Turning a page

The recent discovery of the Higgs boson is without a doubt a big scientific accomplishment, but, for some scientists, it’s time to turn the page and use the Higgs boson to search for exciting, new phenomena.

Just three days ago, the Swedish Academy of Science held its annual award ceremony for the 2013 Nobel prizes. Francois Englert and Peter Higgs shared the physics prize for the prediction of the Higgs boson. This was a justly deserved recognition of an insight that took nearly half a century to verify. It really was a very big deal.

And yet that was then, and this is now.

The Higgs boson is now following the path of other Nobel Prize-winning discoveries such as those of the charm quark and the W and Z bosons. While the very observation of these particles prompted the popping of champagne bottles, scientists now put these particles to use as part of a checklist to identify particle collisions that are interesting for other reasons. One example involves the 1995 discovery of the top quark. Since top quarks decay into W bosons, scientists searched for events producing W bosons, not to search for the bosons themselves, but as a way to find the top quark.

Today’s analysis is similar. CMS scientists searched for events in which a top quark and a Higgs boson were produced. These scientists were interested not in these two particles themselves but rather in a possible new particle called the “vector-like T quark.” This particle might not even exist, but it was proposed to explain why the mass of the Higgs boson is as low as it is. From their understanding of the Standard Model, physicists would expect the Higgs boson to be some hundred quadrillion times more massive than it is.

No evidence for the existence of the vector-like T quark was observed, and this allowed CMS scientists to set the most stringent limits on the production and mass of this hypothetical particle. This search included other possible decay channels for the vector-like T quark, but it is the first published result that uses the Higgs boson as a way to identify events that are possibly even more interesting than the Higgs boson itself.

The march of science continues, and the time to savor victory is fleeting. Time waits for no man.

Don Lincoln

These US CMS scientists contributed to this analysis.
This group of U.S. physicists and engineers are working on the next generation of fast pattern-recognition associative-memory ASIC devices for the CMS tracking trigger at the high-luminosity LHC.