Going all out for Higgs

Going all out for Higgs


Y Bala Murali Krishna meets eminent physicist John Ellis who says scientists may decide on using seven terra electron volts (TeV) this year and later eight TeV followed by 13 or 14 TeV so that the prospects of finding the elusive Higgs particle are better.

Man of science: Prof John Ellis“We are on the right track and making all efforts despite initial hiccups. This time, we plan to trigger higher energy levels and one day, we’ll say Eureka,” says eminent astrophysicist Prof. John Ellis (UK), associated with the high-end particle physics research on the much-hyped Higgs boson, popularly known as the God particle that binds the universe together.

Ellis is among the top 300 astrophysicists, half of them from abroad, who participated in the week-long VII international conference on gravitation and cosmology organised at South Goa in December.

Those from abroad include promising young Indian scientists and researchers. The conclave was held under the aegis of the International Centre for Theoretical Sciences (ICTS) under the prestigious Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai. Ellis’ presentation was among the most interesting ones in the conclave. The professor of physics at the famous King’s College, London, is considered one of the world’s most respected particle physicists, and has more than a 1,000 research papers to his credit.

He has been closely involved with the theoretical aspects of the Geneva-based Large Hadron Collider (LHC) project of CERN, European Organisation for Nuclear Research, and its search for the Higgs particle. Speaking to this writer, Ellis said, “We plan to use higher quantum of energy in the future experiments at the CERN to collect enough data to find evidence of the hitherto elusive primary particle of the universe.”

The scientists, he said, may review the research findings so far and decide on using the massive 7 terra electron volts (TeV) this year and later 8 TeV followed by 13 or 14 TeV so that the prospects of finding the elusive particle are better. The CERN Council will meet during 2012-13 to consider use of higher energy with the Super LHC, now underway. The earlier two experiments with the LHC had hinted at the possibility of the primary particle but the data gathered so far is insufficient for arriving at conclusive evidence,” Prof. Ellis said.

New possibilities

“The use of higher energy may pave the way for precise particle research. The new physics could be beyond the Standard Model,” he said. This may open new vistas of science. The first hints of the Higgs particle with enough data may be possible in July.

“The ongoing research of the cosmos is likely to throw light on the origin of matter, anti-matter, dark matter and plasma,” Prof. Ellis said. As many as 10,000 scientists from different parts of the world including more than 100 from India have been working with the CERN, using low energy. Two teams of scientists work independently, using separate detectors called ATLAS and CMS, each relying on different technologies. This way they provide an independent cross-check for each other. How closely their results agree will be an important measure of how significant a finding they can claim.

Many topics in LHC physics touch upon aspects of cosmology. For example, the Higgs boson may be related to theories of inflation and dark energy. Super-symmetry or other TeV-scale physics may provide dark matter and/or modify nucleogenesis. LHC studies of matter-antimatter differences may elucidate baryogenesis, and relativistic heavy-ion collisions may reveal the nature of the plasma that filled the universe when it was a microsecond old.

“Our understanding of the universe is about to change with the ongoing higher particle research at CERN involving a multi-nation and multi-disciplinary study,” Prof. Ellis says.

Meanwhile, at LHC

Physicists use the LHC to recreate the conditions just after the Big Bang, by colliding the two beams head-on at very high energy. Teams of physicists from around the world then analyse the particles created in the collisions using special detectors in a number of experiments dedicated to the LHC. There are many theories as to what will result from these collisions. For decades, the Standard Model of particle physics has served physicists well as a means of understanding the fundamental laws of Nature, but it does not tell the whole story. Only experimental data using the high energies reached by the LHC can push knowledge forward, challenging those who seek confirmation of established knowledge, and those who dare to dream beyond the paradigm.

India-UK collaboration

The University of Birmingham has entered into collaboration with the Jammu University on particle physics experiments, including those at CERN’s LHC.

The project focuses on analysing collision data and the real-time selection or triggering of the most interesting events from amongst very large backgrounds using state-of-the-art fast electronics.

The researchers will analyse collisions between pairs of lead ions in the ALICE experiment at the LHC recreating the particle densities and temperatures which existed a tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang. In addition, they are aiming to make improvements to the ALICE trigger capability, in preparation for the next, higher intensity, phase of the running of the LHC. A further key area of focus for the collaboration will be the development of an optimised trigger for the new NA62 fixed target experiment, which will study very rare effects involving strange quarks.

This work will build on previous successful collaboration between University of Birmingham physicists and Professor Anju Bhasin from Jammu University, and her group, in the context of ALICE and earlier heavy ion collision experiments.

It will widen the connections to NA62 which has no previous Indian involvement and will extend the ALICE work into the period of LHC operation where discoveries of previously unknown physics are to be expected. Prof. Paul Newman of Particle Physics, University of Birmingham, said, “We are delighted by this opportunity to build further on our collaboration with our Indian colleagues in Jammu. On top of all the recent talk surrounding the Higgs Boson question, this is such an exciting time for all of us involved in high energy physics at CERN.”

The project is funded by the UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) as part of the Innovation Partnerships strand.