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Matthew Tamsett | USLHC | USA

View Blog | Read Bio

Jet spotting

Every week I try to take a few hours to study something different. The idea being that this will give me a broader sense of what’s going on within the ATLAS collaboration and the world of particle physics at large. Last week I was mostly watching Gavin Salam’s superb lectures on jets. They’re available as videos from here.

So what is a jet? It’s certainly nothing to do with aeroplanes. Jets are what we observe at ATLAS when a highly energetic quark or a gluon (collectively referred to here as partons) is produced in a collision.

I won’t take the time to explain the physics behind a jet and how they come into being. Those interested can see Flip’s excellent post. In essence, instead of the individual partons, what we see in the detector is a spray of collimated particles. This is what we refer to as a “jet”.

At hadron colliders, such as the LHC, jets are everywhere. In fact the vast majority of interactions at a hadron collider will result in the creation of multiple jets. They are our window on partons and on to the strong force itself.

Being so ubiquitous it’s important that we’re able to reliably identify these within our detector. Unfortunately this isn’t always such an easy task. The event display below illustrates a typical jet event. How many jets do you see?

 


 

Here is ATLAS’s answer.

 


 

In this case the jets have helpfully been colour coded. In real life, this doesn’t happen.

As you can tell the definition of a jet can be somewhat ambiguous. At ATLAS the trigger system has to quickly identify thousands of jets a second in order to pick out the interesting events to record. Identifying such a large number of jets is no easy feat.

To solve this problem we use jet algorithms. These are pieces of software which define jets based on what we see in the detector. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from “simple” versions where a jet is defined as all the particles inside a cone, to more advanced versions which sequentially combine together individual particles based on their separation and energy.

Different algorithms have different strengths and weaknesses. Cone based jets are relatively simple and provide nice, round jets. Unfortunately though, the jets they identify can easily be altered by changes within the jet itself, or by small amounts of energy coming from unrelated collisions. This makes them very hard to compare to the predictions from theory. More complicated algorithms such as the “kT” algorithm remove these ambiguities, but often result in “ugly” irregularly shaped jets.

The current vogue algorithm both at CMS and ATLAS is the so called “anti-kT” algorithm. This starts from the most energetic single particles and sequentially combines them with everything nearby, stopping at some pre-defined distance. This algorithm results in the identification of nice, round jets, and does this consistently regardless of the small amounts of additional energy or the structure of the jets themselves.

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