Hunt the Higgs: the card game

27Jul07

A game of chance and tactics for all ages. Based on the fundamental particles and forces of nature. No need for any previous knowledge of Particle Physics!

As I was packing up some papers to read over the weekend, I discovered a curious deck of cards in the corner of our office. It turned out to be a copy of the Hunt the Higgs card game developed in 2005 by the UK LHCb spokesperson, Dr. Valerie Gibson. The game is sponsored by PPARC (now STFC) as part of its public outreach efforts.


Fig 1. Low-res photo of the actual cards (on top of some calculations I was doing). The pair I randomly chose does not form a valid Feynman diagram.

It being a Friday afternoon, I took some time with an officemate to test drive the game, and it was rather enjoyable. The rummy-based game is reminiscent of the French card game Mille Bornes.

The idea is that each player is an LHC detector hunting for the Higgs boson. The cards in a player’s hand represent their buffer.

Players must pair up bosons (produced from collisions) with final states to `record’ an event. The boson and final state cards must, of course, form a legitimate Feynman diagram. Each event gives points proportional to the product of the likelihood of producing the boson multiplied by the likelihood of resolving the final state (at least this is how each card’s numerical value is assigned).

The set of events collected is a player’s data. At the end of the game, one’s total score is equal to the number of `data points‘ coming from Higgs events (signal) minus those coming from non-Higgs events (background).

To spice things up, there are also `experiment‘ cards that represent real-life and cause a player to lose events they’ve collected: adopt new trigger, buffer full, search for new physics, fatal disk error, apply new analysis cut, end of run.

The game was actually quite enjoyable and even educational — even as early graduate students, we were able to discuss why certain final states were weighted more favourably than other final states or how one would resolve a given interaction.

The game includes 106 cards and comes in a plastic box with an instruction pamphlet with some background information about particle physics for a general audience. It is available free (just pay £1.50 for postage, £2.50 overseas) from the Cambridge Physics HEP group. I think it’d make a great stocking stuffer for any young physicist. I believe the Cambridge [Cavendish] HEP group has promoted the game in their master classes for A-level students.

Now that there’s a card game for experimentalists, I think it behooves someone to devise a similar game for theorists. Cards could include “incompatible sign conventions, lose a turn to redo calculation” or “solve the hierarchy problem, gain 100 model-building-points.



6 Responses to “Hunt the Higgs: the card game”

  1. 1 evankeane

    cool! i was completely unaware that this existed! if anyone can find a nerdier game than this i would like to hear about it!
    🙂

    Evan

  2. 2 robert

    Does arXiv:0707.1919v2 qualify as a card game for theorists?

  3. No!!🙂


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