The Higgs under siege
Mike Lindgren, acting head of the Particle Physics Division, wrote this week's column.
On my thesis experiment, UA1, which took data through the 1980s, a handful of carefully selected particle events clearly showed the discovery of the W and Z bosons, and won the experiment's spokesperson a Nobel Prize.
Those days seem long gone.
Today, Tevatron discoveries come from carefully sifting through billions of collision events and applying complex statistical analysis tools to tease out the rare and elusive signatures of new physics processes. As we weed through tens of thousands of events that mimic the signal we are looking for, it becomes impossible to spot a discovery with the naked eye.
We now have about 70 times more data than was used to discover the top quark in Run 1, and at the end of Run 2, we should have well over 100 times as much data. This allows Tevatron scientists to make measurements with unprecedented accuracy of particle properties such as the masses of the top quark and W boson. CDF's and DZero's results for these quantities already exceed the precision thought possible when we planned Run 2.
Due to the tremendous experience the Tevatron teams have developed over the past decade, both experiments can make very solid predictions about their ability to collectively discover or exclude the Standard Model Higgs boson. We know that we could sooner or later be the first to catch a glimpse of this elusive particle-if we gathered enough data. It seems like the siege warfare of medieval days, when the breaching of the defensive ramparts could be predicted with great certainty-as long as there were willing troops to keep up the siege.
Fortunately, we have young and eager scientists coming to the Tevatron to reinforce our efforts and carry on data analysis and operations in large numbers. But the CMS and ATLAS experiments will now start a siege of the Higgs boson as well. Thanks in part to the contributions from and experience of former Tevatron troops, the CMS and ATLAS experiments are much further advanced than the Tevatron experiments were nine years ago, at the beginning of Run 2. Still, finding the Higgs will take time at the LHC as well.
The next few years will be tremendously exciting. Who is going to be the first to march through the doors of the besieged Higgs castle?