Tag Archives: higgs boson

At Last, Scientists Spot Higgs Boson Decaying into Fundamental Particles

Illustration of event in which Higgs boson decays into two botom-quarks (Blue cones), in association with a W boson decaying to a muon (red) and a neutrino. Credit ATLAS/CERN.

Six years after its groundbreaking discovery, two experiments at CERN report that they’ve observed the Higgs boson decaying in the way scientists predicted it would. The findings are important because they confirm the current theory that suggests the Higgs Boson, or ‘God particle’, plays a critical role in how fundamental particles gain their mass.

The Higgs saga continues

The Standard Model is a kind of periodic table of the elements for particle physics. But instead of chemical elements, it lists the fundamental particles that make up the atoms that, in turn, make up chemical elements, along with any other particles that cannot be broken down into any smaller pieces. More than a quarter of the Nobel Prizes in physics of the last century were awarded for direct inputs to or direct results of the Standard Model. And in the last 50 years, every attempt to substantially rework the Standard Model — which could more accurately be called The Freaking Amazing Undefeated Model of Everything Ever — has failed.

Bearing with this track record, physicists working with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) expected to see that about 60% of the time a Higgs boson will decay to a pair of bottom quarks, the second-heaviest of the six flavors of quarks.

“One of our main goals is to measure the Higgs decay rates, and the dominant Higgs decay is this bottom-quark channel. About 60 percent of Higgs bosons should decay into bottom quarks,” said Jason Nielsen, professor of physics at UC Santa Cruz and associate director of the Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics (SCIPP).

“If we measure all the predicted ways the Higgs can decay and they don’t sum up to 100 percent, it could mean there is something else coupling to the Higgs, like dark matter.”

But recording such an event is challenging to say the least. To produce Higgs bosons, two protons are accelerated and collided, fusing into two top quarks that ultimately recombine to form the God particle. Billions of collisions are required to record a single Higgs boson signal. Once it’s produced, the Higgs boson lasts only a mere 10-trillionths of a nanosecond before it decays into less massive particles. In 2011, when the boson was first confirmed, physicists identified it from its decay to a pair of photons, which theory predicts happens only 0.2% of the time. Other than bottom quarks and photons, Higgs bosons are supposed to decay into pairs of W bosons (21 percent), Z bosons (6 percent), tau leptons (2.6 percent), and other exotic particles in very low proportion.

Another reason why confirming the Higgs boson’s most common decay process is difficult is that there are many other ways of producing bottom quarks in proton-proton collisions. Sorting a Higgs-boson decay signal from the background “noise” associated with such processes can be daunting, if not impossible.

ATLAS and CMS, the two main physics experiments at CERN, were able to overcome these challenges by looking at collisions in which a Higgs boson was produced at the same time as a W or Z boson. Researchers call this class of collisions “associated production”. After they combined data from the first and second runs of the LHC, which involved collisions at energies of 7, 8, and 13 TeV, the researchers then applied complex analysis methods to the data, allowing them to single out the Higgs boson decay to a pair of bottom quarks with a significance that exceeds 5 standard deviations  — a one in 3.5 million chance that what the scientists were seeing was due to randomness. Finally, the rate of decay both teams measured was consistent with the Standard Model prediction.

“This observation is a milestone in the exploration of the Higgs boson. It shows that the ATLAS and CMS experiments have achieved deep understanding of their data and a control of backgrounds that surpasses expectations. ATLAS has now observed all couplings of the Higgs boson to the heavy quarks and leptons of the third generation as well as all major production modes,” said Karl Jakobs, spokesperson of the ATLAS collaboration.

In the future, researchers working at CERN plan on improving their method so they might study this decay mode with a much greater resolution and explore what other secrets the Higgs boson might be hiding.

Scientific reference: Observation of Higgs boson decay to bottom quarks. arXiv:1808.08242 [hep-ex] arxiv.org/abs/1808.08242.

Credit: CERN.

Scientists confirm that Higgs boson is coupled to bulky cousin in new physics breakthrough

Credit: CERN.

Credit: CERN.

When scientists operating the world’s most powerful particle accelerator confirmed the existence of the Higgs boson, the discovery was heralded as a landmark achievement in particle physics. This boson is a pretty big deal — it’s the particle associated with a quantum field that is supposed to give particles their masses. Without this field, there would be no atoms, there would be no matter, there would be no us. With the Higgs boson confirmed, physicists performed the most important validation yet of the Standard Model — the theoretical framework for our current understanding of the fundamental particles and forces of nature.

However, the 2013 achievement did not answer all our questions relating to the Higgs field and how the Higgs boson behaves. But there is progress, and according to a recent statement released by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the scientific organization that operates the LHC, a new experiment is filling in the blanks by revealing how the Higgs particle fits into the delicate ecosystem of particles.

“We know that the Higgs interacts with massive force-carrying particles, like the W boson, because that’s how we originally discovered it,” said scientist Patty McBride from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, which supports the research of hundreds of U.S. scientists on the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment.

“Now we’re trying to understand its relationship with fermions.”

There are two types of elementary particles — that is, particles that either doesn’t have a substructure or have one we haven’t discovered yet. These particles are split up into categories, two of which being fermions and bosons. Fermions follow Fermi–Dirac statistic and bosons follow Bose-Einstein statistic. Another way to look at this is that fermions are particles that have half-integer spin, whereas bosons are particles with integer spin.

The electron is a fermion, for instance. Bosons, such as the photon, carry energy — they’re the physical manifestation of forces that glue fermions together.

Earlier in 2014, researchers working with the CMS experiment showed that the Higgs boson has a relationship with fermions by measuring the rate at which they decay into tau leptons — the heavier cousin of the electron. Later, evidence surfaced of the Higgs boson decaying into bottom quarks.

Now, two experiments — the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) and A Toroidal LHC Apparatus (ATLAS) — found that there’s also a relationship between the Higgs and the top quark (discovered in 1995), the latter being three million times more massive than an electron.

“The relationship between the Higgs and the top quark is particularly interesting because the top quark is the most massive particle ever discovered,” McBride said. “As the ‘giver of mass,’ the Higgs boson should be enormously fond of the top quark.”

The new experiments confirm theoretical predictions, finding that in very rare situations Higgs bosons are produced simultaneously with top quarks. In yet another experiment that confirms the Standard Model, the results have a statistical significance of 5.2 sigma, which is above the 5 sigma threshold physicists require. In other words, there’s just a 1-in-3.5-million chance that the observations scientists recorded were due to random chance.

“Higgs boson production is rare – but Higgs production with top quarks is rarest of them all, amounting to only about 1 percent of the Higgs boson events produced at the LHC,” said Chris Neu, a physicist at the University of Virginia who worked on this analysis.

“A top quark decays almost exclusively into a bottom quark and a W boson,” Neu said. “The Higgs boson, on the other hand, has a rich spectrum of decay modes, including decays to pairs of bottom quarks, W bosons, tau leptons, photons and several others. This leads to a wide variety of signatures in events with two top quarks and a Higgs boson. We pursued each of these and combined the results to produce our final analysis.”

The results published in the journal Physical Review Letters will help physicists learn more about the behavior of the Higgs boson and how it might also interact with other particles we haven’t discovered yet, like dark matter. It’s remarkable how much particle physics has progressed in the last two decades. At the end of 2018, the LHC will shut down for two years for refurbishment and upgrades and then return better than ever, operating without delays through 2030.

Who knows what kind of achievements await thereafter?

European bison close-up

Ancient cave paintings and genetics help find the ‘Higgs bison’ missing link

European bison close-up

Credit: Johnny Magnusson / Public Domain

The endangered European bisons are a mystery of science. These majestic beasts seem to have appeared out of thin air some 11,000 years ago since scientists have been unable to find its direct ancestor. But thanks to modern genetic tools coupled with the artistic wonders of prehistoric humans, we finally found the missing link or the ‘Higgs bison’, as the researchers called him — a word play on the famous Higgs boson whose discovery is heralded as one of the most important in 21st-century physics.

A mystery of science

Before the European bison appeared, all bisons in Europe but also those in North America or Russia’s steps belonged to a species called the steppe bison. After the stepped bison disappeared, the European bison suddenly came in its place but the two aren’t directly related. Previously, DNA sequencing found the European bison’s mitochondrial DNA, which is only passed down from the mother’s side, was very closely related to that of cows. But cows and bison don’t mix. Everyone was completely baffled.

Alan Cooper of the University of Adelaide and colleagues decided to try their luck, too. They gathered ancient bone fragments from 64 steppe bison and were fortunate enough to recover DNA which they sequenced in full. Strikingly, this analysis revealed that some 120,000 years ago the steppe bison and ancient cows interbred creating a new hybrid species which lasted for thousands of years.

This sort of hybridization is very rare, and no one actually took such a scenario very seriously before. Nevertheless, we finally have our missing link in the form of this hybrid bison-cow creature.

“We determined that the European bison, bizarrely enough, is a hybrid between an auroch – which is the ancestor of modern cattle – one of the most ferocious wild animals, and a steppe bison, which ranged all the way across the grasslands of Russia, into Alaska and all the way down to Mexico in the Americas,” Cooper said.

Not just art

Yet while DNA can tell you a lot about a species’ lineage, it doesn’t tell us how this hybrid must have looked like. But when Dr. Julien Soubrier, a co-author of the new study, asked French cave researchers if there was any chance they saw variety in bison drawings he was met by an “of course” — jackpot!

“We’d never have guessed the cave artists had helpfully painted pictures of both species for us,” Soubrier said.

Reproduction of the blurred black charcoal drawing showing a stepped bison. The drawings were found at Chauvet-Pont d'Arc cave in Ardè€che, France. Credit: Carole Fritz and Gilles Tosello

Reproduction of the blurred black charcoal drawing showing a steppe bison. The drawings were found at Chauvet-Pont d’Arc cave in Ardè€che, France. Credit: Carole Fritz and Gilles Tosello

Two distinct morphologies were sent back by the French researchers. One looks uncannily like the steppe bison and the other must be the missing link, the ‘Higgs bison’. Both drawings, which are 20,000 years old, look like the work of Picasso himself so hats off to the Australian researchers but also the prehistoric artist who helped solve one of the most curious puzzles in science.

The other drawing shows an adorable-looking 'Higgs bison'. Credit: Carole Fritz and Gilles Tosello

The other drawing shows an adorable-looking ‘Higgs bison’. Credit: Carole Fritz and Gilles Tosello

“It looks like the cave artists were actually spotting the difference and actually recording them in their art,” said Prof Cooper for the BBC. 

“And so the Higgs bison has been hiding in plain sight for all the time, and no-one recognised. The variation in cave art was put down to cultural or stylistic differences.”


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 LHC is back in business!

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has smashed its first particle since it was shut down two years ago. The particle accelerator is heating up with some low energy collisions, CERN said in a statement.

Proton beams collide for a total energy of 900 GeV in the ATLAS detector on the LHC (Image: ATLAS/CERN)

“At about half past nine CET this morning, for the first time since the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) started up after two years of maintenance and repairs, the accelerator delivered proton-proton collisions to the LHC experiments ALICE, ATLAS, CMS and LHCb at an energy of 450 gigaelectronvolts (GeV) per beam,” the press release read.

In case you’re not aware what all the fuss is about, the LHC is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator; it’s also the largest single machine in the world. The aim of the LHC is to allow physicists to test the predictions of different theories of particle physics and high-energy physics like the Standard Model, and in particular to prove or disprove the existence of the Higgs Boson – a theoretical particle which is crucial to modern particle physics, as it is proposed by the Standard Model. So far, LHC has given some tantalizing evidence, but many physicists are still awaiting a confirmation of the boson’s discovery.

“It’s a nice milestone today,” said Dave Charlton, spokesperson for the LHC’s huge multipurpose Atlas detector. “There were a lot of smiling faces in the control room today.”

In 2012, the LHC was shut down for maintenance and to allow rising its power from 8 TeV to 13 TeV, allowing it to smash particles at at higher energies, potentially detecting new particles and particle interactions. So far, the particle accelerator went to “only” 450 gigaelectronvolts (GeV) per beam (0.45 TeV).

Courtesy of: CMS collaboration

“Though the first beam at 6.5 TeV circulated successfully in the LHC last month, there are many more steps before the accelerator will deliver high-energy collisions for physics to the LHC experiments. Well before the full physics programme begins, the LHC operations team will collide beams at 13 TeV to check the beam orbit, quality and stability,” CERN continued in their press release.

The particle accelerator is expected to reach full power in June.

Scientists prepare to re-open the LHC after increasing its energy output by 62.5%

It may be the dawn of a new age for particle physics – scientists and engineers are working together to restart the Large Hadron Collider. Upon reactivation, the LHC will be capable of energies never before achieved, potentially unveiling novel particles, confirming the Standard Model and revealing some of the Universe’s biggest mysteries.

Image via Boston.com

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world’s largest and most powerful particle collider, and the largest single machine in the world. The aim of this ambitious project is to test the predictions of different theories of particle physics and high-energy physics – especially those of the Standard Model. The Standard Model of particle physics attempts to classify all the known subatomic particles, as well as the interactions between the electromagnetic, weak, and strong nuclear interactions.

The LHC has yielded some valuable results along the few years it worked, but now, physicists really want to take it to the next level. For this reason, they need more power, and so the collider was shut down since February 2013. Previously, they were able to accelerate protons up to an energy of 8 trillion electron volts (TeV), but the machine’s electromagnetic fields will now inject them with more energy, causing them to crash together at 13 TeV. The magnets that used to produce fields with a strength of 5.9 teslas will now create 7.7-tesla fields. The LHC’s energy boost might open new doors and allow researchers to observe never-before seen particles; one such particle is the Higgs Boson, which seemed to reveal itself in 2012.

“We opened all the interconnections, we checked them and we completely redid one third of them,” says Frédérick Bordry, head the accelerator division at LHC’s home laboratory, CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research). “It was an interesting adventure.” Workers also did maintenance on thousands of other components of the machine and tested them thoroughly to make sure the collider is healthy. Bordry says he is confident the LHC will not see a repeat of the electrical glitch that caused major magnet damage just after the accelerator first opened seven years ago, delaying operations by 14 months.

Physicists are now itching their fingers to see how the more touchy parts of the Standard Model.

“We know the standard model can’t be a complete theory, can’t be the final answer, which is why it’s so frustrating that it’s behaved so well in run one,” says Tara Shears, a physicist at the University of Liverpool in England. “In run two we’re hoping to see cracks.”

Personally, I really look forward to the relaunch of the LHC. It’s just might be history in the making.

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.

Elementary particles predicted by the Standard Model and discovered that make up the Universe. (C) AAAS

Higgs boson discovery confirmed after CERN scientists reviewed massive LHC data

The science of physics has entered a new era once with the discovery of the much sought-after Higgs boson in July 2012. The elementary particle thought to be responsible for granting matter its mass has been theorized for decades, but only with the deployment of the multi-billion Large Hadron Collider in Geneva could such a quest commence. Years of hard work, painstaking analysis, and a fine eye for detail have paid off eventually. Mixed emotions tried the team of researchers that headed the Higgs boson experiments after the monumental findings – what if they were wrong? Recently, an international panel of scientists has confirmed and cemented the discovery of the boson that has eluded physicists for all these years, after they reviewed massive amounts of data in the wake of the find.

The Higgs boson was first theorized in 1964 what of the need to fill in gaps in our understanding of the Universe. The particle was named for Peter Higgs, one of the physicists who proposed its existence, but it later became popularly known as the “God particle,” since its believed it grants all particles, and thus all matter, with size, shape, and mass.

“The preliminary results with the full 2012 data set are magnificent and to me it is clear that we are dealing with a Higgs boson, though we still have a long way to go to know what kind of Higgs boson it is,” said Joe Incandela, a physicist who heads one of the two main teams at CERN, each involving several thousand scientists.

Elementary particles predicted by the Standard Model and discovered that make up the Universe. (C) AAAS

Elementary particles predicted by the Standard Model and discovered make up the Universe. (C) AAAS

In order to confirm its existence and learn more about the subatomic particles, both the Atlas and CMS teams went through and analyzed more than two and a half more data than they had at their disposal when they first announced they had come across a particle that is very Higgs-like. The most important properties of a subatomic particle are considered to be it spin and parity.

“Now we’ve got more precise questions: is this particle a Higgs boson, and if so, is it one compatible with the Standard Model?” said Tony Weidberg, Oxford University physicist and a collaborator on the Atlas experiment.

At the  Moriond conference in Italy, scientists at CERN reported that their entire data sets from 2011 and 2012 strongly suggest that the new found particle’s spin is zero, making it the first elementary particle with such a property. Luckily, the finds are on par with Standard Model of Physics predictions so far. Another theory of physics however, called supersymmetry, predicts that in fact a number of various and different Higgs bosons exists.

“The preliminary results with the full 2012 data set are magnificent and to me it is clear that we are dealing with a Higgs boson, though we still have a long way to go to know what kind of Higgs boson it is,” said  Incandela.

This will require even more data and experiments to determine. Considering the LHC is slated for a two year shut down for maintenance, it might take a while.

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

A proton collides with a lead nucleus, sending a shower of particles through the CMS detector. (c) CERN

LHC finds new type of matter after proton-lead collision

A proton collides with a lead nucleus, sending a shower of particles through the CMS detector.  (c) CERN

A proton collides with a lead nucleus, sending a shower of particles through the CMS detector. (c) CERN

After the Large Hadron Collider‘s monumental find of the Higgs boson, the scientists in Geneva might have made new breakthrough finding. Scientists working with the  Compact Muon Solenoid, one of the two major-magnet particle detectors in the LHC, have discovered a new form of matter  known as color-glass condensate after studying proton-lead high speed collisions.

The Large Hadron Collider was designed to accelerate particles at near-light speed velocities and collide them at tremendous amounts of energy, in order for them to garner more mass. This allows for more “shrapnel” made out of sub-atomic particles to be discarded, in which scientists are extremely interested. By studying collision behavior between various kinds of particles, the scientists can recreate the conditions of the universe in the few micro-moments immediately following the Big Bang, and thus test out theories.

The resulting sub-atomic particles, usually fly about in all directions, but in some cases, a few in thousands, some of these particles fly away from each other with their respective directions correlated. This has been seen before in the case of proton-proton interactions, as well as other ion-heavy collisions like those between the nuclei of heavy metals like lead. Now, scientists working  with the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) team at the LHC found  the same effects in a sample of 2 million lead-proton collisions.

“Somehow they fly at the same direction even though it’s not clear how they can communicate their direction with one another. That has surprised many people, including us,” says MIT physics professor Gunther Roland, whose group led the analysis of the collision data along with Wei Li, a former MIT postdoc who is now an assistant professor at Rice University.

The data was taken after only four hour of operation at little more than half the  particle accelerator’s  full capacity. It has been theorized that proton-proton collisions may produce a liquid-like wave of gluons, known as color-glass condensate. The researchers believe that the same swarm of gluons might have also produced the same unusual collision pattern seen in proton-lead.  Why is this important? Well, for one these results were far from being expected. The researchers only introduced a proton-lead collision experiment in order to build control data for proton-proton collisions. Every bit of information that leads to a better understanding of how particles and sub-atomic particles interact is of great value, and this latest discovery makes no exception.

The LHC had only just begun colliding these two types of particles together in September, so the surprising results are doubly impressive. The scientists currently have planed another run of collisions within a few weeks to see if the findings are replicated.

The findings were reported in the journal Physical Review B

source: MIT News

What’s next for the Large Hadron Collider?

With the Higgs Boson being arguably found, what could be in store for the Large Hadron Collider? Many, many things. Steven Cherry for IEEE Spectrum’s “Techwise Conversations” discussed the matter with Rachel Courtland and professor Matt Strassler. Really interesting discussion, both for those with no physics knowledge, and for the particle aficionados.

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

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is home to a two-mile linear accelerator—the longest in the world. Originally a particle physics research center, SLAC is now a multipurpose laboratory for astrophysics, photon science, accelerator and particle physics research.

Standard Model of Physics might be revamped after experimental findings raise doubts

The Standard Model of Physics is currently the accepted model which describes how sub-atomic particles behave and interact in the Universe. A recent analysis of data gathered by a decade-long experiment at the US Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, shows a certain particle decay happening at a pace far exceeding that predicted by the Standard Model. This suggests possible flaws in the current Standard Model of Physics, which could mandate a reconfiguration of the model.

The data comes from the BaBar experiment, based at the DOE’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, which observed particle collisions from 1999 to 2008. Findings suggest a particular type of particle decay called ‘B to D-star-tau-nu‘ happens more often than the Standard Model says it should.

“The excess over the Standard Model prediction is exciting,” said BaBar spokesperson Michael Roney of the University of Victoria in Canada. “But before we can claim an actual discovery, other experiments have to replicate it and rule out the possibility this isn’t just an unlikely statistical fluctuation.”

“If the excess decays shown are confirmed, it will be exciting to figure out what is causing it,” said BaBar physics coordinator Abner Soffer, associate professor at Tel Aviv University. “We hope our results will stimulate theoretical discussion about just what the data are telling us about new physics.”

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is home to a two-mile linear accelerator—the longest in the world. Originally a particle physics research center, SLAC is now a multipurpose laboratory for astrophysics, photon science, accelerator and particle physics research.

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is home to a two-mile linear accelerator—the longest in the world. Originally a particle physics research center, SLAC is now a multipurpose laboratory for astrophysics, photon science, accelerator, and particle physics research.

The BaBar experiment might hold implications for the Higgs bosons properties as well – a hypothetical elementary particle predicted by the Standard Model (SM) of particle physics, which scientists believe is responsible for granting particles mass. The BaBar study predicts Higgs bosons interact more strongly with heavier particles – such as the B mesons, D mesons, and tau leptons – than lighter ones.

“If the excess decays shown are confirmed, it will be exciting to figure out what is causing it,” says BaBar physics coordinator Abner Soffer, associate professor at Tel Aviv University.

“We hope our results will stimulate theoretical discussion about just what the data are telling us about new physics.” added Soffer.

The team of researchers involved in the BaBar experiment note that upcoming experiments might lead to the confirmation of these findings. If the Belle experiment at the Japanese high-energy physics laboratory KEK replicates the finding, “the combined significance could be compelling enough to suggest how we can finally move beyond the Standard Model,” said researchers.

The findings were presented at the 10th annual Flavor Physics and Charge-Parity Violation Conference in Hefei, China, and were also published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

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

The Tevatron led the high-energy physics world for two decades before its shutoff in 2011. (c) Fermilab

Fermilab’s Tevatron accelerator hints Higgs boson existance, confirms LHC data

The biggest manhunt in physics history is steadily closing in on its target. Wanted – Higgs boson, also known as the God Particle. Reason – explain why objects have mass and provide “missing link” for standard model of physics. Sketch portrait – mass around 125 GeV. Last seen – Fermilab Tevatron particle accelerator. If you happen to sight the particle, please contact your local theoretical physicist at once. Reward – access to the birth of the Universe.

The Tevatron led the high-energy physics world for two decades before its shutoff in 2011. (c) Fermilab

The Tevatron led the high-energy physics world for two decades before its shutoff in 2011. (c) Fermilab

Physicists at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory recently reported that they’ve found a bump in their data that might well describe the elusive Higgs boson, a hypothesized particle long considered responsible for granting objects mass.  Fermilab’s Tevatron accelerator was shut down in September last year, however data from its last two experiments were still being crunched, and so far results roughly agree with the controversial findings reported last December by two independent studies at the Large Hadron Collider, CERN.

“Based on the current Tevatron data and results compiled through December 2011 by other experiments, this is the strongest hint of the existence of a Higgs boson,” said the report, which will be presented on Wednesday by Wade Fisher of Michigan State University to a physics conference in La Thuile, Italy.

Physicists from both the CDF and DZero collaborations found excesses in their data that could be interpreted as coming from a Higgs boson with a mass in the region of 115 to 135 GeV. This fits well with the CERN results which hypothesized the Higgs boson is in the range of between 115 and 127 GeV. For comparisson, a proton has a mass of 1 GeV, while an electron of .5 GeV.

[RELATED] What is a Higgs boson and why you should care

Various statements regarding the eventual sighting of the Higgs boson have been hecticly coming on and off both Fermilab and LHC, but typically when one of the groups reported it, the other ruled it out. This is the first time that different, independent collider detectors provide congruent studies. Of course, this is far from providing clear evidence of its existence, however considering the recent, ever constant, breakthroughs scientists are confident they’re almost at the end of their search.

“The end game is approaching in the hunt for the Higgs boson,” says Jim Siegrist, DOE associate director of science for high energy physics.

“This is an important milestone for the Tevatron experiments, and demonstrates the continuing importance of independent measurements in the quest to understand the building blocks of nature.”

CERN has said that the collider will gather enough data this year either to confirm the existence of the Higgs boson or to rule it out forever. If the particle doesn’t exist, physicists will have to come up with another theory of how the Universe came to existence. If indeed, the particle exists, then in most likelihood, it will open a new set of questions around the Standard Model than it answers.

The Hadron collider, now on winter break, will start up again in April.

Top Astrophysicists Throng Goa (India) to Share Experiences on “Gravity and Cosmology” in VII International Conclave

Panaji (Goa-India), Dec 12, 2011: Hunt for finding the hypothetical massive elementary particle, the Higgs boson, popularly known as ‘The God Particle’. Exploring the pulls and pressures among the planets and the dark matter above. Building capacities to explore hitherto lesser known Universe to benefit humanity using science and technology tools through global collaborative efforts.

This is what eminent astrophysicists from across the world discuss and share their experiences in the VII International Conference on “Gravity and Cosmology” (ICGC -2011) beginning on December 14 for a week in this Western India’s most sought after international tourist destination.

The two most significant threads running through this conference are to understand the Universe at large – its past and future – and its constitution and the experimental hunt for gravitational waves.

International Centre for Theoretical Sciences (ICTS) under the prestigious Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai, is organising the event, Prof. Tejinder Singh (TIFR), Chairperson, Local Organizing Committee, ICGC-2011, told this Indian Science Writers Association(ISWA) representative.

About 250 scientists, a half of them from abroad, will attend the conference. Those from abroad include promising young Indian scientists and researchers, many of whom are eventually expected to return and take up research positions in India, according to Prof. Tejinder Singh.

Most interesting presentation in the conclave would be of Prof. John Ellis (UK), considered one of the world’s most respected particle physicists with more than a 1000 research papers to his credit and closely involved with the theoretical aspects of the Geneva-based Large Hadron Collider (LHC) project and the search for the Higgs particle.

Prof. John Ellis (UK) is likely to spell out the latest news on the LHC project  hunting the elusive primary particle responsible for the weight (Higgs boson) in the universe and what the experiment unfolds about the Cosmos. A three hour long session will be especially devoted to presentations and discussions on the hitherto mysterious Dark Energy.

Prof. James E. Peebles (USA), widely respected as the founding father of Modern Cosmology, will deliver a keynote address reviewing our present understanding of the Cosmos.

Eminent Cosmologist Robert Kirshner (USA), a member of the team associated with this year’s Nobel Prize for Physics for discovery of the acceleration of the Universe will give a first hand description of the discovery and what that implies for theoretical physics.

Prof. Francois Bouchet (Paris), one of the leaders of the PLANCK satellite project which is currently observing the CBR, will present the state of the art and latest findings in this vital subject. The project is looking for fossil records of the early history of the universe by studying the cosmic microwave background

Legendary physicist Prof. Kip Thorne (USA) will present new insights into the understanding of geometry of black holes, and how these insights would be confirmed by the detection of gravitational waves.

Incidentally, Thorne is the co-founder of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Observatory (LIGO) project which is keen to install a gravitational wave detector in India for which efforts are underway, making India the third country in the world to have such a prestigious astronomical projects, after the USA and Italy.

Prof. Bernard Schutz (Germany) an expert in the study of gravitational waves and India’s eminent cosmologist Prof. Jayant Narlikar are among the other top scientists attending the conclave.

Other astrophysicists Eric Adelberger will review experimental tests of the law of gravitation, whereas Bernard Schutz and Stan Whitcomb will make state of the art presentations on the gravitational wave detection. A three-hour session will be dedicated to gravitational wave astronomy with a global network of detectors.

Priyamvada Natarajan [Yale] will report her new findings on how the first black holes might have formed in the early history of the Universe.

J. Richard Bond [CITA, Canada] and David Wands [Portsmouth] will highlight theoretical studies of the early history of the Universe, and the consequent signatures in observations we can make today.

The physics and astrophysics of black holes will also be discussed in the plenary lectures of Mihalis Dafermos [Cambridge], Luis Lehner [Perimeter Institute, Canada], Dipankar Bhattacharya [IUCAA Pune] and Masaru Shibata [YITP, Kyoto].

Over the last few years, remarkable new connections have been discovered between gravity, fluid dynamics and thermodynamics. These will be reported by Gary Horowitz [Santa Barbara], Shiraz Minwalla [TIFR] and T. Padmanabhan [IUCAA].

Abhay Ashtekar [Penn State] and Rafael Sorkin [Perimeter] will review the progress towards obtaining the laws which might relate quantum mechanics to gravity, and help understand the very act of creation. //EOM//



Physicists will have to hold their breath a little longer – ‘God particle’ not found yet

The big news about the discovery of the Higgs boson seem farther than some might have expected, even though researchers reported ‘tantalizing hints’ of the elusive particle; physicists will have to hold their breath a little longer.

About a week ago, rumors started stirring up the physics world, as the people at CERN zoomed in on the only missing particle from the Standard Model; however, scientists so far have only hints, and nothing concrete to show.

“I think we are getting very close,” said Vivek Sharma, a physicist at the University of California, San Diego, and the leader of the Higgs search at LHC’s CMS experiment. “We may be getting the first tantalizing hints, but it’s a whiff, it’s a smell, it’s not quite the whole thing.”

The long sought particle seems to be cornered now, and indeed, as the team working at CERN announced, we will soon be able to either prove or disprove its existence – but physicists seem adamant that it exists, now more than ever. Today’s announcement was believed by many to be something definitive – but this wasn’t the case. Though this isn’t the final answer we have been waiting for, it is definitely an exciting leap forward.

“It’s something really extraordinary and I think we can be all proud of this,” said CERN physicist Fabiola Gianotti, spokesperson for the LHC‘s ATLAS experiment, during a public seminar announcing the results today.

The entire scientific world seems proud of the people at the LHC.

“These are really tough experiments, and it’s just really impressive what they’re doing,” Harvard University theoretical physicist Lisa Randall said.

The Standard Model is an extremely ambitious theory that seeks to unify interactions between all the elementary particles in the Universe; so far, the only particle yet to be observed from this model is the Higgs Boson – so finding it is quite a big deal. If it were proven not to exist, that would be good too – we would know we have to search for something else.

Higgs Boson to be unveiled?

The physicists over at CERN set out to determine if the Higgs Boson is real or not, and they seem poised to figure that out, as rumor spreads about the possible announcement of the elusive particle.

Recently, rumors about the boson exploded, and instead of cooling down, they amplified even more; this Tuesday (tomorrow, 13th December) they will make an important press release, which many believe to be the confirmation of the so-called ‘god particle‘.

I for one am somewhat skeptical; it’s not that I don’t trust the people working at CERN – on the contrary, but there have been rumors before, and people got their hopes up for nothing. For one, the Standard Model, in which the aforementioned particle plays a big role is an extremely ambitious theory – aiming to explain how every particle in this universe interacts with one another. Also, it’s not necessary for the Higgs boson to exist – and that wouldn’t mean the LHC didn’t achieve anything – quite the opposite. It would show that nature has chosen a different path from that suggested by humans, which, as elegant and fitting as it is, may very well be wrong. All in all, tomorrow might be a big day for particle physics and for science.