July 4th is the big day! And not only because of fireworks. It’s the day of a press conference at which it is widely anticipated that CERN (the giant European particle physics laboratory) will announce that the Higgs boson—that much-touted particle needed to make the Standard Model of Physics complete—has been found at the Large Hadron Collider. Or at least, that something that looks very much like it has been observed.
What’s the Higgs, you say? You’ve been living under a rock? Well, here is the best explanation we’ve seen of what the Higgs is and why it’s important, courtesy The Guardian’s Ian Sample:
Normally, we would not be writing anything suggesting the Higgs had been found until the proof was in our hot little hands. Rumors schrumors, we say—many a CERN press conference has ended in disappointment. But this morning, Kate Travis, an editor at ScienceNews, found a leaked CERN video in which a spokesperson all but announces the discovery of a new particle.
Four years ago, artist Kate Findlay was reading an article about the Large Hadron Collider. When she saw photographs of the collider’s experiments, she, like many others since the project began, was struck by their beauty. But unlike most particle physics spectators, she set out to make art from them—using cloth. “The LHC is a remarkably beautiful machine. Its symmetry, the repeating motifs, [and] the colors were all things that I was drawn to–for any textile artist, pattern and color are top of the list and the LHC has all these!” she told PopSci in an interview last week.
Image courtesy of Kate Findlay
You know those black holes the Large Hadron Collider was going to make and kill us all? Well, not only are we still here, but the LHC doesn’t seem to be making black holes at all—their decay signature is markedly absent from the data collected so far.
While that is good for those of us who want to keep living (we jest—the hypothetical micro black holes posed no danger), it’s also helping physicists make up their minds about how many dimensions there are in our universe. The lack of black holes at the LHC nullifies some of the wackier versions of string theory which depend on multiple dimensions.
If there was a race to see which Large Hadron Collider experiment would provide the first surprise, and the first giddy claims of possible “new physics,” it appears the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) has won. CERN scientists announced this week that the most high-energy proton smash-ups produced an weird effect: particles created in the collision were somehow linked together and flew off in an unexpected direction.
In the new experiment, the CMS team took data on the charged particles produced in hundreds of thousands of collisions. The team observed the angles the particles’ paths took with respect to each other, and calculated something called a “correlation function” to determine how intimately the particles are linked after they separate. The plot of the data ends up looking like a topographical map of a mountain surrounded by lowlands and a long ridge behind it (see below). [Wired.com]
Particle physicists hunting for the Higgs boson reported their latest findings yesterday at the International Conference on High Energy Physics in Paris. The big two–Europe’s Large Hadron Collider and Fermilab’s Tevatron Collider (in Illinois)–gave updates, and other conference buzz included talk of a new facility, the International Linear Collider, which may one day give physicists a cleaner look at the other colliders’ results.
Large Hadron Collider — More Detailed Models Help the Search
Currently operating at 7 Tera electron Volts (TeV), the Large Hadron Collider is the world’s most powerful particle accelerator. Though electrical malfunctions hindered the collider in 2008, now LHC scientists report that they have made up for lost time: finding in months, what took the Tevatron, with its 2 TeV collisions, decades.
“The scientific community thought it would take one, maybe two years to get to this level, but it happened in three months,” said Guy Wormser, a top French physicist and chairman of the conference.[AFP]