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Physicists Zero In On Glimpsing the “God Particle”

Physicists Zero In On Glimpsing the “God Particle”

Scientists hoping to get a glimpse of the Higgs boson, a subatomic particle whose existence is believed to be key to explaining why there is mass in the universe, will have to wait another year in their quest to confirm its existence. Just on Tuesday, two teams of scientists working at the the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research, announced that they had found “tantalizing hints” of the particle. However, it will be another year before they have enough data to sufficiently confirm the discovery:

The putative particle weighs in at about 125 billion electron volts, about 125 times heavier than a proton and 500,000 times heavier than an electron, according to one team of 3,000 physicists, known as Atlas, for the name of their particle detector. The other equally large team, known as C.M.S. — for their detector, the Compact Muon Solenoid — found bumps in their data corresponding to a mass of about 124 billion electron volts.

If the particle does exist at all, it must lie within the range of 115 to 127 billion electron volts, according to the combined measurements. “We cannot conclude anything at this stage,” said Fabiola Gianotti, the Atlas spokeswoman, adding, “Given the outstanding performance of the L.H.C. this year, we will not need to wait long for enough data and can look forward to resolving this puzzle in 2012.”

Peter Higgs was one of six physicists who proposed the Higgs boson as a means of explaining mass in 1966. The Higgs is the last missing member of the Standard Model, which is a kind of “instruction manual” for how particles and forces interact. It is sometimes called the “God particle” because finding the elusive particle would enable us to make sense of the very workings of the universe. Discovering the Higgs could be the biggest scientific advance of the century, since Francis Crick and James D. Watson figured out the structure of DNA 60 years ago.

Pallab Ghoush further explains the significance of discovering the Higgs:

…Once physicists know [the Higgs] exists, they can begin studying it detail and finding out whether there are many different types of Higgs. Most importantly, theoretical physicists can discard various alternatives to the Standard Model and kick on, trying to develop it further.

As successful as the Standard Model has been, it still doesn’t encompass gravity. Nor does it provide a reason for why there was an excess of matter over anti-matter after the Big Bang, allowing the Universe to come into being. And the theory accounts for the behaviour of just 4% of the Universe – its normal matter. The rest, in the form of dark matter and dark energy, remains to be explained.

However, if the Higgs is ruled out, life does get very interesting indeed. It means that the keystone which keeps the Standard Model propped up doesn’t exist, paving the way for new, more exotic theories.

Scientists searching for the Higgs have detected “suspicious bumps that have come and gone” over the past 20 years, but two different teams using two different particle detectors acquiring similar results is a sign that those bumps are not statistical anomalies. It is also cause for significant excitement among particle physicists many of whom, “fueled by coffee, dreams and Internet rumors of a breakthrough,” gathered to watch a webcast of talks and a discussion of the results at CERN on Tuesday morning all over the world — and maybe they’ll be doing the same some time next year, too.

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Photo saying "the fabulous Higgs Boson" - "the mysterious Dark Matter" - "the Elusive Antimatter" by tompagenet

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31 comments

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10:16PM PST on Dec 23, 2011

@ Ainsley C

"What a waste of billions of dollars"
you need to realise that science is an enormous body of knowlege, all tightly coupled and inter-dependent on its different parts. sure, you might not see how discovering such a particle is going to help anyone, but to give you a most simplistic example; if we had not researched physics, we would not know about particles, eg electrons, and we would not have constructed transistors, and we would not have build computers, and you would not be able to sit at home and have an impact on poverty and hunger via the internet. so don't dismiss particle physics as useless and think all we should concentrate on is the poor. you have science to thank for almost everything around you.

5:14AM PST on Dec 23, 2011

One of the many misconceptions held by non-scientists (which is most of the population) -- and especially by those who are anti-science -- is that science, which, after all is a Latin word for knowledge, strives, through rigorous and self-consistent, methodology to provide a valid representation of reality; I say "representation" because that is what the models we create are: when we describe an electron, proton -- or gravity, we can only posit what they are LIKE, not what they ARE. The power of a valid theory lies in its ability to explain what has been experienced -- and predict that which is yet to be experienced. Ultimately, whether a theory lives or dies (and is therefore replaced) depends upon this self-correcting validation. No one expressed this better than the late Jacob Bronowski:

"One aim of the physical sciences has been to give an exact picture of the material world. One achievement of physics in the twentieth century has been to prove that that aim is unattainable."

-- Jacob Bronowski, Episode 11, "The Ascent of Man" (1973)

4:46AM PST on Dec 23, 2011

Some recommended books on the Higgs Boson for a general readership are:

-- "The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?" by Leon Lederman and Dick Teresi.

-- "Collider: The Search for the World's Smallest Particles" by Paul Halpern.

-- "The Quantum Frontier: The Large Hadron Collider" by Don Lincoln.

For those with a background in physics and mathematics, see if your library system, or one at a local university, has (or can order through inter-library loan) "Search for the Higgs Boson," edited by John V. Lee (Nova Science Pub Inc, April 25, 2006); if purchased, the cost will be in the neighborhood of $200 USD.

2:38AM PST on Dec 23, 2011

How can a particle bigger than a proton explain mass? I thought the Higgs would be something that could "hide" inside an atom. Instead, it weighs more than any atom. How can it then give mass to atoms? Can anyone recommend a good book that can help explain it? I am not frightened by math.

7:56AM PST on Dec 19, 2011

Interesting!!

2:16PM PST on Dec 18, 2011

Hmmm.

1:34PM PST on Dec 18, 2011

For an excellent and concise overview of these findings and some of their possible implications, listen to the segment of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's award-winning weekly radio science series "Quirks & Quarks" entitled "The Infinity Puzzle," from Saturday, 2011.12.17 -- a conversation between program host Dr. Bob McDonald and Dr. Frank Close, professor of physics at Oxford University -- http://www.cbc.ca/quirks/episode/2011/12/17/december-17-2011/ (segment runs 17:02).

5:47PM PST on Dec 16, 2011

Amazing!

10:36AM PST on Dec 16, 2011

Physics is fascinating, but I just do not see the true benefit. So what if they do discover the particle that may (or may not) be responsible for creating mass, so what? Are we any closer to improving life on our planet or any of the other problems in our world? It simply does not seem worth while to me to have the most brilliant minds of our day smashing things together and costing billions of dollars to try to determine how the universe was created. If you ask me, our feeble human minds could never comprehend the forces and materials that lead the way to the creation of this thing we call a universe. People like to play with forces they do not understand far more than I am comfortable with.

11:12PM PST on Dec 14, 2011

Frankly, I'm kind of sick and tired of hearing about 3D scientist on this planet trying to explain away the Creator's work with their infantile scientific theories. The Universe Masters and other Lightworkers have warned we earth humans about CERN fooling around with energies they/we cannot come close to understanding because our spirituality has NOT kept pace with our technology. What's it going to take to wake us up? Is it going to take another one of their ("ET") welcomed "interferences" to forcefully shut CERN down/off, not unlike was used on the missile launched off California, etc., etc., etc?

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