LHC reaches its data-production target for 2011

The Large Hadron Collider has reached its data-production target for 2011, 1 inverse femtobarn of proton-proton collisions, or 70 trillion of them. It has performed so well that it will likely make 4 more inverse femtobarns before the end of this year.

This will be enough to see the more distinctive decay signatures of various possible particles — if they exist. Particles like the Higgs particle and supersymmetric particles, which are missing pieces of the Standard-Model puzzle. These particles are either (1) very massive or else (2) have decays in which the more likely modes are difficult to distinguish from other events. For instance, the easiest-to-see decay modes of the Higgs particle are expected to be two-photon ones, but those are expected to happen only once in every 10,000 decays or so.

So the next several months could be very interesting times for particle physicists. From the LHC’s rich harvest of data, they will either get evidence of some interesting new particles, or they will rule out those particles’ existence at accessible energies.

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