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Posts Tagged ‘education’

This article appeared in Fermilab Today on Sept. 16, 2014.

Summer intern Sheri Lopez, here with son Dominic, pursues her love of physics as a student at the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos. She spent this summer at Fermilab as a summer intern. Photo courtesy of Sheri Lopez

Summer intern Sheri Lopez, here with son Dominic, pursues her love of physics as a student at the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos. She spent this summer at Fermilab as a summer intern. Photo courtesy of Sheri Lopez

Dominic is two. He is obsessed with “Despicable Me” and choo-choos. His mom Sheri Lopez is 29, obsessed with physics, and always wanted to be an astronaut.

But while Dominic’s future is full of possibilities, his mom’s options are narrower. Lopez is a single mother and a sophomore at the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos, where she is double majoring in physics and mechanical engineering. Her future is focused on providing for her son, and that plan recently included 10 weeks spent at Fermilab for a Summer Undergraduate Laboratories Internship (SULI).

“Being at Fermilab was beautiful, and it really made me realize how much I love physics,” Lopez said. “On the other end of the spectrum, it made me realize that I have to think of my future in a tangible way.”

Instead of being an astronaut, now she plans on building the next generation of particle detectors. Lopez is reaching that goal by coupling her love of physics with practical trade skills such as coding, which she picked up at Fermilab as part of her research developing new ways to visualize data for the MINERvA neutrino experiment.

“The main goal of it was to try to make the data that the MINERvA project was getting a lot easier to read and more presentable for a web-based format,” Lopez said. Interactive, user-friendly data may be one way to generate interest in particle physics from a more diverse audience. Lopez had no previous coding experience but quickly realized at Fermilab that it would allow her to make a bigger difference in the field.

Dominic, meanwhile, spent the summer with his grandparents in New Mexico. That was hard, Lopez said, but she received a lot of support from Internship Program Administrator Tanja Waltrip.

“I was determined to not let her miss this opportunity, which she worked so hard to acquire,” Waltrip said. Waltrip coordinates support services for interns like Lopez in 11 different programs hosted by Fermilab.

Less than 10 percent of applicants were accepted into Fermilab’s summer program. SULI is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, so many national labs host these internships, and applicants choose which labs to apply to.

“There was never a moment when anyone doubted or said I couldn’t do it,” Lopez said. Dominic doesn’t understand why his mom was gone this summer, but he made sure to give her the longest hug of her life when she came back. For her part, Lopez was happy to bring back a brighter future for her son.

Troy Rummler


A version of this press release came out on on June 12, 2014.

Pi poles are part of a new exhibit for kids at Fermilab's Lederman Science Center, an educational center that houses resources for K-12 teachers and hosts science activities for students. Photo: Cindy Arnold

Pi poles are part of a new exhibit for kids at Fermilab’s Lederman Science Center, an educational center that houses resources for K-12 teachers and hosts science activities for students. Photo: Cindy Arnold

If you want to get children interested in the fundamentals of science, there’s nothing like letting them experience the phenomena first-hand. If you can make it fun at the same time, you have a formula for success.

That’s the thinking behind Fermilab’s in-progress outdoor physics exhibits, located near the Lederman Science Center. The Lederman Science Center is an educational center that houses science resources for K-12 teachers and hosts science activities for students. The Fermilab Education Office has just unveiled the latest exhibits, which allow kids to learn about basic principles of physics while playing in the sunshine.

The two new exhibits, called Wave Like a Particle and Swing Like Neutrinos, are combined into one newly built structure consisting of two poles shaped like the Greek letter Pi. Kids can make waves of various sizes by moving the rope that stretches between the two poles, thereby learning about wave propagation, one of the primary concepts of particle physics.

Children can also use the Swing Like Neutrinos portion of the exhibit – a pair of pendulums hanging from one of the Pi-shaped poles – to learn about coupled oscillations, a basic physics principle.

“Kids learn in different ways,” said Spencer Pasero of Fermilab’s Education Office. “The idea of the outdoor exhibits is to instill a love of learning into kids who respond to hands-on, fun activities.”

The Wave Like a Particle and Swing Like Neutrinos exhibits were built with funds through Fermilab Friends for Science Education, an Illinois not-for-profit organization supporting the Fermilab Education Office. Contributions were received from an anonymous donor and a grant from the Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley.

The new exhibits join the Run Like a Proton accelerator path, which opened in May 2013. Using this feature, kids can mimic protons and antiprotons as they race along Fermilab’s accelerator chain.

“We hope this series of exhibits will activate kids’ imaginations and that they immerse themselves in the physics we’ve been doing at Fermilab for decades,” Pasero said.

Fermilab is located 35 miles outside Chicago, Illnois. The Lederman Science Center is open to the public Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley is a non-profit philanthropic organization based in Aurora, Illinois that administers individual charitable funds from which grants and scholarships are distributed to benefit the citizens of the Greater Aurora Area, the TriCities and Kendall County Illinois. For more information, please see www.communityfoundationfrv.org.

Fermilab is America’s national laboratory for particle physics research. A U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science laboratory, Fermilab is located near Chicago, Illinois, and operated under contract by the Fermi Research Alliance, LLC. Visit Fermilab’s website at www.fnal.gov and follow us on Twitter at @FermilabToday.

The DOE Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.


On the Shoulders of…

Monday, April 14th, 2014

My first physics class wasn’t really a class at all. One of my 8th grade teachers noticed me carrying a copy of Kip Thorne’s Black Holes and Time Warps, and invited me to join a free-form book discussion group on physics and math that he was holding with a few older students. His name was Art — and we called him by his first name because I was attending, for want of a concise term that’s more precise, a “hippie” school. It had written evaluations instead of grades and as few tests as possible; it spent class time on student governance; and teachers could spend time on things like, well, discussing books with a few students without worrying about whether it was in the curriculum or on the tests. Art, who sadly passed some years ago, was perhaps best known for organizing the student cafe and its end-of-year trip, but he gave me a really great opportunity. I don’t remember learning anything too specific about physics from the book, or from the discussion group, but I remember being inspired by how wonderful and crazy the universe is.

My second physics class was combined physics and math, with Dan and Lewis. The idea was to put both subjects in context, and we spent a lot of time on working through how to approach problems that we didn’t know an equation for. The price of this was less time to learn the full breadth subjects; I didn’t really learn any electromagnetism in high school, for example.

When I switched to a new high school in 11th grade, the pace changed. There were a lot more things to learn, and a lot more tests. I memorized elements and compounds and reactions for chemistry. I learned calculus and studied a bit more physics on the side. In college, where the physics classes were broad and in depth at the same time, I needed to learn things fast and solve tricky problems too. By now, of course, I’ve learned all the physics I need to know — which is largely knowing who to ask or which books to look in for the things I need but don’t remember.

There are a lot of ways to run schools and to run classes. I really value knowledge, and I think it’s crucial in certain parts of your education to really buckle down and learn the facts and details. I’ve also seen the tremendous worth of taking the time to think about how you solve problems and why they’re interesting to solve in the first place. I’m not a high school teacher, so I don’t think I can tell the professionals how to balance all of those goods, which do sometimes conflict. What I’m sure of, though, is that enthusiasm, attention, and hard work from teachers is a key to success no matter what is being taught. The success of every physicist you will ever see on Quantum Diaries is built on the shoulders of the many people who took the time to teach and inspire them when they were young.


This originally appeared in Fermilab Today on Jan. 23, 2014.

Fermilab docent Toni Mueller shows students a model of a beamline. The Midwest Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics coordinators offered participants a tour of Fermilab or Argonne. Photo: Amanda Solliday

Fermilab docent Toni Mueller shows students a model of a beamline. The Midwest Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics coordinators offered participants a tour of Fermilab or Argonne. Photo: Amanda Solliday

Seventy female college students in hard hats descended into the MINOS cavern, walked through the Tevatron tunnel and explored the Linac beamline as part of the Midwest Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics Friday, Jan. 17.

“The first time I toured Fermilab, it wasn’t what I was expecting at all, even after two years of college-level physics,” said Savannah Thais, a senior physics major at The University of Chicago. “I had no idea what it was like to do science all day, every day.”

Thais attended the 2013 conference and this year volunteered for the local organizing committee. She hopes participants will see the scientists and engineers at national laboratories as potential role models. The conference organizers also aim to provide female physics students a chance to connect with each other.

“Many times, especially at smaller colleges and universities, there are not many women in physics departments. You might be the only girl in your classes,” Thais said. “So we hope the participants can meet other female undergrads who share some of the same goals as they do.”

Sahar Jalal, a senior math and physics double major at Grinnell College, says she enjoys learning about the large-scale research projects.

“I didn’t know there were so many international collaborations at Fermilab,” Jalal said during lunch at Wilson Hall.

In between tour stops, 28 Fermilab scientists, engineers, science writers and docents met with students over the noon meal.

The Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics rotate each year to different sites nationwide. The University of Chicago hosted this year’s Midwest conference, partnering with other area universities and institutions.

The location allowed organizers to offer a Fermilab tour for the first time. The 250 Midwest participants could also choose to visit Argonne, while students at the other regional conferences visited Berkeley, Brookhaven and Livermore national laboratories.

Particle physicists play a particularly active role in the conferences, said Kevin Pitts, a physics professor at the University of Illinois. He notes the two national co-chairs and three Midwest organizing committee members work in particle physics.

Sam Zeller, a Fermilab staff scientist on the local committee, welcomed the chance to offer young scientists a glimpse into the life of a researcher.

“Seeing a national laboratory was a big thing for me as an undergraduate,” Zeller said. “It made me think about physics as a career, so it’s nice to give that opportunity back to the next generation of students.”

Amanda Solliday


This Fermilab press release came out today.

Fermilab's new Run Like A Proton accelerator path at the Lederman Science Center is now open. Photo: Reidar Hahn

Fermilab’s new Run Like A Proton accelerator path at the Lederman Science Center is now open. Photo: Reidar Hahn

It’s one thing for kids to try to envision particles zipping around underground when learning about the science at Fermilab. It’s another thing entirely for them to pretend to be particles charging along an accelerator path, revealing new physics as they fly by.

This week the Fermilab Education Office celebrated the completion of its new Run Like A Proton accelerator path for middle- and high-school-age visitors to the laboratory.

Located at the Lederman Science Center, the path is an aboveground, scaled-down version of the routes a particle can take through Fermilab’s accelerator complex. While running along the path, kids can act like they are the particles of the lab’s physics program zipping through underground tunnels.

“Kids have different modes of learning,” said Spencer Pasero of Fermilab’s Education Office. “They can learn about the work of the lab with our indoor exhibits, but now they can also learn about it through our new outdoor playground.”

It’s a playground with a physics lesson. Kids playing the parts of protons and antiprotons “collide” by high-fiving each other as they run along the accelerator path. Signs along the path guide them in the right direction, whether they want to follow the path a proton would take as it circles the Main Injector or assume the flight of a neutrino headed toward Minnesota.

Kids won’t be limited to playing the part of particle. If they want a role as someone who sets the particles in motion, they can learn about how an operator interacts with the accelerator complex as she works with her controls on the playground.

At more than 100 feet across – longer than a basketball court – the path gives kids plenty of space to let loose in their particle impressions.

The accelerator path is the first stage in the laboratory’s long-term plan to build a larger physics playground.

The Fermilab Education Office has already taken the Run Like A Proton accelerator path for a test drive with a few student groups, and the new outdoor feature has been a hit.

“Students run like a proton around the accelerator path, and afterward when they go on a tour of Fermilab, the docents ask them, ‘Remember when you were running like a proton?’” said Marge Bardeen, head of the Education Office. “And they remember! What a great way to learn.”

The Run Like A Proton accelerator path is made possible by a grant from the Kane County Riverboat Fund and a contribution from an anonymous donor, both through the Fermilab Friends for Science Education, which supports innovative programs at Fermilab. A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the playground was held on Tuesday, May 21, at the Lederman Science Center.

The Lederman Science Center is open to the public Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“We hope this playground will activate kids’ imaginations and that they immerse themselves in the physics we’ve been doing at the lab for 30 years,” Pasero said.


A l’occasion de l’ouverture de l’appel à candidature 2013 de “Sciences à l’Ecole” pour l’accueil d’enseignants français au CERN durant une semaine, nous publions ces jours-ci le journal quotidien plein d’humour de Jocelyn Etienne qui a suivi ce programme l’année dernière, au mois de novembre dernier.


Chambre à brouillard: la chasse aux particules commence !
Mardi 06 novembre 2012

Aujourd’hui, construction d’une chambre à brouillard, alors que le Soleil décide enfin à se montrer ! C’est l’écossais Wilson qui en a inventé le procédé en 1911 (avant de recevoir le Nobel en 1927) pour détecter la trajectoire des particules. Pour nous, de la carboglace, un peu d’isopropanol et de bricolage, et l’on voit des muons issus de particules cosmiques laisser une trace de leur passage.Oulala! (Vue en vidéo d’un muon grâce à la chambre à brouillard)
Mick Storr en pleine explication

On a beau être dans un des plus grands centre de recherche fondamentale du monde, rien de vaut un tableau noir et une craie (cette dernière difficile à trouver par ici parait-il).


Les conférences du jour :

David Rousseau (IN2P3 / LAL-Orsay) nous confirme la découverte presque peut-être sûre du boson de Higgs, en tout cas, si c’est pas lui, c’est quand même quelque chose. Il travaille sur le détecteur ATLAS, il doit savoir de quoi il parle. Il y a des détecteurs sur le LHC, comme ATLAS et CMS  et chacun est un monstre de technologie et de compétences, et tous deux confirment indépendamment la détection du Higgs (c’est comme ça qu’on dit).

Julien Lesgourgues (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) nous parle de la courbure de l’espace qui en fait est plat, à moins que ce ne soit l’inverse, mais j’arrive un quart d’heure en retard…

Sylvie Rosier-Lees du CNRS/IN2P3 au laboratoire d’Annecy, s’occupe du détecteur spatial AMS (spectromètre magnétique Alpha ndlr), accroché à l’ISS. AMS s’occupe des particules cosmiques, et il y en a qui viennent de très loin ! (ici: les dernières new d’AMS ndlr).

Crédit: Jocelyn Etienne.

A droite, la personne semblait coder un programme pour un traitement graphique de données, mais il basculait souvent sur son compte facebook… tsss tsss tsss… Pour les connaisseurs, son portable est sous Xubuntu.

Enfin, Corinne Berat du CNRS/IN2P3 au laboratoire de Grenoble a plus les pieds sur Terre. Son joujou se trouve en Argentine et détecte les rayons cosmiques (encore) qui arrivent au sol après avoir éclaboussé l’atmosphère d’une multitude de particules (des gerbes…). L’observatoire Pierre Auger recouvre quelque chose comme 3000 km² et se délecte des particules de haute énergie provenant peut être de collisions de galaxies ou de supernovae.

Après le repas du soir, je me rends à une conférence dans le cadre de « The 4th International Conference on Particle and Fundamental Physics in Space ». Aujourd’hui, William H. Gerstenmaier de la NASA qui nous présente in English, les recherches faites sur l’ISS. La vidéo finale (un film qui compile les plus belles vues de la Terre prises de la station) est absolument sublime.



Earth from Michael König – Même ceux qui ont bossé sur leur ordinateur (occupés à coder ou traiter les informations du LHC) toute la durée de la présentation sans écouter un mot du conférencier, stoppent leur activité pour regarder le film. on Vimeo.

A suivre…

Jocelyn Etienne est enseignant au lycée Feuillade de la ville de Lunel.

Pour soumettre sa candidature pour la prochaine session du stage au CERN, c’est par ici.


A l’occasion de l’ouverture de l’appel à candidature 2013 de “Sciences à l’Ecole” pour l’accueil d’enseignants français au CERN durant une semaine, nous publions ces jours-ci le journal quotidien plein d’humour de Jocelyn Etienne qui a suivi ce programme l’année dernière, au mois de novembre dernier.

Immersion au pays des particules
Lundi 05 novembre 2012

Crédit: Jocelyn Etienne

C’est moi ou la pièce de 5 francs est énorme ?

Grosse journée, petit déjeuner au restaurant du CERN, bon café, tartine beurrée confiturée pour 1 franc suisse ! A tester. Tiens d’ailleurs, c’est moi ou la pièce de 5 francs est énorme ?

Crédit: Jocelyn Etienne

L’hôtel-foyer du CERN

Il ne pleut pas ce matin (ça ne va pas durer, la promenade post-déjeuner s’est faite sous la pluie) alors j’en profite pour prendre une photo de l’hôtel-foyer qui m’héberge. C’est une des fenêtres du 1er étage derrière laquelle se trouve ma chambre, mais inutile de zoomer pour chercher à m’apercevoir. Qui prend la photo à votre avis ?

Crédit: Jocelyn Etienne

Daniel Denegri aurait peut-être vu le boson de Higgs…

Après une première présentation de l’in2p3 par Arnaud Marsollier, suivi de Mick Storr pour le CERN, c’est Daniel Denegri qui nous présente l’expérience CMS, incroyable projet de détection de particule qui s’étend sur 20 ans. Denegri lui-même est un brillant chercheur croate qui parle parfaitement le français, l’anglais entre autres, il aurait peut-être vu le boson de Higgs qui semble plus facile à détecter que son bras droit, tellement le bonhomme est énergique. L’après-midi, c’est au tour de Simone Gilardoni, théoricien des « accélérateurs collisionneurs » de nous montrer que les prouesses nécessaires pour maintenir un faisceau de protons dans un tube de 27 km de long, ne sont pas à la portée des bricoleurs du dimanche. Ou devrais-je dire 2 faisceaux dans 2 tubes qui se croisent de temps en temps ?…

Crédit: Jocelyn Etienne

Simone Gilardoni, théoricien des “accélérateurs collisionneurs”

Le petit point visible derrière Simone est visible ici en direct, si le LHC n’est pas à l’arrêt. Il y en a même deux, comme je l’ai dit précédemment ; nos deux faisceaux de protons dont on contrôle l’état notamment par des miroirs qui renvoient le rayonnement qu’il diffuse… enfin, c’est ce que j’ai compris…

D’ailleurs le LHC va bientôt être arrêté pour quelques mois (il est actuellement arrêté, ndlr, voir ici pourquoi en vidéo). J’espère que ce n’est pas lié à ce bouton sur lequel j’ai appuyé en pensant que c’était l’éclairage de ma salle de bains. Il reprendra ensuite de plus belle pour tenter d’atteindre les 13-14 TeV contre 7 TeV actuellement. Je sais, ça fait beaucoup…

L’après –midi se poursuit par une présentation des masterclasses par Nicolas Arnaud, chercheur à Orsay et organisateur de notre French Teacher Programme au CERN. Puis il nous initie à la détection de particules à l’aide d’un logiciel et de vraies mesures.

Atelier “masterclasses”: J’ai trouvé les W qui se désintègrent, donc j’ai le droit de prendre une photo de mes collègues en plein effort.

Pour finir, je me rends à une conférence tardive sur les sondes Voyager 1 et 2 donnée par Edward Stone, responsable scientifique de ces sondes depuis 1972.

Sur le chemin, j’immortalise la version suisse du principe de superposition d’état, ou comment un vélo peut être en deux endroits différents au même moment…

A suivre…

Jocelyn Etienne est enseignant au lycée Feuillade de la ville de Lunel.

Pour soumettre sa candidature pour la prochaine session du stage au CERN, c’est par ici.

Crédit: Jocelym Etienne

Principe de superposition d’état…

Crédit: Jocelyn Etienne

…ou comment un vélo peut être en deux endroits au même moment !



Particles of the Day

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012
My copy of the 2012 PDG booklet

My copy of the 2012 PDG booklet

Last week, I got my copy of the 2012 Particle Data Group Review of Particle Physics booklet — which, along with its heavy, 1000-page full-length counterpart, we simply call “the PDG.” My very first copy, during my first months at CERN in the summer of 2003, is a vivid memory for me. Here was a book with almost everything you want to know, about every particle ever discovered! It was like the book of dinosaurs I had when I was a kid, and I read it in exactly the same way: flipping to a random page and reading a few facts about, say, the charged kaon.

My new copy of the PDG has inspired me to adapt this fun for non-experts. So each day, I’ll feature a new particle on Twitter; I’m @sethzenz, and the hashtag will be #ParticleOfTheDay. Since starting last week, I’ve featured the B0s meson, the pion, the kaon, the electron, and the Higgs.

How long can I keep this up? That is, how many particles are there? Well, that depends on how you count. The Standard Model has 3 charged leptons, 3 neutrinos, 6 quarks, the photon, and the W, Z, and Higgs bosons. But then there’s all the antiparticles. Dark matter candidates. The graviton. I could even argue for taking 8 days covering all the gluon colors! (Don’t worry, I won’t.) But most of all, there’s all the composite particles — those that are made from a combination of quarks. There are a very large number of those, and there will always be more to find too, because you can always add more energy to the same combination of quarks.

The point isn’t to be systematic. I might go back and be more specific. I might repeat. What I really want to do is find a particle each day that’s in the news or I can say something interesting about.

Flipping at random through a book of particles turns out not to be the best way to learn particle physics; ultimately, I needed to learn the principles by which those particles are organized. But it is an interesting way to tell the story of particle physics: its history and how it’s done today. After all, the particles do come out of accelerators in a random jumble; it’s our job to organize them.

Have an idea for the Particle of the Day, and what to say about it? Let me know!


Leon Lederman

The National Science Board announced Monday that it chose Leon Lederman as the 2012 recipient of the Vannevar Bush Award.

The award is given to people who are lifelong leaders in science and technology and who have made substantial contributions to the welfare of the nation.

While the general public might know him best for his book “The God Particle” about the search for the Higgs boson, Lederman has improved the lives of millions through his efforts in science, eduction and cultural outreach.

His early award-winning research in high-energy physics brought him into national science policy circles and in 1963 he proposed the idea that became the National Accelerator Laboratory, which was later renamed Fermilab. In 1977 Lederman led the team that discovered the bottom quark at Fermilab. The following year he was named director of the laboratory and his administration brought Fermilab into its position of scientific prominence by 1983 with the achievement of the then world’s most powerful superconducting accelerator, the Tevatron. In 1988 Lederman was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.

During his term as director, Lederman emphasized the importance of math and science education as outreach to the neighboring communities. He initiated the Saturday Morning Physics lectures, which have drawn thousands of students to the laboratory to meet and question physicists. He subsequently founded the Friends of Fermilab, which raises money for science education; the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy; and the Teacher’s Academy for Mathematics and Science, which provides in-service training and professional development for K-8 math and science teachers. Lederman is also one of the main proponents of the Physics First initiative to introduce physics earlier in the high school curriculum. His contributions to eduction have been memorialized at Fermilab with the naming of a hands-on K-12 science education center after him. The Leon Lederman Science Center is host to hundreds of field trips by schools and scout troops each year and supports Science Adventure classes during school breaks.

In about 1980, Lederman also made it a mission to include Mexican and Latin American researchers in high-energy physics experiments. Prior to that, the involvement by those countries was limited theoretical research not hands-on experimentation. Lederman subscribed to the philosophy of the more minds the better. He helped Hispanic scientists find a foothold in experimental programs and encouraged internships at Fermilab for Hispanic youth. The outreach has been successful and Fermilab now counts many Latin American countries as collaborators on science experiments. One example is Mexico, which  is Fermilab’s ninth most prolific partnering country in terms of collaboration results.

– Tona Kunz


Each time news comes out about the Higgs boson I get questions from media, friends and family trying to grasp why this particle is so important. The following questions come up again and again. So with experimenters from using Fermilab’s  Tevatron announcing new Higgs results Wednesday at a conference in Italy, I thought it was time to share answers to the questions that might pop into your mind.

Why should the average person care if the Higgs is found?

Understanding more about the building blocks of matter and the forces that control their interactions helps scientists to learn how to manipulate those forces to humankind’s benefit. For example, the study of the electron led to the development of electricity, the study of quantum mechanics made possible the creation of GPS systems and the study of the weak force led to an understanding of radioactive decay and nuclear power.

Now what?

The Tevatron experiments will continue to further analyze the Higgs boson data to wring out more information. In addition, the Tevatron and LHC experiments are working to combine their data for a release at an unspecified date.

Even if both teams find evidence of a Higgs boson in the same location, physicists will need to do more analysis to make sure the Higgs boson isn’t a non-Standard Model Higgs masquerading as a resident of the Standard Model. That will require physicists to measure several properties in addition to mass.

What would finding the Higgs boson mean for the field of physics?

Finding evidence of the Higgs boson would expand the following three areas of study:

• Pin-pointing the mass range of the Higgs would help physicists condense the number of theories about the existence of undiscovered particles and the forces that interact on them. For example, a Standard Model Higgs boson would rule out classic QCD-like versions of technicolor theory. A Higgs boson with a mass larger than 125 GeV would rule out the simplest versions of supersymmetry, or SUSY, which predict that every known particle has an unknown sibling particle with a different mass. Other theories would gain more support. One such SUSY theory predicts that a Standard Model Higgs boson would appear as the lightest of a group of five or more Higgs bosons. Whether the Higgs boson exists or not does not affect theories about the existence of extra dimensions.

• Knowing the mass of the Higgs boson would give physicists more data to plug into other equations about how our universe formed and about some of the least understood particle interactions, such as magnetic muon anomaly.

• Finding evidence of a heavy mass Higgs boson (larger than 150 GeV) would require the existence of undiscovered particles and/or forces. Finding a light mass Higgs boson (less than 125 GeV) would not require the existence of new physics but doesn’t rule it out either.

What is the difference between the Higgs boson and the Higgs field?

The Higgs field exists like a giant vat of molasses spread throughout the universe. Particles that travel through it end up with globs of molasses sticking to them, slowing them down and making them heavier. You can think of the Higgs boson as the molasses globs, or a particle manifestation of this energy field akin to a ball of energy.

Physicists have different theories about how many Higgs bosons exist, akin to predicting whether the molasses would stick in one giant glob or several globlets.

How long have physicists been looking for the Higgs?

More than a decade. It started with the LEP experiment at CERN in the 1990s, continued with the Tevatron and now with the LHC.

How do physicists create a Higgs boson?

A high-energy particle accelerator such as the Tevatron or LHC can recreate the energy levels that permeated the universe shortly after the Big Bang. Colliding particles at this energy level can set free the right amount of energy to produce particles, including a Higgs boson. The collision energy is localized in a small space and transforms from energy into the mass of the Higgs boson.

How is the Higgs boson related to the Big Bang theory?

The Big Bang occurred 13.7 billion years ago sending massless particles and radiation energy zooming through the universe like cars at rush hour. Shortly afterward, the Higgs field appeared, as if a truck carrying molasses overturned and leaked all over the highway. Particles such as light, which went through the puddle super fast, avoided having any molasses stick to them, similar to the way hydroplaning cars skim the surface of water. Particles that went through the molasses puddle more slowly had molasses goblets cling to them, creating a drag that slowed them even more and made them more massive. How fast a particle made it through the puddle determined how much molasses clung to it, and thus how massive it became. When the universe began to cool, slow particles with mass began to bunch up like mini-traffic jams and form composite particles and then atoms.

How do we know this is where the Higgs is located?

Just as firemen sweep building floors to rule out the existence of trapped homeowners, physicists have used direct and indirect observations from experiments to rule out the existence of the Higgs boson in most energy ranges where the Standard Model predicts it could reside.

Does the mass of the Higgs compare to its weight?

Sort of. Non-physicists think of mass as how much something weighs. But scientists consider mass to take into account weight and other factors. Weight changes with gravity, so you would weigh less on the moon than on Earth. Mass remains constant throughout the universe. However, when talking about things on Earth, mass and weight are fairly interchangeable.

How did the Higgs boson get the nickname “the God particle”?

Nobel laureate Leon Lederman, a Fermilab physicist, wrote a book in the early 1990s about particle physics and the search for the Higgs boson. His publisher coined the name as a marketable title for the book. Scientists dislike the nickname.

What countries are involved in the CDF and DZero experiments?

• CDF: US, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Korea, UK, Russia, Slovakia, Spain and Taiwan

• DZero; Brazil, China, Columbia, Czechoslovakia, Ecuador, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, UK, Ukraine, US, Russia, Spain and Sweden.

What is the competitive relationship between the Tevatron and LHC experiments?

It is closer to sibling rivalry than the traditional business competition you would find in something such as the auto industry.

Fermilab supports about 1,000 US CMS scientists and engineers by providing computing facilities, office and meeting space as well as the LHC Remote Operation Center. Fermilab helped design and build the CMS detector as well as equipment for the LHC accelerator, and Fermilab scientists are working on upgrades for both and analyzing data. About one third of the members of each of the Tevatron’s experiments, CDF and DZero, are also members of the LHC experiments.

– Tona Kunz