Archive for Thursday, December 15, 2011

KU faculty, students taking part in research involving Higgs boson at CERN laboratory in Switzerland

In this 2007 file photo, two engineers work to assemble one of the layers of the world's largest superconducting solenoid magnet (CMS, Compact Muon Solenoid) at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)'s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle accelerator, in Geneva, Switzerland. More than 20 researchers from Kansas University have contributed to work in the Large Hadron Collider.

In this 2007 file photo, two engineers work to assemble one of the layers of the world's largest superconducting solenoid magnet (CMS, Compact Muon Solenoid) at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)'s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle accelerator, in Geneva, Switzerland. More than 20 researchers from Kansas University have contributed to work in the Large Hadron Collider.

December 15, 2011


More than 20 researchers from Kansas University have contributed to work in the Large Hadron Collider at the CERN laboratory in Switzerland, where researchers announced on Tuesday significant progress toward finding the Higgs boson, or “the God particle.”

On the street

Have you heard of the Large Hadron Collider experiment?

No, but that’s neat. I will have to research it.

More responses

Alice Bean, a professor of physics and astronomy, said four faculty members, three postdoctoral researchers, six graduate students and seven undergraduates have contributed work for the program. The Higgs boson is the last piece of the standard model that has gone unexplained.

The standard model, she said, seeks to explain the physical world through four forces — gravity, electromagnetism, “strong” forces (like the forces that hold parts of atoms and ions together) and “weak” forces, like radioactivity. The model as it exists today cannot account for all four forces.

KU’s involvement is funded in part through a grant from the National Science Foundation, which also provides funding for researchers from other public institutions to participate.

KU researchers have helped to work on a detector to monitor the data that comes from smashing tiny atoms together at high speeds. Bean said the device functioned like a 75-megapixel camera that’s capable of capturing images one billion times per second. A typical digital camera, she said, might be a five megapixel camera that captures images 20 times per second.

Scientists haven’t yet found the elusive particle, but they’ve narrowed the places where they expect to find it, Bean said, adding if they don’t find it, that would be interesting, too.

Though the work may seem esoteric at times, it has multiple benefits, she said.

“Our main interest as scientists is to understand how the world works,” she said.

And that interest could also spark a whole host of other discoveries. The World Wide Web came about at the CERN laboratory because physicists needed to communicate with each other, she said.

And discoveries related to electricity have led to all kinds of other technology, including the gadgets so many people enjoy today, Bean said.

Will Burg, a sophomore from Lawrence, is involved with the work at KU. When he attended Lawrence High School, a physics teacher encouraged him to get involved in research.

He’ll be going to Switzerland next summer, where he hopes to interact with some of the world’s top researchers.

Burg is an engineering physics major, and said he hasn’t quite yet determined which of the two fields he wants to pursue.

Though Burg said his individual contribution to the overall effort is small, he was looking forward to the experience. He’s also pleased to see the media interest this week in the work on the Higgs boson.

“I think it’s something that everybody should have some general knowledge of,” Burg said. “It’s basically just understanding how the world works.”


Ockhams_Razor 6 years, 6 months ago

I thought we were hunting feral boson's out at Clinton using a helicopter.

Zac Hamlin 6 years, 6 months ago

When they say the detector works like a digital camera capturing 75 megapixle data a BILLION times per second are they referring to the amount of data captured? What type of device would have to be created to reliably "shutter" a billion times per second?

devobrun 6 years, 6 months ago

No Zac, they are referring to the rate at which data is captured. Parallel sampling is used. Nanosecond sample-and-holds are used. Amazingling fast data capture results. The total sample time is tiny.......microseconds. But sample rates are stupendous.

And they think that they might, possibly, have glimpsed.........the existence of an odd new particle that is maybe an Higg's boson.......

A tiny step in the process. Unless and until they create billions of them everytime they run an experiment, they don't know squat. The existence of such particles isn't the goal. The properties of the particle is the goal. And that takes a bunch of them.

I think the researchers are breaking into a sweat. I think Higgs is not revealing itself like they thought it would and a multinational, multibillion dollar effort might yield.......squadoosh. Politically unacceptable, right at the very time that Europe fails economically, they produce a giant scientific boondoggle. Dangerous times are happening in Europe. TIny victories at CERN are tiny happy news in an otherwise bleak scientific landscape.

The Greeks will claim that the French won't help them because they are too busy building useless contraptions that look for the "God Particle". Setup for failure.

Note to the KU sophomore who aspires to physics greatness. Play the political game as long as you can. Then come back to Kansas and work on a pipeline through the western part of the state. Make money. Forget the world of science as politics. You will be disappointed.

devobrun 6 years, 6 months ago

Innovation comes from fundamental science and garage-based dreamers. No fecund science has occured in 60 years. Big government has squashed the inventor. We loose jobs and seem immune from financial fixes. Maybe because there just isn't anything new coming along to build new industries.

There are a lot of dissatisfied people in this world. And the lack of useable physics is just one of several reasons why jobs are so scarce.

Zac Hamlin 6 years, 6 months ago

It sounds like you are having problems at the patent office. The problem is... Imbittered rhetoric doesn't fix problems, it just makes noisy problems. Every one has problems, the world needs solutions. If you got them share'em, this probably isn't the place. But you know what, they got elections all the time

devobrun 6 years, 6 months ago

Zac, you speculate. You don't know anything about me, or what patents I have or work I have done. But this much should be clear to you: Fundamental physics, post 1960, has generated no new industries for decades. The only fundamental force that is controllable is the electromagnetic force. It can be used for energy, information, and building of materials. Gravity, weak and strong nuclear forces just are. They cannot be modulated or mitigated. Economists tell us that our current economic slump is due to various financial follies and foibles.

Not true. Such shenanigans have always been around. Nope, the reason for the current economic difficulty is that computers replaced mid-level jobs. Productivity has increased for decades due to replacing of clerks. Further compounding the economic trouble is that there are no new fundamental industries because electromagnetics is about played out.

And all that high energy physics and astronomy is just narrative. All talk, no walk.

"Green" was supposed to be that new industry. It is all subsidy, and no energy. It is collapsing under the volume of fossil fuel production coming from frakking. The oil patch is hiring. Green is laying off.

As far as elections are concerned......forget it. Industry hires people, not governments. Electing democrat or republican clowns matters little. Jobs are needed, government can't create them, and science is stuck. Buy oil. My oil stocks are quite healthy and my GE stock is not.

esj2003 6 years, 6 months ago

If you're calling the LHC useless, you're clearly too naive, too religious, or not informed enough on what this contraption has discovered.

devobrun 6 years, 6 months ago

I'm an engineer. I have had no use for any fundamental physics discoveries from the past 60 years. All the stuff you have around you resulted from the physics that predates strangeness, charm, and all the other descriptions of the world that are useless. It is called subatomic interactions and it is descriptive but uncontrollable. It cannot be modulated. It cannot be used for information transfer, energy storage, or any of the other things that have been invented over the last 50 years or so......and need improvement today.

The story of subatomic physics is one of abstraction. Pure abstract narrative with no application. Oh wait, my Josephson junction computer needs an injection of charm to correct its quantum number........hahaha.

The speed of information is still 3 times 10 to the 8th meters per second. And storing wind kinetic energy via the strong force is.........? Yawn. Wake me up when you guys find something other than violations of cause and effect. Interesting...and definably useless.

parrothead8 6 years, 6 months ago

Well, gosh. They may as well just stop trying. You're not impressed. I bet they feel all empty inside.

devobrun 6 years, 6 months ago

What do feelings have to do with anything? If they found sufficient Higgs interactions to characterize them, great. If they maybe kinda, sorta saw "evidence" that they might have seen them.....well call me when you have something to report.
Stories aren't reality, parrothead. Feelings are for wimps. The term dissatified has been used above. Are you satisfied with modern science? Really? Drink green tea, no drink red wine, no just chew on elderberries......and on and on and on. Useless non-science sullying the name.

The public should be told of the sorry state of experimental science. The history of all the gadgets that people are so happy with would make them question what science has been doing for the last 50 years.

xclusive85 6 years, 6 months ago

There was a story on MSN online about the research going on at CERN. I read it yesterday or the day before. They were making an announcement that they had narrowed the range of the possible masses that the Higgs boson could have. There is also a theory involving the Higgs that explains why and how particles have mass. To tell you the truth, most of the article was a little over my head, but what I could understand was very interesting.

Good luck with the research Mr. Burg! Very impressive resume builder if you ask me.

geekin_topekan 6 years, 6 months ago

I predict they will discover this whatsis on Dec. 21 next year. They will look though their little colored filters and see that which was never meant to be seen by any finite being.

Gregory Newman 6 years, 6 months ago

You tellem DEVOBRUN. GEEZ!!!! God said in Jeremiah 31:35-37 Now I will paraphrase this. That the ordinances of the universe will never cease (sun, moons, stars, planets) and if we can measure heaven and the foundations of the earth can be searched out. Then we will have a reason not to trust Him.

He also said in another passage that heaven is his throne and earth is his footstool. So it appears to me there is no room for us. So damn go spend that money feeding Europe and Africa or house the homeless do something constructive.

I don't blame God? I don't want my children snooping around in my bedroom either.

Brian Laird 6 years, 6 months ago

I guess I have to disagree with the nihilistic notion that no fundamental science has been done in the past 60 years that impacts technology, that is since 1951. Here is a very incomplete list just from solid-state physics...

1) BCS theory of superconductivity (1957) 2) The LASER (1957). 2) Giant Magnetoresistance (1988, used in modern hard drives) 3) High temperature superconductors (1986) 4) Josephson Junctions (predicted in 1962, used in high precision measuring devices, SQUIDS, potential in quantum computing) 5) New Phases of carbon (1985, fullerenes, nanotubes, etc - this has led to tremendous growth in nanoscience)

These are just what I could quickly think of off the top of my head and doesn't include the rest of physics, nor the enormous progress in chemistry and biology over the last 60 years.

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