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Wits physicists involved in search for new bosons at CERN

- Wits University

Southern Africa’s talent in high energy particle physics displayed at annual workshop.

Where does Dark Matter in the Universe come from? Is the Large Hadron Collider seeing new bosons and can these bosons give mass to particles in the Universe?

In 2012, the world stood in awe as the Higgs Boson – the particle that gives known matter mass – was found at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. In 2016, the world may be astonished again, as physicists are preparing to describe a range of new phenomena, which they were previously unable to explain.

Wits physicists are at the leading edge of experiments at the Large Hadron Collider, which has been restarted in 2015 after a two-year shut-down. These experiments have reported a number of tantalising peculiarities in the data. Together with collaborators from the Harish Chandra Institute, Wits researchers have postulated in June 2015 the existence of a new boson, which is able to explain a number of these peculiarities.

In December 2015 the ATLAS and CMS experiments reported an excess of events consistent with an even heavier boson. These two bosons could explain the suite of peculiarities in the data, and predict the existence of yet two more bosons, this time with electrical charge, and a family of new particles. These particles, if confirmed with new data, would signify a revolution in Physics.

 “With the discovery of the Higgs boson a new window of opportunity has opened to discover new particles and interactions in nature. These may help us understand many unresolved mysteries, such as where most of the matter in the Universe comes from, among others,” says Professor Bruce Mellado from the Wits School of Physics. “Experiments in the LHC also provide an insight of what happened right after the Big Bang via the study of collisions of heavy ions at high energies.”

In June 2015 the LHC has resumed in providing proton-proton collisions for physics data at a record energy of 13 TeV (1012 eV). The Higgs boson was discovered with data collected at 7 TeV and 8 TeV.

Then on 25 November 2015, the first heavy ion collisions at a record energy of more than 1 PeV (1015 eV) were provided.

The results following the data analysis by the ATLAS and CMS experiments bears witness of the excellent readiness of the experiments to collect, distribute and analyze vast amounts of data in a short period of time.

“Getting these exciting results from LHC Run two depended on understanding the early measurements at this new center-of-mass energy, where the Wits group played a significant role,” says Dr Deepak Kar of the Wits School of Physics.

“The amount of data delivered in 2015 is a glimpse of what will be delivered this year. New data is expected to be delivered starting at the end of April 2016, leading to a data sample significantly bigger than obtained in 2015. This data set will give an invaluable insight on whether we will have new discoveries or not,” says Mellado.

Workshop

The High Energy Particle Physics Group at the University of the Witwatersrand hosted the second High Energy Particle Physics (HEPP) Workshop from Monday, 8 February to Wednesday 10 February. The second edition of the HEPP Workshop was aimed at training students in presenting research on High Energy Particle Physics. Lectures were given by leading researchers, including Prof. Eilam Gross, convenor of the Higgs Boson working group at the ATLAS experiment when the Higgs Boson was discovered.

“This workshop is an opportunity for over 30 Masters and PhD students from various South African institutions to give presentations on their work, on topics that include theory, phenomenology, data analysis, synergy with nuclear physics, Big Data and electronics,” says Mellado. 

“The work of these students, together with the research that we are doing at CERN is evidence of the contribution that South Africa as a whole, and Wits in particular, make to the knowledge and understanding that we have of how our world is working,” says Mellado.

The workshop was opened by Wits Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Prof. Zeblon Vilakazi, the Head of the Wits School of Physics, Prof. Joao Rodrigues, Dr Daniel Adams from the Department of Science and Technology, Prof. Azwinndini Muronga, President of the SA Institute of Physics, Prof. Jean Cleymans, Chair of the SA-CERN consortium.

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