A joint Fermilab/SLAC publication

What will it be? Fermilab announces new Higgs results Friday

03/12/09

Update: News story about results here.

This week, particle physicists from around the world are gathering in Europe for a conference known as the Rencontres de Moriond. Conference organizers seem to have saved the biggest news for last.

This Friday, scientists from the CDF and DZero experiments at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois, will present their latest results on the search for the elusive Higgs boson. New Scientist and Newsweek already reported on the conference, but the results from the direct search for the Higgs particle are still a top secret. On Friday morning, at 8 a.m. CDT, Fermilab will post the new constraints on the Higgs particle on its homepage: http://www.fnal.gov/

Finding the Higgs is no easy task. Just look at the discovery that the CDF and DZero collaborations announced less than a week ago: single top quark production. An amazing feat in its own right, the discovery also showed that the Fermilab Higgs hunters may finally have the tools to find--if it exists--the particle that explains the origin of mass. Time will tell.

Particle collisions at the Tevatron collider at Fermilab produce single top quarks about as often as they produce pairs of top quarks. The difference in observing them: 14 years. Fermilab announced the discovery of top pairs--the first sighting of top quarks--in 1995. The announcement for the discovery of single tops happened March 9.

Fast forward to the Higgs: it is even more difficult to detect than a single top, scientists say. The collisions that produce a Higgs particle and a single top quark have other particle processes in common that can mimic the signal. Worse, the single top is itself a background process that needs to be distinguished from the Higgs particle.

The Standard Model, the theoretical framework that explains the interactions of subatomic particles, predicts the existence of the Higgs boson. Searches at the Large Electron Positron collider at the European laboratory CERN established that the Higgs boson must weigh more than 114 GeV/c^2 (the scientific units for the tiny, tiny mass of a particle). Calculations of quantum effects involving the Higgs boson require its mass to be less than 185 GeV/c^2. (The New Scientist article has a really nice explanation.)

The Tevatron experiments are now sensitive enough to begin testing the range in between. Tomorrow we'll see what Higgs masses they can exclude so far.

What will it be?

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