A few days ago, CERN opened the Open Data portal, where the organizazion made available to anyone information on the experiments of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Now a collaboration between the University of Oxford, the New York University, The University of Birmingham, the Zooniverse project and CERN’s ATLAS experiment led to the creation of the Higgs Hunters project that allows anyone to collaborate on a research on the Higgs boson.
The Higgs Hunters site contains over 25,000 LHC images that show particles traveling at nearly the speed of light. They show the decay of the Higgs boson in new particles and among them there could be a new type never observed before.
The images show how the particles appear in the ATLAS detector. There are various lines that show tracks of the particle trajectories as they move away from a collision. They are analyzed by computers but humans are still the best in finding abnormalities that may lead to the discovery of new particles.
The volunteers who want to examine the images on the Higgs Hunters site are asked to look for tracks that appear “out of thin air” away from the center. The anomalies must be marked so that they can be further studied by the scientists of the ATLAS experiment. A brief tutorial was created to allow the volunteers to understand how to look at the different types of images presented.
The hope is to find anomalies in the images that computers can’t detect. This form of crowdsourcing might allow an analysis of the images in a short time if there will be enough volunteers. Actually there is no hurry because the next analzes will be carried out by repeating certain experiments when the restart of the LHC will be completed during 2015. At that point, CERN scientists will be able to perform their experiments at even higher energies.
Finding new particles is always important to achieve progress in the field of physics and astrophysics. After the discoveries on the Higgs boson in recent years, we are in a time that could really affect the future in a fundamental way, not only from the scientific point of view. New findings could have profound influences on upcoming technologies and you too can make your contribution.