Your eyes could help make a huge Higgs boson breakthrough (Wired UK)


Image from the Higgs Hunters database

Higgs Hunters


The discovery of the Higgs boson back in 2012 was a landmark moment for physicists
— but what happens when the elementary particle vanishes could be
even more exciting. Physicists working
at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) are now
recruiting an army of online volunteers to make the next big
breakthrough.

Higgs Hunters,
a joint project between UK and US scientists working on the Atlas
experiment, is an online repository of 25,000 images from the LHC.
Scientists hope that “weird” things spotted by volunteers will help
them understand what happens when a Higgs boson dies.

When people look at images on Higgs Hunters they are
seeing snapshots of newborn particles flying at close to the speed
of light through a huge underground detector. The images, taken
shortly after the creation of the elusive Higgs boson, show the
particle rapidly decaying as new particles are born. It is believed
that these could include a new type of previously unobserved
particle.

Volunteers are being asked to look at images and say how many
lines they can see emanating from the collision at the centre.
Higgs Hunters comes with an in-depth tutorial to help people
understand exactly what scientists are looking for.

“We want volunteers to help us go beyond the Higgs boson
barrier by examining pictures of these collisions and telling us
what they see,” Alan Barr of Oxford University’s department of
physics and lead scientists on Higgs Hunters tells
WIRED.co.uk.


Installing the ATLAS calorimeter_Photo Courtesy of CERN

Particle Fever


“The collisions at CERN have been
analysed by computers, but only a handful of them have actually
been looked at by human eyes. Some of the greatest discoveries in
science have been made when someone noticed something odd or
unexpected,” Barr explains. “People are amazingly good at spotting
odd and unusual things that the computer algorithms may have
missed.”

It is hoped that with a large number of volunteers
each looking at a handful of images it will only take a few weeks
for all the images to be scanned. Barr and his colleagues are
excited by the prospect of online volunteers assisting in a major
scientific discovery.

“Anything unusual or unexpected spotted by the
volunteers will be the subject of special attention by the Atlas
scientists when the LHC restarts at even higher energy early next
year. It would be amazing if the next big discovery
about the fundamental make-up of the universe was started by
someone at home saying ‘That looks weird’.”

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26 November 2014 | 3:10 pm – Source: wired.co.uk

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