(This is the first in a series of posts on jet physics by Reggie Bain.)
Ubiquitous in the LHC’s ultra-high energy collisions are collimated sprays of particles called jets. The study of jet physics is a rapidly growing field where experimentalists and theorists work together to unravel the complex geometry of the final state particles at LHC experiments. If you’re totally new to the idea of jets…this bite from July 18th, 2016 by Julia Gonski is a nice experimental introduction to the importance of jets. In this bite, we’ll look at the basic ideas of jet physics from a more theoretical perspective. Let’
s address a few basic questions:
- What is a jet? Jets are highly collimated collections of particles that are frequently observed in detectors. In visualizations of collisions in the ATLAS detector, one can often identify jets by eye.
Jets are formed in the final state of a collision when a particle showers off radiation in such a way as to form a focused cone of particles. The most commonly studied jets are formed by quarks and gluons that fragment into hadrons like pions, kaons, and sometimes more exotic particles like the $latex J/Ψ, Υ, χc and many others. This process is often referred to as hadronization.
- Why do jets exist? Jets are a fundamental prediction of Quantum Field Theories like Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD). One common process studied in field theory textbooks is electron–positron annihilation into a pair of quarks, e+e– → q q. In order to calculate the
cross-section of this process, it turns out that one has to consider the possibility that additional gluons are produced along with the qq. Since no detector has infinite resolution, it’s always possible that there are gluons that go unobserved by your detector. This could be because they are incredibly soft (low energy) or because they travel almost exactly collinear to the q or q itself. In this region of momenta, the cross-section gets very large and the process favors the creation of this extra radiation. Since these gluons carry color/anti-color, they begin to hadronize and decay so as to become stable, colorless states. When the q, q have high momenta, the zoo of particles that are formed from the hadronization all have momenta that are clustered around the direction of the original q,q and form a cone shape in the detector…thus a jet is born! The details of exactly how hadronization works is where theory can get a little hazy. At the energy and distance scales where quarks/gluons start to hadronize, perturbation theory breaks down making many of our usual calculational tools useless. This, of course, makes the realm of hadronization—often referred to as parton fragmentation in the literature—a hot topic in QCD research.
- How do we measure/study jets? Now comes the tricky part. As experimentalists will tell you, actually measuring jets can a messy business. By taking the signatures of the final state particles in an event (i.e. a collision), one can reconstruct a jet using a jet algorithm. One of the first concepts of such jet definitions was introduced by Geroge Sterman and Steven Weinberg in 1977. There they defined a jet using two parameters θ, E. These restricted the angle and energy of particles that are in or out of a jet. Today, we have a variety of jet algorithms that fall into two categories:
- Cone Algorithms — These algorithms identify stable cones of a given angular size. These cones are defined in such a way that if one or two nearby particles are added to or removed from the jet cone, that it won’t drastically change the cone location and energy
- Recombination Algorithms — These look pairwise at the 4-momenta of all particles in an event and combine them, according to a certain distance metric (there’s a different one for each algorithm), in such a way as to be left with distinct, well-separated jets.
- Why are jets important? On the frontier of high energy particle physics, CERN leads the world’s charge in the search for new physics. From deepening our understanding of the Higgs to observing never before seen particles, projects like ATLAS,
CMS, and LHCb promise to uncover interesting physics for years to come. As it turns out, a large amount of Standard Model background to these new physics discoveries comes in the form of jets. Understanding the origin and workings of these jets can thus help us in the search for physics beyond the Standard Model.
Additionally, there are a number of interesting questions that remain about the Standard Model itself. From studying the production of heavy hadron production/decay in pp and heavy-ion collisions to providing precision measurements of the strong coupling, jets physics has a wide range of applicability and relevance to Standard Model problems. In recent years, the physics of jet substructure, which studies the distributions of particle momenta within a jet, has also seen increased interest. By studying the geometry of jets, a number of clever observables have been developed that can help us understand what particles they come from and how they are formed. Jet substructure studies will be the subject of many future bites!
Going forward…With any luck, this should serve as a brief outline to the uninitiated on the basics of jet physics. In a world increasingly filled with bigger, faster, and stronger colliders, jets will continue to play a major role in particle phenomenology. In upcoming bites, I’ll discuss the wealth of new and exciting results coming from jet physics research. We’ll examine questions like:
- How do theoretical physicists tackle problems in jet physics?
- How does the process of hadronization/fragmentation of quarks and gluons really work?
- Can jets be used to answer long outstanding problems in the Standard Model?
I’ll also bite about how physicists use theoretical smart bombs called “effective field theories” to approach these often nasty theoretical calculations. But more on that later…
- “QCD and Collider Physics,” (a.k.a The Pink Book) by Ellis, Stirling, and Webber — This is a fantastic reference for a variety of important topics in QCD. Even if many of the derivations are beyond you at this point, it still contains great explanations of the underlying physics concepts.
- “Quantum Field Theory and the Standard Model” by Matthew Schwartz — A relatively new QFT textbook written by a prominent figure in the jet physics world. Chapter 20 has an engaging introduction to the concept of jets. Warning: It will take a bit of familiarity with QFT/Particle physics to really get into the details.