Greetings from the TOP 2012 conference, Winchester UK! What’s a ‘Winchester’ I hear you asking? A type of gun? Indeed yes, though sadly not of the smoking variety that we’re all so keen to find. However in this particular case Winchester is a historical town in the south of England, complete with the typical rolling green fields, a cathedral, and the not so typical contingent of visiting physicists! 

This is the highlight of the conference year if you’re a top quark physicist. Better than ICHEP (unless of course, you actually got to go to ICHEP) and more relaxed than Moriond QCD. Five full days in a four star hotel in the English countryside with only the top quark on our minds, bliss! There’s also a pool and a spa, but who cares about such trivialities…

The best ‘little’ particle there is!

In the year of the Higgs discovery, what might we expect to see in the top sector? Well intrepid reader, that’s a mighty fine question and one that has an agreeable sense of symmetry to it. Just as we’re beginning to probe the boson responsible for bestowing particles with mass, we’re well and truly entering into an era of precision measurements of the standard model's (SM) most massive particle! In this year’s conference all four five[1] hadron collider experiments involved in top quark physics will present cutting edge, state of the art results on everything from cross sections and properties, to resonances and exotic particle searches. This aptly named particle is, for lack of a more articulate argument, AWESOME [2]!

Conference goody bag win!

One of the TOP2012 pointers. (Image: James Howarth/ATLAS)

Now it’s only the first day of the conference, and we’ve plenty of reason to expect some very exciting results over the next few days, but what has got me so excited on day one? Is it the promise of some ‘friendly’ games of football and croquet with the theorists? No of course not, it’s the simply amazing conference goody bag, in which you’ll find this little gem!

Not only is it a laser pointer (never again will I have to gesture wildly from the audience at a dubious data point on a plot that the speaker pretends not to be able to see), it is also a more retro mechanical pointer, with a pen on the end as a finishing touch! Take that ICHEP!

Why do we care?

So why should you care about top quark physics? If the particle found is indeed the fabled Higgs Boson, then the top quark is the highest mass particle known to exist and may play a special role in electroweak symmetry breaking. Furthermore, there’s barely a new physics model out there that doesn’t involve the top quark in one way or another and top events are fantastic probes for new physics particles such as Z’, axi-gluons and certain flavours of SUSY.

Aren’t you going to show us some plots?

Since many of the physics analysts are taking advantage of last minute editorial board approvals, some of the more interesting and controversial plots are not available for me to post (at least not yet). But there are a few highlights that we can be pretty sure are on the way. Almost certainly there will be a lot of interest in the latest and greatest LHC top cross section combination and time will surely be allotted to the most current forward-backward asymmetry results from CDF and DØ. But with the full 7TeV data sets under their belts, and 8TeV on the way, it will be exciting to see what ATLAS and CMS have been doing with the forward-central asymmetries and lepton charge asymmetries.

If you’re not familiar with these terms, I could easily spend several blog entries explaining why this is a really cool measurement, and why it tantalisingly offers hints of beyond the standard model physics. But I suspect if you’ve read this far on a blog entitled “TOP 2012” then you’ve probably already heard of it. For those that haven’t, the following link is a very nice summary paper.

It’s a theory paper but try not to panic, and stay tuned for the latest results as they are presented this week.  

[1] Welcome to top physics LHCb!

[2] Christian Schwanenberger, DØ Physics co-ordinator - ad verbatim, too many times to count and in various accents.