Scientists think they have experimental evidence of the existence of the Higgs Boson — the ‘God particle’ that is the hypothetical glue that physicists are counting on to hold their current mathematical model of the universe together. European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) experts working with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland had announced last December that they had possibly caught a glimpse of a new particle in experiments that simulates conditions that will have been present a billionth of a second after the birth of the universe. The last several months had been spent analysing the deluge of data that experiment yielded. In an announcement issued today (the 4th of July 2012), scientists have confirmed that the results of the analyses yielded confirmation that the new particle detected last December “fits the description of the Higgs boson”…
“The discovery of a particle consistent with the Higgs boson opens the way to more detailed studies, requiring larger statistics, which will pin down the new particle’s properties, and is likely to shed light on other mysteries of our universe,” said Heuer.
Announcements by scientists about their analysis of data generated by trillions of particle collisions in the LHC drew avid applause at an eagerly awaited seminar in Geneva, Switzerland, on Wednesday.
The Swiss presentation comes after researchers in Illinois said earlier this week scientists that they had crept closer to proving that the particle exists but had been unable to reach a definitive conclusion.
The LHC is the world’s largest and highest-energy particle accelerator. It was built by the CERN from 1998 to 2008, with the aim of allowing physicists to test the predictions of different theories of particle physics and high-energy physics, and particularly that of the existence of the hypothesized Higgs boson and of the large family of new particles predicted by supersymmetry. The LHC is expected to address some of the most fundamental questions of physics, advancing the understanding of the deepest laws of nature.
One of the holy grails of physics is the unification of the general theory of relativity and quantum physics — the earlier deals with the dynamics of large bodies, and the latter with the infinitesimally small. The current ‘Standard Model’ that frames quantum physics fails to account for gravitational force in a manner consistent with the way general relativity explains it. The Higgs boson and the concept of the Higgs “field” it makes possible is the cornerstone for the completion of a consistent theoretical framework for the property of mass across known particles. Previously the Higgs boson was just a postulation — a theoretical ‘plug’ — to prop up what had become the Standard Model of particle physics.
In science, every component of a theory remains shaky until proven experimentally. Every mathematical construct, no matter how compellingly valid over a finite range, remains unreliable as a building block for more complex theorems until a proof over an infinite range is developed. So with the Standard Model, science cannot build upon it until its fundamental conjectures are resolved — which is why the Higgs boson was nicknamed the ‘God particle’, and why billions of dollars had been invested in the development of the LHC; because moving forward in the field opens up a world of possible practical applications…
Particle physicists try to avoid forecasting the applications of an experimental advance before the actual advance is confirmed, but in the past, advances on a par with the discovery of the Higgs boson have had lots of beneficial applications, and some that are more questionable. The rise of nuclear power and nuclear weaponry is a prime example of that double-edged sword.
The discovery of antimatter is what made medical PET scanning possible, and antimatter propulsion could eventually play a part in interstellar travel, just like on “Star Trek.” Particle accelerators have opened the way to medical treatments such as proton eye therapy — as well as advances in materials science, thanks to neutron scattering.
It’s conceivable that the discoveries made at the Large Hadron Collider will eventually point to new sources of energy, Michio Kaku, a physicist at City College of New York, told me during a discussion of the LHC’s promise and peril. And if the discovery of the Higgs leads to fresh insights into the fabric of the universe, it’s conceivable that we could take advantage of the as-yet-unknown weave of that fabric for communication or transportation. Who knows? Maybe this is how “Star Trek” gets its start.
If the discovery of the ‘God particle’ is confirmed, it could be the biggest breakthrough in physics in the last several decades and may herald the end of one of its most expensive journeys of discovery.
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