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Prelude to the Higgs: DZero experiment observes rare ZZ diboson production

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

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Media Contact: Sue Stevens

ARLINGTON - Scientists of the DZero collaboration, an international experiment conducted by about 600 physicists from 90 institutions in 18 countries at the Department of Energy’s Fermilab, have announced the observation of pairs of Z bosons, force-carrying particles produced in proton-antiproton collisions. The University of Texas at Arlington High Energy Physics Group has worked on DZero for 15 years. Participants are physics professors Kaushik De, Andrew White, Andrew Brandt, and Jaehoon Yu and postdoctoral scientists Mark Sosebee, Armen Vartapetian, Barry Spurlock and the late Jia Li, recently killed in an accident. Several graduate students also worked on the DZero, included Venkatesch Kaushik, who earned his doctorate in December 2007 and Heather Brown, who has worked on the DZero detector for the past two years.

The properties of the ZZ diboson make its discovery an essential prelude to finding or excluding the Higgs boson. The observation of the ZZ, announced at a Fermilab seminar July 25, connects to the search for the Higgs boson in several ways. The process of producing the ZZ is very rare and hence difficult to detect. The rarest diboson processes after ZZ are those involving the Higgs boson, so seeing ZZ is an essential step in demonstrating the ability of the experimenters to see the Higgs. The signature for pairs of Z bosons can also mimic the Higgs signature for large values of the Higgs mass. For lower Higgs masses, the production of a Z boson and a Higgs boson together, a ZH, makes a major contribution to Higgs search sensitivity, and the ZZ shares important characteristics and signatures with ZH.

The ZZ is the latest in a series of observations of pairs of the so-called gauge bosons, or force-carrying particles, by DZero and its sister Tevatron experiment CDF. The series began with the study of the already rare production of W bosons plus photons; then Z bosons plus photons; then observation of W pairs; then WZ. The ZZ is the most massive combination and has the lowest predicted likelihood of production in the Standard Model. Earlier this year, CDF found evidence for ZZ production; the DZero results presented on Friday for the first time showed sufficient significance, well above five standard deviations, to rank as a discovery of ZZ production.

“Final analysis of the data for this discovery was done by an international team of researchers including scientists of American, Belgian, British, Georgian, Italian and Russian nationalities,” said DZero cospokesperson Darien Wood. “They worked closely and productively together to achieve this challenging and exciting experimental result.”

DZero searched for ZZ production in nearly 200 trillion proton-antiproton collisions delivered by the Tevatron. Scientists used two analyses that look for Z decays into different combinations of secondary particles. One analysis looked for one Z decaying into electrons or muons, the other decaying into “invisible” neutrinos. The neutrino signature is challenging experimentally, but worthwhile because it is more plentiful. In the even rarer mode, both Z bosons decay to either electrons or muons. Just three events were observed in this mode, but the signature is remarkably distinctive, with an expected background of only two tenths of one event.


The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.