By Leah Hesla
|Illustration: Sandbox Studio|
When Fermilab physicist Steve Geer agreed to perform a calculation as part of a muon collider task force 10 years ago, he imagined he would show that the collider’s technical challenges were too difficult to be solved and move on to other matters. But as he delved further into the problem, he realized that the obstacles he had envisioned could in principle be overcome.
“I started as a skeptic,” he says. “But the more I studied it, I realized it might be a solvable problem.”
A muon collider—a machine that currently exists only in computer simulation—is a relative newcomer to the world of particle accelerators. At the moment, the reception from the particle physics community to this first-of-its-kind particle smasher is “polite,” says Fermilab physicist Alan Bross.
Politeness will suffice for now: research and development on the machine are gearing up thanks to funding from the US Department of Energy. In August, a DOE review panel supported the launch of the Muon Accelerator Program, or MAP, an international initiative led by Fermilab. Scientists hope the program will receive about $15 million per year over seven years to examine the collider’s feasibility and cost effectiveness. See more on Caption of Blog Post
We observed muon components in the detected air showers and studied their characteristics. Generally speaking, more muons in a shower cascade favors heavier primary hadrons and measurement of muons is one of the methods used to infer the chemical composition of the energetic cosmic rays. Our recent measurement indicates no systematic change in the mass composition from a predominantly heavy to a light composition above 3 x 1017eV claimed by the Fly’s Eye group.