LHC At Home: Now, You Can Help CERN Find The Higgs Boson Sitting At Home

The greatest science project ever designed by man is now calling out to you, dear average Joe or hotshot scientist, for helping it find the elusive Higgs Boson. CERN has launched an extended version of its [email protected] campaign, naming it unimaginatively as [email protected] 2.0, in which CERN wants you to share a part of your computer’s processing power to do science.

The Colossal Collider Comes Computer Hunting

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has been actively looking for the Higgs Boson particle, constantly eliminating mass ranges and probing higher and higher energies. Tantalizing signs have been seen, only to be later refuted by CERN itself. The Higgs particle, dubbed The God Particle’ by the popular media, is so far living up to the given divine billing. The Higgs is the ultimate piece of the puzzle of the Standard Model, with all the other particles discovered. No one said that finding the final piece would be easy.

The ALICE Detector at LHC

[email protected] 2.0 is a volunteer computing platform. It aims to use a part of the computing power of your computer, so that CERN can simulate more data. This is the best implementation of the notion of GRID computing, in which computers around the world, linked to a network, can donate a part of the processor’s facilities, which would have otherwise remained unused anyway. The result is a massive increase in processing speed for the central computing facility.

Simulations: Why So Serious?

The most important aspect of a collider experiment, other than building the machine itself, is the collision simulation. Simulations are a vital part because solving multi-particle dynamics is a stressful, often impossible, job. Several particles interacting with several other particles through different interactions at relativistic energies can give physicists nightmares. The way out is to prepare plausible models for the collision and then use computers to simulate the result, should such a collision take place. Important results are noted from the simulation data, like tell-tale signs of new particles, decay channels and sensitive hidden parameters. After documenting the actual collision, data is compared, especially the most conspicuous simulation results.

Simulated Decay of the Higgs

Reconstruction helps refine the model and unexpected bumps occasionally produce excitement. These bumps can be due to a number of causes, but careful analysis helps scientists rule out experimental causes or error. If the bump survives, it’s a new discovery. So far, no Higgs bump has survived.

… And You Can Join In!

CERN gives a detailed instruction manual to anyone interested to join here. Currently, the [email protected] 2.0 is in its test phase and is testing a program Test4Theory@Home.

Learn more about the CERN projects and how you can help here.

Here’s your dream come true: Have a virtual atom smasher at your home, revealing the greatest mysteries of the Universe.

Published by

Debjyoti Bardhan

Is a science geek, currently pursuing some sort of a degree (called a PhD) in Physics at TIFR, Mumbai. An enthusiastic but useless amateur photographer, his most favourite activity is simply lazing around. He is interested in all things interesting and scientific.