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Wayne State University Had Role In ‘God Particle’ Discovery

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DETROIT — Wayne State University announced Wednesday that its scientists and technicians played an important role in the apparent discovery by Europe’s Large Hadron Collider of the long-sought Higgs boson, the so-called ‘God particle.’

A seminar presentation at the CERN physics research center in Geneva, Switzerland disclosed two experiments that observe a new particle in the mass region around 125-126 GeV.

And Wayne State said a team of its physicists “made important contributions to the CMS experiment.”

The WSU team is led by Paul Karchin and Robert Harr, professors in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Team members include Caroline Milstene, adjunct professor of physics, Mark Mattson, assistant research professor, Alexandre Sakharov, research associate, Alfredo Gutierrez, research engineer and Ph.D. students Christopher Clarke, Sowjanya Gollapinni, Chamath Kottachchi, Pramod Lamichhane and Kevin Siehl.

WSU team members are located at three key locations around the world: the CERN laboratory in Geneva, the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois and at Wayne State’s campus. The WSU team contributed to the around-the-clock operation of the experiment and analysis of the data. Team members became experts with different parts of the experimental apparatus including the endcap muon detector, the hadron calorimeter and the high-level trigger computing system.

“The results are preliminary but the 5 sigma signal at around 125 GeV we’re seeing is dramatic,” said Joe Incandela, CMS experiment spokesperson.  “This is indeed a new particle. We know it must be a boson and it’s the heaviest boson ever found. The implications are very significant and it is precisely for this reason that we must be extremely diligent in all of our studies and cross-checks.”

The results presented today are preliminary. They are based on data collected in 2011 and 2012, with the 2012 data still under analysis.  Publication of the analyses shown Wednesday is expected around the end of July. A more complete picture of Wednesday’s observations will emerge later this year after the LHC provides the experiments with more data.

The next step will be to determine the precise nature of the particle and its significance for understanding the universe.

“The Higgs boson is the last piece of a theory established nearly a half century ago,”  Harr said. “It plays a unique role in the theory and therefore we must see if what is found is the Higgs boson or something else.”

This includes seeing if its properties are as expected for the long-sought Higgs boson or learning if it is something more exotic. The Standard Model describes the fundamental particles from which humans, and every visible thing in the universe, are made, and the forces acting between them. All the matter that can be seen, however, appears to be no more than about 4 percent of the total. A more exotic version of the Higgs particle could be a bridge to understanding the 96 percent of the universe that remains obscure.

Positive identification of the new particle’s characteristics will take considerable time and data. But whatever form the Higgs particle takes, Wayne State researchers can say for sure that our knowledge of the fundamental structure of matter is about to take a major step forward.

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