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LHC Prepares Marathon Higgs Hunt 101

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the billion-dollar-gamble dept.
gbrumfiel writes "Physicists at the Large Hadron Collider are preparing to run the collider until the end of 2012 in the hopes of finding the Higgs particle, part of the mechanism that endows other particles with mass. The machine was originally supposed to stop in 2011 for a year long upgrade, but scientists now think they can find the Higgs if they run for longer. 'If we stop the machine with 3,000 people apiece in the experiments waiting for data, there is no way we could get home at night without having slashed tyres on our cars,' says Sergio Bertolucci, CERN's director for research and computing."
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LHC Prepares Marathon Higgs Hunt

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  • They say (Score:1, Funny)

    by binarylarry (1338699)

    A higgs boson tastes like chicken, but you never know until you try it!

  • by GrumblyStuff (870046) on Monday December 13, 2010 @12:10PM (#34534928)

    That's so mean.

  • by Sockatume (732728) on Monday December 13, 2010 @12:11PM (#34534958)

    "If we stop the machine with 3,000 people apiece in the experiments"

    Woah woah woah, I think someone got confused about what they're meant to be colliding here. I don't think smashing grad students is the answer.

  • Not paining a very good picture of their community there, is he? Also, did anyone else read his name as "Silvio Berlusconi?" Seems like a misspelled version, or something...
    • by Suki I (1546431)
      Perhaps to distinguish themselves from the European car burning communities?
    • Not paining a very good picture of their community there, is he?

      Work on your humor detector. Ask Penny for help.

      Also, did anyone else read his name as "Silvio Berlusconi?" Seems like a misspelled version, or something...

      Not if you're Italian or speak Italian. But it's always like that, if you're not familiar with some class of objects, it's difficult to tell apart the sub-classes (as in "for Asians all Europeans look alike" and vice versa).

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by martas (1439879)

        Not paining a very good picture of their community there, is he?

        Work on your humor detector. Ask Penny for help.

        Right back at ya. That was a joke.

        Also, did anyone else read his name as "Silvio Berlusconi?" Seems like a misspelled version, or something...

        Not if you're Italian or speak Italian. But it's always like that, if you're not familiar with some class of objects, it's difficult to tell apart the sub-classes (as in "for Asians all Europeans look alike" and vice versa).

        I happen to speak Italian, and I grew up watching Italian TV. So yeah, take your haughty tone and get off my lawn.

        • lol well then my humor detector needs to be adjusted.. but if you're reading Sergio Bertolucci as Silvio Berlusconi, you're watching too much Italian TV ;)
          • by martas (1439879)

            lol well then my humor detector needs to be adjusted.. but if you're reading Sergio Bertolucci as Silvio Berlusconi, you're watching too much Italian TV ;)

            Heh, well, the guy has kind of monopolized Italy's image worldwide...

    • by boristdog (133725)

      You know those particle physicists. You break their toroidal apparatus, they will break yours.

    • by DMiax (915735)

      Not paining a very good picture of their community there, is he?

      Is it so bad that people want to work?

  • ...until 12-12-12 to be exact, and then the LHC will create a black hole in which we will disappear and end up halfway across the universe in an undisclosed location.
  • After 2012 (Score:5, Funny)

    by doublee3 (1276070) on Monday December 13, 2010 @12:18PM (#34535064)
    "Physicists at the Large Hadron Collider are preparing to run the collider until the end of 2012" Thanks captain obvious. I'm not a moron, I know they won't be running it AFTER the world ends.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Not saying it does or doesn't, but at what point would they would decide to quit searching it for it?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by maxwell demon (590494)

      Not saying it does or doesn't, but at what point would they would decide to quit searching it for it?

      Probably at the point at which they traced, with sufficient statistics, the whole energy range where the Higgs may be found, and didn't find a trace of it.

      • by Maritz (1829006) on Monday December 13, 2010 @01:18PM (#34535748)

        I'm sure some physicists will be actually quite disappointed by finding the Higgs. Although it seems to be required in order for the standard model to be a success, it would actually be quite exciting if it isn't found as it means a whole different paradigm for mass is at work in the real universe. I believe for example I've seen Brian Cox say that he would be more excited by a lack of a Higgs than by finding it, although the politicians who fund these things might not be too happy I suppose.

        The main reason that there is a broad consensus that the Higgs exists is simply that nobody seems able to think of a simpler mechanism through which mass might work.

        • by Steve Max (1235710) on Monday December 13, 2010 @01:57PM (#34536096) Journal
          Actually, we'd love to see the Higgs, and something else. Other Higgs-like particles, supersymmetric particles, Kaluza-Klein modes, anything else. This would confirm that the standard model is a good approximation for the energy ranges where we're using it, and that there is something beyond that. Not finding the Higgs would be interesting too, because we'd have to rethink almost everything we know.

          The worst-case scenario is finding the Higgs and nothing else. Then we'd be out of jobs.

          • by Luyseyal (3154)

            Not interested in neutrinos [umich.edu], I take it?

            -l

            • by Steve Max (1235710) on Monday December 13, 2010 @04:41PM (#34538652) Journal
              Actually, I work with neutrinos. The latest MiniBooNE/MINOS results are really, really weird; I'd hold any conclusions for now, because they have very little statistics for the antineutrino runs (and some lack of knowledge of the primary proton beans). Some say the next MINOS analysis is already on its way and will be very surprising, but we'll see.

              The main problem is that those experiments suggest that CPT symmetry is broken (or, in non-technical terms, that a reaction with antimatter isn't the same as the same reaction with matter with the opposite charge, time reversed and seen in the mirror). CPT symmetry can be shown to be equivalent to Poincaré invariance [wikipedia.org], which means that these results challenge not only the standard model, but special relativity itself [cdsweb.cern.ch]. Such an extraordinary claim needs really extraordinary evidence, so let's wait for more statistics for now.

              • How is it working with neutrinos? I heard they were moody and hard to communicate with, given to hiding in their offices and ignoring everything in their path especially when they travel. I suppose the key to successful management would be to figure out what they are good at, and assign those jobs to them.

              • by Luyseyal (3154)

                That's pretty interesting. I wasn't aware the statistics were in doubt at this point.

                Also, if you wouldn't mind emailing me, I have a couple of questions about the PhD physics world.

                -l

        • it would actually be quite exciting if it isn't found as it means a whole different paradigm for mass is at work

          That's correct but if it is not found by the end of 2012 that does not mean that the Higgs is ruled out. The 2012 run is to see the Higgs if it is at the low end of its allowed mass range which is where all the data so far suggest it is. However to rule it out we need to run the machine at its full energy and for longer to cover a Higgs with a mass of up to ~1TeV/c2 which is the maximum possible value. After this the Standard Model sans Higgs predicts probabilities of certain processes occurring in at over

    • DO NOT QUESTION THE STANDARD MODEL!

      It's worse than taunting the happy fun ball [wikipedia.org].
    • by grimJester (890090) on Monday December 13, 2010 @01:04PM (#34535582)
      A few years, maybe 3-5, should be enough to rule out the Higgs over the entire range of masses it could have. From what I gather, since the percentages of some processes no longer add up to 100 at LHC energies, something has to be there. It's theoretically possible this something could be heavy enough and hard enough to see that the LHC wouldn't find it, but no actual models predict anything that would be invisible at the LHC.
  • "Physicists at the Large Hadron Collider [CC] are preparing to run the collider until the end of 2012

    More proof the Mayans are right!

    • Ah, I understand now. They didn't predict the end of the world, but the end of the search for the Higgs particle!

      • No no no no no.

        You've got it all wrong. Higgs Boson is the harbinger of death! It is what gives mass to particles and thus, creates the black hole (mass singularity) of DOOM! DOOOOOM I say, DOOOOOOOOOM!

  • by srussia (884021) on Monday December 13, 2010 @12:31PM (#34535226)
    "Physicists at the Large Hadron Collider [CC] are preparing to run the collider until the end, in 2012.
  • "No Higgs So Far..."

    "Repeat the experiment!"

    "Okay... there. Nothing.

    "Repeat the experiment!"

    "Okay... Still nothing.

    "Do it for a year!"

    "Okay..."
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yes, that's right, because looking for the Higgs is not like looking for your keys in the drawer, but like looking for a "shooting star". You can say "Oh, my keys are not in the drawer, I looked twice", but you can't say "Oh there are not shooting stars (well, meteorites to be precise), I looked at the sky twice". In particle colliders you get bazillions of events, you register a tiny fraction of them and by analyzing a fraction of the ones you registered you try to build the big picture, so the more exper

      • "Yes, that's right, because looking for the Higgs is not like looking for your keys in the drawer, but like looking for a "shooting star". You can say "Oh, my keys are not in the drawer, I looked twice", but you can't say "Oh there are not shooting stars (well, meteorites to be precise), I looked at the sky twice". In particle colliders you get bazillions of events, you register a tiny fraction of them and by analyzing a fraction of the ones you registered you try to build the big picture, so the more exper
    • It's only crazy if you keep getting the same results. Oh ... wait.
    • by jfengel (409917)

      Unfortunately, that's kinda the way it works. They're trying to find something with a very low probability of happening. You can't pronounce the pond devoid of fish just by dropping your hook in a few times. Even the most optimistic predictions for the Higgs expect it to send a clear signal only one time in a gazillion.

      They may well have already detected Higgs events, but the signal will be just barely louder than noise. The only way to tell is to listen longer.

  • December 21.

    The sudden shut-down will lead to the spontaneous formation of a stable strangelet and, well, you know the rest.

  • They don't have a good track record so far at predicting the LHC uptime. They may get that 2011 outage after all.

  • Winky: Which subatomic particles do you hope to find with your particle accelerator? Leptons? Hadrons? Maybe the particle believed to cause mass: the Higgs Boson?

    Dr. Mel: Nope. I'm after the particles that are believed to cause stupidity: MORONS.

    Dr. Mel: Slamming reality-show contestants together at light-speed should produce a few of them.

    Winky: The "Cold Particle".

  • by Rich0 (548339) on Monday December 13, 2010 @01:46PM (#34535994) Homepage

    The article stated that a big driver for continuing the search at current energies is that Fermilab is right on their heels and might find the Higgs first if they take a break for a year.

    As I see it, the Higgs could fit into one of two energy ranges:

    1. A range that the limited LHC and Fermilab can both probe now, with the LHC having some advantage.
    2. A range that only the full LHC can reach.

    If it falls into the latter, then nobody is discovering the Higgs for a few years until they get the LHC in gear. If it falls into #1, does it REALLY matter that much who finds it first?

    If what we care about is the accumulation of knowledge then we should cooperate and not compete here. Retask the LHC for higher energies, and have Fermilab continue to explore the lower-energy space. This way we find the Higgs more quickly as we have two non-redundant operations working on the problem, rather than having one be completely redundant.

    Also, who knows what other interesting physics we'll find at the higher LHC design energies, that we're just pushing off for years sticking where we are at now?

    Can't the lead authors on the competing 1000-author papers maybe agree to pool their efforts, and settle for first and last on a 2000-author paper instead? :) Then we poor taxpayers footing the bill can at least feel like we're all getting SOMETHING for our money...

    • If what we care about is the accumulation of knowledge then we should cooperate and not compete here. Retask the LHC for higher energies, and have Fermilab continue to explore the lower-energy space. This way we find the Higgs more quickly as we have two non-redundant operations working on the problem, rather than having one be completely redundant.

      Well, so much for the theory. In practice, scientists are humans as well.

    • by instagib (879544)

      Insight. Logic. Sanity. Common sense. Your message is full of these things, and therefore not appropriate for the decision process of the management.

    • by grimJester (890090) on Monday December 13, 2010 @02:20PM (#34536338)

      As I see it, the Higgs could fit into one of two energy ranges:

      1. A range that the limited LHC and Fermilab can both probe now, with the LHC having some advantage.
      2. A range that only the full LHC can reach.

      If it falls into the latter, then nobody is discovering the Higgs for a few years until they get the LHC in gear. If it falls into #1, does it REALLY matter that much who finds it first?

      Currently excluded [wikimedia.org]

      Tevatron sensitivity, slide 18 [indico.cern.ch]

      Only the 180 - maybe 190 GeV range is allowed but outside the Tevatron's reach energy-wise. The LHC and Tevatron aren't redundant, though. Any signal seen by both can be combined for more certainty.

      Upgrading the LHC from 7 to 14 TeV doesn't really help find the Higgs.

      Also, who knows what other interesting physics we'll find at the higher LHC design energies, that we're just pushing off for years sticking where we are at now?

      I don't know what the odds of not seeing SUSY at 7 TeV but seeing it at 14 are, but I don't think they're that great. If SUSY exists at the electroweak scale, at least some of the particles should be seen at 7 TeV. OTOH, colliding at 14 TeV should make it easier (faster) to see new particles, even if they are around 1 TeV. Dunno what the arguments for and against running a year more before the upgrade have really been.

    • by blair1q (305137)

      does it REALLY matter that much who finds it first?

      Ever spent $8 billion on a gamble?

      Ever justified $8 billion in spending by saying that no existing equipment can hope to accomplish it?

      If Fermi finds it first, CERN is fucked. They won't get funding for a profitable plan to discover God.

    • The article stated that a big driver for continuing the search at current energies is that Fermilab is right on their heels and might find the Higgs first if they take a break for a year.

      Fermilab has been constantly at the mercies of federal funding games [wikipedia.org]. Without the 'isn't that pretty?' aspect that NASA can sometimes generate, they receive even less respect. And without a spread of suppliers like the military and NASA has, the support in Congress can be weak at the best of times. Add in the Flat-Earther

      • by gtall (79522)

        The biggest irritant I find in the Tea Twits is that they have no idea about what it takes to produce research at the federal level and somehow think, along with Business School Product, that new science is magically produced by elves just so they can take advantage of it and pad their retirement accounts. The whole idea of even doing science for the sake of new knowledge appears foreign to them.

        But then there is a certain segment of engineers who never believe something has any worth unless they can build

    • by radtea (464814)

      does it REALLY matter that much who finds it first?

      To whom?

      Humans are fundamentally driven by mate competition. It's the only thing that really gets us out of bed in the morning. Science and art are great examples of how to turn that basic drive to something creative and useful, as opposed to the destructive and stupid uses it is often put to, like politics and war.

      To the humans actually involved in the search, it matters a great deal who's first, and expecting them to dedicate their lives to the discovery without that added impetus is asking for humans t

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        So, the first half of your discussion is a great explanation of why the guys running those projects don't want to cooperate. It has nothing to do with why those of us paying the bill shouldn't force them to do so anyway.

        The second half of your post was about the benefits of redundancy, and I'll agree with those. However, any discovery made by Fermilab certainly would be confirmed or refuted by the LHC once it is running again. I'm sure they'll get around to it before they give out the Nobel prizes, unles

        • by Urkki (668283) on Monday December 13, 2010 @07:53PM (#34541102)

          So, the first half of your discussion is a great explanation of why the guys running those projects don't want to cooperate. It has nothing to do with why those of us paying the bill shouldn't force them to do so anyway.

          If the past century of the so called communist countries has taught us anything, it's that real people don't work that way. Results of forced co-operation can't match results of real competition, even if co-operation theoretically has twice the resources. There are things you just can't force.

          Not to mention, work is shared, by sharing the results. Established results of others may be verified, but they're not done "from the scratch". Instead new research is done based on previous shared results of everybody.

    • If you look at the latest data from Fermilab then, unless they can radically improve their analysis technique and barring an LHC disaster, they are unlikely to get enough data to see the Higgs before the LHC. Their current data agrees well with background with well over half their dataset analyzed. Typically if you start to see signs of a signal this first appears as an excess of background events because you are seeing some signal but not enough to say that it is different from the background. Of course a
  • Bertolucci says that there are also political reasons to extend the run. The world's second most powerful accelerator, the Tevatron at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois, is nipping at the LHC's heels, and if it continues to run, might beat the larger accelerator to the Higgs.

    That says all you need to know. And FNAL data seem to point to a lighter higgs, not the heavier which is easier for LHC to find quickly. They need time to accumulate data and the orginal timeline might not have been good enough for a light higgs.

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