Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 42 (1):32-42 (2011)
The success of particle detection in high energy physics colliders critically depends on the criteria for selecting a small number of interactions from an overwhelming number that occur in the detector. It also depends on the selection of the exact data to be analyzed and the techniques of analysis. The introduction of automation into the detection process has traded the direct involvement of the physicist at each stage of selection and analysis for the efficient handling of vast amounts of data. This tradeoff, in combination with the organizational changes in laboratories of increasing size and complexity, has resulted in automated and semi-automated systems of detection. Various aspects of the semi-automated regime were greatly diminished in more generic automated systems, but turned out to be essential to a number of surprising discoveries of anomalous processes that led to theoretical breakthroughs, notably the establishment of the Standard Model of particle physics. The automated systems are much more efficient in confirming specific hypothesis in narrow energy domains than in performing broad exploratory searches. Thus, in the main, detection processes relying excessively on automation are more likely to miss potential anomalies and impede potential theoretical advances. I suggest that putting substantially more effort into the study of electron–positron colliders and increasing its funding could minimize the likelihood of missing potential anomalies, because detection in such an environment can be handled by the semi-automated regime—unlike detection in hadron colliders. Despite virtually unavoidable excessive reliance on automated detection in hadron colliders, their development has been deemed a priority because they can operate at currently highest energy levels. I suggest, however, that a focus on collisions at the highest achievable energy levels diverts funds from searches for potential anomalies overlooked due to tradeoffs at the previous energy thresholds. I also note that even in the same collision environment, different research strategies will opt for different tradeoffs and thus achieve different experimental outcomes. Finally, I briefly discuss current searches for anomalous process in the context of the previous analysis.
|Keywords||High Energy Physics The Standard Model of Particle Physics Experiments Theoretical anomalies|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
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