First Time Visitor?This site addresses various aspects of science, with a current focus on particle physics. I aim to serve the public, including those with no background knowledge of physics. If you're not yourself an expert, you might want to click on "New? Start Here" or "About" to get started. If you'd like to watch my hour-long public lecture about the Higgs particle, try ``Movie Clips''.
- Why did so few people see Auroras on Friday night?
- Auroras — Quantum Physics in the Sky — Tonight?
- Will the Higgs Boson Destroy the Universe???
- Be Careful Waking Up a Sleeping Blog
- BICEP2’s Cosmic Polarization: Published, Reduced in Strength
- Some Higgs News from the LHCP Conference
- The BICEP2 Dust-Up Continues
- A Bright Flash in the Neighborhood
Tag Archives: atlas
I have to admit that this post is really only important for experimentalists interested in searching for non-Standard Model decays of the Higgs particle. I try to keep these technical posts very rare, but this time I do need to slightly amend a technical point that I made in an article a few weeks ago. Continue reading
During the gap between the first run of the Large Hadron Collider [LHC], which ended in 2012 and included the discovery of the Higgs particle (and the exclusion of quite a few other things), and its second run, which starts a year from now, there’s been a lot of talk about the future direction for particle physics. By far the most prominent option, both in China and in Europe, involves the long-term possibility of a (roughly) 100 TeV proton-proton collider — that is, a particle accelerator like the LHC, but with 5 to 15 times more energy per collision.
Do we need such a machine? Continue reading
Today I’m continuing with my series, begun last Tuesday (click here for more details on the project), on the possibility that the Higgs particle discovered 18 months ago might decay in unexpected ways.
I’ve finished an article describing how we can, with current and with future Large Hadron Collider [LHC] data, look for a Higgs particle decaying to two new spin one particles, somewhat similar to the Z particle, but with smaller mass and much weaker interactions with ordinary matter. [For decays to spin zero particles, click here.] Just using existing published plots on LHC events with two lepton/anti-lepton pairs, my colleagues and I, in our recent paper, were able to put strong limits on this scenario: for certain masses, decays to the new particles can occur in at most one in a few thousand Higgs particles. The ATLAS and CMS experiments could certainly do better, perhaps even to the point of making a discovery with existing data, if this process is occurring in nature.
You might wonder how particle physicists could have missed a particle with a mass lower than that of the Z particle; wouldn’t we already have observed it? A clue as to how this can occur: it took much longer to discover the muon neutrino than the muon, even though the neutrino has a much lower mass. Similarly, it took much longer to discover the Higgs particle than the top quark, even though the Higgs has a lower mass. Why did this happen?
It happened because muon neutrinos interact much more weakly with ordinary matter than do muons, and are therefore much harder to produce, measure and study than are muons. Something similar is true of the Higgs particle compared to the top quark; although the top quark is nearly 50% heavier than the Higgs, the Large Hadron Collider [LHC] produces 20 times as many top quarks and anti-quarks as Higgs particles, and the signature of a top quark is usually more distinctive. So new low-mass particles to which the Higgs particle can perhaps decay could easily have been missed, if they interact much more weakly with ordinary matter than do the Z particle, top quark, bottom quark, muon, etc.
The muon neutrino was discovered not because these neutrinos were directly produced in collisions of ordinary matter but rather because muons were first produced, and these then decayed to muon neutrinos (plus an electron and an electron anti-neutrino). Similarly, new particles may be discovered not because we produce them directly in ordinary matter collisions, but because, as in the above figure, we first produce a Higgs particle in proton-proton collisions at the LHC, and the Higgs may then in turn decay to them.
I should emphasize that direct searches for these types of new particles are taking place, using both old and new data from a variety of particle physics machines (here’s one example.) But it is often the case that these direct searches are not powerful enough to find the new particles, at least not soon, and therefore they may first show up in unexpected exotic decays of the Higgs… especially since the LHC has already produced a million Higgs particles, most of them at the ATLAS and CMS experiments, with a smaller fraction at LHCb.
I hope that some ATLAS and CMS experimenters are looking for this signal… and that we’ll hear results at the upcoming Moriond conference.
As I explained on Tuesday, I’m currently writing articles for this website that summarize the results of a study, on which I’m one of thirteen co-authors, of various types of decays that the newly-discovered Higgs particle might exhibit, with a focus on measurements that could be done now with 2011-2012 Large Hadron Collider [LHC] data, or very soon with 2015-2018 data. See Tuesday’s post for an explanation of what this is all about.
On Tuesday I told you I’d created a page summarizing what we know about possible Higgs decays to two new spin-zero particles, which in turn decay to quark pairs or lepton pairs according to our general expectation that heavier particles are preferred in spin-zero-particle decays. A number of theories (including models with more Higgs particles, certain non-minimal supersymmetric models, some Little Higgs models, and various dark matter models) predict this possibility.
Today I’ve added to that page (starting below figure 4) to include possible Higgs decays to two new spin-zero particles which in turn decay to gluon or photon pairs, according to our general expectation that, if the new spin-zero particles don’t interact very strongly with quarks or leptons, then they will typically decay to the force particles, with a rate roughly related to the strengths of the corresponding forces. While fewer known theories directly predict this possibility compared to the one in the previous paragraph, the ease of looking for Higgs particles decaying to four photons motivates an attempt to do so in current data.
I have a few other classes of Higgs particle exotic decays to cover, so more articles on this subject will follow shortly!
A few weeks ago, I reported on the completion of a large project, with which I’ve been personally involved, to investigate how particle physicists at the Large Hadron Collider [LHC] could be searching, not only in the future but even right now, for possible “Exotic Decays” of the newly-discovered Higgs particle .
By the term “exotic decays” (also called “non-Standard-Model [non-SM] Decays”), we mean “decays of this particle that are not expected to occur unless there’s something missing from the Standard Model (the set of equations we use to describe the known elementary particles and forces and the simplest possible type of Higgs field and its particle).” I’ve written extensively on this website about this possibility (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here), though mostly in general terms. In our recent paper on Exotic Decays, we have gone into nitty-gritty detail… the sort of detail only an expert could love. This week I’m splitting the difference, providing a detailed and semi-technical overview of the results of our work. This includes organized lists of some of the decays we’re most likely to run across, and suggestions regarding the ones most promising to look for (which aren’t always the most common ones.)
Before I begin, let me again mention the twelve young physicists who were co-authors on this work, all of whom are pre-tenure and several of whom are still not professors yet. [ When New Scientist reported on our work, they unfortunately didn't even mention, much less list, my co-authors.] They are (in alphabetical order): David Curtin, Rouven Essig, Stefania Gori, Prerit Jaiswal, Andrey Katz, Tao Liu, Zhen Liu, David McKeen, Jessie Shelton, Ze’ev Surujon, Brock Tweedie, and Yi-Ming Zhong. Continue reading
After many months gestation and a difficult labor, a behemoth is born! Yes, it’s done, finally: our 200 page tome entitled “Exotic Decays of the 125 GeV Higgs Boson“. Written by thirteen hard-working theoretical particle physicists, this is a paper that examines a wide class of possible decays that our newly found Higgs particle might exhibit, but that would not occur if the Standard Model of particle physics (the equations we use to describe the known elementary particles and forces plus the simplest possible type of Higgs particle) were all there was to see at the Large Hadron Collider [LHC], the giant proton-proton collider outside of Geneva, Switzerland.
[Non-experts; sorry, but this paper was written for experts, and probably has a minimum of two words of jargon per sentence. I promise you a summary soon.]
Why is looking for unusual and unexpected decays of the Higgs particle so important? [I've written about the possibility of these "exotic" decays before on this website (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here).] Because Higgs particles are sensitive creatures, easily altered, possibly in subtle ways, by interactions with new types of particles that we wouldn’t yet know about from the LHC or our other experiments. (This sensitivity of the Higgs was noted as far back to the early 1980s, though its generality was perhaps only emphasized in the last decade.) The Higgs particle is very interesting not only on its own, for what it might reveal about the Higgs field (on which our very existence depends), but also as a potential opportunity for the discovery of currently unknown, lightweight particles, to which it might decay. Such particles might be the keys to unlocking secrets of nature, such as what dark matter is, or maybe even (extreme speculation alert) the naturalness puzzle — very roughly, the puzzle of why the mass of the Higgs particle can be so small compared to the masses of the smallest possible black holes.
The goal of our paper, which is extensive in its coverage (though still not comprehensive — this is a very big subject) is to help our experimental colleagues at ATLAS and CMS, the general purpose experiments at the LHC, decide what to search for in their current (2011-2012) and future (2015-) data, and perhaps assist in their decisions on triggering strategies for the data collecting run that will begin in 2015. (Sorry, LHCb folks, we haven’t yet looked at decays where you’d have an advantage.) And we hope it will guide theorists too, by highlighting important unanswered questions about how to look for certain types of exotic decays. Of course the paper has to go through peer review before it is published, but we hope it will be useful to our colleagues immediately. Time is short; 2015 is not very far away.
Although our paper contains some review of the literature, a number of its results are entirely new. I’ll tell you more about them after I’ve recovered, and probably after most people are back from break in January. (Maybe for now, as a teaser, I’ll just say that one of the strongest limits we obtained, as an estimate based on reinterpreting published ATLAS and CMS data, is that no more than a few × 10-4 of Higgs particles decay to a pair of neutral spin-one particles with mass in the 20 – 62 GeV/c2 range… and the experimentalists themselves, by re-analyzing their data, could surely do better than we did!) But for the moment, I’d simply like to encourage my fellow experts, both from the theory side and the experimental side, to take a look… comments are welcome.
Finally, I’d like to congratulate and thank my young colleagues, all of whom are pre-tenure and several of whom are still not professors yet, on their excellent work… it has been a pleasure to collaborate with them. They led the way, not me. They are (in alphabetical order): David Curtin, Rouven Essig, Stefania Gori, Prerit Jaiswal, Andrey Katz, Tao Liu, Zhen Liu, David McKeen, Jessie Shelton, Ze’ev Surujon, Brock Tweedie, and Yi-Ming Zhong. They hail from around the world, but they’ve worked together like family… a great example of how our international effort to understand nature’s deep mysteries brings unity of purpose from a diversity of origins.
It’s been quite a while (for good reason, as you’ll see) since I gave you a status update on the search for supersymmetry, one of several speculative ideas for what might lie beyond the known particles and forces. Specifically, supersymmetry is one option (the most popular and most reviled, perhaps, but hardly the only one) for what might resolve the so-called “naturalness” puzzle, closely related to the “hierarchy problem” — Why is gravity so vastly weaker than the other forces? Why is the Higgs particle‘s mass so small compared to the mass of the lightest possible black hole?