David Kirkpatrick

August 23, 2008

Fermilab finds single top quark

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:30 pm

In the category of further breaking down the atom, Fermilab announces “seeing” a top quark not coupled to an antiop.

It’s always great news whentheoretical atomic properties are found to exist, but this announcement is a bit funny because there’s a strong undercurrent of, let’s say, friendly competition with CERN and the soon-to-be-turned-on Large Hadron Collider for the media’s attention.

This can readily be seen in the intro to the linked article (emphasis mine):

Scientists at the world’s largest fully operating particle accelerator, the Tevatron at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Illinois, have discovered convincing evidence suggesting the existence of top quarks that are not coupled to their antiparticle, the antitop. These “single” top quarks have been hunted since Fermilab scientists first discovered top-antitop pairs in 1995.

Luckily the Tevatron has a few more years of no real competition in terms of grand announcements since LHC isn’t expected to begin kicking out confirmed results for around that period of time

Enough of Fermilab/CERN comparisons. Here’s the science from the piece:

Fermilab physicists hope that the techniques they used to find the single top quark could help them in their search for the proposed Higgs boson, a particle that exists so far only in theory but if actually found would have a huge impact on physics. The Higgs is expected to reveal such basic information as why nature assigned certain masses to certain particles—the origin of mass, essentially.

The results are the product of a long period of analysis by Fermilab’s D0 (“D-Zero”) collaboration, an international group of physicists from 90 institutions. The group studies data from particle collisions that occur within the D0 particle detector; in this case, data generated by collisions between a beam of protons and a beam of antiprotons. D0 is a building-sized cylindrical device that surrounds the collision site, measuring and recording the energies and trajectories of the many, many particles produced when the beams are smashed together.