Some 37,000 citizen scientists in more than 170 countries (including school students from the UK) have proved that people-powered research can beat computer algorithms, and win an award!
The Higgs Hunters project, initiated by particle physicists at the University of Oxford, was the first mass-participation citizen science project for the Large Hadron Collider, allowing non-experts to get directly involved in physics analysis. It has recently been awarded one of the University of Oxford’s Vice Chancellor’s Public Engagement with Research Awards.
Citizen scientists examined images of particle collisions captured in the heart of the ATLAS detector, looking for unusual objects in the images such as ‘off-centre vertices’ where several tracks intersect away from the central collision point. More than a million classifications were made and one explanation currently being put forward by theorists is that the Higgs boson might decay into a new particle – dubbed the ‘Baby Higgs’.
School students involved in the Institute for Research in Schools analysed the data more closely and presented their findings at a conference alongside researchers from Oxford. In September, they will present the conference proceedings to the ATLAS collaboration itself.
The project was funded by STFC and hosted on the Zooniverse citizen science platform. If you’d like to contribute to real research, join the Zooniverse community and help with projects ranging from astronomy to zoology and everything in between.
Last updated: 31 July 2019