Higgs Boson Particle May Have Been Discovered-UPDATE

Higgs Boson Particle May Have Been Discovered-UPDATE

UPDATE:   Adds Dennis Overbye’s wonderful explanation of the Higgs field in language definitely understandable by policy wonks.

The existence of the Higgs boson is fundamental to the Standard Model of physics and our understanding of everything in the universe — some call it the “God particle.”

Brian Vastag and Joel Achenbach of the Washington Post have written an eminently understandable layperson-friendly explanation of the Higgs boson and the significance of today’s announcement.  They say the Higgs boson sets up a “sort of force field that permeates everything….It’s the water the entire universe swims in.”

Dennis Overbye writing in the New York Times offered the perfect explanation in language meant for policy wonks:    “…the Higgs boson is only the manifestation of an invisible force field, a cosmic molasses that permeates space and imbues elementary particles with mass.  Particles wading through the field gain heft the way a bill going through Congress attracts riders and amendments, becoming ever more ponderous.”

Higgs is 83 and still active in the particle physics community.  He was present at Geneva-based CERN today when the announcement was made, with a video feed to the International Conference on High Energy Physics being held in Melbourne, Australia.  CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, manages the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).  The experiments were conducted using the LHC in 2011 and 2012.  Two years ago, CERN pledged to either prove or refute the Higgs boson theory using the LHC in two years in order to coincide with this conference according to the Washington Post. 

Many media outlets are reporting that the particle was discovered, but CERN officials and scientists involved in the research were more measured, insisting that the results are preliminary and still need to be validated. 

Two independent teams using different particle detectors, ATLAS and CMS, have been underway.  Both observed a new particle in the mass region around 125-126 GeV (gigaelectronvolts).   CERN quoted an ATLAS experiment spokeswoman, Fabiola Gianotti, as saying “a little more time is needed to prepare these results for publication.”  A CMS spokesman, Joe Incandela, said “[w]e know it must be a boson and it’s the heaviest boson even found…The implications are very significant and it is precisely for this reason that we must be extremely diligent in all of our studies and cross-checks.”

CERN itself added that “[p]ositive identification of the new particle’s characteristics will take considerable time and data.   But whatever form the Higgs particle takes, our knowledge of the fundamental structure of matter is about to take a major step forward.”



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