Update: Section added to include LEP11 Results on Higgs Boson Exclusion (01 Sept 2011)
Expect bold claims at this week’s SUSY 2011 (#SUSY11 on Twitter, maybe) Conference at Fermilab, in Batavia, Illinois. No, I do not have any secret information about some analysis that undoubtedly proves Supersymmetry‘s existence; though, it would be pretty cool if such an analysis does exist. I say this because I came back from a short summer school/pre-conference that gave a very thorough introduction to the mathematical framework behind a theory that supposes that there exists a new and very powerful relationship between particles that make up matter, like electrons & quarks (fermions), and particles that mediate the forces in our universe, like photons & gluons (bosons). This theory is called “Supersymmetry”, or “SUSY” for short, and might explain many of the shortcomings of our current description of how Nature works.
At this summer school, appropriately called PreSUSY 2011, we were additionally shown the amount of data that the Large Hadron Collider is expected to collect before the end of this year and at the end of 2012. This is where the game changer appeared. Back in June 2011, CERN announced that it had collected 1 fb-1 (1 inverse femtobarn) worth of data – the equivalent of 70,000 billion proton-proton collisions – a whole six months ahead of schedule. Yes, the Large Hadron Collider generated a year’s worth of data in half a year’s time. What is more impressive is that the ATLAS and CMS experiments may each end up collecting upwards of 5 fb-1 before the end of this year, a benchmark number a large number of people said would be a “highly optimistic goal” for 2012. I cannot emphasize how crazy & surreal it is to be seriously discussing the possibility of having 10 fb-1, or even 15 fb-1, by the end of 2012.
What this means is that by the end of this year, not next year, we will definitely know whether or not the higgs boson, as predicted by the Standard Model, exists. It also means that by next year, experimentalists will be able to rule out the most basic versions of Supersymmetry which were already ruled out by previous, high-precision measurements of previously known (electroweak) physics. Were we to find Supersymmetry at the LHC now and not when the LHC is at designed specifications, which are expected to be reached in 2014, then many physicists would be at a loss trying to rectify why one set of measurements rule out SUSY but another set of measurements support its existence.
What we can expect this week, aside from the usual higgs boson and SUSY exclusion plots, are a set of updated predictions as to where we expect to be this time next year. Now that the LHC has given us more data than we had anticipated we can truly explore the unknown, so trust me when I say that the death of SUSY has been greatly exaggerated.
More on Higgs Boson Exclusion (Added 01 Sept 2011)
This morning a new BBC article came out on the possibility of the higgs being found by Christmas. So why not add some plots, shown at August’s Lepton-Photon 2011 Conference, that show this? These plots were taken from Vivek Sharma’s Higgs Searches at CMS talk.
If there is no Standard Model higgs boson, then the Compact Muon Solenoid Detector, one of the two general purpose LHC detectors, should be able to exclude the boson, singlehandedly, with a 95% Confidence Level. ATLAS, the second of the two general purpose detectors, is similarly capable of such an exclusion.
Things get less clear if there is a higgs boson because physical & statistical fluctuations adds to our uncertainty. If CMS does collect 5 fb-1 before the winter shutdown, then it is capable of claiming at least a 3σ (three-sigma) discovery for a higgs boson with a mass anywhere between mH≈ 120 GeV/c2 and mH ≈ 550 GeV/c2 . For a number of (statistical/systematic) reasons, the range might shrink or expand with 5 fb-1 worth of data but only by a few GeV/c2. In statistics, “σ” (sigma) is the Greek letter that represents a standard deviation; a “3σ result” implies that there is only a 0.3% chance of being a fluke. The threshold for discovery is set at 5σ, or a 0.000 06% of being a random fluke.
By itself, the CMS detector is no longer sensitive. By combing their results, however, a joint ATLAS-CMS combined analysis can do the full 3σ discovery and a 5σ job down to 128 GeV/c2. The 114 GeV/c2 benchmark that physicists like to throw around is lower bound on the higgs boson mass set by CERN’s LEP Collider, which shutdown in 2000 to make room for the LHC.
However, there are two caveat in all of this. The smaller one is that these results depend on another 2.5 fb-1 being delivered by the upcoming winter shutdown; if there are any more major halts in data collection, then the mark will be missed. The second, and more serious, caveat is that this whole time I have been talking about the Standard Model higgs boson, which has a pretty rigid set of assumptions. If there is new physics, then all these discovery/exclusion bets are off.
Nature’s Little Secrets
On my way to PreSUSY, a good colleague of mine & I decided to stop by Fermilab to visit a friend and explore the little secret nooks that makes Fermilab, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful places in the world (keep in mind, I really love the Musée d’Orsay). What makes Fermilab such an gorgeous place is that is doubles as a federally sanctioned nature preserve! From bison to butterflies, the lab protects endangered or near-endangered habitats while simultaneously reaching back to the dawn of the Universe. Here is a little photographic tour of some of Nature’s best kept secrets. All the photos can be enlarged by clicking on them. Enjoy!
Figure 2: The main entrance to the Enrico Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy Laboratory Designation: FNAL, nicknamed Fermilab. The three-way arch that does not connect evenly at the top is called Broken Symmetry and appropriately represents the a huge triumph of Theoretical (Solid State & High Energy) Physics: Spontaneous Symmetry Breaking. Wilson Hall, nicknamed “The High-Rise” can be see in the background. (Image: Mine).
Figure 3: Wilson Hall, named after FNAL’s first director and Manhattan Project Scientist Robert Wilson, is where half of Fermilab’s magic happens. Aside from housing all the theorists & being attached to the Tevatron Control Room, it also houses a second control room for the CMS Detector called the Remote Operations Center. Yes, the CMS Detector can be fully controlled from Fermilab. The photo was taken from the center of the Tevatron ring. (Image: Mine)
Figure 4: A wetlands preserve located at the center of the Tevatron accelerator ring. The preservation has been so successful at restoring local fish that people with an Illinois fishing license (See FAQ) are actually allowed to fish. From what I have been told, the fish are exceptionally delicious the closer you get to the Main Ring. I wonder if it has anything to do with all that background neutrino rad… never mind.
Disclaimer: The previous line was a joke; the radiation levels at Fermilab are well within safety limits! (Image: Mine)
Figure 5: The Feynman Computing Center (left) and BZero (right), a.k.a., The CDF Detector Collision Hall. The Computing Center, named after the late Prof. Richard Feynman, cannot be justly compared to any other data center, except with maybe CERN‘s computing center. Really, there is so much experimental computer research, custom built electronics, and such huge processing power that there are no benchmarks that allows for it to be compared. Places like Fermilab and CERN set the benchmarks. The Collider Detector at Fermilab, or CDF for short, is one of two general purpose detectors at Fermilab that collects and analyzes the decay products of proton & anti-proton collisions. Magic really does happen in that collision hall. (Image: Mine)
Figure 6: The DZero Detector Collision Hall (blue building, back), Tevatron Colling River (center) , and Collision Hall Access Road (foreground). Like CDF (Figure 5), DZero is one of two general-purpose detectors at Fermilab that collects and analyzes the decay products of proton & anti-proton collisions. There is no question that the Tevatron generates a lot of heat. It was determined long ago that by taking advantage of the area’s annual rainfall and temperature the operating costs of running the collider could be drastically cut by using naturally replenishable source of water to cool the collider. If there were ever a reason to invest in a renewable energy source, this would be it. The access road doubles as a running/biking track for employees and site visitors. If you run, one question that is often asked by other scientists is if you are a proton or anti-proton. The anti-protons travel clockwise in the Main Ring and hence you are called an anti-proton if you bike/run with the anti-protons; the protons travel counter-clockwise. FYI: I am an anti-proton. (Image: Mine)
Figure 7: The Barn (red barn, right) and American bison pen (fence, foreground). Fermilab was built on prairie land and so I find it every bit appropriate that the laboratory does all it can to preserve an important part of America’s history, i.e., forging the Great American Frontier. Such a legacy of expanding to the unknown drives Fermilab’s mantra of being an “Ongoing Pioneer of Exploring the Frontier of Discovery.” (Image: Mine)
Figure 8: American bison (bison bison) in the far background (click to enlarge). At the time of the photo, a few calves had just recently been born. (Image: Mine)
- richard (@bravelittlemuon)