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Have their eyes seen 'God particle'? Fermilab finds hints of Higgs boson

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout' started by oomp, Jul 2, 2012.

  1. oomp

    oomp Contributing Member

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    http://www.latimes.com/news/science...oson-hadron-collider-20120702,0,4043044.story

    By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times / For Science Now

    July 2, 2012, 3:36 p.m.
    As physicists prepare to announce highly anticipated results concerning the elusive "God particle" on Wednesday, scientists in the U.S. announced Monday that they’ve found evidence for the existence of what’s known as the Higgs boson.

    Researchers at the Fermilab Tevatron accelerator near Batavia, Ill., have pulled together their final findings in the search for the elusive Higgs boson. Their announcement comes just two days before scientists using the powerful Large Hadron Collider at the European particle-physics center CERN plan to unveil highly anticipated results from their high-energy, proton-smashing experiments.

    The Higgs boson is thought to give other elementary particles their mass. It is the only such particle predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics that has yet to be observed -- and it’s fundamental to our understanding of the universe, scientists said.

    GRAPHIC: How the Large Hadron Collider works

    “We think the Higgs boson really gets at the center of some physics that is responsible for why the universe is here in the first place and what the ultimate structure of matter is,” said Joe Lykken, a theoretical physicist at Fermilab.

    The Internet was abuzz with rumor and speculation Monday afternoon as reports surfaced that the scientists might not definitively confirm the boson’s existence Wednesday, or might even announce an entirely new particle, according to Nature. Four of the theorists who came up with the Higgs mechanism half a century ago will also reportedly be present.

    The universe, the theory goes, is permeated by what’s known as the Higgs field.

    “You can think of it as an energy field. We believe there is a Higgs energy field spread out in the whole universe,” Lykken said. Photons -- light particles -- are unaffected by this field. But as other elementary particles move around, he explained, “they feel this energy field as a kind of sticky molasses that slows them down and keeps them from moving at the speed of light."

    When enough of that field is packed into a small enough space, Lykken said, it manifests as a particle -- the Higgs boson.

    But these kinds of elementary particles are exceedingly difficult to create and detect -- they require high-energy collisions, and then they break down into other particles a mere instant after forming. Scientists often look for the particles created by their decay. And just as a dollar can be broken down into four quarters, or 10 dimes, or 95 pennies plus a nickel, the Higgs boson can break down into many different combinations of particles -- it’s just a matter of figuring out what exactly those combinations are.

    The Tevatron researchers looked for the Higgs particle by looking for one combination of this subatomic coinage: a pair of bottom quarks. Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider look for two energetic photons to catch the Higgs purported signature.

    But even though these energetic photons are thought to provide some of the clearest ways to search for a Higgs boson, it's still incredibly difficult to pick out a signal from all the "noise" around it.

    One major problem is that, up until now, the scientists don’t know the Higgs boson’s mass. To extend the money metaphor: They don’t know whether they’re looking for the change from a one dollar bill or a fiver, or some amount in between. The Tevatron findings, however, appear to have narrowed that window of possibility.

    Though the Tevatron ceased operations last fall, researchers have pulled out a few more useful results from the 500 trillion or so collisions the particle accelerator produced since March 2001. They were able to determine, for instance, that the Higgs boson -- if it exists -- weighs in somewhere between 115 and 135 GeV/c2, or about 130 times a proton’s mass.

    For the moment, though they have detected what they believe could be evidence of the Higgs boson, researchers have tried make their results as ironclad as possible, with a 99.99994% chance of being correct. It’s a benchmark known as 5-sigma, sometimes called the gold standard of particle physics. Current experiments have surpassed 4-sigma, which (at about 99.994% chance) is just a hair less certain.

    Though it may seem like an infinitesimally tiny distinction, this kind of hair-splitting makes a world of difference to scientists, eagerly awaiting Wednesday’s announcement.

    Describing their state and appearance at a Fermilab news conference Monday morning, Lykken said, “This is what physicists look like when they’re excited. And also missing quite a few nights of sleep, I would imagine.”

    EDIT: Here is the paper:
    http://tevnphwg.fnal.gov/results/SM_Higgs_Summer_12/
     
    #1 oomp, Jul 2, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2012
  2. xcrunner51

    xcrunner51 Contributing Member

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    Ho-ly-crap. We beat CERN to the Higgs Boson?!?

    In honor of the day the Declaration of Independence was signed: USA! USA! USA! USA!
     
  3. Bandwagoner

    Bandwagoner Contributing Member

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    We could have been owning euros for years with the SSC. :(
     
  4. tomato

    tomato Member

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    I had planned on replying something such as "Can't you read?" since I had read the CERN news this morning... glad I went back and checked! This is gleefully hilarious news.
     
  5. tomato

    tomato Member

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    I'm trying to imagine what could possibly be a ruder move than to beat CERN like this to the announcement, but I'm enjoying the moment so much.
     
  6. moestavern19

    moestavern19 Member

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    In your ****ing face CERN! IN YOUR ****ING FACE!
     
  7. KingCheetah

    KingCheetah Contributing Member

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    I think they just discovered a new charm quark -- he's a backup dancer in Magic Mike.
     
    1 person likes this.
  8. oomp

    oomp Contributing Member

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    And now CERN's turn.

    http://arstechnica.com/science/2012/07/cern-celebrates-as-higgs-signal-reaches-significance/

    Today, in two seminars held at CERN, the European center for physics, announced evidence that the elusive Higgs particle has finally been discovered.

    Physics' Standard Model describes the fundamental particles that make up all matter, like quarks and electrons, as well as the particles that mediate their interactions through forces like electromagnetism and the weak force. Back in the 1960s, theorists extended the model to incorporate what has become known as the Higgs mechanism, which provides many of the particles with mass. One consequence of the Standard Model's version of the Higgs is that there should be a force-carrying particle, called a boson, associated with the Higgs field.

    For decades, physicists have been sifting through the output of colliders like the Tevatron and LEP, looking for an indication that the Higgs was present in the spray of exotic particles they detected. The closest they got was a hint of a signal that didn't rise far enough above the background. Now, in less than two years of operation, the Large Hadron Collider's detectors have found clear evidence of a particle that looks a lot like the Higgs.

    Finding the Higgs was always a matter of probability. We can't detect the particle directly, but the Standard Model tells us what its decay pathways will look like, provided we feed the equations a specific mass. So, for example, we can calculate that a Higgs boson weighing in between 115 and 135GeV (the range suggested by the Tevatron data) should decay into two photons with some frequency; two Z bosons with a different frequency, and other combinations of particles with additional probabilities.

    The challenge comes from the fact that the Standard Model also predicts that processes that don't involve a Higgs will also produce similar looking patterns of particles. So, we're left with probabilities. Do we see an excess of these events that can't be accounted for by non-Higgs decays? How statistically significance is that excess?

    Particle physicists have settled on a specific measure of significance called five sigma (or five standard deviations) before they're willing to accept that we've spotted a new particle. When the LHC wrapped up last year, its detectors both saw a signal near 125GeV that reached nearly three sigma—tantalizing, but not enough to claim discovery. At the time, CERN's director basically said "wait until next year," when the hardware would gather far more collisions, enough to provide a greater degree of statistical certainty. To make sure that next year was worth waiting for, the LHC operators planned on running the machine both with a high number of proton bunches (which increases the total number of collisions) and at a slightly higher energy (which increases the probability that a collision will produce a heavy particle).

    The hardware performed brilliantly, as the LHC reached its planned luminosity quickly and started pumping out the data. By somewhere in June, it had already produced as many collisions as it had in all of last year, and should double the available data again before this year's run is over.

    But the huge number of collisions created its own problems. At times, up to 30 collisions were taking place nearly simultaneously, and the computer systems had to reconstruct which signals came from what collisions and trigger the system to save the data if something looked interesting—all within a fraction of a second. According to the presentations at CERN, the software triggers were improved, the code reconstructed events faster, and the computing grid was given more sophisticated analysis tools to identify events that could come from a Higgs decay. The net result was today's announcement (and yesterday's accidental pre-announcement).

    Where do we now stand? There are a lot of ways to look at it. One is basically the probability of finding the Higgs at a specific mass. If we assume the Higgs is 125GeV, we see a signal that's a specific sigma above background. But there's no particular reason to assume 125GeV and not, say, 135GeV, and the statistics need to compensate for this (called the "look elsewhere effect"). Then there are multiple channels thanks to the different decay pathways, and two different detectors. So, for the CMS detector, the two-photon channel produces a local Higgs signal that's 4.5 sigma, but that drops to 2.5 sigma when the look elsewhere effect is considered. It's only by combining all its channels that CMS reaches a 4.9 sigma, and the data from both detectors had to be combined to be able to push things over five sigma and declare discovery.

    Using the standard way of displaying the data where green indicates one sigma and yellow two (hence the nickname "Brazil plots"), the peak looks both clean and enormous.


    [​IMG]
    That sure looks like a significant signal to me.



    There are a number of reasons to be confident in this result. As we mentioned above, the Higgs at this mass has several different pathways that it might use to decay (two photons, two Z particles, etc.). A signal was seen in several of these channels, indicating it's not just an artifact of a specific analysis. In addition, this mass is consistent with a weaker signal seen in the Tevatron data, which not only has distinct detectors, but also collides different particles (protons and their antimatter equivalent instead of the LHC's two protons).

    The other nice thing about the expanded data is that they got rid of something that was a bit awkward in last year's data. The two detectors, ATLAS and CMS, both saw signals near 125GeV, but the peaks were on opposite sides: CMS at 124GeV, ATLAS at 127GeV. With more data, that apparent discrepancy seems to have gone away, and everyone is now saying 126GeV. (Someone noted that's roughly comparable in mass to an iodine atom.)

    So, what's next? We know we have a boson thanks to its decay pathways, and it's behaving largely as the standard model would predict if it were the Higgs. But the LHC should be able to produce many more of these, which will push the individual decay channels up to five sigma territory. At that point, the numbers should tell us if there's something odd about individual decay pathways—do we see an excess of two photon decays? Fewer four lepton results than predicted? This will provide fine-scale tests of the Standard Model.

    In addition, we'll get a better grip on the particle's mass. Some of the decay channels we're using involve the production of neutrinos and, since we don't know how much they weigh, we can't tell how much mass and energy they carry away when a Higgs decays. That helps broaden out the mass peak. More data, particularly from those channels that don't involve neutrinos, will narrow that down.

    Further into the future, the LHC will go into a long shutdown at the end of this year, so that its hardware can be upgraded to operate at its full potential, reaching energies of 14TeV. When it comes back on line in a few years, the focus will shift to seeing if there's anything out there that the Standard Model doesn't predict.
     
  9. hotballa

    hotballa Contributing Member

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    You have to almost love how insulated these scientists are. Europe is burning down financially and they're sitting there playing games with a high powered flashlight. Yeah I'm sure finding some particle is going to matter to millions of people who are staring down the barrel of a looming financial disaster. smh
     
  10. TheRealist137

    TheRealist137 Member

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    Gotta love posters like hotballa who diss something he is probably too dumb to comprehend or understand the implications of.

    Useless post.
     
  11. hotballa

    hotballa Contributing Member

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    Gotta love internet tough guys who are probably too passive aggressive to ever say anything like this to someone in real life. Probably the same kind who has crazy road rage but then can't look the guy in the eye that you were honking at.
     
  12. brantonli24

    brantonli24 Member

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    Weird...in that everybody got excited over the possibility of finding the God Particle....and now that scientists are 5-sigma sure of it existing, the aftermath is.....ok so what does it do? lol
     
  13. hotballa

    hotballa Contributing Member

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    per therealist, you are too dumb to understand the implications.

    useless post
     
  14. Steve_Francis_rules

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    So every single person in all of Europe should be focusing on nothing but Europe's financial troubles? Do you not understand that these people are scientists and this is the culmination of decades of hard work?
     
  15. RedRedemption

    RedRedemption Contributing Member

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    I'm sorry but this statement is extremely ignorant. Its sad to see science does not get enough respect around here.
     
  16. HombreDeHierro

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    seconded.


    yo hotballa, science is the key to continuing societal progress... along with that comes economic success..
     
  17. B-Bob

    B-Bob my celli weighs a ton
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    Not to quote this again, but let me take a more sympathetic angle. I hear you, and it seems "ivory tower" and almost crazy, and believe me, there are times scientists think "shouldn't I be doing something more directly 'useful' or at least 'applied?'

    But in the big picture, you have to consider things like this:
    People studying electron transfer in semiconductors used to look incredibly useless... until it spawned all of modern computing. Seriously, what is that industry worth now?

    Our lives are now surrounded, in every way, by technology. And many if not most of these technologies can be traced to a useless-looking study at their first step.

    Mechanics and thermodynamics even looked like a mathematical trivia until people started really building things and leading the world toward the industrial revolution.

    So, in sum: if you don't have some smart people focused on super-long-range stuff like this, you miss out on the next big economic wave that benefits everyone. That's just based on hundreds of years of history.

    In fact, when we finally shut down science and education (like people kind of want to do in our country), you know you've entered the death spiral. That's when I shack up with ROXRAN, but he doesn't know it yet. :eek:
     
    3 people like this.
  18. xcrunner51

    xcrunner51 Contributing Member

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    Being from Clear Lake, I'll use a more relevant example. Crazy **** going down during the 60's: Cuban missile crisis, Korean War, Cold War, etc...

    Yet, we still put a man on the god dang moon. That inspired and captivated a nation and squarely established us as the technological leaders of the world. Millions were motivated to go into the sciences and roughly a decade later we had the start of the digital revolution. Technology developed during that time still continues to influence us to this today.

    This is an accomplishment on that level.
     
  19. Yung-T

    Yung-T Member

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    Don't know sh!t about that particle and wikipedia didn't help. How do we benefit from this evidence?
     
  20. hotballa

    hotballa Contributing Member

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    You make a much more compelling argument than the guy who basically called me a poopoo head. I dont think science should be shutdown just that maybe a little better timing on stuff that the scientific community might find exciting but not necessarily everyone else.
     

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