In a machine-learning challenge hosted by the data-science website Kaggle, LHCb physicists invite you to help them investigate a rare phenomenon in particle physics for the chance to win up to $7000. The phenomenon in question? Charged-lepton flavour violation.
Leptons are subatomic particles that, together with quarks, help to make up visible matter. But unlike quarks, leptons do not take part in strong interactions. Examples include the electron, the muon and the neutrinos, and their “flavours” are related to their types. If the lepton flavour symmetry exists in a particle interaction, then the numbers of electrons and electron-neutrinos, muons and muon-neutrinos, and taus and tau-neutrinos should be separately conserved – they should each remain the same. But in many proposed extensions to the Standard Model this lepton-flavour symmetry doesn’t exist, and particle decays that do not conserve lepton flavour are possible. One decay that LHCb physicists are searching for is where a tau particle decays to three muons. Observation of this decay would be a clear indication of the violation of lepton flavour and a sign of long-sought “new physics”.
And that's when you come in. Using real data from the LHCb experiment at CERN, mixed with simulated datasets of the decay, your task is to classify events into "tau decay to three muons" versus "background." Your selection will help LHCb physicists in the search for "new physics" with data from the past, current and future runs of the LHC. No knowledge of particle physics is required!
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Fourteen billion years ago, the Universe began with a bang. Crammed within an infinitely small space, energy coalesced to form equal quantities of matter and antimatter. But as the Universe cooled and expanded, its composition changed. Just one second after the Big Bang, antimatter had all but disappeared, leaving matter to form everything that we see around us — from the stars and galaxies, to the Earth and all life that it supports.