Most physicists at Illinois-based Fermilab, home to the world’s most powerful particle collider, share a dream. They hope against hope that the Tevatron will find the long-sought Higgs particle before the much more powerful Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN — the European particle-physics laboratory outside Geneva, Switzerland — comes along in a year or so and eats their lunch. Bruce Knuteson, though, has a fear. What if the LHC finds something even more exotic than the Higgs —and the tell-tale traces of that novelty turn out to have been lurking, unrecognized, in Fermilab’s data for years?
It is to rule out the chance of his worst fears coming true, among other things, that Knuteson and his colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Fermilab have taken a new sort of particle-hunting software to a new level. Rather than looking only at data in which a new particle is expected to be found, as the experiments at Fermilab normally do, it looks at a much broader swath of data without any preconceptions.