Higgs Boson makes it a champagne year for physics

Dec 10, 2012 by Laurent Banguet And Richard Ingham
An graphic distributed on July 4 by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva shows a representation of traces of a proton-proton collision measured in the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experience in the search for the Higgs boson. 2012 will go down in history as a landmark year when physicists discovered a fundamental particle that may answer one of the greatest riddles.

2012 will go down in history as a landmark year, when physicists discovered a fundamental particle that may answer one of the greatest riddles of all.

Investigators believe their discovery to be the long-coveted Higgs Boson, an invisible particle that explains the mystery of mass.

Without the Higgs, say theorists, we and all the other joined-up atoms in the Universe would not exist.

"The discovery is a wonderful example of the ability of the to understand the Universe to the greatest depths," said Sir Paul Nurse, a Nobel laureate who is president of Britain's Royal Society.

"As an achievement, it ranks alongside the confirmation that the Earth is round or Man's first steps on the Moon," said Pauline Gagnon at , where the particle was detected in sets of rival experiments.

Theorised back in 1964, the boson carries the name of a Briton, Peter Higgs.

He was the first to suggest that a field of these particles could explain a nagging anomaly: Why do some particles have mass and why do others, such as light, have none?

That question was a gaping hole in the , the conceptual framework for understanding the nuts-and-bolts particles and forces that constitute the cosmos.

CERN's announcement on July 4 stressed the need to confirm that the newcomer is the Higgs, a margin of uncertainty that probably prevented the discovery from gaining a Nobel this year.

And further work is needed to see exactly how the Higgs—or Higgses, if the boson exists in different flavours—interacts with other particles.

One notion is that the Higgs was born when the new Universe cooled after the some 14 billion years ago.

Former European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) Director-Generals Christopher Llewelyn-Smith, CERN scientific director Lyn Evans, Herwig Schopper, Luciano Maiani and Robert Aymard react on July 4 during a seminar on the latest update in the 50-year bid to explain a riddle of fundamental matter in the search for a particle called the Higgs boson at CERN in Meyrin, near Geneva.

It exists in an invisible field that, to use a simple image, is like a comb whose teeth are coated with syrup.

Most types of particles interact with the treacly stuff, acquiring some of its mass to varying degrees, but a few slip through and do not acquire any. With mass comes gravity—and through gravitational pull, particles meet.

A Higgs-less Universe would thus be a terrifying thing.

It would be dark and utterly dead, its listless particles unable to join up to form atoms and thus matter.

"Without the Higgs, there would be no stars and ultimately no life," said Themis Bowcock of Britain's University of Liverpool. "The Higgs offers humanity, for the first time, a unique glimpse into WHY nature is the way it is."

The discovery has unfathomable potential in practical terms, said Sir Peter Knight, head of Britain's Institute of Physics.

He pointed to the discovery of hydrogen in 1766 by Henry Cavendish, who called the curious gas "inflammable air."

"Now, hydrogen is our rocket fuel," said Knight. "Who knows what purpose the Higgs will serve, but I don't think anyone in the 18th century would have predicted a line of causation from Cavendish's work to the first man on the Moon."

The hunt for the Higgs was an extraordinary tale, exemplifying some of the best things in science.

It combined open debate based on evidence; fierce but friendly rivalries; and big-bucks experiments where teams threw themselves into the quest unhampered by borders and nationalities, united by the common language of physics.

It began with a dazzling series of conceptual insights by six men, including Higgs, each building on the work of others, who published a flurry of papers within four months of each other back in 1964.

After years of cut-and-thrust debate in the community of particle physics, momentum developed for building machines that smash sub-atomic particles together and trawl through the debris for clues.

Ultimately the crown went to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), whose labs are enclosed in a giant circular tunnel straddling the French and Swiss borders.

The massive project was completed four years ago at a cost of 6.03 billion Swiss francs (five billion euros, $6.27 billion dollars), yet is still not even close to running at full capacity.

Many challenges lie ahead in fundamental physics, said Gagnon.

"We have enough questions to keep us happy for many decades to come," she quipped.

There is the search for the graviton, a theoretical particle that explains gravity.

Then there is dark matter, a bizarre substance which can only be perceived indirectly, though its , yet accounts for around 25 percent of the contents of Universe.

One explanation lies in supersymmetry, the notion that there are novel particles that are counterparts to the known actors in the Standard Model.

Supersymmetry is deemed by some to be marginal or plain weird. But then, so too was the , half a century ago.

Explore further: X-ray powder diffraction beamline at NSLS-II takes first beam and first data

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Sanescience
4.2 / 5 (5) Dec 10, 2012
So, I accept that the Higgs Boson discovery is very significant, but I'm a little unsure how it will be directly useful like the "hydrogen discovery". Sure you can put something in a bottle like hydrogen for the first time and say "well, what is this good for?" Then start working with it. But the Higgs? It further confirms models we have been using for some time now but I'm at a loss for an application in technology.

Does anyone know if confirming the model opens any new avenues of investigation?
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
5 / 5 (5) Dec 10, 2012
"a bizarre substance which can only be perceived indirectly".

Define "bizarre" and "indirectly" testably. Both are words that lets the author express his opinion of what is his preference for fully acceptable, no more.

DM is better constrained than gravitons in some manners.

@ Sanescience: That *is* the question that is open, and I think it is a nice analogy to think about how other basic finds (EM theory vs electronics, relativity vs nuclear energy) took awhile erst applications arose.

But it is only our 2nd scalar field, after inflation. Who knows what we can do with these beasts? Hopefully not create universes respectively mess with vacuum stability. =D
indio007
2.4 / 5 (12) Dec 10, 2012
Look, all they have found is a boson (possibly) in the energy range they where expecting the Higgs. There is no evidence it has the properties attributed to the Higgs.

This is the reverse of science.
Pressure2
2.1 / 5 (8) Dec 10, 2012
Look, all they have found is a boson (possibly) in the energy range they where expecting the Higgs. There is no evidence it has the properties attributed to the Higgs.

This is the reverse of science.

I wholeheartedly agree!
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (8) Dec 10, 2012
The theories of mainstream physics of the last forty years suffer with systematical lack of experimental support (string theory, quantum gravity) - so that the recent confirmation of Higgs is rather over-hyped with physicists for not to lose the financial support. The practical importance of Higgs is quite negligible in comparison to findings of cold fusion or scalar waves, which are waiting for their interest for decades. But it can bring the new grants into mainstream physics community, so it's celebrated with it loudly. This finding is still somehow controversial for it, as it disfavors the SUSY at the same moment, which represents the main support of theories like the string theory. For many physicists the Higgs boson behaves way too conveniently (1, 2).
ant_oacute_nio354
1 / 5 (13) Dec 10, 2012
The Higgs doesn't exist!
The mass is an electric dipole moment.
The standard model is all wrong.~
António José de Pinho Saraiva
Lurker2358
2.6 / 5 (5) Dec 10, 2012
A Higgs-less Universe would thus be a terrifying thing. It would be dark and utterly dead, its listless particles unable to join up to form atoms and thus matter. "Without the Higgs, there would be no stars and ultimately no life," said Themis Bowcock of Britain's University of Liverpool. "The Higgs offers humanity, for the first time, a unique glimpse into WHY nature is the way it is."


Slow Down!

Until the particle is actually studied and characterized better you don't if it's actually "the higgs" or if there's a whole family of "Higgs-like bosons," if there's anti-particles, if their decay rates are chiral, anything like that.

This could be the Higgs, or it could be something nobody expected at all.

Even if it is "Higgs like" it might be missing properties or have properties that weren't predicted, so you can't just assume it makes your model perfect just yet.
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (4) Dec 10, 2012
A Higgs-less Universe would thus be a terrifying thing. It would be dark and utterly dead, its listless particles unable to join up to form atoms and thus matter
Quite strictly speaking, the Higgs model is responsible for inertia of particles in Standard model, not for their gravity, as the Standard model doesn't account into gravity. So without Higgs the particles would be massless and flying happily (it particularly applies to electron, neutrinos and quarks). The absence of Higgs would mean, that the W/Z bosons would be massless and as such of infinite distance scale - but it would become way weaker at the same moment. Because W/Z bosons mediate the weak nuclear force, which is repulsive for all material particles, it would mean, that the smallest particles would collapse instead under influence of strong nuclear forces.
Argiod
1 / 5 (4) Dec 10, 2012
It never ceases to amaze me. Physics says it's looking for the Unified Field Theory; but keeps dividing the universe into smaller and smaller parts with Occam's Razor. I think they've lost their sense of math. We'll never achieve Unity by Division. And, our politicians might learn from this as well.
Maggnus
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 10, 2012
But the Higgs? It further confirms models we have been using for some time now but I'm at a loss for an application in technology.

Does anyone know if confirming the model opens any new avenues of investigation?


Actually this is a bit of a funny (as in funny haha) comment, in that many of the physicists involved in the LHC were really hoping to find something besides confirmation of the higgs boson; its "discovery" has been called boring, because most realized it was very likely there before it was confirmed.

One thing that has arisen, is that supersymetry has been harshly constrained, and may have to be abandoned as a theory. This opens up a whole bunch of new possibilites, so the field is still wide open for study.

What will it lead to? Who knows. Its confirmation certainly puts some theories under pressure while confirming or constraining others. Quantum computing comes to mind, as do entanglement exeriments. Can you say teleportation?
vacuum-mechanics
1 / 5 (4) Dec 10, 2012
2012 will go down in history as a landmark year, when physicists discovered a fundamental particle that may answer one of the greatest riddles of all.

It seems that Higgs Boson is not a true particle (something like electron), it is just a coherent state of Higgs field which is not stable.

It exists in an invisible field that, to use a simple image, is like a comb whose teeth are coated with syrup….

Actually what which called as Higgs field, it is something like the old aether concept which was never been accepted before! But now it seems that we have prove the existence of the aether, doesn't it?
Maybe the physical view below could explain the mentioned problems.
http://www.vacuum...=9〈=en

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