Statistics in particle physics: The role it played in discovering Higgs boson


Abstract


Statistics has played a decisive role in the development of particle physics, a pioneer of the so-called «big science». Its usage has grown alongside technological developments, enabling us to go from recording a few hundred events to thousands of millions of events. This article discusses how we have solved the problem of handling these huge datasets and how we have implemented the main statistical tools since the 1990s to search for ever smaller signals hidden in increasing background noise. The history of particle physics has witnessed many experiments that could illustrate the role of statistics, but few can boast a discovery of such scientific impact and dimensions as the Higgs boson, resulting from a colossal collective and technological endeavour.


Keywords


statistics; Monte Carlo; p-value; particle physics; Higgs boson

References


  • Aad, G. et al., 2012. «Observation of a New Particle in the Search for the Standard Model Higgs Boson with the ATLAS Detector at the LHC». Physics Letters B, 716(1): 1-29. DOI: <10.1016/j.physletb.2012.08.020>.

  • Aad, G. et al., 2013. «Evidence for the Spin-0 Nature of the Higgs Boson Using ATLAS Data». Physics Letters B, 726(1-3): 120-144. DOI: <10.1016/j.physletb.2013.08.026>.

  • Aaij, R. et al., 2014. «Observation of the Resonant Character of the Z(4430)- State». Physical Review Letters, 112: 222002. DOI: <10.1103/PhysRevLett.112.222002>.

  • Agostinelli, S. et al., 2003. «Geant4-a Simulation Toolkit». Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research A, 506(3): 250-303. DOI: <10.1016/S0168-9002(03)01368-8>.

  • Arnison, G. et al., 1983. «Experimental Observation of Isolated Large Transverse Energy Electrons with Associated Missing Energy at √s=450 GeV». Physics Letters B, 122(1): 103-116. DOI: <10.1016/0370-2693(83)91177-2>.

  • Barlow, R. J., 1989. Statistics. A Guide to the Use of Statistical Methods in the Physical Sciences. John Wiley & Sons. Chichester (England).

  • Chatrchyan, S. et al., 2012. «Observation of a New Boson at a Mass of 125 GeV with the CMS Experiment at the LHC». Physics Letters B, 716(1): 30-61. DOI: <10.1016/j.physletb.2012.08.021>.

  • Chatrchyan, S. et al., 2013. «Study of the Mass and Spin-Parity of the Higgs Boson Candidate via Its Decays to Z Boson Pairs». Physical Review Letters, 110: 081803. DOI: <10.1103/PhysRevLett.110.081803>.

  • Cowan, G., 2013. «Statistics». In Olive, K. A. et al., 2014. «Review of Particle Physics». Chinese Physics C, 38(9): 090001. DOI: <10.1088/1674-1137/38/9/090001>.

  • Ellis, J., 2012. «Outstanding Questions: Physics Beyond the Standard Model». Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society A, 370: 818-830. DOI: <10.1098/rsta.2011.0452>.

  • Feynman, R. P., 1963. The Feynman Lectures on Physics. Addison-Wesley. Reading, MA.

  • Herb, S. W. et al., 1977. «Observation of a Dimuon Resonance at 9.5 GeV in 400-GeV Proton-Nucleus Collisions». Physical Review Letters, 39: 252-255. DOI: <10.1103/PhysRevLett.39.252>.

  • Nason, P. and P. Z. Skands, 2013. «Monte Carlo Event Generators». In Olive, K.A. et al., 2014. «Review of Particle Physics». Chinese Physics C, 38(9): 090001. DOI: <10.1088/1674-1137/38/9/090001>.

  • Nuzzo, R., 2014. «Statistical Errors». Nature, 506: 150-152. DOI: <10.1038/506150a>.

  • Physics Statistics Code Repository, 2002; 2003; 2005; 2007; 2011. PhyStat Conference 2002. Durham. Available at: .

  • Schirber, M., 2013. «Focus: Nobel Prize-Why Particles Have Mass». Physics 6: 111. DOI: <10.1103/Physics.6.111>.

  • Swanson, E., 2013. «Viewpoint: New Particle Hints at Four-Quark Matter». Physics, 6: 69. DOI: <10.1103/Physics.6.69>.

  • Webb, A., 2002. Statistical Pattern Recognition. John Wiley & Sons. Chichester (United Kingdom).







Creative Commons License
Texts in the journal are –unless otherwise indicated– published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________