Boosted W’s

In the green region, we show what a W boson looks like before it decays. Moving left to right, the boson is created with more and more momentum. In the yellow region, we repeat the exercise, this time looking at the same W boson after it decays into quarks, which have then turned into jets. Finally in the pink region, we look at a jet originating from a quark or gluon. This looks much like a high-momentum W boson decaying into quarks. Because ordinary jets are so much more common, this highlights the difficulty inherent in finding high-momentum W bosons that decay into jets.

Today’s article covers an interesting topic. It’s interesting not because it explores new physics, but because of how it reveals some of the mundane aspects of research at the LHC. It also shows how the high energy of the LHC makes certain topics harder to study than they were during the good old days at lower-energy accelerators.

At the LHC, quarks or gluons are scattered out of the collision. It’s the most common thing that happens at the LHC. Regular readers of this column know that it is impossible to see isolated quarks and gluons and that these particles convert into jets as they exit the collision. Jets are collimated streams of particles that have more or less the same energy as the parent quark or gluon. Interactions that produce jets are governed by the strong force.

Things get more interesting when a W boson is produced. One reason for this is that making a W boson requires the involvement of the electroweak force, which is needed for the decay of heavy quarks. Thus studies of W bosons are important for subjects such as the production of the top quark, which is the heaviest quark. W bosons are also found in some decays of the Higgs boson.

A W boson most often decays into two light quarks, and when it decays, it flings the light quarks into two different directions, which can be seen as two jets.

But there’s a complication in this scenario at the LHC, where the W bosons are produced with so much momentum that it affects the spatial distribution of particles in those two jets. As the momentum of the W boson increases, the two jets get closer together and eventually merge into a single jet.

As mentioned earlier, individual jets are much more commonly made using the strong force. So when one sees a jet, it is very hard to identify it as coming from a W boson, which involves the electroweak force. Since identifying the existence of W bosons is very important for certain discoveries, CMS scientists needed to figure out how to tell quark- or gluon-initiated jets from the W-boson-initiated jets. So they devised algorithms that could identify when a jet contained two lumps of energy rather than one. If there were two lumps, the jet was more likely to come from the decay of a W boson.

In today’s paper, CMS scientists explored algorithms and studied variables one can extract from the data to identify single jets that originated from the decay of W bosons. The data agreed reasonably well with calculations, and the techniques they devised will be very helpful for future analyses involving W bosons. In addition, the same basic technique can be extended to other interesting signatures, such as the decay of Z and Higgs bosons.

Don Lincoln

These physicists contributed to this analysis.
These CMS members were recently announced as the 2015 winners of the junior distinguished researcher fellowship awarded by the LHC Physics Center at Fermilab. The selection of the 2015 distinguished researchers was made by the LHC Physics Center management board.