Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on TwitterThe Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is billed as the next great particle accelerator that will give us our best chance yet at discovering the illusive exchange particle (or boson) of the Higgs field. The discovery (or not) of the Higgs boson will answer so many questions about our universe, and our understanding of the quantum world could be revolutionized.
But there’s a problem. The LHC isn’t scheduled for restart until September 2009 (a full year after the last attempt) and particle collisions aren’t expected until October. Even then, high energy collisions won’t be likely until 2010, leaving the field wide open for competing accelerator facilities to redouble their efforts at making this historic discovery before the LHC goes online.
The Tevatron, at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Illinois, is currently the most powerful accelerator in the world and has refined high energy particle collisions so much, that scientists are estimating there is a 50% chance of a Higgs boson discovery by the end of 2009…
If this was a USA vs. Europe competition to discover the Higgs particle, the Tevatron would have a clear advantage. Although it’s old (the first configuration was completed in 1984), and set to be superseded by the LHC in 2010, the Tevatron is a proven particle accelerator with an impressive track record. Accelerator techniques and technology have been refined, making high energy hadron collisions routine. However, Fermilab scientists are keen to emphasise that they aren’t trying to beat the LHC in the search for the Higgs boson.
“We’re not racing CERN,” said Fermilab Director, Pier Oddone. He points out that there is a lot of collaborative work between Fermilab and CERN, therefore all scientists, no matter which continent they are on, are all working toward a common goal. In reality, I doubt this is the case. When searching for one of the most coveted prizes in modern quantum physics, it’s more of a case of ‘every lab for itself.’ Scientists in Fermilab have confirmed this, saying they are “working their tails off” analysing data from the Tevatron.
“Indirectly, we’re helping them,” says Dmitri Denisov, DZero (one of the Tevatron’s detectors) spokesman, of his European competition. “They’re definitely feeling the heat and working a little harder.”
For the Standard Model to be complete, the Higgs particle must be found. If it does exist, physicists have put upper and lower bounds on its possible mass. Standing at a value between 114 and 184 GeV, this is well within the sensitivity of the Tevatron detectors. It should be a matter of time until the Higgs particle is discovered and physicists have calculated that if the Higgs particle can be created during a Tevatron high-energy proton-antiproton collision. They even give the Tevatron a 50:50 chance of a Higgs particle discovery by the New Year.
Last summer, both key particle experiments (CDF and DZero) focused on detecting Higgs particles with a mass of 170 GeV (at this value a particle would be easier to detect from the background noise). However, no Higgs particles were detected. Now physicists will expand the search above and below this value. Therefore, if the Higgs boson exists, it would be useful if it has a mass as close as possible to 170 GeV. Estimates suggest a 150 GeV Higgs boson could be discovered as early as this summer, well before the LHC has even been repaired. If the mass of the Higgs boson is around the 120 GeV mark, it might take Tevatron scientists until 2010 to verify whether a Higgs boson has been detected.
Source: New Scientist