How smashing protons can help determine if the Higgs exists.

Back in July, I had the great opportunity to attend the 2011 CTEQ Summer School in Madison, Wi., where for 10 days we talked about this equation:

Now, this is not just any ordinary equation, it is arguably the most important equation for any physicist working at the Large Hadron Collider, the Tevatron, or any of the other half-dozen atom smashers on this planet. In fact, this equation is precisely what inspired the name Paper vs. Protons.

Since quantum physics is inherently statistical most calculations result in computing probabilities of things happening. The formula above allows you to compute the probability of what happens when you collide protons, something experimentalists can measure, by simply calculating the probability of something happening when you collide quarks, something undergraduates can do!

Richard Ruiz carefully walks us through the equation so we can understand what is happening at the conceptual level. The equation tells us the probability of producing an electron (e) and a positron (e+) if you smash two protons (p) into each other. And the results from this equation will tell us if the predictions for the Higgs particle match what Nature tells us.

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