ND Physicists Help Find "God Particle"

CMS physicists standing in front of the CMS detectorThis is what a physics party in front of a Compact Muon Solenoid detector looks like. When do we get hoverboards?

Notre Dame's theologians might still be searching for a better understanding of God, but some of Notre Dame's physicists recently announced they got pretty close.  They found evidence of the God Particle.

Researchers at the 17-mile long Large Hadron Collider (LHC), an atom-smasher that helps scientists analyze subatomic particles, found the Higgs boson's shadow and its footprint.  In the world of subatomic physics, that's pretty close to finding a particle.

An international team of nearly 2,000 scientists announced Wednesday that they had found scientific evidence from two different experiments that the so-called Higgs boson particle exists.  They can't point to it just yet, primarily because it's a subatomic particle, and subatomic particles are really really small.  

Unlike, say, a new species of elephant, subatomic particles are smaller than atoms, so they're hard to point to.

jessop200Colin Jessop, Notre Dame professor and ND-CMS Grand Pooh-Bah.

Before researchers could find the Higgs boson, however, they needed a way to detect the subatomic particles that come flying out of a high-speed atomic collision.  That's where the Notre Dame researchers came in.

Colin Jessop, a professor of physics, led a Notre Dame team in the Compact Muon Solenoid experiment - ND CMS for short.  The ND CMS team, which includes over 25 faculty, researchers, students and technicians, helps researchers record the collisions at the LHC.  

Jessop's CMS team developed the experiment from its beginning, even helping to build parts of the detector and operating it once the experiment switched on.

"We are closely involved with the search for the Higgs boson," Jessop told ND Newswire.

The Notre Dame team also has a nationally-recognized program called QuarkNet that allows high school students and teachers to contribute to the research of the Notre Dame group.

A candidate event for the Higgs boson decaying to two photons (thick red lines) detected by the CMS detectorWhen the Higgs boson turns into two photons (the thick red lines), the CMS detector is there to tell about it. Physics!

“Essentially every local high school has contributed in some way to our research program, so I hope that our local community beyond just Notre Dame will feel like they are part of this work too,” said Jessop.

Physicists (including Peter Higgs, who loaned his name to the particle) predicted the existence of the Higgs boson in the mid-sixties.  The Higgs boson is highly important in the world of theoretical physics, but it matters in the real world simply because the Higgs boson is the particle that gives everything else mass.  When Manti Te'o launches himself into some poor running back, you can bet that running back feels a lot of mass colliding with him.  The Higgs boson is, very simply put, what makes that happen.

To become an expert on subatomic quantum physics and impress all your friends:

-Michael Rodio

 by Michael Rodio

Posted In: Features