Web Date: July 5, 2012
Physicists Find The Higgs Boson
The elusive Higgs boson, a subatomic particle essential for validating the Standard Model, physics’ most accepted theory of subatomic science, has been measured by two detectors at the Large Hadron Collider, the 16-mile-long high-energy proton collider located near Geneva at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).
Evidence for the Higgs boson was presented on July 4 to a packed audience at CERN’s headquarters by Joe Incandela and Fabiola Gianotti, spokespeople for CERN’s CMS and ATLAS detectors, respectively, in back-to-back presentations that were also beamed to a subatomic physics conference auditorium in Melbourne, Australia, and to the rest of the world by video webcast.
Data from both detectors provided strong enough statistical certainty—to the so-called five-sigma level—to announce the Higgs boson discovery. “As a layman, I would now say I think we have it,” said Rolf Heuer, CERN’s director-general.
The discovery was met with thunderous applause, cheering, and even a few tears from people in the audience at CERN’s headquarters and in Melbourne. Peter Higgs, 83, the particle’s namesake who predicted its existence in the 1960s, dabbed his eyes with a tissue after the announcement. “It’s amazing,” he said via Web broadcast after the announcement. “I’m surprised it happened in my lifetime.”
Higgs, an emeritus professor at the University of Edinburgh, was one of several physicists, including François Englert, Robert Brout, Gerald Guralnik, C. R. Hagen, and Tom Kibble, who developed the theory that underlies the Higgs boson, which helps explain important mass differences between photons and fundamental subatomic particles. In addition to validating the Standard Model, the Higgs boson may also help physicists understand other important cosmic questions such as how dark matter arose and what it is.
The search required “thousands of people over many years” to design, build, operate, and analyze data from the Large Hadron Collider, Incandela said.
After the announcement, praise poured in from all over the world. Stephen Hawking, who lost a $100 bet due to the discovery, told BBC news that proof of the particle’s existence, “should earn Peter Higgs the Nobel Prize.”
U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu congratulated the scientists, noting that the discovery “shows the benefits of sustained investments in basic science by governments around the world.”
“This is a historic milestone, but this is only just the beginning,” Gianotti said, as physicists now focus on discovering the properties of the Higgs boson and figure out how its existence meshes with theories underlying the origin of matter and our universe.
- Chemical & Engineering News
- ISSN 0009-2347
- Copyright © American Chemical Society