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Physicists look toward the high-energy horizon

The P5 panel met at Brookhaven National Laboratory to chart the course for U.S. investment in particle physics experiments.

Nature guards its secrets closely, and there may be more than one way to pry them free through experiments at the frontiers of particle physics. In the high-energy world of massive colliders and ultra-rare particles, scientists track exotic and never-before-seen phenomena to unravel some of the greatest mysteries in the cosmos, from dark energy to the imbalance between matter and antimatter.

[In December], more than 200 physicists gathered at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York to focus on future accelerator-based experiments during the third meeting of the Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel, or P5. The panel, composed of 25 leading scientists from around the world, is charged with recommending what new scientific endeavors should be prioritized and executed by the United States under three budget scenarios over the next decade, in the context of a 20-year global vision for the field.

"We have a challenging job, given the wonderful scientific opportunities of each of these proposed projects and our limited resources," says Steven Ritz, physicist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and chair of the P5 panel. "These workshops help make the P5 process thorough, rigorous and as inclusive as possible. It is very important that the particle physics community unites behind a plan that explains clearly what we want to explore and how we want to get there."

Read more

Justin Eure

Photo of the Day

Winter green

A new leaf for the new year. Photo: Elliott McCrory, AD
In the News

The world of physics in 2014

From Physics World, Dec. 19, 2013

So 2013 will go down as the year that the Nobel Prize for physics went to Peter Higgs and Francois Englert for their theory of how some particles acquire mass. It was an award that had been widely expected, following the discovery of a particle that looks pretty much like the Higgs boson at CERN in 2012. But the prize was not without controversy — several other theorists missed out, while the announcement itself was unexpectedly delayed by an hour, hinting that the Swedish Academy of Sciences required the extra time to thrash out who exactly to honour.

But what of next year? What will be the key events in physics and who will have taken the accolades in 12 months' time?

Read more

In the News

Coalition urges appropriators to support DOE Office of Science and ARPA-E

From FYI: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News, Dec. 23, 2013

After Congress returns on Jan. 6 it will need to vote on legislation to fund the operations of the federal government through Sept. 30. The staffs of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will be working through the holiday recess to have final legislation ready for a vote in the House and Senate. Current funding expires on Jan. 15.

Important decisions will be made in the coming weeks about funding levels for federal departments, agencies, and programs. AIP and two of its Member Societies — the American Astronomical Society and the American Physical Society — signed an Energy Sciences Coalition letter to key appropriations chairmen urging them to provide strong support for the Department of Energy's Office of Science and the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy.

Read more

Frontier Science Result: CDF

Excitement about B mesons

Distribution of B**+ candidates is shown with black squares, and a smooth curve in blue shows the result of a fit. The mass is measured as a mass difference Q to improve the mass resolution.

In the last century, physicists discovered that the proton-electron system of a hydrogen atom has discrete energy levels that depend on the relative position, angular momentum and spin orientation of the two constituents. This meant that electromagnetic force that bound them would permit the electron to live only at particular energies relative to the proton. The discovery was essential in the development of quantum mechanics.

Just as the hydrogen atom served as a probe of the electromagnetic force, measurements of the energy levels of B mesons provide information about the strong force. B mesons contain a heavy anti-bottom quark and a lighter up, down, strange or charm quark. The quark-antiquark pair is bound by the strong interaction.

Physicists at CDF have made an exciting new measurement of B mesons. In this analysis by CDF using the full Tevatron Run II data set, scientists studied excited B meson states that decay into a B meson ground state and a pion or kaon. The states that can be described by an orbital angular momentum L=1 — B1 and B2*, collectively referred to as B** states — are seen as three signal peaks in a mass difference plot, where two overlap in the case of B mesons with an up or down quark (see above figure). Scientists have observed the B** states with an up quark for the first time.

We measure several properties of the three B** states, such as mass, width and production and decay rate, and compare them with theoretical predictions. In general there is very good agreement between our measurements and those of DZero and the LHCb experiment at CERN.

In addition to the expected B** signals, another small peak appears for the first time in the mass difference distribution at a Q value of about 0.55 GeV (see above figure). The peak is seen in both the B**0 and B**+ distributions. The combined result has a statistical significance of 4.4 standard deviations, corresponding to a probability of about 10-5 that this is merely a background fluctuation. This is also just below the 5-sigma level required to claim a discovery. The CDF collaboration members have measured the properties of this new excited B meson state, called B(5970), and these measurements will serve as input to the interpretation by the theoretical community.

Learn more

edited by Andy Beretvas

These CDF physicists contributed to this data analysis. From left: Michael Feindt, Martin Heck, Thomas Kuhr and Manuel Kambeitz (not shown) all from University of Karlsruhe.

Today's New Announcements

ASM handbooks are online sitewide

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Users' center closed through Jan. 3

Zumba Toning - register by today

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English country dancing at Kuhn Barn - Jan. 5

Wilson Street entrance closed for construction

Float holiday - 2014

Dreamweaver class offered in February

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Scottish country dancing meets Tuesday evenings in Kuhn Barn

International folk dancing meets Thursday evenings in Kuhn Barn

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