LHC & right handed particles | University of Oxford
OSB archive
OSB archive

LHC & right handed particles

Pete Wilton

What with ash clouds and elections the Large Hadron Collider has been out of the headlines recently.

So I enjoyed this update from Paul Rincon at BBC News online who spoke to Tony Weidberg of Oxford University's Department of Physics about the LHC's ATLAS experiment.

ATLAS is looking for new discoveries in the head-on collisions of protons at very high energy inside the machine. Tony explains that within a few months it could be sensitive enough to probe the 1,000 gigaelectronvolt [GeV] mass scale where particles, such as W prime and Z prime bosons, are thought to exist.

Why do these funny-sounding particles matter?

Well, whilst we already know about their lighter cousins (normal w and z bosons are found at 100 GeV) finding these supersized particles could reveal some strange new physics and help us understand the forces that control our universe.

One possibility is that the 'lighter' bosons, which physicists describe as 'left-handed', could be one of a pair.

Tony tells BBC Online: 'We're into speculation here, but one possibility is that the Universe is really symmetric at high energies and that there are right-handed W bosons as well... For some reason, they happen to be much heavier than the left-handed W bosons we know.'

Of course symmetry is just one thing on the minds of LHC scientists.

As OxSciBlog previously reported Oxford's ATLAS team are exploring a range of phenomena with Caterina Doglioni amongst those looking to 'rediscover' the Standard Model, and assess how it fares in this new high-energy world, and Hugo Beauchemin leading the hunt for early evidence of new physics beyond the Standard Model.

Meanwhile Oxford's Cigdem Issever is planning to use ATLAS to find mysterious (but surprisingly non-threatening) 'mini' black holes.

Exciting stuff. The one downside is that, according to Tony, it's likely to be 2011 at the earliest before researchers can start looking for the biggest piece missing from the physics jigsaw: the Higgs boson.