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The hunt for supersymmetry: Reviewing the first run – 2

I’d linked to a preprint paper [PDF] on arXiv a couple days ago that had summarized the search for Supersymmetry (Susy) from the first run of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). I’d written to one of the paper’s authors, Pascal Pralavorio at CERN, seeking some insights into his summary, but unfortunately he couldn’t reply by the time I’d published the post. He replied this morning and I’ve summed them up.

Pascal says physicists trained their detectors for “the simplest extension of the Standard Model” using supersymmetric principles called the Minimal Supersymmetric Standard Model (MSSM), formulated in the early 1980s. This meant they were looking for a total of 35 particles. In the first run, the LHC operated at two different energies: first at 7 TeV (at a luminosity of 5 fb-1), then at 8 TeV (at 20 fb-1; explainer here). The data was garnered from both the ATLAS and CMS detectors.

In all, they found nothing. As a result, as Pascal says, “When you find nothing, you don’t know if you are close or far from it!

His paper has an interesting chart that summarized the results for the search for Susy from Run 1. It is actually a superimposition of two charts. One shows the different Standard Model processes (particle productions, particle decays, etc.) at different energies (200-1,600 GeV). The second shows the Susy processes that are thought to occur at these energies.

Cross sections of several SUSY production channels, superimposed with Standard Model process at s = 8 TeV. The right-handed axis indicates the number of events for 20/fb.
Cross sections of several SUSY production channels, superimposed with Standard Model process at s = 8 TeV. The right-handed axis indicates the number of events for 20/fb.

The cross-section of the chart is the probability of an event-type to appear during a proton-proton collision. What you can see from this plot is the ratio of probabilities. For example, stop-stop* (the top quark’s Susy partner particle and anti-particle, respectively) production with a mass of 400 GeV is 1010 (10 billion) less probable than inclusive di-jet events (a Standard Model process). “In other words,” Pascal says, it is “very hard to find” a Susy process while Standard Model processes are on, but it is “possible for highly trained particle physics” to get there.

Of course, none of this means physicists aren’t open to the possibility of there being a theory (and corresponding particles out there) that even Susy mightn’t be able to explain. The most popular among such theories is “the presence of a “possible extra special dimension” on top of the three that we already know. “We will of course continue to look for it and for supersymmetry in the second run.”