|Jeremiah Mans at the Compact Muon Sollenoid at CERN|
Recently, physicists at the University of Minnesota and around the world celebrated the first particle collisions at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, followed shortly thereafter with the breaking of the beam energy record. Professor Jeremiah Mans of the School of Physics and Astronomy is a member of the large collaboration CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) that will take measurements on the Large Hadron Collider. "Things are changing very rapidly. We are hitting major milestones every week."
Professor Mans's main efforts on CMS are the design, building and maintenance of the timing and laser control electronics and the data acquisition software for the Hadron Calorimeter. The hadron calorimeter is a detector designed to measure the energies of quark-containing particles. Mans and his students have spent much of the last year preparing software analysis programs using simulations. One of the students, Phil Dudero, is at CERN full-time working on the synchronization of the hadronic calorimeter and the CMS detector. Mans says he expects to have enough usable data that they can begin to look for novel physics by March 2010.
While waiting for the collisions, Mans’s group has also been analyzing cosmic ray data collected by CMS. The analysis efforts underway by the collaboration include both technical and astrophysical measurements. "This may be the only time you will see a plot with MINOS and CMS data on it," Mans muses. The detector is located in an underground tunnel so they compare muon particle data from cosmic rays to muons collected at the underground detector MINOS in Northern Minnesota. The cosmic ray information proved to be a useful tool for helping in calibration of the detector, especially while the accelerator was being repaired last spring.
As of yet, LHC has not produced enough collisions to do data analysis. Mans is looking forward to a longer series of collisions expected in early 2010 that will provide very useful and exciting data. They will be studying the creation of the Z boson at first, a particle discovered in the early 80s at CERN. "We know almost everything there is to know about the Z boson so it is a useful tool to calibrate the detector. It is also an ideal tool for understanding the nature of the objects we're colliding: protons."
As the accelerator operates at unprecedented new high energies, the challenge will be to decipher novel physics from problems with the detector. Mans says that physicists will be looking for “missing energy” collisions or a new particle that doesn’t leave energy in the beam. The production of Dark Matter, for example, would most likely exhibit that behavior. One problem Mans and his group are working on now is a program that will filter out detector noise that can be read as a false "missing energy" scenario. Initial results of this filtering effort, using data from the cosmic ray tests, was recently submitted for publication
Some of the phenomenon physicists are hoping to see, such as Supersymmetry and Dark Matter could be apparent right away. "The signatures of many of these models are quite striking." Mans warns that the Higgs boson, the search for which is one of the reasons for the creation of the LHC, will take a lot of analysis to find, requiring first a large number of collisions. He added that when they begin to see new phenomenon it will be a collaborative effort with theoretical physicists to figure out what theory best fits with observations.