Particle collider imaging process

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large-hadron-collider-closer-to-discovering-god-particle.jpg


How do particle colliders read the trajectories of particles in the collider? Are EM waves emitted from each of the particles? If some particles do not emit EM waves, does the "sensor" only read particles that emit EM waves? .........In other words, what bridges the gap between our pictorial data and these abstract particles?

By intuition, the spirals seen in the image must represent angular momentum of each particle. I'm curious to know what an electron would look like. Do the circles (if any) represent integer spin? I'm pretty new to quantum physics, but this subject is pretty enlightening!

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Answers and Replies

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Only charged particles leave tracks. How exactly depends on the detector type, but typically they transfer some energy to electrons in the medium they cross. These electrons are then detected, or they produce light that is detected. Fast charged particles can also emit light directly (Cherenkov radiation).

Neutral particles are invisible until they decay to charged particles (e.g. neutral pions), convert to charged particles in matter (e.g. photons) or hit a nucleus and produce charged particles that way (e.g. neutrons). If they don't do any of these, like neutrinos, then the detectors can't see them.
By intuition, the spirals seen in the image must represent angular momentum of each particle. I'm curious to know what an electron would look like. Do the circles (if any) represent integer spin? I'm pretty new to quantum physics, but this subject is pretty enlightening!
No, the circles are purely classical mechanics: Charged particles in a magnetic field make curved tracks. Measuring the curvature (and the magnetic field) gives you the momentum of the particles. When the energy loss over distance is significant then the radius of the curvature changes and you get spirals.
 

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