The Higgs boson, also sometimes referred to as the God particle, is thought to be the elementary particle responsible for granting all matter with mass. It’s become obvious now how monumental this discovery is.

But why not last year? In 2012 everybody was expecting Englert and Higgs to win the physics prize, but instead the award went to two scientists (Haroche and Wineland ) for their work with light and matter, which may lead the way to superfast quantum computing and the most precise clocks ever seen. The  Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences often steers away from scientific premiers and chooses to opt for more mature research. This year, however, it was clear than Englert and Higgs shouldn’t be missed.

Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel created the prizes in 1895 to honor work in physics, chemistry, literature and peace. Since 1901, the committee has handed out the Nobel Prize in physics 106 times. The youngest recipient was Lawrence Bragg, who won in 1915 at the age of 25. For the 2013 awards, so far the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been announced: James E Rothman, Randy W Schekman and Thomas C Südhof  for their work on the mechanism that controls the transport of membrane-bound parcels or ‘vesicles’ through cells.

Decay CERN movie with zombies

CERN scientists direct and release zombie movie

Decay CERN movie with zombies

A still shot from the movie “Decay”. As you can see, the Higgs boson radiation is so effective in animating the dead that not even a bullet straight through the forehead can’t stop this zombie.

A group of scientists and technicians at CERN have made a doomsday movie filmed at their very own facility, called “Decay”, which tells the story of a pack of survivors left to fend for themselves in the onslaught following “Higgs boson radiation” exposure which caused their colleagues to turn zombie and hunger for brains. The low-budget movie was recently released on YouTube were it was greeted rather warmly. It’s well worth mentioning that the movie wasn’t endorsed or supported by CERN in any way, though they did not object to CERN-related references.

Decay is a solely independent work, directed by physics PhD students Luke Thompson and Hugo Day of the University of Manchester in England. The movie took two year to shoot at a cost of a mere $3000. What’s rather surprising and amazing at the same time is that the team actually managed to produce a movie that’s actually watchable, almost. Other B-movie companies invested hundreds of thousands to millions, yet Thompson and Day’s team manage to produce a work that has sound, props and even special effects that give it a realistic touch, as far as zombie doomsday goes anyway.

“The fact is that it’s a no-budget indie and there’s no reason to expect we’d sell more than a few hundred copies,” Thompson explained. “So we’d rather our two years of work was seen by more people by releasing it for free,” he told Wired.

DECAY Trailer 

Nevertheless, by no means should “Decay” be taken too seriously. It’s a total spoof movie which makes fun of both the movie industry, which has exaggerated and portrayed science in an erroneous light for decades and decades, as well the media. If you remember when the LHC was first opened a few years ago, a slew of media reports stamped the  particle accelerator as a doomsday machine, capable of generating black holes and other “mambo-jambo” sure to plunge humankind into oblivion. Science is no voodoo science, and many journalists have no excuse for their ignorance. Besides the wave of panic caused, and the obvious foul consequences that come with spreading untrue rumors and gossip, these statements emphasized mad science stereotypes further and misinformed.  Decay comes as a sort of reply.

Despite the movie is filled with hilarious statements like Higgs boson radiation, it does have some scenes where science is actually accurately described. With this in mind, it’s actually quite an effective medium for popularizing LHC and CERN, if one is sure to put zombies, Higgs radiation and other nonsense aside.

The 76 minute film stars around 20 people some of them students and can be viewed in its entirety below.


Higgs boson - twins

Higgs boson might be a twin particle, contradictory measurements suggest

The discovery of the Higgs boson is the most monumental find in physics of the year and possibility since the turn of the new century. Also known as the God particle, the Higgs boson is an elemental particle believed to be responsible for infusing all matter with mass. It’s been theorized for 50 years, but only after the technology was sufficiently advanced to prove or disprove its existence was the Higgs boson finally sealed this July, when the ATLAS team at CERN – the site of the Large Hadron Collider, the pinnacle of human science – finally found proof. Since then, however, more and more data has pilled up and a puzzling discrepancy in measurements is currently hinting towards two different Higgs masses. Perplexed scientists aren’t yet sure of these are simple statistical glitches or whether in fact, we can discuss the possibility of two different Higgs bosons.

To find the Higgs boson, physicists at CERN smashed protons at enormous energies, which caused a slew of particles to form and splatter like shrapnel. Among this shrapnel, sometimes the Higgs boson would surface – only in a few collisions out of millions or billions, though – before it would almost instantaneously decay into another particle. The Higgs can be detected in two way or two pathways: One channel decays into two characteristic photons while another creates four particles known as leptons. Each path offers a value of mass, however, the two are different. Although the discrepancy is just slight, nevertheless it shouldn’t be present at all.

The first pathway rends a mass of 123.5 GeV (giga-electron volts), the other at 126.5 GeV or 126 times the mass of a proton. Some physicists explain this peculiar phenomenon by inferring we’re simply dealing with two different Higgs bosons, each with a very similar mass, or that the difference in masses is due to a “systematic error”.

Higgs boson - twins

The blue plot shows 123.5 GeV signal, red shows 126.5 GeV signal. Source: CERN

“There turns out to be a slight tension between the two masses,” said physicist Beate Heinemann of the University of California, Berkeley, who works on ATLAS, one of the LHC’s Higgs-searching experiments. “They are compatible, just not super compatible.”

Like I said, earlier, you need billions of collisions to wind up with a few Higgs boson measurements. Heinemann said the four lepton channel has only analyzed about 10 Higgs bosons and the two-photon channel about 500 Higgs. Physicists need to see the same result over and over in thousands or even millions of particle events before they are sure it’s not just a statistical coincidence. “The most likely explanation is that it’s one particle,” said Heinemann. The Standard Model of Physics, the current framework used to describe all particle interactions, doesn’t rule out a pair of Higgs however. Any of the two scenarios are possible, then.

Scientists prepare a superconducting cavity for a test in Fermilab's Vertical Test Stand. (Courtesy Fermilab Visual Media Services)

Japan is lead candidate for hosting the next high energy particle smasher – the International Linear Collider

The Geneva based Large Hadron Collider has gobbled a lot of cash and resource in order to become operational, but through the constant fantastic results that has advanced particle physics understanding greatly, which couldn’t have been possible otherwise, it has definitely shown its value. The next generation of particle smasher is apparently destined for Japan, so far the only possible host for the planned  International Linear Collider (ILC). The collider will able to smash particles with enormous energy in order to break them apart and study their sub-particle constituents, complementing the more potent LHC.

Scientists prepare a superconducting cavity for a test in Fermilab's Vertical Test Stand. (Courtesy Fermilab Visual Media Services)

Scientists prepare a superconducting cavity for a test in Fermilab’s Vertical Test Stand. (Courtesy Fermilab Visual Media Services)

The current blueprint has the huge collider shaped as 31-kilometer-long track that will be capable of accelerating particles with energies of up to 500 gigaelectronvolts along its superconducting cavities before smashing them together for study. Heavy particles that offer glimpses into the very first moments after the Big Bang are then formed for very short periods of time before decaying.  The LHC, though it has a smaller runway of 27 kilometers, is capable of accelerating particles at a designed capacity of 14 terraelectronvolts – almost 30 times as much as the intended ILC.

The ILC however is intended to study other types of particle collisions. While the LHC collides  protons – comprised of multiple constitutive elements like quarks that splatter all over and disrupt accurate data reading – the ILC would use electrons and anti-electrons, which are fundamental particles and would give a much cleaner Higgs signal. This year, scientists at CERN confirmed the existence of the Higgs boson in a celebrated event for science. The ILC will further shape a better picture of the elusive particle, that would otherwise not be possible.

No easy task, but local support is strong

It’s enormously expensive, though, with a projected development cost of $7 billion to $8 billion. In an economic recession, these figures aren’t very encouraging. Even the final touches to the design of the ILC – which unlike the LHC will be deployed ground side with a large portion of the accelerator track set to be deployed in the mountainside, where heavy bore drilling will take place – were under danger of not being completed because of lack of funding. International support is thus indispensable for this project to kick start soon. Currently two sites have been proposed: one in the Tohoku region that was struck by the tsunami and the other in Kyushu, in the south of the country.

This begs a different question. Last year the country was plagued by a vicious tsunami that cost the lives of thousands and caused tens of billions in damage. Remarkably, the nation recovered phenomenally and handled the whole situation exemplary, however will the world’s governments agree on placing such an important and complex instrument in a country that’s subjected to a high risk of earthquakes and tsunamis? “Both sites would be excellent sites for an accelerator,” Barry Barish, the head of the global design effort for the ILC.

The country has never attempted a scientific global project of such magnitude, however government support is almost unanimous. Competitors aren’t really a reality, since the LHC is busy studying data that will keep them occupied for years and years ahead. The US might be the only other possible candidate. Its main particle physics program, the neutrino centered Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois, however is facing massive budget cuts.

“We need to have an expression of interest from other scientific communities around the world to persuade the government to go forward,” adds Yasuhiro Okada, a trustee at KEK, Japan’s particle-physics laboratory in Tsukuba.

If a global consensus can be reached within the next three years, construction could begin in Japan by the end of the decade. “It’s either Japan or it’s going to be on the shelf for a while,” Barish warns.

via Nature

three-dimensional (right) graph shows the relationship between three different velocities: v, u and U, where v is the velocity of a second observer measured by a first observer, u is the velocity of a moving particle measured by the second observer, and U is the relative velocity of the particle to the first observer. (c) Hill, Cox

After extending Einstein’s theory of relativity to greater than light velocities, the laws of physics alter

 three-dimensional (right) graph shows the relationship between three different velocities: v, u and U, where v is the velocity of a second observer measured by a first observer, u is the velocity of a moving particle measured by the second observer, and U is the relative velocity of the particle to the first observer. (c) Hill, Cox

three-dimensional (right) graph shows the relationship between three different velocities: v, u and U, where v is the velocity of a second observer measured by a first observer, u is the velocity of a moving particle measured by the second observer, and U is the relative velocity of the particle to the first observer. (c) Hill, Cox

When last year scientists at CERN reported how neutrinos traveled a few tens of nanoseconds faster than the speed of light, the whole scientific community was left in shock, since it defied even the most elemental restriction of modern-day physics, a cornerstone without which physicists would have to rebuild the Standard Model. Still, some researchers, even after the whole event was disproved on account of a measurement glitch, were intrigued about the possibility of traveling at faster than light speeds; a range of “what ifs” surfaces. Two researchers at the University of Adelaide sought to find out what would happen to Einstein’s special relativity theory if it wasn’t limited by the speed of light, and mathematically described their findings. Apparently, in an environment where velocities greater than the speed of light exist, the laws of physics are dramatically altered.

Einstein’s special relativity theory, first pronounced in 1905, states that speed is relative. A moving observer will register an object’s velocity with a different value than that registered by a stationary observer. Also, special relativity postulates that as your travel with a higher velocity, time dilation occurs. Remember the famous twin paradox? One twin stays on Earth, while the other orbits the planet in spacecraft. After many years, the twin from Earth would have aged more.

Special relativity, however, limits the relative velocity of two objects (A and B) when their speeds approach that of light. Apart from the Newtonian limit, velocities are not additive quantities, so the differential velocity between A and B is not equal to their relative velocity and particularly has a smaller absolute value. However, Professor Jim Hill and Dr Barry Cox in the University’s School of Mathematical Sciences have developed new formulas that allow for travel beyond this limit. Of course, these formulas aren’t practical in the world, but provide an interesting view to a world where faster than light speeds are possible.

“Since the introduction of special relativity there has been much speculation as to whether or not it might be possible to travel faster than the speed of light, noting that there is no substantial evidence to suggest that this is presently feasible with any existing transportation mechanisms,” said Professor Hill.

“Our approach is a natural and logical extension of the Einstein Theory of Special Relativity, and produces anticipated formulae without the need for imaginary numbers or complicated physics,” says Professor Hill.

Their formulas extend special relativity to a situation where the relative velocity can be infinite and can be used to describe motion at speeds faster than light. In this new, imaginary world, the laws of physics are sensibly different, like one might expect. For instance, if a spaceship were to travel at ever-increasing, faster than light velocity, it would lose more and more mass, until at infinite velocity, its mass becomes zero.

“We are mathematicians, not physicists, so we’ve approached this problem from a theoretical mathematical perspective,” said Dr Cox. “Should it, however, be proven that motion faster than light is possible, then that would be game changing.

“Our paper doesn’t try and explain how this could be achieved, just how equations of motion might operate in such regimes.”

Both Cox and Hill have confidence in human ingenuity to surpass the light barrier, as many other breakthroughs managed to overcome other popular beliefs. If this will ever happen, indeed only time will tell. The findings were reported in the journal  Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical and Physical Sciences.

New enthusiasm in quest for Higgs Boson

Heartened by a glimpse of what may have been the Higgs boson, researchers at the CERN physics lab continue to smash particles in a quest to understand how the Universe works at a submolecular level, why do particles have mass, and many other such cosmic riddles.

But rather than the end of the line, the July 4th unveiling of a boson with Higgs-like characteristics opens new scientific frontiers and raises even more questions. But in order to proceed in this line, researchers first have to find irrefutable proof that the particle they found is indeed the Higgs boson – and they have a lot of time to do this.

An artist rendition of the Higgs boson emerging after a collision

“The LHC is made to last another twenty-odd years, exactly to allow us to immerse ourselves in this field of research, of which we have barely scratched the surface,” said Bernard Ille, research director of France’s CNRS institute.

Confirming the Higgs boson would validate the Standard Model, a theory that identifies and pinpoints the characteristics of the building blocks of matter and the particles that convey fundamental forces. It’s indeed great to see that researchers are fully motivated to pursue the quest.

“Once we understand this, there are many other avenues that open up because the boson itself posed a serious theoretical problem,” said Yves Sirois, one of the CMS’ directors. “Truly, it opens the door to a new level of physics” — understanding such physics mind-benders as supersymmetry. “It is likely that by raising the energy levels in the LHC in a few years we shall be capable of discovering dark matter,” said Sirois.

A computer graphic shows a typical Higgs boson candidate event, including two high-energy photons. (C) CERN

Rumors of imminent Higgs boson announcement run amok on science blogs. Discovery might be announced next week

The Higgs boson or the God particle, as it’s also been commonly referred to, is a hypothetical particle that endows other elementary particles with mass. Confirming its existence is of crucial importance to physicists at the moment, otherwise scientists would be forced to rethink another method of imputing mass to particles.  Last year, scientists at CERN registered a hint; a tiny hint of the Higgs boson, when Atlas and CMS, two experimental teams at the Geneva particle accelerator facility, interdependently registered unusual bumps in their data. In December, rumors had it that the elementary particle would soon be unveiled, only to warrant an official statement from Geneva that results are still far from conclusive.

The most elaborate ‘manhunt’ in history

A computer graphic shows a typical Higgs boson candidate event, including two high-energy photons. (C) CERN

A computer graphic shows a typical Higgs boson candidate event, including two high-energy photons. (C) CERN

Recently, a new wave of enthusiasm has sparked science blogs to speculate that we’re in for an imminent announcement from CERN that will once and far all decide if indeed this hypothetical particle exists or not. “The bottom line though is now clear: there’s something there which looks like a Higgs is supposed to look,” wrote Peter Woit, a mathematician and  Columbia professor. “If this years peaks are not exactly in the same place as last years then the combined significance could be considerably less,” reads a skeptical entry at the Vixra blog. Tomasso Dorigo, an experimental particle physicist, settled to offer his own take on the probability of such a find. These are just a few of the myriad of impressions currently circulating around the God particle.

These was sparked after a team of physicists gathered in a room at CERN on Friday to begin crunching new data from the Large Hadron Collider this year. They’ll be at it for a whole week. The new results should settle whether last year’s anomaly was indeed a simple fluke, or the scientists are on the right path; if so this would mark only the beginning of an even larger road ahead for the CERN researchers. Nevertheless, in all likelihood, these results will be made public at the International Conference on High Energy Physics, or Ichep, in Melbourne, Australia, starting July 4.

“Please do not believe the blogs,” Fabiola Gianotti, the spokeswoman for the team known as Atlas.

Personally, I’ve well went past getting too excited over simple rumors – only cold and officially released facts should matter at this time; it will keep you sane too.

How to find the Higgs boson

Dr. Higgs first theorized that if particles were to be hit hard enough, by the right amount of energy, its own quantum particle would be produced. With this goal in mind, the Large Hadron Collider accelerates protons to energies of four trillion electron volts around a 17-mile underground racetrack at CERN, before colliding them together.  The Atlas group hypothesized the Higgs boson’s mass at 124 billion electron volts, while the CMS group came up with 126 billion electron volts – a proton weighs in at one billion electron volts and an electron at half a million electron volts.

How can the scientists be certain that they’ve found Higgs boson? Well, it all lies in probability. To be certain, scientists need to find a 5 sigma signal in at least one channel of one experiment.  Wired‘s Adam Mann explains, “In the rigorous world of high-energy physics, researchers wait to see a 5-sigma signal, which has only a 0.000028 percent probability of happening by chance, before claiming a ‘discovery,'” or or one chance in 3.5 million that it is a fluke background fluctuation. Adding, “The latest Higgs rumors suggest nearly-there 4-sigma signals are turning up at both of the two separate LHC experiments that are hunting for the particle.”

This week, the BaBar experiment, which has ran for a decade at US Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, found hints of flaws in the Standard Model of Physics, after data revealed  certain particle decay happening at a pace far exceeding predictions. The excess decays has to be still confirmed, but they claim that data already rules out the Two Higgs Doublet Model.

Next month’s International Conference on High Energy Physics might host the announcement of the century for particle physics or the Higgs boson final resting place. We’re patiently waiting.

Interview with Professor Higgs, who explains what it will mean to him if scientists at CERN confirm the existence of the Higgs boson.

via New York Times

LHC reaches highest energy yet

It’s been pretty quiet lately at the LHC, despite the fact that things seemed to be getting pretty hot, as the elusive Higgs boson appeared to be cornered. However, CERN cracked up the volume, announcing they achieved a record collision energy of 8 TeV.

LHC recap

The Large Hadron Collider is the world’s largest and highest energy particle accelerator, built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). Through it, particle physicists hope to answer some of the most challenging questions in science, finding the fundamental laws which govern our world – particularly the Higgs boson, the particle which lies at the base of the Standard Model. The Standard Model is a theory concerning the electromagnetic, weak, and strong nuclear interactions, which practically seeks to explain how particles interact with each other at the most basic levels. Finding the Higgs boson will prove it, showing that it doesn’t exist will disprove it – either way, it will be a tremendous leap for particle physics and science overall.

In order to do this, they accelerate particles more and more until they reach dazzling energies of up to a few TeV (Terra-electron Volts). By definition, an electron Volt is the amount of energy gained by the charge of a single electron moved across an electric potential difference of one volt – and a few TeVs is a lot.

Highest energy yet

“The experience of two good years of running at 3.5 TeV per beam [7 per collision] gave us the confidence to increase the energy for this year without any significant risk to the machine,says CERN’s director for accelerators and technology, Steve Myers. “Now it’s over to the experiments to make the best of the increased discovery potential we’re delivering them!”

While it may not be a huge growth, it will almost certainly be enough to take the LHC up to a level where certain particles would be produced much more copiously, including those predicted by supersymmetry. This is extremely exciting news, especially after last year, CERN produced what can only be described as ‘tantalizing hints’ of the Higgs boson, which would show why everything in the universe has mass.

The new, higher levels of energy, will increase the chances of producing such particles, if they exist, but it will also increase the amount of background noise, so the researchers need to run tests at these energies until the rest of the year to get a clear enough picture of what is really happening. But that being said, the LHC is truly beginning to unlock its full potential, and this year promises to be just fantastic for physics.

“The increase in energy is all about maximising the discovery potential of the LHC,” says CERN research director Sergio Bertolucci. “And in that respect, 2012 looks set to be a vintage year for particle physics.”

Their ultimate goal is to get to 7 TeV per beam, which will probably happen some time at the end of 2014.

Via TG Daily