It goes up to 8

The Large Hadron Collider Main Control Room (panoramic view from a conference room above the control room)

The Large Hadron Collider Main Control Room (panoramic view from a conference room above the control room)

Thanks to the kindness of my co-professor for CFB/PHY 3333, I was able to travel to CERN this week to concentrate on physics analysis for a solid week. After two weeks of grading mid-term papers, this week had a very different feel. I was able to really focus and immerse myself in the physics projects that SMU is presently involved in – the hunt for the Higgs boson.

ATLAS sees first collisions at 8 TeV (photo by the ATLAS Collaboration, available from Ref. 1)

This was also an excited week at CERN; the Large Hadron Collider achieved proton-proton collisions at an UNPRECEDENTED energy of 8 trillion electron-Volts. The plan this year is to run at this higher energy than we ran in 2011 and increase the quantum probability of producing the Higgs boson. More energy means more quantum probability for making the Higgs. Of course, you don’t get something for nothing; raising the energy has all sorts of consequences for ATLAS: new simulation samples are needed to prime our analysis machinery; the online groups focused on making the detector work at 100% capability are scrambling to get everything working in time for the first data in just over a week. Being busy during the semester with teaching and research means that you don’t get to see the tired faces of your thousands of hard-working colleagues devoted full time to making sure this experiment gets under way. To them, we are all indebted.

A sketch on the office blackboard turns into a first step in the search for a heavy partner of the Standard Model Higgs Boson.

With just a week of time here are CERN, I was only able to accomplish a little. Mostly, I tried to help out our post-docs and students at CERN wherever I could. I also took the time to advance one of my own projects a little; having nothing but all of my time to devote to research is a rare gift these days. For me, it started with some scribbling on the blackboard; it ended with a framework for a new analysis, looking for a very high-mass partner of the Standard Model Higgs Boson, and some advancements in the ability to reject “fake signal,” known as “background.” Not bad for a week.

I’m looking forward to being back here during the summer.

Ref. 1:!/ATLASexperiment/status/185761288893370368/photo/1

About Stephen Sekula

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