Join the hunt to break the Higgs boson 'barrier'* | University of Oxford

Join the hunt to break the Higgs boson 'barrier'*

26 November 2014

Online volunteers are being asked to spot tiny explosions that could be evidence for new particles that will require new models of physics.

Higgs Hunters [], a project launched today by UK and US scientists working on the ATLAS experiment, enables members of the public to view 25,000 images recorded at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. By tagging the origins of tracks on these images volunteers could spot sub-atomic explosions caused when a Higgs boson ‘dies’, which some scientists think could generate a kind of particle new to physics.

‘If anything discovering what happens when a Higgs boson ‘dies’ could be even more exciting that the original discovery that the Higgs boson exists made at CERN back in 2012,’ said Professor Alan Barr of Oxford University’s Department of Physics, lead scientist of the Higgs Hunters project. ‘We want volunteers to help us go beyond the Higgs boson ‘barrier’ by examining pictures of these collisions and telling us what they see.’

In the ATLAS experiment at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider protons are smashed together at up to one billion kilometres per hour. Such collisions can generate Higgs bosons: these are known to rapidly decay into other particles and some scientists believe these could include a new type of previously unobserved particle. Simulations predict that these new particles should leave tell-tale tracks inside the ATLAS experiment, which computer programs find difficult to identify, but which human eyes can often pick out.

Professor Andy Haas of New York University said: ‘Writing computer algorithms to identify these particles is tough, so we're excited to see how much better we can do when people help us with the hunt.’

Professor Chris Lintott of Oxford University’s Department of Physics, Zooniverse Principal Investigator, said: ‘The most exciting citizen science comes when you find the unexpected lurking amongst the data, and who knows what could be out there in the data from the ATLAS experiment?’

Professor Dave Charlton, spokesperson of the ATLAS Collaboration, said: ‘With the Higgs Hunters project, people can look directly at ATLAS data to help us find unexpected phenomena - perhaps volunteers will be able to spot new physics with their own eyes!’

A successful detection of new particles would be a huge leap forward for particle physics, as they would lie beyond the Standard Model – the current best theory of the fundamental constituents of the Universe.

For further information go to or contact:

UK CONTACT:  Professor Alan Barr of Oxford University on +44 7766 525038 or email

USA CONTACT: Professor Andy Haas of New York University on +1(212)9987650 or email

Alternatively contact the Oxford University News Office on +44 (0)1865 283877 or email

Notes to Editors:

*The original title of this news release was 'Exploding Higgs boson could light up particle hunt', this has since been amended.

  •  Higgs Hunters
    The Higgs Hunters project is a collaboration between scientists at the University of Oxford, New York University, the University of Birmingham, the Zooniverse project, and the ATLAS experiment at CERN. The project was funded by a Google Global Impact Award, by the Science & Technology Facilities Council of the United Kingdom, and by the National Science Foundation, which supports ATLAS work at NYU including research and education.
  • The University of Oxford
    Oxford has been leading the world in physical sciences for more than 700 years. The laws of motion of falling bodies were first worked out by the “Oxford Calculators” in the 14th century. Today, the physics department at the University of Oxford builds, operates and analyses results from high-tech components of telescopes, particle physics detectors and satellites. In the Higgs Hunters images you can see the cylinders of the semiconductor tracker of the ATLAS detector. These precision detectors were assembled in Oxford before shipping to CERN. They continue to be operated by Oxford researchers and graduate students based at CERN.
  • New York University
    NYU is a university in and of the city and in and of the world. Based in the heart of Greenwich Village with facilities located throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, the traditional boundaries of the classroom are limitless, providing students and faculty with the unique opportunity to learn, teach, and grow in the world’s most dynamic city. NYU has been part of the ATLAS experiment since 2006, leading efforts on parts of the trigger, which decides which of the billions of collisions each second to record, discovering and measuring the Higgs boson, and searching for various models of new physics lurking in the data.
  • Zooniverse
    The Zooniverse is home to the internet’s largest, most popular and most successful citizen science projects. The Zooniverse and the suite of projects it contains is produced, maintained and developed by the Citizen Science Alliance (CSA). The member institutions of the CSA work with many academic and other partners around the world to produce projects that use the efforts and ability of volunteers to help scientists and researchers. Go to:
    ATLAS is a particle physics experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. The ATLAS Collaboration is a virtual United Nations of 38 countries. The collaboration is made from over 3000 physicists and 1000 students from more than 178 universities and laboratories. ATLAS aims to learn about the basic forces that have shaped our Universe since the beginning of time and that will determine its fate. Among the possible unknowns are extra dimensions of space, unification of fundamental forces, and evidence for dark matter candidates in the Universe. Following the discovery of the Higgs boson, further data will allow in-depth investigation of the boson's properties and thereby of the origin of mass.