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Getting ready for the Next Generation Science Standards? This e-Lab meets ALL NGSS science practices. See Standards link in the menu for listing.
Students can join a scientific collaboration in this series of studies of high-energy collisions from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. We are collaborating with the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment to produce a student-led, teacher-guided project. We have authentic data from well over 200,000 proton-proton collision events in CMS. By using the web, students are able to analyze and share these data with fellow students and other researchers. Students write a researchable question and analyze data in much the same way as professional scientists. Tools from the e-Lab facilitate collaboration among students as they develop their investigations and report their results.
Students begin their investigation by watching a Cool Science video to get some insight into the context of their project. They can then use a variety of data exploration tools to perform studies and develop their own investigation. They can use the project milestones to gain some necessary background and guide their research. Also, they can record their work and reflect on their progress in their e-Logbook. Students post the results of their studies as online posters. The real scientific collaboration follows. Students can review the results of other studies online, comparing data and analyses. Using online tools, they can correspond with other research groups, post comments and questions, and participate in the part of scientific research that is often left out of classroom experiments.
Introduction to CMS
The CMS detector studies proton-proton collisions from the LHC in search of new physics. Myriad particles are produced from these collisions and subsequent decays. By exploring the various subdetectors arrayed to detect these collision products and by attending to the crucial roles played by conservation of mass-energy, momentum and charge in event analysis, students are able to make sense of the plots particle physicists use to analyze collision data. They can in turn produce their own plots and use these to set up and pursue questions they themselves put to the data.
Visit the CMS website to get more background.
Good Research Questions
What kinds of particles are produced in the proton-proton collisions inside the CMS detector? What are the smallest known particles? Students can pose a number of questions and then analyze the data for answers. Some answers are new to students but well answered by physicists. These include the smallest known particles, the kinds of particles that are produced in proton-proton collisions and how these produced particles interact with the detector. However, there are still many questions that the CMS collaboration hopes to address.
Students may be able to contribute insights to these efforts by looking at the data in fresh ways. What can they learn about the behavior of particles? About the CMS detector itself?
Examples of research questions correlated with the poster rubric are:
Student Prior Knowledge and Skills
Before doing this project, students should know how to:
We provide refresher references for students who need to brush up on these skills. Students access these from "The Basics" section of the Project Map.
Learner Outcomes and Assessment
Students will know and be able to:
Assessment is aligned to learner outcomes. While many teachers will want to design their own assessments, we provide some options.
Suggestions for Getting Started
Students can start with simple studies and then increase the sophistication. Initial investigations might include finding the mass of the Z boson and seeing how many particle "bumps" they can find in the dimuon and dielectron mass spectra. They can then see the effects of various cuts on the data. How is the J/Psi mass plot affected by including only events with two "global" muon tracks? How does a high transverse momentum cut affect the results of a plot? How about varying eta, the pseudorapidity?
Students can also probe the performance of the detector. Are the distribution momenta and energies uniform as angle phi around the beampipe is varied? At what value of eta do they maximize, and where do they disappear? Why?
Finally, students and teachers alike should browse the posters in the e-Lab for research ideas. How can you follow up on an interesting study? Do you trust the conclusions of the poster, and can you test them in new ways? Most importantly, what someone else has studied can give an idea about how to pursue what that person did not.
Help Desk & Sharing Ideas
e-Lab Technology Requirements
Ask your tech support person if you need help with browser settings. The Resources in the Library and the background material may include YouTube videos and java applets, but these are not critical for using the e-Lab.