We all like to play darts occasionally, and some others like buying lottery tickets. Although there is some skill that needs to be acquired when playing darts (we could call this the aim), playing the lottery requires no skill at all. In both of these situations a natural mathematical object comes to the fore. We usually call it the odds of winning. In some sense, the odds describe how you should bet money on the different possible outcomes of one of these games. If you do your analysis carefully you will find that betting on the lottery is always (statistically) a losing proposition, unless you could bet against winning.

Given that we are in the middle of a financial crisis, essentially because the odds of something happening were not calculated correctly, I thought this might be nice place to talk about the odds of stuff happening at another place: the Large Hadron Collider (I will use the standard acronym: LHC). Sadly, the odds were not in favor last week where there was a Helium leak.

Failures of these kinds are considered routine and they tend to happen more at the beginning, so there should be no alarm. It’s just that the schedule for collisions gets pushed back and the eager collective of particle physicists have to wait longer for new data. This gives us theoretical folk just a little more time to place bets as to what we will see come out of the LHC accelerator.

I want to describe the ‘bets’ that are made to find the missing link of the Standard Model: the Higgs particle. So if you want to hear about some odds, follow me through some reading of specs.

(more…)

Read Full Post »