Saturday, 26 September 2015

Weekend Plot: celebration of a femtobarn

The LHC run-2 has reached the psychologically important point where the amount the integrated luminosity exceeds one inverse femtobarn. To celebrate this event, here is a plot showing the ratio of the number of hypothetical resonances produced so far in run-2 and in run-1 collisions as a function of the resonance mass:
In the run-1 at 8 TeV, ATLAS and CMS collected around 20 fb-1. For 13 TeV collisions the amount of data is currently 1/20 of that, however the hypothetical cross section for producing hypothetical TeV scale particles is much larger. For heavy enough particles the gain in cross section is larger than 1/20, which means that run-2 now probes a previously unexplored parameter space (this simplistic argument ignores the fact that backgrounds are also larger at 13 TeV, but it's approximately correct at very high masses where backgrounds are small). Currently, the turning point is about 2.7 TeV for resonances produced, at the fundamental level, in quark-antiquark collisions, and even below that for those produced in gluon-gluon collisions. The current plan is to continue the physics run till early November which, at this pace, should give us around 3 fb-1 to brood upon during the winter break. This means that the 2015 run will stop short before sorting out the existence of the 2 TeV di-boson resonance indicated by run-1 data. Unless, of course, the physics run is extended at the expense of heavy-ion collisions scheduled for November ;)

Saturday, 12 September 2015

What can we learn from LHC Higgs combination

Recently, ATLAS and CMS released the first combination of their Higgs results. Of course, one should not expect any big news here: combination of two datasets that agree very well with the Standard Model predictions has to agree very well with the Standard Model predictions...  However, it is interesting to ask what the new results change at the quantitative level concerning our constraints on Higgs boson couplings to matter.

First, experiments quote the overall signal strength μ, which measures how many Higgs events were detected at the LHC in all possible production and decay channels compared to the expectations in the Standard Model. The latter, by definition, is μ=1.  Now, if you had been impatient to wait for the official combination, you could have made a naive one using the previous ATLAS (μ=1.18±0.14) and CMS (μ=1±0.14) results. Assuming the errors are Gaussian and uncorrelated, one would obtains this way the combined μ=1.09±0.10. Instead, the true number is (drum roll)
So, the official and naive numbers are practically the same.  This result puts important constraints on certain models of new physics. One important corollary is that the Higgs boson branching fraction to invisible (or any undetected exotic) decays is limited as  Br(h → invisible) ≤ 13% at 95% confidence level, assuming the Higgs production is not affected by new physics.

From the fact that, for the overall signal strength, the naive and official combinations coincide one should not conclude that the work ATLAS and CMS has done together is useless. As one can see above, the statistical and systematic errors are comparable for that measurement, therefore a naive combination is not guaranteed to work. It happens in this particular case that the multiple nuisance parameters considered in the analysis pull essentially in random directions. But it could well have been different. Indeed, the more one enters into details, the more the impact of the official combination becomes relevant.  For the signal strength measured in particular final states of the Higgs decay the differences are more pronounced:
One can see that the naive combination somewhat underestimates the errors. Moreover, for the WW final state the central value is shifted by half a sigma (this is mainly because, in this channel, the individual ATLAS and CMS measurements that go into the combination seem to be different than the previously published ones). The difference is even more clearly visible for 2-dimensional fits, where the Higgs production cross section via the gluon fusion (ggf) and vector boson fusion (vbf) are treated as free parameters. This plot compares the regions preferred at 68% confidence level by the official and naive combinations:
There is a significant shift of the WW and also of the ττ ellipse. All in all, the LHC Higgs combination brings no revolution, but it allows one to obtain more precise and more reliable constraints on some new physics models.  The more detailed information is released, the more useful the combined results become.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Weekend plot: SUSY limits rehashed

Lake Tahoe is famous for preserving dead bodies in good condition over many years,  therefore it is a natural place to organize the SUSY conference. As a tribute to this event, here is a plot from a recent ATLAS meta-analysis:
It shows the constraints on the gluino and the lightest neutralino masses in the pMSSM. Usually, the most transparent way to present experimental limits on supersymmetry is by using simplified models. This consists in picking two or more particles out of the MSSM zoo, and assuming that they are the only ones playing role in the analyzed process. For example, a popular simplified model has a gluino and a stable neutralino interacting via an effective quark-gluino-antiquark-neutralino coupling. In this model, gluino pairs are produced at the LHC through their couplings to ordinary gluons, and then each promptly decays to 2 quarks and  a neutralino via the effective couplings. This shows up in a detector as 4 or more jets and the missing energy carried off by the neutralinos. Within this simplified model, one can thus interpret the LHC multi-jets + missing energy data as constraints on 2 parameters: the gluino mass and  the lightest neutralino mass. One result of this analysis is that, for a massless neutralino, the gluino mass is constrained to be bigger than about 1.4 TeV, see the white line in the plot.

A non-trivial question is what happens to these limits if one starts to fiddle with the remaining one hundred parameters of the MSSM.  ATLAS tackles this question in the framework of the pMSSM,  which is a version of the  MSSM where all flavor and CP violating parameters are set to zero. In the resulting 19-dimensional parameter space,  ATLAS picks a large number of points that reproduce the correct Higgs mass and are consistent with various precision measurements. Then they check what fraction of the points with a given m_gluino and m_neutralino survives the constraints from all ATLAS supersymmetry searches so far. Of course, the results will depend on how the parameter space is sampled, but nevertheless  we can get a feeling of how robust are the limits obtained in simplified models. It is interesting that the gluino mass limits turn out to be quite robust. From the plot one  can see that, for a light neutralino, it is difficult to live with m_gluino < 1.4 TeV, and that there's no surviving points with  m_gluino < 1.1 TeV. Similar conclusion are  not true for all simplified models, e.g.,  the limits on squark masses in simplified models can be very much  relaxed by going to the larger parameter space of the pMSSM. Another thing worth noticing is that the blind spot near the m_gluino=m_neutralino diagonal is not really there: it is covered by ATLAS monojet searches.  

The LHC run-2 is going slow, so we still have some time to play with  the run-1 data. See the ATLAS paper for many more plots. New stronger limits on supersymmetry are not expected before next summer.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Weekend plot: ATLAS weighs in on Higgs to Tau Mu

After a long summer hiatus, here is a simple warm-up plot:

It displays the results of ATLAS and CMS searches for h→τμ decays, together with their naive combination. The LHC collaborations have already observed Higgs boson decays into two 2 τ leptons, and should be able to pinpoint h→μμ in Run-2. However,  h→τμ decays (and lepton flavor violation in general) are forbidden in  the Standard Model, therefore a detection would be an evidence for exciting new physics around the corner.  Last summer, CMS came up with their 8 TeV result showing a 2.4 sigma hint of the signal. Most likely, this is just another entry in the long list of statistical fluctuations in the LHC run-1 data. Nevertheless, the CMS result is quite intriguing, especially in connection with the LHCb hints of lepton flavor violation in B-meson decays.  Therefore, we have been waiting impatiently for a word from ATLAS. ATLAS is taking his time, but finally they published the first chunk of the result based on hadronic tau decays. Unfortunately, it is very inconclusive.  It shows a small 1 sigma upward fluctuation, hence it does not kill the CMS hint.  At the same time, the combined significance of the h→τμ signal increases only marginally, up to 2.6 sigma.

So, we are still in a limbo.  In the near future, ATLAS should reveal the 8 TeV h→τμ measurement with leptonic tau decays. This may clarify the situation, as the fully leptonic channel is more sensitive (at least, this is the case in the CMS analysis).  But it is possible that for the final clarification we'll have to wait 2 more years, once enough 13 TeV data is analyzed.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Sit down and relaxion

New ideas are rare in particle physics these days. Solutions to the naturalness problem of the Higgs mass are true collector's items. For these reasons, the new mechanism addressing the naturalness problem via cosmological relaxation have stirred a lot of interest in the community. There's already an article explaining the idea in popular terms. Below, I will give you a more technical introduction.

In the Standard Model, the W and Z bosons and fermions get their masses via the Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism. To this end, the Lagrangian contains  a scalar field H with a negative mass squared  V = - m^2 |H|^2. We know that the value of the parameter m is around 90 GeV - the Higgs boson mass divided by the square root of 2. In quantum field theory,  the mass of a scalar particle is expected to be near the cut-off scale M of the theory, unless there's a symmetry protecting it from quantum corrections.  On the other hand, m much smaller than M, without any reason or symmetry principle, constitutes the naturalness problem. Therefore, the dominant paradigm has been that, around the energy scale of 100 GeV, the Standard Model must be replaced by a new theory in which the parameter m is protected from quantum corrections.  We know several mechanisms that could potentially protect the Higgs mass: supersymmetry, Higgs compositeness, the Goldstone mechanism, extra-dimensional gauge symmetry, and conformal symmetry. However, according to experimentalists, none seems to be realized at the weak scale; therefore, we need to accept that nature is fine-tuned (e.g. susy is just behind the corner), or to seek solace in religion (e.g. anthropics).  Or to find a new solution to the naturalness problem: one that is not fine-tuned and is consistent with experimental data.

Relaxation is a genuinely new solution, even if somewhat contrived. It is based on the following ingredients:
  1.  The Higgs mass term in the potential is V = M^2 |H|^2. That is to say,  the magnitude of the mass term is close to the cut-off of the theory, as suggested by the naturalness arguments. 
  2. The Higgs field is coupled to a new scalar field - the relaxion - whose vacuum expectation value is time-dependent in the early universe, effectively changing the Higgs mass squared during its evolution.
  3. When the mass squared turns negative and electroweak symmetry is broken, a back-reaction mechanism should prevent further time evolution of the relaxion, so that the Higgs mass terms is frozen at a seemingly unnatural value.       
These 3 ingredients can be realized in a toy model where the Standard Model is coupled to the QCD axion. The crucial interactions are  
Then the story goes as follows. The axion Φ starts at a large value such that the Higgs mass term is positive and there's no electroweak symmetry breaking. During inflation its value slowly decreases. Once gΦ < M^2, electroweak symmetry breaking is triggered and the Higgs field acquires a vacuum expectation value.  The crucial point is that the height of the axion potential Λ depends on the light quark masses which in turn depend on the Higgs expectation value v. As the relaxion evolves, v increases, and Λ also increases proportionally, which provides the desired back-reaction. At some point, the slope of the axion potential is neutralized by the rising Λ, and the Higgs expectation value freezes in. The question is now quantitative: is it possible to arrange the freeze-in to happen at the value v well below the cut-off scale M? It turns out the answer is yes, at the cost of choosing strange (though not technically unnatural) theory parameters.  In particular, the dimensionful coupling g between the relaxion and the Higgs has to be less than 10^-20 GeV (for a cut-off scale larger than 10 TeV), the inflation has to last for at least 10^40 e-folds, and the Hubble scale during inflation has to be smaller than the QCD scale.   

The toy-model above ultimately fails. Normally, the QCD axion is introduced so that its expectation value cancels the CP violating θ-term in the Standard Model Lagrangian. But here it is stabilized at a value determined by its coupling to the Higgs field. Therefore, in the toy-model, the axion effectively generates an order one θ-term, in conflict with the experimental bound  θ < 10^-10. Nevertheless, the same  mechanism can be implemented in a realistic model. One possibility is to add new QCD-like interactions with its own axion playing the relaxion role. In addition, one needs new "quarks" charged under the new strong interactions. These masses have to be sensitive to the electroweak scale v, thus providing a back-reaction on the axion potential that terminates its evolution. In such a model, the quantitative details would be a bit different than in the QCD axion toy-model. However, the "strangeness" of the parameters persists in any model constructed so far. Especially, the very low scale of inflation required by the relaxation mechanism is worrisome. Could it be that the naturalness problem is just swept into the realm of poorly understood physics of inflation? The ultimate verdict thus depends on whether a complete and  healthy model incorporating both relaxation and inflation can be constructed.

Certainly TBC.

Thanks to Brian for a great tutorial. 

Saturday, 13 June 2015

On the LHC diboson excess

The ATLAS diboson resonance search showing a 3.4 sigma excess near 2 TeV has stirred some interest. This is understandable: 3 sigma does not grow on trees, and moreover CMS also reported anomalies in related analyses. Therefore it is worth looking at these searches in a bit more detail in order to gauge how excited we should be.

The ATLAS one is actually a dijet search: it focuses on events with two very energetic jets of hadrons.  More often than not, W and Z boson decay to quarks. When a TeV-scale  resonance decays to electroweak bosons, the latter, by energy conservation,  have to move with large velocities. As a consequence, the 2 quarks from W or Z boson decays will be very collimated and will be seen as a single jet in the detector.  Therefore, ATLAS looks for dijet events where 1) the mass of each jet is close to that of W (80±13 GeV) or Z (91±13 GeV), and  2) the invariant mass of the dijet pair is above 1 TeV.  Furthermore, they look into the substructure of the jets, so as to identify the ones that look consistent with W or Z decays. After all this work, most of the events still originate from ordinary QCD production of quarks and gluons, which gives a smooth background falling with the dijet invariant mass.  If LHC collisions lead to a production of  a new particle that decays to WW, WZ, or ZZ final states, it should show as a bump on top of the QCD background. ATLAS observes is this:

There is a bump near 2 TeV, which  could indicate the existence of a particle decaying to WW and/or WZ and/or ZZ. One important thing to be aware of is that this search cannot distinguish well between the above 3  diboson states. The difference between W and Z masses is only 10 GeV, and the jet mass windows used in the search for W and Z  partly overlap. In fact, 20% of the events fall into all 3 diboson categories.   For all we know, the excess could be in just one final state, say WZ, and simply feed into the other two due to the overlapping selection criteria.

Given the number of searches that ATLAS and CMS have made, 3 sigma fluctuations of the background should happen a few times in the LHC run-1 just by sheer chance.  The interest in the ATLAS  excess is however amplified by the fact that diboson searches in CMS also show anomalies (albeit smaller) just below 2 TeV. This can be clearly seen on this plot with limits on the Randall-Sundrum graviton excitation, which is one  particular model leading to diboson resonances. As W and Z bosons sometimes decay to, respectively, one and two charged leptons, diboson resonances can be searched for not only via dijets but also in final states with one or two leptons.  One can see that, in CMS, the ZZ dilepton search (blue line), the WW/ZZ dijet search (green line), and the WW/WZ one-lepton (red line)  search all report a small (between 1 and 2 sigma) excess around 1.8 TeV.  To make things even more interesting,  the CMS search for WH resonances return 3 events  clustering at 1.8 TeV where the standard model background is very small (see Tommaso's post). Could the ATLAS and CMS events be due to the same exotic physics?

Unfortunately, building a model explaining all the diboson data is not easy. Enough to say that the ATLAS excess has been out for a week and there's isn't yet any serious ambulance chasing paper on arXiv. One challenge is the event rate. To fit the excess, the resonance should be produced with a cross section of order 10 femtobarns. This requires the new particle to couple quite strongly to light quarks (or gluons), at least as strong as the W and Z bosons. At the same time, it should remain a narrow resonance decaying dominantly to dibosons. Furthermore, in concrete models, a sizable coupling to electroweak gauge bosons will get you in trouble with electroweak precision tests.

However, there is yet a bigger problem, which can be also  seen in the plot above. Although the excesses in CMS occur roughly at the same mass, they are not compatible when it comes to the cross section. And so the limits in the single-lepton search are not consistent with the new particle interpretation of the excess in dijet  and  the dilepton searches, at least in the context of the Randall-Sundrum graviton model. Moreover, the limits from the CMS one-lepton search are grossly inconsistent with the diboson interpretation of the ATLAS excess! In order to believe that the ATLAS 3 sigma excess is real one has to move to much more baroque models. One possibility is that  the dijets observed by ATLAS do not originate from  electroweak bosons, but rather from an exotic particle with a similar mass. Another possibility is that the resonance decays only to a pair of Z bosons and not to W bosons, in which case the CMS limits are weaker; but I'm not sure if there exist consistent models with this property.  

My conclusion...  For sure this is something to observe in the early run-2. If this is real, it should clearly show in both experiments already this year.  However, due to the inconsistencies between different search channels and the theoretical challenges, there's little reason to get excited yet.

Thanks to Chris for digging out the CMS plot.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Weekend Plot: Higgs mass and SUSY

This weekend's plot shows the region in the stop mass and mixing space of the MSSM that reproduces the measured Higgs boson mass of 125 GeV:

Unlike in the Standard Model, in the minimal supersymmetric extension of the Standard Model (MSSM) the Higgs boson mass is not a free parameter; it can be calculated given all masses and couplings of the supersymmetric particles. At the lowest order, it is equal to the Z bosons mass 91 GeV (for large enough tanβ). To reconcile the predicted and the observed Higgs mass, one needs to invoke large loop corrections due to supersymmetry breaking. These are dominated by the contribution of the top quark and its 2 scalar partners (stops) which couple most strongly of all particles to the Higgs. As can be seen in the plot above, the stop mass preferred by the Higgs mass measurement is around 10 TeV. With a little bit of conspiracy, if the mixing between the two stops  is just right, this can be lowered to about 2 TeV. In any case, this means that, as long as the MSSM is the correct theory, there is little chance to discover the stops at the LHC.

This conclusion may be surprising because previous calculations were painting a more optimistic picture. The results above are derived with the new SUSYHD code, which utilizes effective field theory techniques to compute the Higgs mass in the presence of  heavy supersymmetric particles. Other frequently used codes, such as FeynHiggs or Suspect, obtain a significantly larger Higgs mass for the same supersymmetric spectrum, especially near the maximal mixing point. The difference can be clearly seen in the plot to the right (called the boobs plot by some experts). Although there is a  debate about the size of the error as estimated by SUSYHD, other effective theory calculations report the same central values.