Meeting the Higgs hunters

Mar 02, 2011

With CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) now being fired up after its winter shutdown, physicists at the Geneva lab are gearing up for the first signs of the Higgs boson -- the never-before-seen particle that is one of the LHC's main goals.

But how will physicists at the LHC know for sure when they have seen the Higgs? Physicists have narrowed down the range within which the Higgs could lie, yet being sure of a discovery will be far from easy.

Tommaso Dorigo, a member of the Compact (CMS) collaboration, which along with ATLAS is one of the two main experiments at the LHC, writes two state-of-play features exclusively for March’s Physics World about life at the collider.

The first examines what motivates the LHC's researchers to sit awake eagerly taking data through the small hours of the night, while the second feature discusses the potential discoveries that could be worth a future Nobel prize.

Dorigo is a research scientist at Padova University and author of the blog A Quantum Diaries Survivor (which describes particle-physics news for non-experts).

With the LHC set to run for two solid years until the end of 2012 at a total energy of 7 TeV before a year-long upgrade, the scene is now set for the discovery of the -- the final piece of the Standard Model of particle physics.

As Dorigo describes, the data are about to start arriving in droves. "The gigantic effort of machines and brains that converts hydrogen atoms into violent proton-proton collisions, and then turns these into data analysis graphs, is surprisingly seamless and remarkably fast."

However, many physicists are excited by the possibility that the LHC will find more than just the Higgs. They are also hoping to see new phenomena, including "supersymmtery" and "extra dimensions", that would point to the world being even richer than the Standard Model would suggest.

Yet Dorigo himself is cautious. Finding the Higgs -- and nothing else -- "would be", he writes "a triumph of theory and experiment alike, but researchers who work on ATLAS and CMS would doubtless see the glass as being half empty".

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User comments : 8

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RobertKarlStonjek
1 / 5 (5) Mar 02, 2011
No Higgs, No SUSY ~ if they want science fiction they should go to the movies, not to the collider...
Beard
4 / 5 (4) Mar 04, 2011
Not finding the Higgs would be more exciting. It's a win/win situation for science.
beelize54
1 / 5 (4) Mar 04, 2011
Actually it's irrelevant: physicists cannot predict mass of Higgs boson from existing Standard model - so they will not be able to use it in future predictions as well.
beelize54
1 / 5 (6) Mar 04, 2011
Not finding the Higgs would be more exciting. It's a win/win situation for science.

It brings the question, what would be lost for science under such a situation? Apparently the results aren't important, only the continuity of jobs and salaries in science industry is.

Such approach is apparently lost/lost situation for the rest of society, which is paying the particle research.
Nodrog
4.8 / 5 (4) Mar 04, 2011
Such negative comments here. We should celebrate the work of science to probe the deep mysteries of nature. Without pure basic research free of commercial distortion we would not have the technology we have today. The results, which may reveal yet more mysteries to be explored, will, as all previous discoveries have been, important in ways we are unable to imagine at present.

If you want to have a go at wasted effort consider, for example, the money and resources spent of cosmetic product research that make not an iota of difference, except to the deluded who think they look or feel younger.

Or perhaps you could consider the waste of scarce resources by nations around the world all trying to develop their own space programs. What absolute foolishness. Collaboration and sharing of resources is the way to go with expensive scientific programs.

CERN sets an excellent example of pooling of knowledge and resources that should be emulated in many other fields of endeavor.
beelize54
1 / 5 (6) Mar 04, 2011
Without pure basic research free of commercial distortion we would not have the technology we have today
Every truth has a two sides. Scientists are like alchemists of medieval era, they don't care about their utility until money are going. The particle research is an overgrown remnant of cold war. So far we have no usage for any particle, revealed at colliders. I've no problem with basic research, but because the money are always of low profile, we should balance the resource spending into basic research and its application. Or we would end like very knowledgeable civilization, but without energy and material resources in political chaos. Scientific community as a whole isn't capable of such strategic decisions, because it's biased and its only interest is to continue in research at safe distance from political and economical crisis.

After all, who wouldn't be satisfied with such job?
Pyle
5 / 5 (2) Mar 05, 2011
Or perhaps you could consider the waste of scarce resources by nations around the world all trying to develop their own space programs. What absolute foolishness. Collaboration and sharing of resources is the way to go with expensive scientific programs.

While I agree to an extent, don't discount the benefit of healthy competition. A balance of collaboration while striving to be the best yields the best results.
RobertKarlStonjek
1 / 5 (2) Mar 12, 2011
I agree with Nodrog that we should celebrate the work of science in probing the deep mysteries of nature. We should also celebrate philosophers efforts. But we should never let physics do philosophy and try to pass it off as physics.

SUSY is philosophy. The basic building blocks are a contrivance from mathematical philosophy alone and are not based on any physics at all ~ no observation nor extrapolation of known observations. It is a contrivance cut from whole cloth and, just like many of the philosopher's 'most beautiful' contrivances (eg the perfect spheres of the universe), do not accord with any observation or experiment.

SUSY is fine as long as it remains in the philosopher's realm where it came from and from where it has never progressed.

Note that philosophers love to discuss string theory as well ~ it comes perfectly natural to them (they can just make it up as they go along...)