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Often called the ‘God Particle’ in popular media, much the the chagrin of physicists, the Higgs Boson is a particle predicted by the Standard Model as the Boson (force carrying particle) that mediated the Higgs Field. The Higgs Field can be thought of us a universe spanning scalar energy field that grants certain particles their mass. While still theoretical, the Higgs Boson is the leading contender for why some particles have mass and others do not. Without such a field, all particles would move throughout the universe unimpeded at the speed of light, preventing anything from forming. It has also been occasionally linked to the inflationary period, when the early universe expanded in volume by a factor of 1078.
There has been much speculation as to the nature of this announcement in the preceding days. These were made more intense when it was revealed that Dr. Peter Higgs was scheduled to attend the announcement. Given as an opener to the 36th International Conference on High Energy Physics (ICHEP 2012) in Melbourne, Australia, the announcement revealed that a new Boson had been confirmed to exist in the same energy range as predicted by the Higgs model.
Using the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest particle accelerator with a circumference of 17 mi (27 km) and capable of sending protons at speeds of over 99% the speed of light. The collisions produced in the LHC have energies around 14.7 TeV (Terra electron Volts, or the energy of 14.7 trillion electrons).
Using the LHC, two competing teams working at two of the LHCs detectors have been working at pinning down the Higgs Boson. At the ATLAS detector (A Toroidal Lhc ApparatuS) is a team lead by Dr. Faviola Gianotti and at the CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid), a team led by Dr. Joseph Incandela. While independently the data was not strong enough to confirm the existence of the particle, together the data was unmistakable.
While it is not certain that this particle is the Higgs Boson, it is the most likely candidate. Either way, this new particle is the heaviest Boson yet detected at 125.3 GeV (Giga electron Volts) + 0r – .6 GeV. While there had been evidence to support the existence of a particle around the 125 GeV range, the new findings have a 4.9 standard deviations, known in physics as Sigma (σ). This is confirmation of a new particle as σ 5 is considered the standard for claiming discovery of a particle.
Named after Dr. Peter Higgs of the University of Edinburough who, along with six others working in three independent teams, Tom Kibble of Imperial College, London, Carl Hagen of University of Rochester, Dr. Guralnik of Brown University, and Francois Englert and the late Robert Brout, both of Université Libre de Bruxelles, developed the concept of the Higgs Boson in 1964.
In a statement after the initial announcement, Dr. Higgs stated that:
I’m rather surprised that it happened in my lifetime – I certainly had no idea it would happen in my lifetime at the beginning, more than 40 years ago, because at the beginning people had no idea about where to look for it, so it’s really amazing for me to find out that it’s really enough… for a discovery claim.
I think it shows amazing dedication by the young people involved with these colossal collaborations to persist in this way, on what is a really a very difficult task. I congratulate them.
Indeed this is a huge discovery and everyone involved should be congratulated for their efforts. Even if this new particle does not turn out to be the Higgs, this is still a monumental discovery, for it would allow us to change our models as to how the universe works. While most involved are quite certain that this is the Higgs, there is still much to be done. The nature of this new particle is still unknown other then its energy. With further investigation its properties can be uncovered and we, as a species, will be one step closer to understanding this vast, often perplexing and always awe inspiring universe of ours.
CERN Press Release: http://press.web.cern.ch/press/PressReleases/Releases2012/PR17.12E.html
The Telegraph’s live coverage of the announcement: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/large-hadron-collider/9374788/Higgs-Boson-announcement-from-Cern-LIVE.html