So You Want to Discover the Higgs Boson?

A talk at Chicon 7. Friday, August 31, 2012. This was one of the best science talks I have heard in my life.

So You Want to Discover the Higgs Boson?

The Large Hadron Collider in Geneva recently announced the
discovery of the Higgs Boson, the particle long theorized to give mass to matter. But how do physicists detect particles… and how do we know this one is the Higgs? Hear a Ph.D. physicist teach the basics of particle detector technology (no physics background required!) and answer your questions about the massive machines used to study the smallest stuff in nature.

Corry L. Lee

Dr. Lee referred us to Understanding the Higgs search for more information, at
a considerably higher level. She also recommended Quantum Diaries generally as a reference. Also see The Higgs FAQ 1.0

She gave some general background about the particles of the Standard Model. She used the Bag Model to explain why isolated quarks are never observed.

The Higgs Boson appears in these experiments as a virtual particle.

The Higgs has multiple decay modes, but some of those result in neutrinos, which are very hard to detect. So the experimental teams, ATLAS and CMS, looked at the modes that did not produce neutrinos.

<!– Everything must fit nicely together –>

She talked at length about the particle detectors.

The deflection of a charged particle in a magnetic field gives us its momentum. To get the energy calorimeters are used.

Given the momentum p and the energy E, the mass m can be calculated from Einstein’s equation:

E2 = m2c4 + p2c2

.

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