LHC Prepares for Data Pile-Up
The world’s largest particle accelerator is roaring along at an unprecedented pace, delivering torrents of data to its physicist handlers. But the hundreds of millions of collisions happening inside the machine every second are now growing into a thick fog that, paradoxically, threatens to obscure a fabled quarry: the Higgs boson. The problem is known as pile-up, and it promises to be one of the greatest challenges this year for scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, Europe’s main high-energy physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland.
Huge amounts of computing power, cunning software and technical tricks are helping scientists to stay ahead of the problem. If it exists, the Higgs, the manifestation of a field that is believed to confer mass on other particles, will appear fleetingly inside the machine before decaying into lighter particles. Last year, the two biggest detectors at the LHC saw hints of a Higgs. This year, researchers want to collect more data to see whether that signal grows into a certainty, or withers back to nothing.