The Sciences

The Race for the Higgs

Cosmic VarianceBy Sean CarrollFeb 17, 2009 9:42 PM

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The Large Hadron Collider should be lurching back to life this year, but the Tevatron at Fermilab might yet have a last hurrah. While the LHC is still fixing itself after last fall's explosions, the Tevatron has been collecting data like mad, and hopes to continue for another couple of years. At the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago, Fermilab scientists said they have quite a good shot at collecting "evidence for" (although not quite "discovery of") the Higgs boson before all is said and done. Adam Yurkewicz at US/LHC Blogs has the scoop, and you should go there for more info. But this graph tells the basic story. It's the probability that Fermilab will be able to find "three-sigma" evidence for the Higgs, depending on what its mass is, if the Tevatron gets to run through 2011.

Due to complicated background events, finding a particle like the Higgs isn't just a matter of smacking together protons and antiprotons at higher and higher energies. Some possible values of the Higgs mass make it easier to find than others, since the reactions that produce it aren't as swamped by boring known events. That's why the Tevatron has a shot, even if LHC opens with substantially larger energies later this year. The BBC story portrays the whole thing as a race, which is fine, but to the rest of the world it's more important to just find the darn thing than which continent gets there first. (Given that the Higgs is a boson, the smart money would seem to be on Europe.)

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