The latest results on the Higgs search are out. Results were presented separately by ATLAS and CMS detectors of LHC, CERN today(i.e. 22st August, 2011) at the Lepton-Photon Conference, 2011. In this semi-technical article, we present the most important results in a systematic form. The verdict is, however, out the Higgs hasn’t been found as yet.
Higgs Production and Decay channels
There are a few things that should be kept in mind right throughout the article. The Higgs boson is primarily produced by interaction of two gluons. (A gluon is what keeps protons and neutrons in an atomic nucleus together.) This is called gluon-gluon production of the Higgs boson.
Next, the Higgs, being highly massive (i.e. having a high mass) decays into lighter particles. This is what massive particles always do they decay into lighter particles. The only thing is that different particles decay at different rates. Heavier particles will decay much faster than comparatively lighter particles.
The Higgs can decay into a number of lighter products. Each of these products leaves a distinctive signature on the detectors and the different modes of decay are called different decay channels’. The Higgs primarily has a gamma-gamma (Higgs decaying into two gamma ray photons.) channel, a WW and a ZZ channel. These are the main channels of interest. The gamma-gamma channel will be the preferred channel if the Higgs is a comparatively light particle about 100 GeV in mass. If the Higgs decays by producing two Z-bosons (the ZZ channel) or two W-bosons (WW channel) then its mass is above 130 GeV. In other words, the gamma-gamma channel fixes the upper limit of the Higgs mass at 130 GeV, while the WW and ZZ channels fix the lower energy bound at 130 GeV.
Now, here is the interesting part. The WW or ZZ bosons are themselves quite heavy and decay into a number of products. These decay channels produce characteristic detection patterns in the detectors. Comparing the observed rate of decay into these channels with that of the expected value, the data is reconstructed to see if this indeed was a Higgs event.
Now for more technical details
The ATLAS detector found no significant excess in the gamma-gamma channel. The bottom-bottombar (b-bbar) channel (this is what the WW bosons break down into bottom and anti-bottom quarks) gave big excess of Higgs event above the theoretically expected Standard Model(SM) production rates. Even though the excess was nearly 10 times the SM predictions, the sensitivity needs to be improved. Furthermore, Tevatron has a much greater say in the b-bbar channel than the LHC, given that it has recorded much higher number of events and has a higher luminosity at that energy range. The tau-tau (tau is a lepton, an electron like particle) channel gave a 4 to 5 times excess.
Overall, there was no significant excess in any of the channels to warrant a discovery. There was no significant excess number of events noticed for the Higgs in the mass range of 110 GeV to 160 GeV. This mass range is tentatively excluded with 95% confidence level. However, at 99% confidence level, there is a window about 142 GeV, which can be a possible detection window. Further experiments will probe this window more thoroughly.
CMS detected no excess in the gamma-gamma channel. A slight excess was noticed in the tau-tau channel and this is expected to be an important channel for further investigation, owing to the fact that data reconstruction from this channel points to a Higgs mass of about 140 GeV.
Excess of events in the WW going to lepton-lepton channel suggests a mass range of 130 GeV to 200 GeV. Three pairs of events have been notices at three mass ranges 122, 142 and 165 GeV for the ZZ channel. Only the 142 GeV event is consistent with Standard Model predictions. Happily, this is the very window that wasn’t excluded earlier with 99% confidence level.
Out of theoretically expected mass range exclusion of 145 to 440 GeV, three ranges have been excluded 145 to 216 GeV, 226 to 288 GeV and 310 to 400 GeV. Anything above 400 GeV is unlikely and the crucial 130 to 145 GeV window is still open. These mass ranges have been excluded with 98% confidence level.
Higgs search continues with full force. LHC will provide a lot more data samples in the coming months and this might ultimately lead us to achieve the Holy Grail of Particle Physics.