I’m off early to Canada, and what good news to awaken to!
As everyone expected from rumors leaking out over the past few weeks, it was announced yesterday at a physics conference in Melbourne that a particle consistent with the long-sought Higgs boson was found by two groups using the Large Hadron Collider on the Swiss-French border. The results are characterized as “preliminary”, but I’m betting and hoping they’re right. This is the last particle predicted by the Standard Model of physics, and its discovery is a true triumph of the human intellect. Not that we’re created by God or anything, but squirrels couldn’t have found this!
The CERN press release says this, and we should be proud as scientists that it’s properly cautious:
Geneva, 4 July 2012. At a seminar held at CERN1 today as a curtain raiser to the year’s major particle physics conference, ICHEP2012 in Melbourne, the ATLAS and CMS experiments presented their latest preliminary results in the search for the long sought Higgs particle. Both experiments observe a new particle in the mass region around 125-126 GeV.
“We observe in our data clear signs of a new particle, at the level of 5 sigma, in the mass region around 126 GeV. The outstanding performance of the LHC and ATLAS and the huge efforts of many people have brought us to this exciting stage,” said ATLAS experiment spokesperson Fabiola Gianotti, “but a little more time is needed to prepare these results for publication.”
“The results are preliminary but the 5 sigma signal at around 125 GeV we’re seeing is dramatic. This is indeed a new particle. We know it must be a boson and it’s the heaviest boson ever found,” said CMS experiment spokesperson Joe Incandela. “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.”
(See more at the press release.)
At the meeting, Prof Peter Higgs, the former University of Edinburgh theoretician who with five others predicted the Higgs particle’s existence in 1964, praised the efforts of the LHC teams.
“It’s really an incredible thing its happened in my lifetime,” he said. . .
Prof Stefan Soldner-Rembold, from the University of Manchester, told BBC News earlier this week: “The evidence is piling up… everything points in the direction that the Higgs is there.”
The Higgs is the cornerstone of the Standard Model – the most successful theory to explain the workings of the Universe.
But most researchers now regard the Standard Model as a stepping stone to some other, more complete theory, which can explain phenomena such as dark matter and dark energy.
Scientists will look at how the new particle decays -or transforms – into other, more stable particles after being produced in collisions at the LHC to figure out whether the particle they see is the version of the Higgs predicted by the Standard Model or something more exotic. .
“We’ll look at how often it decays into a pair of photons, how often it decays into Z bosons, how often it decays into W bosons,” said Dr Tara Shears, from the University of Liverpool.
“It could match what the Standard Model predicts, but if there are deviations, that means there is new physics at work. That would be the first glimpse through the window at what lies beyond our current understanding.”
The New York Times now has a long article about it, including this paragraph and these photos:
At CERN itself, 1,000 people stood in line all night to get into the auditorium, according to Guido Tonelli, a CERN physicist who said the atmosphere was like a rock concert. Peter Higgs, the University of Edinburgh theorist for whom the boson is named, entered the meeting to a standing ovation.