Micro Files


New evidence bolsters Higgs boson discovery: Confirmation of particle responsible for mass

According to Science Daily, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) published research in Nature Physics this week that details evidence of the direct decay of the Higgs boson to fermions, which are among the particles anticipated by the Standard Model of Physics. Fermions are elemental particles that include quarks and leptons. 

They exist for only a fraction of a second after emerging from the decaying boson, but they can be tracked because they’re moving away from the collision at tremendous speed.

Experiments that took place two years ago using the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest super collider, which smashed protons together in the hope that the clash would produce the short-lived Higgs boson, leaving signs of its decay in the traces recorded by experiments designed and built at Rice University. 

Rice University researchers Paul Padley, a professor of physics and astronomy, and Karl Ecklund, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy, stated, “In July 2012, we knew we had discovered some sort of boson, and it looked a lot like it was a Higgs boson … to firmly establish it’s the standard model Higgs boson, there are a number of checks we have to do. This paper represents one of these fundamental checks.”

The collider is shut down for an upgrade to be completed next year, but the mountain of data from the first run of experiments through 2012 has yielded spectacular results. Padley commented that going over the overwhelming amount of data produced by the LHC is “like doing the analysis at a crime scene, when they look to see which gun fired the bullets. As we find more evidence, it looks more like a standard model Higgs boson.”

Mars Curiosity rover celebrates its first full Martian year

Did you know that a Martian year is 687 Earth days long? 

According to Science Daily, June 24 marked the commemoration of the first year of NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover since it landed on the Red Planet in August 2012. One of the rover’s main findings was an ancient riverbed at its landing site known as the Yellowknife Bay. 

The rover met its most significant goal of determining whether the Martian Gale Crater was ever habitable for simple life forms with a historic “yes.” This was determined thanks to two mudstone slabs that were found by the rover. Analysis of the samples revealed the site was once a lakebed with a significant amount of water. 

An important finding during the rover’s first Martian year was assessing the natural radiation levels both during the flight to Mars and on the Martian surface in order to provide the guidance needed to design human missions to Mars. 

Another significant finding of the rover is measuring the heavy-versus-light variant elements in the Martian atmosphere which indicates that much of Mars’ early atmosphere disappeared by processes favouring the loss of lighter atoms. 

UW co-op student wins young investigator award

Erin Wong, a 4A kinesiology undergraduate student, received the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer (MASCC) Young Investigator’s Award.

Wong conducted her research while she was working on her co-op term for Sunnybrook Odette Cancer Centre located in Toronto. The award is only given to people under the age of 40 that have made significant contributions through their research on cancer and is typically given to physicians or hospital residents. 

 Wong’s research focused on the efficacy and safety of re-irradiation of bone metastases in stage-four cancer. Wong credits most of her accomplishments on the work environment that Sunnybrook gives its employees. 

Wong stated to the UW Daily Bulletin,“I’ve become very knowledgeable in the field of radiation oncology. The experiences I’ve gained from working here and the support from my employer have definitely aided in my candidacy for this award.”

Wong will receive her award at the MASCC/ISOO International Symposium on Supportive Care in Cancer in Miami, Florida.