[Blog post] What the L?!

13 10 2011

There are few things that particle physicists like to talk about more than luminosity (know affectionately as “L”). We measure it obsessively, we boast about it shamelessly and we never forget to mention it in our papers, plots and talks. So what’s the big deal? What is luminosity and why is it important?

The concept of instantaneous luminosity is borrowed from the field of astrophysics, and in that field it’s used to describe how much energy a star gives off. To calculate the instantaneous luminosity, simple measure how much energy flows through a surface in an interval of time. To get the instantaneous luminosity in particle physics simply swap energy for the number of particles and the definition is the same!

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The protons presents many different processes, and each process has its own cross section. This diagram is not at all to scale, and the QCD cross section is much larger than the other cross section shown!

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