Have we found the Higgs boson? Find out in Melbourne on Wed 4 July at the International Conference for High Energy Physics

Bulletins, High Energy Physics Conference, Media bulletins

Deep under the French-Swiss border, particle physicists at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider have been looking for the Higgs boson – a subatomic particle which may or may not exist.

If they find the Higgs, then the Standard Model of physics is correct. But if they don’t find it, or if they find something they didn’t expect… it’s back to the drawing board.

We’ll find out on Wednesday 4 July when physicists gather in Melbourne for the 36th International Conference for High Energy Physics.

At 5 pm AEST on 4 July CERN will deliver the latest update in the search for the Higgs at a seminar and press conference held jointly in Geneva and Melbourne via a live two-way link.

At the Melbourne end, we’ll be holding a series of briefings in the lead-up to the announcement.

In this bulletin:

The Higgs boson – have we found it or not?

It’s nearly 50 years since Peter Higgs proposed its existence, and after two years of intense searching using the Large Hadron Collider, and some promising early results, have we found the Higgs boson?

The Higgs boson is a subatomic particle which is central to the theory on how fundamental particles gain mass.

Finding it would not only confirm this theory but also fill in a major missing piece of the “Standard Model” of particle physics. This is the book of fundamental rules the universe is thought to operate by but it doesn’t yet explain how particles gain their mass.

On Wednesday 4 July, CERN (the home of the LHC) and the conference will jointly host a scientific seminar followed by a press conference to announce and discuss the latest results in their search for the Higgs.

The joint seminar will start at 9am (Central European Summer Time) in Geneva/5pm (Australian Eastern Standard Time) in Melbourne via high speed two-way link.

The press conference will follow, starting at 6pm AEST.

Both sessions will be in Plenary 3 at the Melbourne Convention Centre at South Wharf.

Journalists in Melbourne will have the opportunity to ask questions of scientists at CERN in Geneva and in Melbourne.

We’ll be running a series of briefings for journalists during the day in the lead-up to the announcement at the Melbourne Convention Centre and we’ll have resources and people available to help you understand the significance of any announcement.

You’ll also be able to watch the seminar and the press conference live online. There will be a link to the webcast on the conference media site: http://press.highenergyphysicsmedia.com.

And as we get closer to an announcement, any further details we have will be posted at that website.

You can read CERN’s full press release on their website at: http://press.web.cern.ch/press/PressReleases/Releases2012/PR16.12E.html

But wait, there’s more…

The Higgs boson isn’t the only exciting thing in particle physics. There will be hundreds of speakers across the six days of the conference. We’ve got high energy physicists from Russia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Poland, Slovenia and Iran, as well as the directors and scientific leaders of the major particle physics labs in America and Europe.

You might think particle physics is a little hard to get your head around – but we’ve identified some neat science, some interesting people and some broad themes. We’ll be putting together a daily digest throughout the conference and highlighting a couple of stories each day.

Here are a few of our early picks.

The unusual world of subatomic particles: Where charm quarks and charm antiquarks come together in charmonium. We’ve got people who can talk about muons, pions, kaons, and gluons; top quarks, bottom quarks, up and down quarks; as well as the more familiar photons, electrons and the ever-elusive Higgs boson.

What happens when matter meets antimatter? They annihilate each other – so we’re lucky that there’s not much antimatter where we are. But physicists predict that there should be equal amounts of both, so where’s the antimatter hiding?

From the very big to the very small: Astrophysicists are looking out into space for clues about what happened in the first minutes after the Big Bang, while particle physicists make quark-gluon plasma – the “primordial soup” of the early universe – right here on Earth.

The search for dark energy: We know it makes up the bulk of the universe, but we’re not sure why, and we’re building a new telescope to look for it around supernovae and black holes. Understanding dark energy will help us to understand gravity and the expansion of the universe.

Ultra high energy cosmic rays: Scientists from Taiwan, China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the United States are working together at the Telescope Array observatory in Utah to study elementary particles and radiation coming from space.

Underground telescopes and next-gen colliders: Hear about new labs being built in disused mines in Finland and South Dakota, installing cryogenic chambers in Italian mountain caves and planning for a new generation of “compact” particle accelerators.

Protecting scientists with diamonds: Scientists are developing a new array of sensor technologies – involving diamonds – for use in “extreme radiation conditions”.

IceCube and ANTARES: A pair of telescopes buried under the South Pole and deep in the Mediterranean Sea looking for neutrinos as they pass through the planet, which could tell us about the Sun’s early life and help in the search for dark energy.

The king of cloud computers: How the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid deals with the petabytes of data generated by Large Hadron Collider and shares it with colleagues across the world.

What’s going on outside the conference?

The public program has started already.

A Lego model of the ATLAS experiment – 50 times smaller than the real one at the Large Hadron Collider – is on display at Scienceworks in Melbourne as part of an exhibition of particle physics at the planetarium. It was built by a Lego fans from autism support group ASD Aid on the Queen’s birthday long weekend.

During the conference, the outreach team from CERN (home of the Large Hadron Collider in Europe) will be holding masterclasses for students at the Synchrotron in Clayton.

We’re planning a science-at-the-pub event for Tuesday 10 July. It’ll be open to the public, and will be a chance to meet those involved in the hunt for the Higgs boson.

And we’ll host a couple of events just for journos, including drinks to welcome international journalists, probably on Sunday 8July at a venue close to the Melbourne Convention Centre.

Where do I sign up?

Media registration for the conference is open already. Sign up for a media pass at http://press.highenergyphysicsmedia.com

During the conference, we’ll host a media room upstairs and hold media briefings first thing in the morning and late in the afternoon in the plenary hall at the Melbourne Convention Centre.

For those of us without a higher degree in theoretical physics, we’ll have a crack team of friendly physicists with big brains and quick twitter fingers to answer your questions and help you understand the science.

The conference media website – http://press.highenergyphysicsmedia.com – will have: photos and videos of the conference: abstracts and program timetables; background information on the key themes; and copies of any press releases and briefing materials we put out.

We’ll also be live-streaming all of our press briefings and some of the conference sessions if you can’t make it to the Melbourne Convention Centre. There’s no need to register for that – it will be freely available via the conference media website.

If you’d like to be included kept in the loop leading up to the conference and you’re not already subscribed to our bulletin, drop me an email on niall@scienceinpublic.com.au and we’ll add you.

We’re tweeting about the conference on @pressichep, and you can follow the hashtag #ICHEP2012.