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Posts Tagged ‘Tevatron’

There has been a lot of press about the recent DØ result on the possible \(B_s \pi\) state. This was also covered on Ricky Nathvani’s blog. At Moriond QCD, Jeroen Van Tilburg showed a few plots from LHCb which showed no signal in the same mass regions as explored by D∅. Tomorrow, there will be a special LHC seminar on the LHCb search for purported tetraquark, where we will get the full story from LHCb. I will be live blogging the seminar here! It kicks off at 11:50 CET, so tune in to this post for live updates.

Mar 22, 2016 -12:23. Final answer. LHCb does not confirm the tetraquark. Waiting for CMS, ATLAS, CDF.

Mar 22, 2016 – 12:24. How did you get the result out so fast? A lot of work by the collaboration to get MC produced and to expedite the process.

Mar 22, 2016 – 12:21. Is the \(p_T\) cut on the pion too tight? The fact that you haven’t seen anything anywhere else gives you confidence that the cut is safe. Also, cut is not relative to \(B_s\).

Mar 22, 2016 – 12:18. Question: What are the fractions of multiple candidates which enter? Not larger than 1.2. If you go back to the cuts. What selection killed the combinatoric background the most? Requirement that the \(\pi\) comes from the PV, and the \(p_T\) cut on the pion kill the most. How strong the PV cut? \(\chi^2\) less than 3.5 for the pion at the PV, you force the \(B_s\) and the pion to come from the PV, and constrain the mass of \(B_s\) mass.

Mar 22, 2016 – 12:17: Can you go above the threshold? Yes.

Mar 22, 2016 – 12:16. Slide 9: Did you fit with a floating mass? Plan to do this for the paper.

Mar 22, 2016 – 12:15. Wouldn’t \(F_S\) be underestimated by 8%? Maybe maybe not.

Mar 22, 2016 – 12:13. Question: Will LHCb publish? Most likely yes, but a bit of politics. Shape of the background in the \(B_s\pi\) is different in LHCb and DØ. At some level, you expect a peak from the turn over. Also CMS is looking.

Mar 22, 2016 – 12:08-12:12. Question: did you try the cone cut to try to generate a peak? Answer: Afraid that the cut can give a biased estimate of the significance. From DØ seminar, seems like this is the case. For DØ to answer. Vincenzo Vagnoni says that DØ estimation of significance is incorrect. We also don’t know if there’s something that’s different between \(pp\) and \(p \bar{p}\).

Mar 22, 2016 – 12:08. No evidence of \(X(5568)\) state, set upper limit. “We look forward to hearing from ATLAS, CMS and CDF about \(X(5568)\)”

Mar 22, 2016 – 12:07. What if the production of the X was the same at LHCb? Should have seen a very large signal. Also, in many other spectroscopy plots, e.g. \(B*\), look at “wrong sign” plots for B and meson. All results LHCb already searched for would have been sensitive to such a state.

Mar 22, 2016 -12:04. Redo the analysis in bins of rapidity. No significant signal seen in any result. Do for all pt ranges of the Bs.

Mar 22, 2016 – 12:03. Look at \(B^0\pi^+\) as a sanity check. If X(5568) is similar to B**, then the we expect order 1000 events.

Mar 22, 2016 – 12:02.Upper limits on production given.

Mar 22, 2016 – 12:02. Check for systematics: changing mass and width of DØ range, and effect of efficiency dependence on signal shape are the dominant sources of systematics. All measurements dominated by statistics.

Mar 22, 2016 – 12:00. Result of the fits all consistent with zero. The relative production is also consistent with zero.

Mar 22, 2016 – 11:59. 2 fits with and without signal components, no difference in pulls. Do again with tighter cut on the transverse momentum of the \(B_s\). Same story, no significant signal seen.

Mar 22, 2016 – 11:58. Fit model: S-wave Breit-Wigner, mass and width fixed to DØ result. Backgrounds: 2 sources. True \(B_s^0\) with random track, and fake \(B_s\).

Mar 22, 2016 – 11:56.  No “cone cut” applied because it is highly correlated with reconstructed mass.

Mar 22, 2016 – 11:55. LHCb strategy: Perform 3 independent searches, confirm a qualitative approach, move forward with single approach with Run 1 dataset. Cut based selection to match D∅ strategy. Take home point. Statistics is 20x larger and much cleaner.

Mar 22, 2016 – 11:52. Review of DØ result. What could it be? Molecular model is disfavored. Diquark-Antidiquark models are popular. But could not fit into any model. Could also be feed down of  radiative decays. All predictions have large uncertainties

Mar 22, 2016 –  11:49. LHCb-CONF-2016-004 posted at cds.cern.ch/record/2140095/

Mar 22, 2016 – 11:47. The speaker is transitioning to Marco Pappagallo .

Mar 22, 2016 – 11:44. People have begun entering the auditorium for the talk, at the end of Basem Khanji’s seminar on \(\Delta m_d\)



Top Quarks… So Many Top Quarks

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Thousands of paper on top quarks exist. Why?

There are literally thousands of papers, collaboration notes, and conference notes with the words “Top” and “Quark” in the title. As of this post, there are 3,477 since 1979 listed on inSpires. There are many, many more that omit the word “quark”. And sure, this is meager compared to the 5,114 papers with the words “Higgs Boson” written since ’74, but that is over 50,000 pages of top quarks (estimating 15 pages/paper). To be fair, there are also many, many more that omit the word “boson”. But for further comparison, there are only 395 papers with a title including the words “Bottom Quark“, 211 with “Bottomonium“, and 125 with “Bottom Hadron“. So why are there so many papers written about the top quark? The answer is that the top quark is weird special.


A single top quark candidate event at the Collider Detector experiment at Fermilab. Credit: CDF Collaboration

The top quark is very heavy, about 185 times heavier than the proton and ranks as the heaviest known elementary particle in all the particle kingdom. The second heaviest quark, the bottom quark, is only 4 or 5 times heavier than the proton. If you or I were a proton, then a medium-to-large school bus (without any people) would be a top quark. In fact, the top quark is so heavy it can decay into a real (on-shell) W boson, which is roughly half its mass. The only other particle that can do this is the Higgs. Though it is rare, exceedingly rare, the top quark can decay into real Z  and Higgs bosons as well. Not even the Higgs can top that last feat.

Top quark decaying into real, on-shell W boson and bottom quark. Credit: DZero Collaboration

However, the top quark is still a quark. It has an electric charge that is 2/3 as large as the proton. It has an intrinsic angular momentum (spin) equal to the proton’s or electron’s spin. The top quark is also colored, meaning that is interacts with gluons and is influenced by the strong nuclear force (QCD). When colored objects (quarks and gluons) are produced at collider and fixed target experiments, they undergo a process called hadronization. Hadronization is when two colored objects are far away from one another and the strong nuclear attraction between the two becomes so strong that a pair of colored objects will spontaneously be produced in the space between them. These new colored particles will then form bound states with the old colored states. However, the process hadronization means that we only observe the bound states of colored objects and not the colored objects themselves. Physicists have to infer their properties from the physics of bound states…. or do we?


Colored objects before (L), during (Center L and Center R), and after (R) hadronization.

The onset of hadronization is typically occurs about 10-24 seconds after the creation of a colored object. Yes, that is 0.000000000000000000000001 seconds. That is incredibly fast and well beyond anything that can be done at an experiment. The mean lifetime of the top quark on the other hand is about 10-25 seconds. In other words, the top quark is much more likely to decay in to a W boson, its principle decay mode, than hadronize. By looking at the decays of the W boson, for example to an electron and an electron-neutrino, their angular distributions, and other kinematic properties, we can measure directly the top quark’s quantum numbers. The top quark is special because it is the only quark whose spin and charge quantum numbers we can measure directly.


Top quark decaying into real, on-shell W boson and bottom quark. The W boson can subsequently decay into a charged lepton and a neutrino or into a quark and anti-quark. Credit: DZero Collaboration

The top quark tells us much about the Standard Model of particle physics, but it also may be a window to new physics. Presently, no one has any idea why the top quark is so much heavier than the bottom quark, or why both are orders of magnitude heavier than the electron and muon. This is called the “Mass Hierarchy Problem” of the Standard Model and stems from the fact that the quark and lepton masses in the theory are not predicted but are taken as input parameters. This does not mean that the Standard Model is “wrong”. On the contrary, the model works very, very well; it is simply incomplete. Of course there are new models and hypotheses that offer explanations, but none have been verified by data.

However, thanks to the 2012 discovery of the Higgs boson, there is a new avenue that may shed light upon the mass hierarchy problem. We now know that quarks and leptons interact with the Higgs boson proportionally to their masses. Since the top quark is ~40 times more massive than the bottom quark, it will interact with Higgs boson 40 times more strongly. There is suspicion that since the Higgs boson is sensitive to the different quark and lepton masses, it may somehow play a role in how masses are assigned.

Happy Colliding

– richard (@BraveLittleMuon)


Even before my departure to La Thuile in Italy, results from the Rencontres de Moriond conference were already flooding the news feeds. This year’s Electroweak session from 15 to 22 March, started with the first “world measurement” of the top quark mass, from a combination of the measurements published by the Tevatron and LHC experiments so far. The week went on to include a spectacular CMS result on the Higgs width.

Although nearing its 50th anniversary, Moriond has kept its edge. Despite the growing numbers of must-attend HEP conferences, Moriond retains a prime spot in the community. This is in part due to historic reasons: it’s been around since 1966, making a name for itself as the place where theorists and experimentalists come to see and be seen. Let’s take a look at what the LHC experiments had in store for us this year…

New Results­­­

Stealing the show at this year’s Moriond was, of course, the announcement of the best constraint yet of the Higgs width at < 17 MeV with 95% confidence reported in both Moriond sessions by the CMS experiment. Using a new analysis method based on Higgs decays into two Z particles, the new measurement is some 200 times better than previous results. Discussions surrounding the constraint focussed heavily on the new methodology used in the analysis. What assumptions were needed? Could the same technique be applied to Higgs to WW bosons? How would this new width influence theoretical models for New Physics? We’ll be sure to find out at next year’s Moriond…

The announcement of the first global combination of the top quark mass also generated a lot of buzz. Bringing together Tevatron and LHC data, the result is the world’s best value yet at 173.34 ± 0.76 GeV/c2.  Before the dust had settled, at the Moriond QCD session, CMS announced a new preliminary result based on the full data set collected at 7 and 8 TeV. The precision of this result alone rivals the world average, clearly demonstrating that we have yet to see the ultimate attainable precision on the top mass.

ot0172hThis graphic shows the four individual top quark mass measurements published by the ATLAS, CDF, CMS and DZero collaborations, together with the most precise measurement obtained in a joint analysis.

Other news of the top quark included new LHC precision measurements of its spin and polarisation, as well as new ATLAS results of the single top-quark cross section in the t-channel presented by Kate Shaw on Tuesday 25 March. Run II of the LHC is set to further improve our understanding of this

A fundamental and challenging measurement that probes the nature of electroweak symmetry breaking mediated by the Brout–Englert–Higgs mechanism is the scattering of two massive vector bosons against each other. Although rare, in the absence of the Higgs boson, the rate of this process would strongly rise with the collision energy, eventually breaking physical law. Evidence for electroweak vector boson scattering was detected for the first time by ATLAS in events with two leptons of the same charge and two jets exhibiting large difference in rapidity.

With the rise of statistics and increasing understanding of their data, the LHC experiments are attacking rare and difficult multi-body final states involving the Higgs boson. ATLAS presented a prime example of this, with a new result in the search for Higgs production in association with two top quarks, and decaying into a pair of b-quarks. With an expected limit of 2.6 times the Standard Model expectation in this channel alone, and an observed relative signal strength of 1.7 ± 1.4, the expectations are high for the forthcoming high-energy run of the LHC, where the rate of this process is enhanced.

Meanwhile, over in the heavy flavour world, the LHCb experiment presented further analyses of the unique exotic state X(3872). The experiment provided unambiguous confirmation of its quantum numbers JPC to be 1++, as well as evidence for its decay into ψ(2S)γ.

Explorations of the Quark-Gluon Plasma continue in the ALICE experiment, with results from the LHC’s lead-proton (p-Pb) run dominating discussions. In particular, the newly observed “double-ridge” in p-Pb is being studied in depth, with explorations of its jet peak, mass distribution and charge dependence presented.

New explorations

Taking advantage of our new understanding of the Higgs boson, the era of precision Higgs physics is now in full swing at the LHC. As well as improving our knowledge of Higgs properties – for example, measuring its spin and width – precise measurements of the Higgs’ interactions and decays are well underway. Results for searches for Beyond Standard Model (BSM) physics were also presented, as the LHC experiments continue to strongly invest in searches for Supersymmetry.

In the Higgs sector, many researchers hope to detect the supersymmetric cousins of the Higgs and electroweak bosons, so-called neutralinos and charginos, via electroweak processes. ATLAS presented two new papers summarising extensive searches for these particles. The absence of a significant signal was used to set limits excluding charginos and neutralinos up to a mass of 700 GeV – if they decay through intermediate supersymmetric partners of leptons – and up to a mass of 420 GeV – when decaying through Standard Model bosons only.

Furthermore, for the first time, a sensitive search for the most challenging electroweak mode producing pairs of charginos that decay through W bosons was conducted by ATLAS. Such a mode resembles that of Standard Model pair production of Ws, for which the currently measured rates appear a bit higher than expected.

In this context, CMS has presented new results on the search for the electroweak pair production of higgsinos through their decay into a Higgs (at 125 GeV) and a nearly massless gravitino. The final state sports a distinctive signature of 4 b-quark jets compatible with a double Higgs decay kinematics. A slight excess of candidate events means the experiment cannot exclude a higgsino signal. Upper limits on the signal strength at the level of twice the theoretical prediction are set for higgsino masses between 350 and 450 GeV.

In several Supersymmetry scenarios, charginos can be metastable and could potentially be detected as a long-lived particle. CMS has presented an innovative search for generic long-lived charged particles by mapping their detection efficiency in function of the particle kinematics and energy loss in the tracking system. This study not only allows to set stringent limits for a variety of Supersymmetric models predicting chargino proper lifetime (c*tau) greater than 50cm, but also gives a powerful tool to the theory community to independently test new models foreseeing long lived charged particles.

In the quest to be as general as possible in the search for Supersymmetry, CMS has also presented new results where a large subset of the Supersymmetry parameters, such as the gluino and squark masses, are tested for their statistical compatibility with different experimental measurements. The outcome is a probability map in a 19-dimension space. Notable observations in this map are that models predicting gluino masses below 1.2 TeV and sbottom and stop masses below 700 GeV are strongly disfavoured.

… but no New Physics

Despite careful searches, the most heard phrase at Moriond was unquestionably: “No excess observed – consistent with the Standard Model”. Hope now lies with the next run of the LHC at 13 TeV. If you want to find out more about the possibilities of the LHC’s second run, check out the CERN Bulletin article: “Life is good at 13 TeV“.

In addition to the diverse LHC experiment results presented, Tevatron experiments, BICEP, RHIC and other experiments also reported their breaking news at Moriond. Visit the Moriond EW and Moriond QCD conference websites to find out more.

Katarina Anthony-Kittelsen


This Fermilab press release was published on February 24.

Matteo Cremonesi, left, of the University of Oxford and the CDF collaboration and Reinhard Schwienhorst of Michigan State University and the DZero collaboration present their joint discovery at a forum at Fermilab on Friday, Feb. 21. The two collaborations have observed the production of single top quarks in the s-channel, as seen in data collected from the Tevatron. Photo: Cindy Arnold

Matteo Cremonesi, left, of the University of Oxford and the CDF collaboration and Reinhard Schweinhorst of Michigan State University and the DZero collaboration present their joint discovery at a forum at Fermilab on Friday, Feb. 21. The two collaborations have observed the production of single top quarks in the s-channel, as seen in data collected from the Tevatron. Photo: Cindy Arnold

Scientists on the CDF and DZero experiments at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory have announced that they have found the final predicted way of creating a top quark, completing a picture of this particle nearly 20 years in the making.

The two collaborations jointly announced on Friday, Feb. 21, that they had observed one of the rarest methods of producing the elementary particle – creating a single top quark through the weak nuclear force, in what is called the s-channel. For this analysis, scientists from the CDF and DZero collaborations sifted through data from more than 500 trillion proton-antiproton collisions produced by the Tevatron from 2001 to 2011. They identified about 40 particle collisions in which the weak nuclear force produced single top quarks in conjunction with single bottom quarks.

Top quarks are the heaviest and among the most puzzling elementary particles. They weigh even more than the Higgs boson – as much as an atom of gold – and only two machines have ever produced them: Fermilab’s Tevatron and the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. There are several ways to produce them, as predicted by the theoretical framework known as the Standard Model, and the most common one was the first one discovered: a collision in which the strong nuclear force creates a pair consisting of a top quark and its antimatter cousin, the anti-top quark.

Collisions that produce a single top quark through the weak nuclear force are rarer, and the process scientists on the Tevatron experiments have just announced is the most challenging of these to detect. This method of producing single top quarks is among the rarest interactions allowed by the laws of physics. The detection of this process was one of the ultimate goals of the Tevatron, which for 25 years was the most powerful particle collider in the world.

“This is an important discovery that provides a valuable addition to the picture of the Standard Model universe,” said James Siegrist, DOE associate director of science for high energy physics. “It completes a portrait of one of the fundamental particles of our universe by showing us one of the rarest ways to create them.”

Searching for single top quarks is like looking for a needle in billions of haystacks. Only one in every 50 billion Tevatron collisions produced a single s-channel top quark, and the CDF and DZero collaborations only selected a small fraction of those to separate them from background, which is why the number of observed occurrences of this particular channel is so small. However, the statistical significance of the CDF and DZero data exceeds that required to claim a discovery.

“Kudos to the CDF and DZero collaborations for their work in discovering this process,” said Saul Gonzalez, program director for the National Science Foundation. “Researchers from around the world, including dozens of universities in the United States, contributed to this important find.”

The CDF and DZero experiments first observed particle collisions that created single top quarks through a different process of the weak nuclear force in 2009. This observation was later confirmed by scientists using the Large Hadron Collider.

Scientists from 27 countries collaborated on the Tevatron CDF and DZero experiments and continue to study the reams of data produced during the collider’s run, using ever more sophisticated techniques and computing methods.

“I’m pleased that the CDF and DZero collaborations have brought their study of the top quark full circle,” said Fermilab Director Nigel Lockyer. “The legacy of the Tevatron is indelible, and this discovery makes the breadth of that research even more remarkable.”

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.


Tweeting the Higgs

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Back in July two seminars took place that discussed searches for the Higgs boson at the Tevatron and the LHC. After nearly 50 years of waiting an announcement of a \(5\sigma\) signal, enough to claim discovery, was made and all of a sudden the twitter world went crazy. New Scientist presented an analysis of the tweets by Domenico et al. relating to the Higgs in their Short Sharp Scient article Twitter reveals how Higgs gossip reached fever pitch. I don’t want to repeat what is written in the article, so please take a few minutes to read it and watch the video featured in the article.

The distribution of tweets around the July 2nd and July 4th announcements (note the log scale)

The distribution of tweets around the July 2nd and July 4th announcements (note the log scale)

Instead of focusing on the impressive number of tweets and how many people were interested in the news I think it’s more useful for me as a blogger to focus on how this gossip was shared with the world. The Higgs discovery was certainly not the only exciting physics news to come out of 2012, and the main reason for this is the jargon that was used. People were already familiar with acronyms such as CERN and LHC. The name “Higgs” was easy to remember (for some reason many struggled with “boson”, calling it “bosun”, or worse) and, much to physicists’ chagrin, “God particle” made quite a few appearances too. It seems that the public awareness was primed and ready to receive the message. There were many fellow bloggers who chose to write live blogs and live tweet the event (I like to think that I started bit of a trend there, with the OPERA faster than light neutrinos result, but that’s probably just wishful thinking!) Following the experiences of December 2011, when the webcast failed to broadcast properly for many users had twitter on standby, with tweets already composed, hungry for numbers. The hashtags were decided in advance and after a little jostling for the top spot it was clear which ones were going to be the most popular. Despite all the preparation we still saw huge numbers of #comicsans tweets. Ah well, we can’t win them all!

The point is that while the world learned about the Higgs results I think it’s just as important that we (the physicists) learn about the world and how to communicate effectively. This time we got it right, and I’m glad to see that it got out of our control as well. Our tweets went out, some questions were asked and points clarified and the news spread. I’m not particularly fond of the phrase “God particle” , but I’m very happy that it made a huge impact, carrying the message further and reaching more people than the less sensational phrase “Higgs boson”. Everyone knows who God is, but who is Higgs? I think that this was a triumph in public communication, something we should be building on. Social media technologies are changing more quickly each year, so we need to keep up.

A map of retweets on July 4th, showing the global spread.

A map of retweets on July 4th, showing the global spread.

I’m glad to see more physicists using Twitter and youtube and other sites to spread the word because that’s where we can build audiences faster. (Incidentally if you want to see why we should be creating new audiences rather than addressing existing ones then see this video by Vihart.) It takes more work and it’s more experimental, but it’s worth the effort. Why did I make an advent calendar? Why tell physics jokes on Twitter? Just to see what works and what doesn’t. I’m not the first person to do these things, and I’m certainly not going to be the last. All I can hope to do is try new ideas out and give other people ideas. I don’t know the people I inspire and those I am inspired by, but that’s also part of the experiment. A lot of my ideas come from people who leave comments or send E-mails or tweets. Occasionally it gets heated and controversial, but if it’s not worth fighting for then it’s not worth saying in the first place. Many comments come from other bloggers too, and we can learn from each other. When I first started to blog someone sent me a few paragraphs of advice and I forgot most of it except one part “Ignore other people’s expectations. Some people will want you to always write about physics, some people will hate that. Write what matters to you.” When I combine that with what Vihart says (essentially “If your content is worth attention then people will pay attention to it.”) then rest is easy. Well, not easy, but less stressful.

But moving back to the main point, the Higgs tweets went global and viral because they were well prepared and the names were simple. Other news included things like the search for the \(B_s\) meson decaying to two muons and the limits that places on SUSY, but how does one make a hashtag for that? I would not want to put the hashtag #bs on my life’s work. It’s always more exciting to announce a discovery than an exclusion too. The measurement of \(\theta_{13}\) was just as exciting in my opinion, but that also suffered the same problem. How is the general public supposed to interpret a Greek character and two numbers? I should probably point out that this is all to do with finding the right jargon for the public, and not about the public’s capacity to understand abstract concepts (a capacity which is frequently underestimated.) Understanding how \(\theta_{13}\) fits in the PMNS mixing matrix is no more difficult than understanding the Higgs mechanism (in fact it’s easier!) It’s just that there’s no nice nomenclature to help spread the news, and that’s something that we need to fix as soon as possible.

As a side note, \(\theta_{13}\) is important because it tells us about how the neutrinos mix. Neutrino mixing is beyond the Standard Model physics, so we should be getting more excited about it! If \(\theta_{13}\) is non-zero then that means that we can put another term into the matrix and this fourth term is what gives us matter-antimatter asymmetry in the lepton sector, helping to explain why we still have matter hanging around in the universe, why we have solid things instead of just heat and light. Put like that is sounds more interesting and newsworthy, but that can’t be squeezed into a tweet, let alone a hashtag. It’s a shame that result didn’t get more attention.

It’s great fun and a fine challenge to be part of this whole process. We are co-creators, exploring the new media together. Nobody knows what will work in the near future, but we can look back what has already worked, and see how people passed on the news. Making news no longer stops once I hit “Publish”, it echoes around the world, through your tweets, and reblogs, and we can see its journey. If we’re lucky it gets passed on enough to go viral, and then it’s out of our control. It’s this kind of interactivity that it so rewarding and engaging.

You can read the New Scientist article or the original paper on the arXiV.

Thanks for reading!


The upcoming Higgs seminar could be the biggest announcement in particle physics for nearly 30 years. There have been several excellent blog posts and videos explaining what the Higgs is and what it does, so I’ll link to those at the bottom of the page. What I want to do here is give you the overview of what you really need to know to get the best from the talk.

Of course you should follow along with the liveblog as well!

What’s happening with the webcast?

CERN have put in a lot of resources for the webcast. General users can get to the webcast at http://cern.ch/webcast. If you have a CERN login you can use a second webcast at http://cern.ch/webcast/cern_users.

The webcast will start around 09:00 CST (that’s 00:00 US West Coast, 03:00 US East Coast, 08:00 UK, and 17:00 Melbourne.

What is the Higgs boson? What does it do?

The Higgs boson is part of the Standard Model of particle physics. The Standard Model includes the quarks and leptons (which make up all the matter see around us) and the photon, gluons, and \(W\) and \(Z\) boson (which carry all the forces in nature, except for gravity.) Three of these particles, the \(W^+\), \(W^-\) and \(Z\) bosons, have mass, but according to our framework of physics, they should not have mass, unless the Higgs boson exists. The Standard Model of physics predicts that the \(W\), \(Z\), photon and Higgs all come as a package and they are all related to each other. If we don’t see a Higgs boson, we don’t understand the world around us.

People say that the Higgs boson gives particles mass, but this isn’t quite what happens. The Higgs boson allows some particles to have mass. The Higgs boson does not explain the mass that comes from binding energies (for example, most of the mass of the proton) and it does not explain the mass associated with dark matter. If the Higgs boson is discovered it will complete the Standard Model of physics, but it will not complete our picture of the universe. There will still be many unanswered questions.

What would a discovery look like?

In order to claim a discovery an experiment would need to see a 5 sigma excess over the expected background. A sigma is a measure of uncertainty, and the chance of seeing a 5 sigma excess due to statistical fluctuations is about 1 in 3 million. If both experiments see an excess of 5 sigma in the same region the chances that this is due to a fluctuation is 1 in 9 million million!

The experiments produce “Brazil plots”, which show what they expect to see if there is no Higgs, and compare it to what they actually see. The green band shows 1 sigma deviations, the yellow bands show 2 sigma deviations, and then you have to use your imagination to see the remaining bands, and colors. When the green and yellow bands pass below the SM=1 line, and the central black line does too, then the Higgs is excluded in that region to 95% confidence. If the black line stays above the SM=1 line then we haven’t excluded the Higgs boson in that region yet. So when the green and yellow bands fall far below the SM=1 line, but the black line stays above or at the SM=1 line then we accumulate evidence for a Higgs boson.

How do we search for the Higgs boson?

The search for the Higgs boson depends on its mass. At high mass it can decay to heavy particles with clean signatures, so the high mass region was the first region to see an exclusion. At very high mass the width of the Higgs boson is large, so the events get spread out over a large range, so the searches take a little longer. At low mass the decays get very messy, so we have to pick our decay modes carefully. The cleanest modes are the two photon mode (often called gamma gamma), the ZZ* mode and the WW* mode. Of these three, the gamma gamma and ZZ* modes are the most sensitive, so we can expect to see these presented tomorrow.

The data are collected that the detectors and stored to disk, and the physicists spend their time analyzing the data. This is a slow process, full of potential pitfalls, so the internal review process is long and stringent. This is one of the reasons why we need two experiments, so that they can check each other’s findings. The experiments at Tevatron have already presented their results and they see an excess in the same region. This is vital because they are sensitive to different final states, so between the Tevatron and the LHC we have all the analyses covered.

For each analysis there are two kinds of background, the “reducible” backgrounds where particles fake the particles we are looking for (for example, a high energy electron can look just like a high energy photon) and the “irreducible” backgrounds where particles are the same kind as the ones we are looking for. So when you see plots showing the gamma gamma searches, you can expect to see four categories: gamma gamma (irreducible Standard Model background), jet gamma, jet jet, and “other”. As we make more and more stringent requirements to eliminate these backgrounds we also lose signal events, so we have trade off background rejection against signal acceptance.

On top of all these problems we also have to take reconstruction and acceptance into account. We cannot record every event, so we pick and choose events based on how interesting they look. Does an event have two high energy photon candidates? If so, record it. Does an event have four leptons in the signal state? If so, record it. These trigger decisions are affected by definitions of “high energy”, by the algorithms we use, and by the coverage of the detectors. We have to take all of these biases into account with systematic uncertainties, and these can dominate for some of the searches.

When we put all this together we end up asking some simple questions: “How many background events do we expect?” “How many events do we see in data?” “What is the total uncertainty on the background and signal?” “How many signal events do we think we see?” “How much larger is this than the uncertainty?” This then gives us the “n sigma” for that mode across the mass range. We combine these sigmas within a single experiment, taking correlated uncertainties into account, and that’s how we get our Brazil plots.

How likely is a discovery?

In 2011 we had about \(5fb^{-1}\) of luminosity and we saw about 3 sigma for each experiment. In 2012 we had about \(6.5fb^{-1}\) of luminosity at slightly higher energy (giving a factor of 1.25). So we can work out what to expect for 2012 sensitivity- just take the 3 sigma and add it in quadrature to \((\sqrt{1.25\times 6.5/5})\times 3\) sigma and that comes out at 4.9 sigma. If we’re lucky one or more experiments might see more than 5 sigma, meaning we could have a discovery!

What next for the Higgs?

If we make a discovery, either now or in the coming weeks, then we need to measure the properties of the new particle. We can’t claim to have discovered the Standard Model Higgs boson until we’ve measured its branching fractions and spin. Fortunately, if the Higgs boson is at 125GeV then we have a rich variety of decay modes, and this could give us insights into all kinds of interesting measurements, such as the quark masses.

Now go and enjoy the seminar!

Learn more about the Higgs

What comes next? (Richard Ruiz)

How difficult is it find the Higgs? (Richard Ruiz)

Why do we expect to find a Higgs boson? Part I Electroweak Symmetry Breaking (Flip Tanedo)

Why do we expect a Higgs boson? Part II Unitarization of Vector Boson Scattering (Flip Tanedo)

(Video) What is a Higgs boson? (Dom Lincoln)

(Video) Higgs boson – Latest update (Dom Lincoln)


Higgsdependence Day

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

On July 4th CERN will hold a seminar where ATLAS and CMS will present their latest findings on the search for the Higgs boson. There’s a reasonable chance that either or both experiments will see a 5 sigma excess, and this would be enough to claim a “discovery”. One of my US friends at CERN called this day Higgsdependence Day, and all over the USA people will be celebrating with fireworks and barbecues. (Okay, perhaps they will be celebrating something else. My boss tells me he might tar and feather me as the token British member of the group…)

CERN is not the only lab to be holding a seminar. Today at 09:00 CDT Fermilab will be announcing the latest results from CDF and D0. Rumors suggest a 3 sigma excess (technically an “observation”) in the interesting region. So if you can spare the time I’d recommend you listen in on the announcement. You can see the webcast information here.

In anticipation of the CERN seminar, when I came to my office this morning I found a bottle of champagne with a label hastily pasted to the back. It seems these might be placed alongside fire extinguishers in every office at CERN! (You can get your own label here.)

No Higgs seminar is complete without a bottle of Champagne, just in case!

No Higgs seminar is complete without a bottle of Champagne, just in case!

For those of us who can’t get enough of the Higgs boson and want to brush up on the basics I would recommend the following show, put out by the BBC. This contains the latest results from the 2011 searches and it goes into quite a bit of depth about why we think the Higgs boson exists and what to expect from the 2012 searches.

Finally for those keeping score I still have $20 riding on a non-discovery. If a 5 sigma excess is seen on Wednesday there is a bit more work that needs to be done to show that it is the Standard Model Higgs, and that would probably take until the end of 2012 running. So my $20 is safe… for now.


Auditioning for TED2013

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Editor’s note: Fermilab physicist Don Lincoln submitted an audition video to TED2013 on March 30. On May 22 he learned that he’d advanced to the next level of the audition process, and last Thursday, June 7, he gave his live audition in front of the TED leadership and insiders in New York City. He tells us how it went down.

Small. That was my first impression of the stage at Joe’s Pub in Greenwich Village in Manhattan. On the walls are photos of people who have performed here before, from Adele’s US debut in 2008, to Bono, to Dolly Parton, to Amy Winehouse. It was the kind of small and intimate nightclub that in another era would have had a jazz trio on the stage and been filled with stylishly dressed couples at small tables, with smoke languorously curling from their fashionable cigarettes. But, in 2012, the smoke was gone and the vibe was more bohemian, with casually dressed young twenty- and thirty-somethings assembled to watch a series of short and eclectic presentations. Following a global search for speakers, about 400 people have been invited to 14 locations around the world to audition for a coveted invitation to make a presentation at TED2013. The big TED conference has hosted newsmakers like Bill Gates and Richard Branson. This year, they have elected to build half of their program with “fresh faces.”

Well, I don’t know if my face really constitutes fresh, but here I am in New York City, one of 30 hopefuls, giving talks masterfully and wittily emceed by TED curator Chris Anderson, whose dry British humor adds a refining and cosmopolitan touch to each performer’s presentation. Each of us has between two and six minutes to make our pitch. Only about three or four of us will be going to Long Beach in February 2013. The subjects range widely, from the high school freshman who developed a test for pancreatic cancer while he was in the eighth grade to the young woman who battled depression by writing love letters to strangers and founded a movement of people who write letters to people they’ve never met to battle this increasingly lonely and isolated world. I’m the only one in the lot who does hard science. (I’m not sure the theoretical physicist and saxophonist who told how John Coltrane was his inspiration for an idea on quantum gravity counts. OK, I’m being catty. His science is good, but his talk was filled with lots of sax riffs. Come to think of it, his talk fit the venue very well.) I’ve elected to use my four minutes to tell the 200 or so people in the audience about how particle accelerators like the Tevatron and the LHC can recreate the conditions immediately after the Big Bang. I’m hoping that this will be a new idea for the audience and amaze them in the same way it amazed me when I first heard it. I don’t know. There are a lot of jaded New Yorkers in the audience, but they’re also ones who embrace new ideas. Are my ideas new enough for them?

The whole experience has been a little unsettling. While I’ve given many hundred public presentations in the past, this is the first where the organizers want to see the script and the multimedia before they’ll let me on the stage. It’s also the first where I needed to audition so I could audition. Each of us had to submit a video for evaluation before being invited to talk at the salon. While the TED people were cagey about the numbers, “many hundred” videos were submitted for the New York event and only thirty were invited. Not only did I have to audition to audition, I had to arrive a day early to rehearse in front of the organizers too. I didn’t have to jump through a hoop or juggle flaming chainsaws, but that could be next. In a way, the scrutiny is comforting, as TED performances have very high production quality, but it’s a lot to go through.

Now that the audition is over, the wait begins. In late June, videos of the 400 or so performances will be put online on the TED website and judged by the worldwide audience. The number of “likes” given to each video will be a factor in which 50 are selected to give an 18 minute-long presentation at TED2013. (In case that was too subtle, that is an invitation for you to tell all your friends, family, acquaintances, neighbors and random strangers to watch them and “like” mine. I’ll make another post when the links to the videos go live.)

Overall, it was a pretty cool experience. I got to meet some fascinating people, both the other speaker-candidates and the TED staff. It’s enjoyable talking with people who believe in the TED credo “Ideas worth spreading.”

Don Lincoln


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


A new year, a new outlook

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

2011 has been a year of change and excitement. We’ve had plenty of good news and bad news to deal with. The new year doesn’t mean just another calendar on the wall, it means a new way of looking at physics. There’s no better way to bring in the new year than watching the fireworks in central London, surrounded by friends. There’s usually a fantastic display, because London is not only one of the most important cities in the world, but it’s also home of universal time. With the Greenwich Meridian running through the capital, we’re reminded of the role that timekeeping has played in the development our history and our science. But this year was even more special, since London is literally inviting the world to its streets this year for the Olympics. So I got caught up in the excitement of it all my thoughts turned to what we’ve seen in the world of physics, and where we’re going next.

New year fireworks in London (New York Times)

New year fireworks in London (New York Times)

2011 got off to a start with ATLAS announcing a startling asymmetry in the jet momenta in heavy ion collisions. However, the joy was tainted by a leaked abstract from an internal document. That document never made it through internal review and should never have been made public. We were faced with several issues of confidentiality, ethics and biases, and how having several thousand people, all armed with the internet and with friends on competing experiments makes the work tough for all of us. In the end we followed the right course, subjected all the analyses to the rigors of internal and external review, and presented some wonderful papers.

There was more gossip over the CDF dijet anomaly presented at Blois. CDF saw a bump, and D0 didn’t. Before jumping to any conclusions it’s important to remember why we have two experiments at Tevatron in the first place! These kinds of double checks are exactly what we need and they represent the high standard of scientific research that we expect and demand. The big news for Tevatron was, of course, the end of running. We’re all sad that the shutdown had to happen and grateful for such a long, productive run, but lets look to the future in the intensity frontier.

Meanwhile both ATLAS and CMS closed in on the Higgs boson, excluding the vast majority of the allowed regions. The combinations and results just got better and better, until eventually on December 13th we saw the result of 5fb-1 from each experiment. The world watched as the presentations were made and quite a few people were left feeling a little deflated. But that’s not the message we should take away. If the Higgs boson is there (and it probably is) then we’ll see by the end of the year. There’s no more of saying “Probably within a year, if we’re lucky”, or “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves”. This time we can be confident that this time next year we’ll have uncovered every reasonable stone. The strategies will change and we narrow the search. We may have new energies to explore, and we’ll tweak our analyses to get more discriminating power from the data. Now is the time to get excited! The game has changed and the end is definitely in sight.

Raise a glass as we say farewell to a great year of physics, and welcome another

Raise a glass as we say farewell to a great year of physics, and welcome another

It’s been a good year for heavy flavor physics as well. LHCb has gone from strength to strength, probing deeper and deeper into the data. We’ve seen the first new particle at the LHC, a state of bottomonium. Precision measurements of heavy flavor physics give some of the most sensitive tests of new physics models, and it’s easy to forget the vital role they play in discover.

ALICE has been busy exploring different questions about our origins, and they’ve studied the quark gluon plasma in great detail. The findings have told us that the plasma acts like a fluid, while showing unexpected suppression of excited bottomonium states. With even more data from 2011 being crunched we can expect even more from ALICE in 2012.

The result that came completely out of left field was the faster than light neutrinos from OPERA. After seeing neutrinos break the cosmic speed limit, OPERA repeated the measurements with finer proton bursts and got the same result. Something interesting is definitely happening with that result. Either it’s a subtle mistake that has eluded all the OPERA physicists and their colleagues across the world, or our worldview is about to be overturned. I don’t think we’ll get the answers in the immediate future, so let’s keep an eye out for results from MINOS and OPERA.

Finally it’s been an incredible year for public involvement. It’s been a pleasure to have such a responsive audience and to see how many people all across the world have been watching CERN and the LHC. A couple of years ago I would not have thought that the LHC and Higgs boson would get so much attention, and it’s been a of huge benefit to everyone. The discoveries we share with the world are not only captivating us all, they’re also inspiring the next generation of physicists. We need a constant supply of fresh ideas and new students to keep the cutting edge research going. If we can reach out to teenagers in schools and inspire some of them to choose careers in science then we’ll continue to answer the most fascinating, far reaching and beautiful questions about our origins.

So when you a raise a glass to the new year, don’t forget that we’ve had an incredible 2011 for physics, and that 2012 is going to deliver even more. We don’t even know what’s out there, but it’s going to be amazing. To physics!