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UNL physicist Bloom: ‘A great thrill’

Ken Bloom, associate professor of physics and astronomy at UNL, is in Melbourne for the International Conference on High Energy Physics, where details of Wednesday’s announcement about the discovery of a new particle are being presented in more detail.

Bloom is a member of UNL’s experimental high-energy physics team, which has been collaborating in the hunt for the Higgs boson particle since the early 1990s. Read more about UNL’s involvement in the Higgs boson project here.

Prof. Bloom sends us his thoughts this morning:

To be here at the biggest gathering of particle physicists this year was a great thrill. We had hundreds of physicists watching the live broadcast from CERN on what we knew would likely be an historic day for our field.  And our expectations paid off — two completely independent experiments, CMS and ATLAS, had come up with essentially identical results.

We can now say quite firmly that we have discovered a new particle, and, while there is still a lot of work to do to verify this claim, it seems like this very well could be the Higgs boson that we have been anticipating for a half century.

It is especially gratifying to see how important the contributions from our Nebraska team were in this discovery. Our Tier-2 computing center was where many of the simulations of the Higgs-search data samples were carried out, and some of the Higgs candidate events are on our disks in Lincoln.

“We have to thank UNL’s leaders, especially Vice Chancellor Prem Paul, for their help in winning this center for Nebraska. The silicon pixel detector that we have helped to construct and operate has been the workhorse of the CMS particle detector, crucial for identifying the particles that are produced when Higgs bosons decay.  And our postdocs and students have made fabulous contributions to make the CMS experiment really work.  While watching the presentations, I was happy to see how many young people there were in the CERN auditorium; it is their energy and talent that have made this experiment a success.

“But as noted, this is just the start — there is still a tremendous amount of work to do to understand exactly what this new particle is. Is it really the source of the mass of all particles?  Does it actually have all the properties that we expect it to have?  We can’t wait to move into this next phase, and we are looking forward to sharing what we learn with our friends throughout Nebraska.”

Prof. Bloom also has been live-blogging the news for the blog Quantum Diaries today. Check out his entries here.

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