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2012 Archives

Search for the 'God' particle is approaching an important moment

July 2, 2012

The search for the so-called "God" particle is expected reach a milestone on July 4, when physicists from around the world gather to discuss the latest analysis of data gathered from experiments at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

SMU has been playing an significant role in the quest for an important particular particle within the atom known as the Higgs boson, or the "God" particle. Being able to accurately identify this particle could help round out the Standard Model - which seeks to explain how the universe works - or it could open up whole new fields of inquiry for physicists.

Following is more information about SMU's involvement, a link to live updates and an overview of CERN by an SMU physicist.

Live coverage and analysis

Ryszarde StroynowskiThe leader and principal investigator for SMU’s team of collider physicists is Ryszard Stroynowski, who plays a key role in hunting for the Higgs. Stephen Sekula, an assistant physics professor, and SMU postdoctoral fellow Aiden Randle-Conde, will blog live from CERN about the announcement beginning about 5 a.m. Wednesday. Their post-announcement analysis will begin about mid-day at

A Surge of Seminars; Spying Mount Higgs?

In the run-up to the announcement, Sekula blogs about the growing excitement and what it means:

Physics Professor Stephen SekulaOne of my colleagues jokingly referred to July 4 as “Higgsdependence Day.” Of course, the Americans in my circle of colleagues find it both fun and frustrating that the big CERN seminar (announcing the state of ATLAS and CMS searches for the Standard Model Higgs Boson)  is on July 4, but at a time of day in Europe that corresponds to VERY early morning in the U.S. (9am CEST, 2am US Central). That’s OK; obviously, with the International Conference on High-Energy Physics (ICHEP) being in Melbourne, Australia – a full 7 hours ahead of CERN – it is critical to have an event that is both convenient at CERN and at ICHEP so people at both places can participate in the seminar.

But wait! CERN announced a week ago the seminar on ATLAS and CMS Higgs searches, and now Fermilab in Batavia, IL has announced THEIR OWN seminar on their Higgs searches on July 2. Their seminar is currently titled, “CDF and DZero Higgs Results with the Full Tevatron Data Set.”

It’s worth reviewing a bit why all of this is so interesting. In December, 2011, ATLAS and CMS presented their first results in the search for the Standard Model Higgs Boson using a large data sample from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). These results were preliminary at the time, and they were followed by internally reviewed and approved papers that were soon-after published in leading journals in the field. . .

Read Professor Sekula's excellent explanation.

Fiber-optic data link is critical in the hunt

Optoelectronic DeviceA tiny optoelectronic module designed in part by SMU physicists plays a big role in the world’s largest physics experiment at CERN in Switzerland, where scientists are searching for the “God” particle.

The module, a fiber-optic transmitter, sends the Large Hadron Collider’s critical raw data from its ATLAS experiment to offsite computer farms. From there, thousands of physicists around the world access the data and analyze it for the long-sought-after particle, the Higgs boson.

Now as a result of SMU’s role on the LHC data link, SMU Physics Research Professor Annie Xiang has won a three-year research and development grant with $67,500 in support annually from the U.S. Department of Energy to advance the design of the optoelectronic module.

Read more about the module.

Meet some of the SMU ATLAS Group

Meet some of the SMU group who are CERN-side, including Tingting Cao (SMU graduate student); Renat Ishmukhatemov (newly minted SMU Ph.D., now at The Ohio State University); SMU post-doctoral scholar Aidan Randle-Conde; SMU Assistant Professor Stephen Sekula; and Julia Hoffman (now a post-doctoral scholar at Academia Sinica on the AMS-02 Experiment)

CERN anticipates what may be about to happen

atomic particlesCERN will hold a scientific seminar at 9:00 CEST on 4 July to deliver the latest update in the search for the Higgs boson. At this seminar, coming on the eve of this year’s major particle physics conference, ICHEP, in Melbourne, the ATLAS and CMS experiments will deliver the preliminary results of their 2012 data analysis.

“Data taking for ICHEP concluded on Monday 18 June after a very successful first period of LHC running in 2012,” said CERN’s Director for Accelerators and Technology, Steve Myers. “I’m very much looking forward to seeing what the data reveals.”

The 2012 LHC run schedule was designed to deliver the maximum possible quantity of data to the experiments before the ICHEP conference, and with more data delivered between April and June 2012 than in the whole 2011 run, the strategy has been a success. Furthermore, the experiments have been refining their analysis techniques to improve their efficiency in picking out Higgs-like events from the millions of collisions occurring every second. This means that their sensitivity to new phenomena has significantly increased for both years’ data sets. The crunching of all this data has been done by the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid, which has exceeded its design specifications to handle the unprecedented volume of data and computing.

“We now have more than double the data we had last year,” said CERN Director for Research and Computing, Sergio Bertolucci, “that should be enough to see whether the trends we were seeing in the 2011 data are still there, or whether they’ve gone away. It’s a very exciting time.”

Read the complete news release.

Learn more about CERN

This SMU video featuring Physics Professor Fred Olness was made in 2008.


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