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Hunt for the Higgs on your Android

Visual diagram of ATLAS particle detector at CERN.
Now, anyone can now see the same particle collisions that scientists at CERN see live on their smartphones. This view is of the ATLAS particle detector, the largest detector within the LHC accelerator ring. Image courtesy ATLAS experiment.

If you've ever wanted to help out in the search for the Higgs boson, or God particle, as it's more popularly known, now you can - all you need is a smartphone installed with an app called LHSee. The new and free 'nerdtacular citizen-science app' was released into the Android marketplace on the 7th of October and lets anyone watch live 3D particle collisions from CERN's Large Hadron Collider, in France and Switzerland.

Designed and built by Chris Boddy, from the University of Oxford, and particle physicists, with the help of a small grant from the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council, it is made for expert and non-expert alike to use.

Now, the public can see the same data that scientists are analyzing from LHC collisions. Users can zoom in and out of the inner working of the ATLAS particle detector with the pinch of their fingers. In addition to the 3D visualizations, the app is packed with outreach material. There are lessons of how the LHC accelerator actually works, with wireframe schematics for the technically minded, lessons on how to identify different types of collisions and even a 'Hunt the Higgs' game.

One user of the app said, "Glorious beyond words. Geekgasm-tacular-extravaganza," on the Android Market website.

But, while the app provides a lot of technical detail, it lacks in design aesthetics according to some users. "Its interaction design is … spartan and functional but about as intuitive and immersive as a stack of technical white papers," said John Pavlus, on the blog Fast Company's Co.Design. User feedback on the Android marketplace for LHSee has similar gripes about the size of menu icons and the level of technical knowledge required to understand some of the data.

Nonetheless, overall opinions are positive with over 200 people giving the app five out of five stars in under a week. If feedback is taken onboard about the user interface and improved, this app is set to excite more of the general public about the fundamental science being done at the world's highest energy particle smasher. For those without an Android phone, an Apple iOS version is also on the drawing board.

- Adrian Giordani

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