Scientists Ask Citizens to Hunt the Higgs Boson - Find Out How You Can Help

Wednesday, 03 December 2014 - 2:47PM
Physics
Wednesday, 03 December 2014 - 2:47PM
Scientists Ask Citizens to Hunt the Higgs Boson - Find Out How You Can Help

You can now help physicists hunt for the Higgs boson, as CERN has begun a citizen science project called Higgs Hunters. We finally have proof that the Higgs boson actually exists, but now participants can assist with combing through the Large Hadron Collider, hopefully facilitating the next discovery about the elusive particle's properties.

 

The Higgs boson, colloquially called the "God particle," is the smallest excitation of the Higgs field, which is thought to be responsible for first affording particles of matter with mass. The particle has been hypothesized for decades, and was finally discovered two years ago using the Large Hadron Collider, the most potent particle accelerator in the world. In order to obtain evidence of the Higgs boson's existence, the LHC performed a series of high-velocity collisions of proton beams. These collisions produce a myriad of new particles, occasionally a Higgs boson.

 

The Higgs is extremely difficult to detect, as it only exists for 10^-22 seconds before splitting into different particles. Physicists were able to detect the signatures that confirmed the Higgs's existence, but there is still knowledge to be gained from further analysis of the data. For example, there are theories that the Higgs decays into currently unknown particles that carry no electric charge. In pictures from the LHC data (see above), particles with electric charge would leave tracks that originate from the center, while particles without electric charge, which are much more difficult to detect, would leave tracks that originate from an off-center point. 

 

So why not just use a computer program to analyze the data? There's been a lot of talk recently about artificial intelligence overtaking human brains and killing us all, but this is one of the few thought processes for which a human brain is undeniably more effective, as computers become confused when trying to identify lines that originate from an off-center point. So by analyzing pictures of the LHC data, the Higgs Hunters will possibly help to confirm the theory that the Higgs decays into electrically neutral particles, as well as helping the computer's algorithm identify these off-center patterns.

 

To get started on your Higgs boson research, click here. Happy hunting!

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