CERN scientists to announce proof of Higgs boson found (Update)

Jul 02, 2012 by JOHN HEILPRIN
In this May 20, 2011 file photo, a physicist explains the ATLAS experiment on a board at the European Center for Nuclear Research, CERN, outside Geneva, Switzerland. The illustration shows what the long-presumed Higgs boson particle is thought to look like. Scientists at CERN plan to make an announcement on Wednesday, July 4, 2012 about their hunt for the elusive sub-atomic particle. Physicists have said previously they are increasingly confident that they are closing in on it based on hints at its existence hidden away in reams of data. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus, File)

Physicists say they have all but proven that the "God particle" exists. They have a footprint and a shadow, and the only thing left is to see for themselves the elusive subatomic particle believed to give all matter in the universe size and shape.

Scientists at the world's biggest atom smasher plan to announce Wednesday that they have nearly confirmed the primary plank of a theory that could restructure the understanding of why matter has mass, which combines with gravity to give an object weight.

The idea is much like gravity and Isaac Newton's discovery: It was there all the time before Newton explained it. But now scientists know what it is and can put that knowledge to further use.

The focus of the excitement is the Higgs boson, a subatomic particle long sought by physicists.

Researchers at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, say that they have compiled vast amounts of data that show the footprint and shadow of the particle, even though it has never actually been glimpsed.

But two independent teams of physicists are cautious after decades of work and billions of dollars spent. They don't plan to use the word "discovery." They say they will come as close as possible to a "eureka" announcement without overstating their findings.

"I agree that any reasonable outside observer would say, 'It looks like a discovery,'" said British theoretical physicist John Ellis, a professor at King's College London who has worked at CERN since the 1970s. "We've discovered something which is consistent with being a Higgs."

CERN's atom smasher, the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider on the Swiss-French border, has been creating high-energy collisions of protons to investigate dark matter, antimatter and the creation of the universe, which many theorize occurred in a massive explosion known as the Big Bang.

The phrase "God particle," coined by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Leon Lederman, is used by laymen, not physicists, more as an explanation for how the subatomic universe works than how it all started.

Rob Roser, who leads the search for the Higgs boson at the Fermilab in Chicago, said: "Particle physicists have a very high standard for what it takes to be a discovery," and he thinks it is a hair's breadth away. Roser compared the results that scientists will announce Wednesday to finding the fossilized imprint of a dinosaur: "You see the footprints and the shadow of the object, but you don't actually see it."

Fermilab, whose competing atom smasher reported its final results Monday after shutting down last year, said its data doesn't settle the question of the Higgs boson, but it came tantalizingly close.

"It's a real cliffhanger," said Gregorio Bernardi, a physicist at the University of Paris who helped lead one of the main experiments at Fermilab. He cited "strong indications of the production and decay of Higgs bosons" in some of their observations.

Fermilab theorist Joseph Lykken said the Higgs boson "gets at the center, for some physicists, of why the universe is here in the first place."

Though an impenetrable concept to many, the Higgs boson has until now been just that — a concept intended to explain a riddle: How were subatomic particles, such as electrons, protons and neutrons, themselves formed? What gives them their mass?

The answer came in a theory first proposed by Scottish physicist Peter Higgs and others in the 1960s. It envisioned an energy field where particles interact with a key particle, the Higgs boson.

The idea is that other particles attract Higgs bosons and the more they attract, the bigger their mass will be. Some liken the effect to a ubiquitous Higgs snowfield that affects other particles traveling through it depending on whether they are wearing, metaphorically speaking, skis, snowshoes or just shoes.

Officially, CERN is presenting its evidence this week at a physics conference in Australia but plans to accompany the announcement with meetings in Geneva. The two teams, known as ATLAS and CMS, then plan to publicly unveil more data on the Higgs boson at physics meetings in October and December. Each of the teams involves thousands of people working independently to ensure accuracy.

The scientific threshold for discovery is high. Scientists have to show with complex formulas that there's a less than 1 in 1.7 million chance that the findings are a statistical fluke. With two independent experiments showing that there's less than 1 in 16,000 chance of being wrong, it's a matter of how their work is put together.

Scientists with access to the new CERN data say it shows with a high degree of certainty that the Higgs boson may already have been glimpsed, and that by unofficially combining the separate results from ATLAS and CMS it can be argued that a discovery is near. Ellis says at least one physicist-blogger has done just that in a credible way.

CERN spokesman James Gillies said Monday that he would be "very cautious" about unofficial combinations of ATLAS and CMS data.

"Combining the data from two experiments is a complex task, which is why it takes time, and why no combination will be presented on Wednesday." he said.

But if the calculations are indeed correct, said John Guinon, a longtime physics professor at the University of California at Davis and author of the book "The Higgs Hunter's Guide," then it is fair to say that "in some sense we have reached the mountaintop."

Sean M. Carroll, a California Institute of Technology physicist flying to Geneva for Wednesday's announcement, said that if both ATLAS and CMS have independently reached these high thresholds on the Higgs boson, then "only the most curmudgeonly will not believe that they have found it."

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User comments : 28

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MrGrynch
1.2 / 5 (18) Jul 02, 2012
Or... the Higgs doesn't exist and mass is a function of the vacuum interaction of matter particles, and the "footprint" of the Higgs is actually a shadow of the quantum vacuum. Wouldn't this also be consistent with the fact that non-matter particles have properties of mass yet are for all intents and purposes, massless? What other explanation could account for both phenomenon? Does confirmation of the Higgs do that? I think the scientists are VERY right to hold off claiming a discovery at this point
TabulaMentis
3.8 / 5 (14) Jul 02, 2012
Or... the Higgs doesn't exist and mass is a function of the vacuum interaction of matter particles, and the "footprint" of the Higgs is actually a shadow of the quantum vacuum. Wouldn't this also be consistent with the fact that non-matter particles have properties of mass yet are for all intents and purposes, massless? What other explanation could account for both phenomenon? Does confirmation of the Higgs do that? I think the scientists are VERY right to hold off claiming a discovery at this point
Dream on!
rynox
4.8 / 5 (22) Jul 02, 2012
Didn't use "God Particle" in the headline. Good job, Physorg!
Archea
2.8 / 5 (9) Jul 02, 2012
They still used the word "proof" for theoretical object under the situation, when theory can be never proved.
kochevnik
1.4 / 5 (5) Jul 02, 2012
Theories have proofs, even while they do not prove the theory to be absolute truth in a multifractal negative-curvature universe
Vendicar_Decarian
2.3 / 5 (4) Jul 02, 2012
Until it's decay products have been detected, it hasn't been.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (11) Jul 02, 2012
Until it's decay products have been detected, it hasn't been.

They have. The trick is that they are decay product that also occur with other collision products. The way this is done is by calculating how often these other occurences should happen and then seeing whether stuff shows up more often (i.e. with the 'added' Higgs decay products once in a while)

That's why you have to do trillions of collisions, so that the drift shows up beyond noise threshold.
kevin_flick_71
1 / 5 (5) Jul 02, 2012
>> Didn't use "God Particle" in the headline. Good job, Physorg!

I agree. But they deserve the hits: "God Particle" god particle. Higgs
:-)
scifisteve
not rated yet Jul 02, 2012
No sigma in the article above, I guess they don't want to release that information just yet. It's not like them using the word "discovery", it's just about statistical certainty.
vacuum-mechanics
1 / 5 (7) Jul 03, 2012
By the way, lets assume that Higgs boson was found, then it seems that the Standard model was fulfilled. So next step is the final goal, i.e. Standard model + gravity = supergravity. And before reaching the final dream, what was has to be done is something like connect gravity with Higgs field! May this could be done by this unconventional idea.

http://www.vacuum...mid=9=en
rah
3.8 / 5 (9) Jul 03, 2012
It's entirely appropriate that there is a degree of uncertainty in this announcement about a quantum physics result, is it not?
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (8) Jul 03, 2012
It's (like most everything in science today) a matter of statistical significance. This means that there is always a chance that the result is a fluke. However, the measures used mean that chances for a fluke are very low.

Example: Given normally distributed data*, if you have a 5 sigma deviation in your experimental results (one sigma being one standard deviation) then the chance of the result being a fluke is 0.00006 percent. I.e. in 1.6 million such research endeavours you'll discover the Higgs (or equivalent) when there's actually nothing there.

* if you don't have normally distributed data other rules apply. Statistics is a very complex field. There are tests for your distribution. Tests for whether these test apply. And tests for whether the tests to your tests apply (!).
AtlasT
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 03, 2012
The Standard Model cannot predict the Higgs boson mass, so that whatever bump at the energy spectrum connected with symmetric decay can be considered as a Higgs boson. During time, Higgs boson mass was guessed from 109 -12 GeV to 760 -21 GeV, plus two unconventional theories with 1900 GeV and 10^{18} GeV. There are so many comparably likely models - most of which contain continuous parameters whose values aren't calculable right now - that the whole interval is covered almost uniformly.
AtlasT
5 / 5 (1) Jul 03, 2012
BTW The original article authors itself changed the word "proof" into "evidence", thus validating my point...
Eoprime
not rated yet Jul 03, 2012
No sigma in the article above, I guess they don't want to release that information just yet. It's not like them using the word "discovery", it's just about statistical certainty.


With two independent experiments showing that there's less than 1 in 16,000 chance of being wrong


Sounds to me like a bit more then 4sigma per experiment?
Nattydread
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 03, 2012
or Higgs doesn't exist and electron mass is due to the momentum of the photon that comprises it.
Pressure2
2.1 / 5 (8) Jul 03, 2012
So the Higgs particle has been found, what does it have to do with the origin of mass? The Standard Model is mostly just a mathmatical model isn't it? It reminds me of the ancient Greeks and their time machine. They could use it to predict certain things but understood very little.
http://phys.org/n...ine.html
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (5) Jul 03, 2012
Didn't use "God Particle" in the headline. Good job, Physorg!
The Holy Ghost should be called the "God Particle," not the Higgs. I guess the Holy Ghost will now have to be called the "Mother Particle" thanks to Leon Lederman and his naive twisted sense of humor.
Jitterbewegung
not rated yet Jul 03, 2012
Less than 4 hours to go. Watch it live here.

http://webcast.we...webcast/
vega12
not rated yet Jul 04, 2012
5 sigma signal it looks like according to webcast! Higgs discovery can now be claimed it seems.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (4) Jul 05, 2012
he Standard Model is mostly just a mathmatical model isn't it? It reminds me of the ancient Greeks and their time machine. They could use it to predict certain things but understood very little.

Could you explain how else to understand anything? If you can predict something then you have understood it (with the number of predictions the probability for being on a right track is high - even though there is never a 100% sure thing)

Are you advocating we use made up things that predict nothing but of which we claim we 'know a lot' (read: religion/belief) instead of stuff that demonstrably works?
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (3) Jul 05, 2012
Are you advocating we use made up things that predict nothing but of which we claim we 'know a lot' (read: religion/belief) instead of stuff that demonstrably works?
Your statement reminds me of scientists who believe everything came from nothing. That kind of thinking does not add up to anything. The religious and scientists both have it wrong. At least now the Standard Model has been proven correct.
Bewia
Jul 05, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
antialias_physorg
4.7 / 5 (6) Jul 05, 2012
Your statement reminds me of scientists who believe everything came from nothing.

It's good then that scientists believe no such thing, because the statement "everything CAME from nothing" contains a very easily spotted logical flaw (can you spot it? I put it in capitals for you)
At least now the Standard Model has been proven correct.

No it has not. It has been substantiated with evidence. It has been shown to have predictive value (which is very good). But there is no such thing as proving a scientific theory correct - ever.

TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (2) Jul 05, 2012
It's good then that scientists believe no such thing, because the statement "everything CAME from nothing" contains a very easily spotted logical flaw (can you spot it? I put it in capitals for you)
I guess I am not that smart to figure out what you are trying to tell me. Poor English may be what you are talking about? So then tell me, where did everything originate? The tooth fairy? God did not create everything!

No it has not. It has been substantiated with evidence. It has been shown to have predictive value (which is very good). But there is no such thing as proving a scientific theory correct - ever.
Sure, but the odds are what, 1 in ?? of being incorrect. It is time to move forward to prove dark matter and dark energy exist. Eventually, it will all make sense to the naysayers.
tkjtkj
not rated yet Jul 06, 2012
I just don't understand why FermiLab didnt do this .. 126 Gev is entirely in their energy range (which max's at 0.98 Tev ) ..
Yet LHC managed it in such a short time... (and while only running at 1/2 its design energy!)

Perhaps Fermi had other more-important things to do??
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (6) Jul 07, 2012
Fermi didn't have the same detectors/channels to look at.
And AFAIK they also don't do as many collisions per second as the LHC (which means they'd be going for a lot longer until they get statistical significance)
docmordin
5 / 5 (5) Jul 08, 2012
So then tell me, where did everything originate?


It's impossible to say, right now, why the big bang occurred. However, that's not to say that work isn't being done. For example, about two decades ago, Gabriele Veneziano published a paper on how an inflationary cosmological model can be obtained from string theory ("Scale factor duality for classical and quantum strings", Phys. Lett. B 265: 287294, 1991), which provides a way to describe pre-big bang scenarios.

(As an aside, it's entirely possible that the big bang that started our universe was merely the result of an earlier big crunch (J. Khoury, B. A. Ovrut, N. Seiberg, P. J. Steinhardt, and N. Turok, "From big crunch to big bang", Phys. Rev. D 65: 086007, 2002). Granted, that doesn't answer the question of why the previous universe popped into existence.)
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Jul 08, 2012
So then tell me, where did everything originate?

It's impossible to say, right now, why the big bang occurred.

But you can tell WHERE it occurred. You're standing in the exact place (as is everyone else and everything in the universe. Inflation - not explosion - remember? That's why we see the afterglow (the cosmic microwave background) originate from all directions and not just from one direction (which would be the case if it had been an explosion)