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Freiburg Particle Physicists Rewarded for Decades of Work

Strong Indications for Higgs Particle at CERN

Freiburg, Jul 04, 2012

Freiburg Particle Physicists Rewarded for Decades of Work

An artful picture of the Atlas-Detector in bright colors as decoration for a building

It was revealed at today’s press conference at the European research center for particle physics CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, that the latest findings from the ATLAS and CMS experiments in search of the Higgs particle show strong indications for the existence of a new particle with a mass of approximately 126 giga-electron volts. The new findings from the ATLAS experiment are the fruit of decades of highly successful efforts by all 3,000 members from 38 countries who have designed, built, and operated the ATLAS detector and collected and analyzed data from it.

Since the inception of the ATLAS project in the 1990s, the research groups led by physics professors Gregor Herten and Karl Jakobs have made substantial contributions to developing and putting into operation two very important components for the detector, the myon spectrometer and the high-resolution silicon tracker. The enormous flood of three petabytes of data per year is processed with the help of grid computing, for which the University of Freiburg runs a so-called tier-2 data center led by Prof. Dr. Markus Schumacher.

The observed data cannot be explained by underground fluctuations. The chances for this are smaller than one in a million. There are indications that what has been observed is the long-sought Higgs particle. The unanimous opinion among Freiburg’s particle physicists is that the 4th of July 2012 marks a milestone in the history of particle physics and the beginning of a new era in our understanding of the fundamental structure of matter.

The Freiburg particle physicists Karl Jakobs and Markus Schumacher have been searching for the Higgs particle for a long time and have been in charge of research conducted within the context of the international ATLAS collaboration for many years. Their team of 27 postdocs, doctoral candidates, and students has made essential contributions to the search in various areas. “It is magnificent and moving to reach your goal after so many years and see evidence for a new particle together with your colleagues. It is not important whether this is the long-sought Higgs particle or something completely unexpected. Both would be great discoveries,” says Karl Jakobs. “The fascinating discovery of a new phenomenon is a very exciting event, but it is only the first step. Now we will need to study the properties of the new particle very closely in order to determine whether what we have discovered is really a Higgs particle and, if so, whether it follows the standard theory or an extended model,” says Markus Schumacher. “After reaching this milestone, we can now look forward to more exciting and pivotal times in the coming years.”

More data and more time will be needed for these further studies. Both of the Freiburg research groups have been working intensively on this topic for a long time. They are thus in an outstanding position to clarify the nature of the newly discovered particle in the future. The observation of the new particle opens up new possibilities to search for phenomena not included in the standard model. One possible extension of the standard model is the theory of supersymmetry (SUSY), which predicts a light Higgs particle and a multitude of new particles.

The members of Herten’s and Jacobs’ research groups have already been searching for evidence for these SUSY particles for several years. In order to interpret the observed excess and determine the nature of the new particle, they will need to work closely with theoretical physicists. The Freiburg theoretical physicists Prof. Dr. Stefan Dittmaier and Prof. Dr. Jochum van der Bij deliver precise predictions for the generation and the decay of the Higgs particle and develop alternative Higgs models that extend beyond the standard theory. “This is a landmark discovery, particularly with regard to the search for an overarching theory. If that which was observed is really the Higgs particle, it would constitute a triumph for the precision physics conducted at particle accelerators by experimental and theoretical particle physicists in the past decades,” says Dittmaier. “After around 40 years of work, the Higgs theory would be a scientific fact. It took a lot of perseverance to get to this point.”

More information on the Higgs particle [de]:


German Press Release

Prof. Dr. Markus Schumacher
Institute of Physics
University of Freiburg
Phone: +49(0)761/203-7612