Today, at the 2018 International Conference on High Energy Physics in Seoul, the ATLAS experiment reported a preliminary result establishing the observation of the Higgs boson decaying into pairs of b quarks, furthermore at a rate consistent with the Standard Model prediction.
Higgs boson couplings manifest themselves in the rate of production of the Higgs boson at the LHC, and its decay branching ratios into various final states. These rates have been precisely measured by the ATLAS experiment, using up to 80 fb–1 of data collected at a proton-proton collision energy of 13 TeV from 2015 to 2017. Measurements were performed in all of the main decay channels of the Higgs boson: to pairs of photons, W and Z bosons, bottom quarks, taus, and muons. The overall production rate of the Higgs boson was measured to be in agreement with Standard Model predictions, with an uncertainty of 8%. The uncertainty is reduced from 11% in the previous combined measurements released last year.
The top quark is a unique particle due to its phenomenally high mass. It decays in less than 10-24 seconds, that is, before it had time to interact with any other particles. Therefore many of its quantum numbers, such as its spin, are transferred to its decay particles. When created in matter-antimatter pairs, the spins of the top quark and the antitop quark are expected to be correlated to some degree.
Two among the rarest processes probed so far at the LHC, the scattering between W and Z bosons emitted by quarks in proton-proton collisions, have been established by the ATLAS experiment at CERN.
A decisive property of the Higgs boson is its affinity to mass. The heavier a particle is, the stronger the Higgs boson will couple to it. While physicists have firmly established this property for heavy W and Z bosons (force carriers), more data are needed to measure the Higgs boson coupling to the heavy fermions (matter particles). These interactions, known as Yukawa couplings, are very interesting as they proceed through a quite different mechanism than the coupling to force-carrying bosons in the Standard Model.
Many theoretical models predict that new physics, which could provide answers to these questions, could manifest itself as yet-undiscovered massive particles. These include massive new particles that would decay to much lighter high-momentum electroweak bosons (W and Z). These in turn decay, and the most common signature would be pairs of highly collimated bundles of particles, known as jets.
According to the Standard Model, quarks, charged leptons, and W and Z bosons obtain their mass through interactions with the Higgs field, whose fluctuation gives rise to the Higgs boson. To test this theory, ATLAS takes high-precision measurements of the interactions between the Higgs boson and these particles. While experiments had observed and measured the Higgs boson decaying to pairs of W or Z bosons, photons or tau leptons, the Higgs coupling to quarks had – until now – not been observed.
The ATLAS experiment has just completed a new search for evidence of supersymmetry (SUSY), a theory that predicts the existence of new “super-partner” particles, with different properties from their Standard Model counterparts. This search looks for SUSY particles decaying to produce two leptons and scrutinises the invariant mass distribution of these leptons, hoping to find a bump.
In October 2017, the ATLAS experiment recorded collisions of xenon nuclei for the first time. While massive compared to a proton, xenon nuclei are smaller than the lead ions typically collided in the LHC. The xenon-xenon collision data, combined with previous results from the analysis of lead-lead collisions, provide the first opportunity to examine heavy ion collisions in a system that is distinctly smaller in size. This allows physicists to study in detail the role of the collision geometry for observables often associated with the quark-gluon plasma.
Heavy ion collisions at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) form a hot, dense medium called the quark-gluon plasma (QGP), in which the primary constituents are thought to be quarks and gluons produced in the initial interactions of the nuclei. Besides typical heavy ion collisions, where the nucleons in the colliding nuclei undergo multiple strong interactions with each other, there is also a class of “ultraperipheral” collisions. In these collisions, the nuclei are far enough apart to miss each other, but the surrounding electromagnetic field of one nucleus is able to interact both with the other nucleus (“photonuclear” interactions) and with the other electromagnetic field (“photon-photon” interactions).