A new outreach project: the “Higgs Challenge”! January 8, 2007Posted by dorigo in games, personal, physics, science.
Some of my most affectionate readers will probably remember an idea I had two years ago about how to promote particle physics and do some excellent outreach, while obtaining funds for the running of our experiments sidestepping our funding agencies, all in one stroke. In one line, it consists in converting our giant particle detector into a perfect quantum lottery. I wrote about it in my Quantum Diaries blog, and you might like reading about it there: http://qd.typepad.com/6/2005/01/the_buried_lott.html .
That idea is a bit hard to realize – not too far from social science fiction. However, I am now seriously thinking about how to implement it at a less ambitious level.
I tentatively call the project “Higgs Challenge 2008” (“SUSY Challenge 2008” would work too). It consists in offering to high schools geographically close to universities participating in the CMS experiment a couple of simple introductory lectures, and a set of real events collected by the experiment through some of the most interesting, “discovery” triggers. Say 1,000 or 10,000 to each school.
The event sets could be offered to the participating schools in the form of a ticket at the time of the first lecture (“you will be delivered event #123,456,001 to #123,457,000 as soon as they are collected”), and then for real, in a small display package including the ability of dumping quadrimomenta of high-level objects such as electrons, muons, or jets, and simple routines to compute multi-body invariant masses. The participating high school class that collected most golden Higgs boson decay candidates, or something alike, could win a tour of the CERN laboratory.
Sketched as above, the project appears a bit complicated to realize, but I have roughly worked out a few of the details and I believe it would be not too hard to make it a successful worldwide outreach venture. We have the bases (institutions throughout the world), the manpower (not hard to find a few graduate students or post-docs per institution, volunteering to give lectures and provide some technical help with the event sets), and we will hopefully also have the events one day!
Advertising could be easily provided by the CMS management through their outreach office, and other funds needed to run the whole thing would be ridiculously small for the payback we -the particle physics community- would get. Say US$500 per school – each university could be asked to fund one to three – for the expenses of lecturers, plus maybe US$10,000 to develop a simple software interface, and US$20,000 more for the prize (a trip to the lab for the winning class). With 40 of the participating universities contributing with a couple thousand dollars each, the thing would fund itself.
Next week I am at CERN, and I intend to discuss the matter with some tall mushrooms in the CMS management. Wish me good luck.