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  • richardmitnick 12:34 pm on September 19, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Particle Accelerators,   

    From Fermilab- “Frontier Science Result: CMS Three ways to be invisible” 


    Fermilab is an enduring source of strength for the US contribution to scientific research world wide.

    Friday, Sept. 19, 2014
    Jim Pivarski

    There is a common misconception that the LHC was built only to search for the Higgs boson. It is intended to answer many different questions about subatomic particles and the nature of our universe, so the collision data are reused by thousands of scientists, each studying their own favorite questions. Usually, a single analysis only answers one question, but recently, one CMS analysis addressed three different new physics: dark matter, extra dimensions and unparticles.

    CERN CMS New
    CMS

    CERN LHC Grand Tunnel
    CERN LHC Map
    CERN LHC particles
    LHC

    The study focused on proton collisions that resulted in a single jet of particles and nothing else. This can only happen if some of the collision products are invisible — for instance, one proton may emit a jet before collision and the collision itself produces only invisible particles. The jet is needed to be sure that a collision took place, but the real interest is in the invisible part.

    proton
    The quark structure of the proton. The color assignment of individual quarks is arbitrary, but all three colors must be present. Forces between quarks are mediated by gluons

    Sometimes, the reason that nothing else was seen in the detector is mundane. Particles may be lost because their trajectories missed the active area of the detector or a component of the detector was malfunctioning during the event. More often, the reason is due to known physics: 20 percent of Z bosons decay into invisible neutrinos. If there were an excess of invisible events, more than predicted by the Standard Model, these extra events would be evidence of new phenomena.

    The classic scenario involving invisible particles is dark matter. Dark matter has been observed through its gravitational effects on galaxies and the expansion of the universe, but it has never been detected in the laboratory. Speculations about the nature of dark matter abound, but it will remain mysterious until its properties can be studied experimentally.

    Another way to get invisible particles is through extra dimensions. If our universe has more than three spatial dimensions (with only femtometers of “breathing room” in the other dimensions), then the LHC could produce gravitons that spin around the extra dimensions. Gravitons interact very weakly with ordinary matter, so they would appear to be invisible.

    A third possibility is that there is a new form of matter that isn’t made of indivisible particles. These so-called unparticles can be produced in batches of 1½ , 2¾ , or any other amount. Unparticles, if they exist, would also interact weakly with matter.

    All three scenarios produce something invisible, so if the CMS data had revealed an excess of invisible events, any one of the scenarios could have been responsible. Follow-up studies would have been needed to determine which one it was. As it turned out, however, there was no excess of invisible events, so the measurement constrains all three models at once. Three down in one blow!

    LHC scientists are eager to see what the higher collision energy of Run 2 will deliver.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 10:50 am on September 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From New Scientist: “Curtain closing on Higgs boson photon soap opera” 

    NewScientist

    New Scientist

    15 September 2014
    Michael Slezak

    It was the daytime soap opera of particle physics. But the final episode of the first season ends in an anticlimax. The Higgs boson‘s decay into pairs of photons – the strongest yet most confusing clue to the particle’s existence – is looking utterly normal after all.

    Experiments don’t detect the Higgs boson directly – instead, its existence is inferred by looking at the particles left behind when it decays. One way it made itself known at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland, two years ago was by decaying into pairs of photons. Right at the start, there were so many photons that physicists considered it a “deviant decay” – and a possible window into new laws of physics, which could help explain the mysteries of dark energy and the like.

    CERN LHC Grand Tunnel
    CERN LHC Map
    CERN LHC particles
    LHC at CERN

    Even as other kinks in the data got ironed out, the excess of photons remained. At the time, physicists speculated that it could be due to a mysterious second Higgs boson being created, or maybe the supersymmetric partner of the top quark.

    Supersymmetry standard model
    Standard Model showing Supersymmetric Particles

    Identity crisis

    If unheard of particles and physical laws weren’t dramatic enough, six months later, the decay into photons was giving the Higgs an identity crisis. When physicists measured the Higgs mass by observing it decaying into another type of particle, called a Z boson, it appeared lighter than when doing a similar calculation using the decay into photons. “The results are barely consistent,” Albert de Roeck, one of the key Higgs hunters at CERN’s CMS experiment, said at the time.

    But over the past year, physicists at CERN have found that the Higgs boson is acting exactly as the incomplete standard model of particle physics predicts, leaving us with no clues about how to extend it.

    Now, in an anticlimactic summary on the two photon decay, both big experiments at the LHC have posted results showing the photons are, after all the fuss, also doing exactly what the standard model predicts.

    Powering up

    “This is probably the final word,” wrote CERN physicist Adam Falkowski on his blog.

    Ever the optimist, de Roeck thinks there’s still room in the data for the two photon decay channel to be caught misbehaving. Our present outlook is due to our relatively fuzzy view of the behaviour so far, he says. When the LHC is switched back on next year after an upgrade, it will be smashing protons together with double the previous energy.

    With that kind of power, the measurements will be more exact, and any small deviations from standard model predictions could emerge. “It is most likely the last word for run one of the LHC, but definitely not the last word,” de Roeck says. “I still believe ultimately we will find significant deviations or something unexpected in the Higgs sector. Then all hell will break loose.”

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 4:04 pm on September 7, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From Don Lincoln for JHU Press: “Damage to the Large Hadron Collider” 

    jhu

    FNAL Don Lincoln
    FNAL’s Dr. Don Lincoln

    September 5, 2014

    A spark. That’s all it was . . . just a little spark . . . in a vacuum, no less. It sounds so harmless. What could it hurt? Let’s see how the story unfolds.

    Well, time, which is measured in microseconds at this point, moved on. The spark jumped from copper conductor to copper conductor, causing copper atoms to be knocked off into the vacuum. As the amount of copper vapor grew, the vacuum became less of an insulator and more conductive, letting more electricity flow. That’s when things began to get interesting. Like opening a faucet completely, the trickle of the initial spark grew until it became a torrent of electricity: ten thousand amperes, enough to simultaneously start thirty or so cars in the dead of winter. The onslaught of electricity was enough to melt a chunk of copper the size an adult fist. This would be bad, but, if you will excuse the pun, things were just beginning to heat up.

    The tipping point from annoying incident to serious disaster occurred when the heat from the electrical arc punctured the volume filled with the liquid helium used to cool the Large Hadron Collider magnets to more than 450° Farenheit below zero. Luckily, helium is an inert gas, so an explosion in the usual sense of the word was impossible. However, the helium was in liquid form, and when it encountered more ordinary temperatures, it boiled and turned into gas. When any liquid turns to gas at atmospheric temperature, it expands in volume to 700 times its ordinary size. And the LHC magnets contain an awful lot of helium . . . as in 96 tons of helium. (Although, in the end, only six tons were released.)

    As the helium vented from the storage volume, it jetted out with tremendous force. And by “tremendous force,” I mean enough force to move a 50-foot-long magnet weighing 35 tons and anchored to the concrete floor about two feet. As the helium gas expanded in the LHC tunnel, it pushed air out of the way. The boundary between an environment containing ordinary air and one containing only helium moved up the tunnel at incredible speed. It was possible for a human to outrun the helium monster, but only if the person could run a four-minute mile. Run any slower, and you would be overtaken by helium. Soon, you would fall down and die, suffocated by lack of oxygen.

    Luckily, there was nobody near the punctured helium volume to be in danger. Actually, luck had nothing to do with it. The CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) safety professionals were aware of the danger of a catastrophic failure. Although such an incident was extremely unlikely, people are allowed in the Large Hadron Collider tunnel only rarely. If they are allowed inside, they must have special training and carry oxygen tanks and protective clothing. In this case, however, the nearest CERN personnel were miles away from the incident, and even the civilians who lived above the LHC were separated by at least 300 feet of solid rock. No people were ever in danger.

    I was in the United States on the day in September 2008 when the LHC broke. My colleagues and I were getting reports second-hand, and I remember well the group sitting around a table, looking shell-shocked, and asking each other, “How bad can it be?”

    So now, in the fullness of time, we can answer that question. How bad was it? Pretty bad. Repairing the LHC cost tens of millions of dollars and took about a year. In the end, fifty-three magnets, each fifty feet long and weighing thirty-five tons, needed to be removed, repaired, cleaned, and replaced. While the true damage was relatively localized, among the collateral damage was a breeching of the LHC’s beam pipe, into which soot and debris spread for a mile or so. The technicians were busy.

    It is now six years later, and perhaps it is time for a broader viewpoint. Yes, the damage was grave, and yes, it took a year to repair. However, the repair costs were about two percent the cost of the entire LHC, and the delay was only about five percent of the schedule. Granted, if you were a graduate student who was hoping to graduate on the first year’s data, the incident was an awful delay. However, now, in 2014, what was the real consequence? Well, we now have an accelerator that is better instrumented against similar incidents. The damage of 2008 won’t occur again. We have studied billions of particle collisions and begun to explore the behavior of matter under conditions never before possible. We have discovered the Higgs boson and facilitated a Nobel Prize in physics. There have been some considerable successes, and the debacle of 2008 is now fading into distant memory.

    It’s all a matter of perspective. And, let us not forget, the data of 2015 beckons alluringly. Soon the universe will give up some more of her mysteries and scientists will do what they have for millennia: they will take up their pens and begin writing a new page in the book of knowledge, a book whose first pages were penned over two thousand years ago.

    Perspective.

    Don Lincoln is a senior scientist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and an adjunct professor of physics at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of

    The Large Hadron Collider: The Extraordinary Story of the Higgs Boson and Other Stuff That Will Blow Your Mind
    book

    , Alien Universe: Extraterrestrials in Our Minds and in the Cosmos
    book3

    and The Quantum Frontier: The Large Hadron Collider,
    book2

    all published by Johns Hopkins.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 10:41 am on September 4, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From FNAL- “Frontier Science Result: CDF The final word on Z’s and jets from CDF” 


    Fermilab is an enduring source of strength for the US contribution to scientific research world wide.

    Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014
    edited by Andy Beretvas

    charts
    Inclusive jet pT differential cross sections for Z + one or more jet events. The measured differential cross section (black dots) is compared to the LOOPSIM + MCFM prediction (open circle). On the right many other theoretical predictions are shown.

    Our understanding of the strong force, called QCD (quantum chromodynamics) is very advanced. This theory describes the interactions between some of nature’s fundamental building blocks, quarks and gluons.

    quark
    A proton, composed of two up quarks and one down quark. (The color assignment of individual quarks is not important, only that all three colors be present.)

    inter
    In Feynman diagrams, emitted gluons are represented as helices. This diagram depicts the annihilation of an electron and positron.

    The highly energetic quarks and gluons released in the Tevatron proton-antiproton collisions produce collimated jets of particles, which can be detected by the experiments. These jets were produced in association with particles known as Z bosons.

    Fermilab Tevatron
    Tevatron at Fermilab

    You may know the Z as one of the carriers of the electroweak force, but here our focus is on their production in association with jets. The behavior of both the Z and the jets is predicted by the strong force.

    Scientists at the Tevatron experiments have made many measurements of the Z particle, which decays into a pair of leptons (electrons or muons) and jets. Our results correspond to the full Tevatron Run II data set (9.6 inverse femtobarns). In this experiment we are concerned with comparing measured probabilities with theoretical predictions. This is complicated because we must understand how well the detector records the decay particles’ tracks and energies for the process of Z boson and jet production.

    The inclusive Z-plus-jets decay probabilities are measured for one, two, three and four jets. The results shown are from combining the decay modes in which the Z decays into an electron pair and in which it decays into a muon pair. This is the first CDF measurement of probabilities for decays into a Z particle and three or more jets.

    The samples are very clean, and for the cases in which they include one or more jets, they contain only about 1.5 percent background. In the upper figure you can see results for the transverse momentum of the leading jet’s differential reaction probability for Z plus one or more jet events.

    This result is of great interest to many theoretical physicists as can be seen by the large number of predictions. The agreements are good as can be expected, as theorists have looked at earlier results from CDF and DZero. The most accurate predictions are those of a simulation program called LOOPSIM + MCFM. This is an important Tevatron legacy measurement.

    Fermilab CDF
    CDF at Fermilab

    Fermilab DZero
    DZero at Fermilab

    The results show beautiful agreement between theory and experiment and are important for understanding the association of Z and jets in searches for non-Standard Model physics.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 11:49 am on September 3, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From Fermilab: “From the Technical Division – Leading the way in superconducting magnets and accelerators” 


    Fermilab is an enduring source of strength for the US contribution to scientific research world wide.

    Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014

    hm
    Hasan Padamsee, head of the Technical Division, wrote this column.

    I feel very fortunate to head the Technical Division in this era of exciting accelerator technology developments. Our division holds the keys to enabling technologies for frontier accelerators, both in magnet development and accelerator cavities.

    Our niobium titanium magnet program will guide intense muon beams for precision experiments to determine whether muons, which belong to the lepton family, can spontaneously change into other leptons — specifically electrons — just as neutrinos can change into other neutrinos [electron, muon, and tau]. The magnets for the Mu2e experiment will be wound with 45 miles of superconducting cable.

    Our Nb3Sn magnet advances will enable planned upgrades to LHC luminosity guided by the LARP program, led by Giorgio Apollinari. Our Nb3Sn and high-temperature superconductor high-field magnet program, led by Alexander Zlobin, could enable a roughly 100-TeV proton-proton collider, a most powerful tool for future high-energy physics.

    As an expert in superconducting radio-frequency acceleration technology, or SRF, I was thrilled to join Fermilab in June because I saw how the division mastered our new technology to build up the infrastructure and expertise through the International Linear Collider R&D program, which ran under the leadership of Bob Kephart and previous Technical Division Head Dave Harding. To our delight, the SRF Department, led by Slava Yakovlev, had prepared some of the best niobium cavities and assembled them into the world’s highest-gradient ILC cryomodule, with a gradient of 31.5 megavolts per meter. Thus the division played a huge role in getting SRF technology ready for the ILC, if and when it will be built.

    A major consequence of the SRF successes is the decision to upgrade LCLS, the world-class light source at SLAC, using SRF technology. While the ILC must be a pulsed accelerator with a one percent duty factor, meaning that the RF power remains on for only one percent of the time, the LCLS-II light source must run continuously to keep its users happy. Continuous operation is now made economically feasible thanks to spectacular discoveries from the Technical Division.

    Anna Grassellino and Alexander Romanenko discovered new phenomena in SRF that will raise the Q values — measures of how efficiently a cavity stores energy — of ILC-type accelerating cavities from 10 billion to nearly 30 billion. To appreciate the significance of such high Qs, imagine that Galileo’s pendulum oscillator — in the year 1600 — had a Q of 30 billion. It would still be oscillating today and would continue to oscillate to the year 2800! Such high Qs arise thanks to minuscule RF losses, which make it affordable to run superconducting cavities in LCLS-II continuously. The division is gearing up to provide 17 ILC-type cryomodules with 136 cavities, as well as two cryomodules with higher-frequency cavities.

    To reap the benefits at home, SRF is also the foundation of a brand new accelerator, called PIP-II, to be constructed at Fermilab to provide the world’s best neutrino beams. PIP-II will be built in collaboration with other labs to provide a 1-megawatt proton beam accelerated by an 800-MeV superconducting linac. The linac will contain almost 20 cryomodules with more than 110 SRF cavities. The prototype cavities have been constructed and tested successfully, and the first prototype cryomodules will be assembled next year.

    Both superconducting magnets and superconducting RF have brilliant futures at Fermilab. I am proud to lead these exciting developments to keep Fermilab at the frontier of high-energy physics.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 12:18 pm on August 30, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From Don Lincoln at Fermilab: “Particle Detectors Subatomic Bomb Squad ” a Great Video 


    Fermilab is an enduring source of strength for the US contribution to scientific research world wide.

    The manner in which particle physicists investigate collisions in particle accelerators is a puzzling process. Using vaguely-defined “detectors,” scientists are able to somehow reconstruct the collisions and convert that information into physics measurements. In this video, Fermilab’s Dr. Don Lincoln sheds light on this mysterious technique. In a surprising analogy, he draws a parallel between experimental particle physics and bomb squad investigators and uses an explosive example to illustrate his points. Be sure to watch this video… it’s totally the bomb.

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  • richardmitnick 9:49 am on August 28, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From Fermilab: “Director’s Corner – Restructuring the FRA Board” 


    Fermilab is an enduring source of strength for the US contribution to scientific research world wide.

    nl
    Fermilab Director
    Nigel Lockyer

    Fermi Research Alliance LLC, the operator of Fermilab for the U.S. Department of Energy and a partnership between the University of Chicago and Universities Research Association, is reorganizing its board of directors this fall to best support the laboratory as it shapes its future as a world-leading scientific institution, working in close partnership with the scientific community to ensure a bright future for U.S. particle physics.

    The FRA Board provides strategic guidance, oversight, direction and advice to Fermilab management. The reorganized 15-member board will strongly emphasize support and advice in matters of project management, governance, industrial expertise, government relations and international collaboration.

    This expertise on our board will be crucial as we continue the work already begun to restructure and realign our lab to match the demands of the P5 plan. The plan calls on Fermilab to transform into a laboratory capable of hosting a world-leading international accelerator-based neutrino program while playing key roles in Large Hadron Collider research, muon physics, and the quest to understand dark matter and energy.

    The P5 plan highlights one major challenge our laboratory will face over the next decade: carrying out the largest suite of construction projects within the DOE Office of Science. Another is developing an Illinois Accelerator Research Center program that turns Fermilab into a hub for industrial development of the next generation of particle accelerators, products and applications.

    The goal of a reorganized board will be to support the lab management team as we seek to meet these challenges and to improve our overall operations performance. The board will also continue to assess our scientific strategy, in close consultation with the Physics Advisory Committee and as guided by national advisory groups.

    The reorganization was determined by the two members of FRA, the University of Chicago and Universities Research Association Inc. It will be overseen by an interim board that will be convened on Oct. 1. The interim board will include Robert J. Zimmer, chairman of the board and president of the University of Chicago; vice chairman of the board and Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon; Marta Cehelsky, executive director of Universities Research Association; and Donald Levy, vice president for research and national laboratories at the University of Chicago. The full board reorganization will be completed in 2015.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 9:34 am on August 28, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From Fermilab- “Frontier Science Result: DZero Which way did it go?” 


    Fermilab is an enduring source of strength for the US contribution to scientific research world wide.

    Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014
    Leo Bellantoni

    In the DZero detector., the direction in which a particle travels — the direction of its momentum — is often easier to measure precisely than its energy or, equivalently, its amount of momentum. This is the key idea behind a recent result.

    Fermilab DZero
    DZero

    Put a flat piece of paper on your desktop. This is what particle physicists call the transverse plane. Now take a pencil and try to balance it on its point on the paper. You don’t have to succeed — just get the idea of something going perpendicularly into the paper. This depicts the proton going into the collision. The antiproton is traveling in the opposite direction, also perpendicular to the paper (excuse me: also perpendicular to the transverse plane). If the two are aligned and strike each other, then there is a collision point in the transverse plane. Pick the pencil up; there might be a little mark left from the pencil tip to show you where the collision happened.

    pro
    The quark structure of the proton. (The color assignment of individual quarks is not important, only that all three colors are present.)

    anti
    The quark structure of the antiproton.

    Now let us draw some arrows coming out from that little mark. These are the directions of the particles coming out of the collision. By drawing them on the paper, you draw only two dimensions of the motion — a particle might come out with a motion that is partly upwards and to the left, but on the paper you can only draw it to the left. This is what particle physicists call projecting onto the transverse plane.

    plane

    In the above figure you see a pair of possibilities for the projection onto the transverse plane of two particles from a collision. These two particles are the decay products of a very heavy particle created in the collision. The two particles on the left came from some heavy particle that was clearly headed south according to the compass. The two particles on the right came from a heavy particle that was clearly going nowhere.

    The method of the recent DZero result is a bit more complicated than this, but you have enough to get the basic idea. When a proton and an antiproton collide and produce a Z boson, the Z boson might decay into a pair of muons. The direction of the muons tells us how the Z was moving in the transverse plane. What scientists actually do is take the angle that you see in the figure, which is called the acoplanarity, and apply a certain correction to it to obtain an angle that theorists can predict and experimentalists can measure. More to the point, this angle, called Φ* and invented in part by DZero collaborators, is experimentally a more precise measure of the motion of the Z (as projected onto the transverse plane) than that obtained by measuring just the momentum of the muons in the transverse plane directly.

    The theoretical prediction relies on being able to calculate the effects of the strong nuclear force accurately, and this is a notoriously difficult thing to do. So in this case, comparing the data to the prediction is more a test of our ability to apply the theory than a test of the theory itself.

    DZero finds that the data and the theoretical predictions are in good but not perfect agreement. At Φ* near 30 degrees, the DZero measurement is higher than the prediction, but the prediction is not very definite. Now it is the theorists’ turn to try to improve our ability to apply the theory.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 7:49 pm on August 27, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From isgtw: “Preserving three decades of Tevatron data” This is important. 


    international science grid this week

    August 27, 2014
    Hanah Chang

    No longer active, the Tevatron was host to the Collider Detector at Fermilab (CDF) and DZero experiments, and is recognized for the discovery of the top quark and for providing evidence for the existence of the Higgs boson, which was confirmed at CERN in 2012. Several years later, there is a continued effort to preserve the data resulting from the Tevatron’s three-decade legacy.

    Fermilab CDF
    CDF at Fermilab

    Fermilab DZero
    DZero at Fermilab

    Tevatron
    Tevatron

    The Run II Data Preservation system is expected to be sustainable through the year 2020. The project is moving progressively, having successfully tested both the CDF and DZero pilot systems. Tape migration is continuing on schedule, and both the hardware and software infrastructures have been running since February 2012. One of the biggest misconceptions about what data preservation entails, is that only the data is preserved on tape — when, in fact, the more difficult task is preserving the software and an environment on which it can run.

    Willis Sakumoto, a senior scientist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), confirms ongoing efforts to fully integrate CDF data into the Fermilab Intensity Frontier Structure and provide Run II documentation within the scope of the project. These efforts include running compatibility validation tests for the transition from Root4 to Root5, as well as the integration of the Cern Virtual Machine File System (CernVM-FS). “The project is well on its way to accomplishing its goal of handing off CDF analysis and documentation infrastructure to Fermilab Scientific Computing Division (FSCD) operations.”

    Michelle Brochmann, a student working on the DZero data preservation project, is also optimistic about the progress made thus far. “CernVM-FS facilitates cooperation among scientists by enabling them to access a consistent computational analysis environment.” It has some nice features: the software appears local despite being stored remotely, and files are accessed quickly because CernVM-FS uses optimized, existing http infrastructure and only fetches files from the remote server as they are needed. “Fermilab has committed to help maintain the CernVM-FS for the next decade or so,” adds Brochmann.

    Challenges the Run II Data Preservation team must overcome include lack of new resources and manpower. Fortunately, scientists like Kenneth Herner and Bo Jayatilaka — who have worked on the DZero and CDF experiments respectively — recognize the value of the labor they are putting forth and the overall significance it could have for a scientist who may need to revisit a measurement or make new theoretical calculations. “This data has the potential to make new discoveries,” says Jayatilaka.

    The growing spread of digital science means not only data but also software preservation is of critical importance to the long-term value of research outcomes. As the magnitude of the experiments — both in cost and in labor — increase, the need for a common forum of usable data is amplified. In response, projects such as the Data and Software Preservation for Open Science (DASPOS) and the Study Group for Data Preservation in High Energy Physics (DPHEP) are working to expand and improve data preservation technology.

    Sakumoto is planning to integrate the use of cloud-based technology as a possible analysis solution. Regardless of the methodology chosen, the need for sustainable data preservation will continue to increase as science advances, experiments become less replicable, and data sets become more unique.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 7:09 pm on August 26, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From Live Science 

    ls

    August 22, 2014
    Tia Ghose

    Hints of a mysterious particle that has been long suspected to exist but has never been spotted are being revealed in a new experiment.

    So far, the elusive particles, called extra-heavy strange baryons, haven’t been seen directly, but they are leaving tantalizing hints of their existence.

    These extra-heavy strange baryons may be freezing out other subatomic particles in a plasma soup of subatomic particles that mimics conditions in the universe a few moments after the Big Bang, nearly 14 billion years ago.

    Primordial soup

    The particles were created during an experiment conducted inside the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), an atom smasher at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York. There, scientists created a soupy concoction of unbound quarks — the subatomic particles that make up protons and neutrons — and gluons, the tiny particles that bind quarks together and carry the strong nuclear force. Physicists think this quark-gluon plasma is similar to the primordial soup that emerged milliseconds after the universe was born.

    Using the RHIC, physicists are trying to understand how quarks and gluons initially came together to form protons, neutrons and other particles that are categorized as hadrons.

    Brookhaven RHIC
    RHIC at Brookhaven

    “Baryons, which are hadrons made of three quarks, make up almost all the matter we see in the universe today,” study co-author and Brookhaven theoretical physicist Swagato Mukherjee, said in a statement.

    Elusive matter

    But while ordinary baryons are ubiquitous throughout the universe, the Standard Model — the physics theory that explains the bizarre world of subatomic particles — predicts the existence of a separate class of baryons made up of heavy or ”strange” quarks. These heavy baryons would exist only fleetingly, making them hard to spot.

    sm
    The Standard Model of elementary particles, with the three generations of matter, gauge bosons in the fourth column, and the Higgs boson in the fifth.

    If extra-heavy baryons did exist, they should leave some trace behind, scientists say.

    Enter the RHIC experiment, which accelerates gold nuclei, or the protons and neutrons in a gold atom, to nearly the speed of light, and then crashes these gold ions into one another. The resulting collisions can raise the temperature inside the collider to a mind-boggling 7.2 trillion degrees Fahrenheit (4 trillion degrees Celsius), or 250,000 times as hot as the heart of the sun. The huge burst of energy released during the collision melts the protons and neutrons in the nuclei into their smaller components, quarks and gluons.

    In this soupy plasma of quarks and gluons, Mukherjee and his colleagues noticed that other, more common, strange baryons were freezing out of the plasma at a lower temperature than would ordinarily be predicted. (There are several types of strange baryons.) The scientists hypothesized that this freezing-out occurred because the plasma contained as-yet-undiscovered hidden particles, such as hadrons composed of extra-heavy strange baryons.

    “It’s similar to the way table salt lowers the freezing point of liquid water,” Mukherjee said in the statement. “These ‘invisible’ hadrons are like salt molecules floating around in the hot gas of hadrons, making other particles freeze out at a lower temperature than they would if the ‘salt’ wasn’t there.”

    By combining their measurements with a mathematical model of quarks and gluons interacting in a 3D lattice, the team was able to show that extra-heavy strange baryons were the most plausible explanation for the RHIC’s experimental results.

    Now, the team is hoping to create a map of how different types of matter, such as quark-gluon plasma, change phases at different temperatures. Just as the chemical symbol H20 represents water in the form of a liquid, ice or steam depending on the temperature and pressure, the subatomic particles in an atom’s nucleus take different forms at different temperatures. So, the team is hoping the new results could help them to create a map of how nuclear matter behaves at different temperatures.

    The findings were reported Aug. 11 in the journal Physical Review Letters.

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