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Higgs Englert

2013 Nobel prize in physics awarded to ‘God particle’ scientists: Peter Higgs and Francois Englert

Higgs Englert

Francois Englert (left) and Peter Higgs (right)

Just a few moments ago, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics to Francois Englert and Peter Higgs on Tuesday for their 1964 postulation of the existence of the Higgs boson. The elementary particle was finally confirmed in 2012 by a team of international researchers using the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

The July 2012 discovery of the particle in the most powerful particle accelerator in the world, the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland, has been billed as one of the biggest scientific achievements of the last 50 years. The Higgs boson, also sometimes referred to as the God particle, is thought to be the elementary particle responsible for granting all matter with mass. It’s become obvious now how monumental this discovery is.

But why not last year? In 2012 everybody was expecting Englert and Higgs to win the physics prize, but instead the award went to two scientists (Haroche and Wineland ) for their work with light and matter, which may lead the way to superfast quantum computing and the most precise clocks ever seen. The  Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences often steers away from scientific premiers and chooses to opt for more mature research. This year, however, it was clear than Englert and Higgs shouldn’t be missed.

Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel created the prizes in 1895 to honor work in physics, chemistry, literature and peace. Since 1901, the committee has handed out the Nobel Prize in physics 106 times. The youngest recipient was Lawrence Bragg, who won in 1915 at the age of 25. For the 2013 awards, so far the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been announced: James E Rothman, Randy W Schekman and Thomas C Südhof  for their work on the mechanism that controls the transport of membrane-bound parcels or ‘vesicles’ through cells.

New enthusiasm in quest for Higgs Boson

Heartened by a glimpse of what may have been the Higgs boson, researchers at the CERN physics lab continue to smash particles in a quest to understand how the Universe works at a submolecular level, why do particles have mass, and many other such cosmic riddles.

But rather than the end of the line, the July 4th unveiling of a boson with Higgs-like characteristics opens new scientific frontiers and raises even more questions. But in order to proceed in this line, researchers first have to find irrefutable proof that the particle they found is indeed the Higgs boson – and they have a lot of time to do this.

An artist rendition of the Higgs boson emerging after a collision

“The LHC is made to last another twenty-odd years, exactly to allow us to immerse ourselves in this field of research, of which we have barely scratched the surface,” said Bernard Ille, research director of France’s CNRS institute.

Confirming the Higgs boson would validate the Standard Model, a theory that identifies and pinpoints the characteristics of the building blocks of matter and the particles that convey fundamental forces. It’s indeed great to see that researchers are fully motivated to pursue the quest.

“Once we understand this, there are many other avenues that open up because the boson itself posed a serious theoretical problem,” said Yves Sirois, one of the CMS’ directors. “Truly, it opens the door to a new level of physics” — understanding such physics mind-benders as supersymmetry. “It is likely that by raising the energy levels in the LHC in a few years we shall be capable of discovering dark matter,” said Sirois.

Physicists will have to hold their breath a little longer – ‘God particle’ not found yet

The big news about the discovery of the Higgs boson seem farther than some might have expected, even though researchers reported ‘tantalizing hints’ of the elusive particle; physicists will have to hold their breath a little longer.

About a week ago, rumors started stirring up the physics world, as the people at CERN zoomed in on the only missing particle from the Standard Model; however, scientists so far have only hints, and nothing concrete to show.

“I think we are getting very close,” said Vivek Sharma, a physicist at the University of California, San Diego, and the leader of the Higgs search at LHC’s CMS experiment. “We may be getting the first tantalizing hints, but it’s a whiff, it’s a smell, it’s not quite the whole thing.”

The long sought particle seems to be cornered now, and indeed, as the team working at CERN announced, we will soon be able to either prove or disprove its existence – but physicists seem adamant that it exists, now more than ever. Today’s announcement was believed by many to be something definitive – but this wasn’t the case. Though this isn’t the final answer we have been waiting for, it is definitely an exciting leap forward.

“It’s something really extraordinary and I think we can be all proud of this,” said CERN physicist Fabiola Gianotti, spokesperson for the LHC‘s ATLAS experiment, during a public seminar announcing the results today.

The entire scientific world seems proud of the people at the LHC.

“These are really tough experiments, and it’s just really impressive what they’re doing,” Harvard University theoretical physicist Lisa Randall said.

The Standard Model is an extremely ambitious theory that seeks to unify interactions between all the elementary particles in the Universe; so far, the only particle yet to be observed from this model is the Higgs Boson – so finding it is quite a big deal. If it were proven not to exist, that would be good too – we would know we have to search for something else.

Higgs Boson to be unveiled?

The physicists over at CERN set out to determine if the Higgs Boson is real or not, and they seem poised to figure that out, as rumor spreads about the possible announcement of the elusive particle.

Recently, rumors about the boson exploded, and instead of cooling down, they amplified even more; this Tuesday (tomorrow, 13th December) they will make an important press release, which many believe to be the confirmation of the so-called ‘god particle‘.

I for one am somewhat skeptical; it’s not that I don’t trust the people working at CERN – on the contrary, but there have been rumors before, and people got their hopes up for nothing. For one, the Standard Model, in which the aforementioned particle plays a big role is an extremely ambitious theory – aiming to explain how every particle in this universe interacts with one another. Also, it’s not necessary for the Higgs boson to exist – and that wouldn’t mean the LHC didn’t achieve anything – quite the opposite. It would show that nature has chosen a different path from that suggested by humans, which, as elegant and fitting as it is, may very well be wrong. All in all, tomorrow might be a big day for particle physics and for science.

Shorties: Rumors explode regarding the Higgs Boson

Nothing is clear at the moment, and we don’t want to get all sensationalist right now; but rumors about the researchers at LHC preparing to announce something big, following a press conference with showed some pretty promising results. However, I wouldn’t hold my breath – in an inside email, Rolf Heuer, director-general of CERN said:

“These results will be based on the analysis of considerably more data than those presented at the Summer conferences, sufficient to make significant progress in the search for the Higgs boson, but not enough to make any conclusive statement on the existence or non-existence of the Higgs.”

CERN scientists claim the Higgs boson is excluded with a 95% possibility

Stephen Hawking may have just won the most outrageous bet in physics history, a few years ago, when he claimed that the LHC, along with every other particle accelerator won’t find the Higgs boson, the elusive ‘God particle‘, simply because it does not exist.

When he addressed this bet, Peter Higgs, who proposed and supported the existance of this boson took it rather personally, stating that to answer Hawking’s challenge would have been “like criticizing the late Princess Diana”. As a matter of fact, the great majority of the physics community adopted the idea that the Higgs boson exists, and all that is needed in order to find it is run the LHC long enough; so far, this hasn’t been the case. In the other corner, Hawking, who is known for controversial and contrarian pronouncements was simply believed to throw around his weight.

But time passed, the LHC was up and running, and the God particle was still not showing up. Running continually at an unprecedented energy level of seven trillion electron volts for five months, the LHC has been gathering petabytes of data that are being analyzed by a grid of interlinked computers worldwide in search of the missing boson; and yet, at the Biennial International Symposium on Lepton-Photon Interactions at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, India, physcists dropped the bomb: over the entire energy range that the collider explored, from 145 to 466 billion electron volts, the Higgs boson is excluded with a 95% probability.

The search for the Higgs boson can be looked at as a statistical challege, in which you have to analyze particles that emanate from high energy collisions and measure their energies, mass, direction of flight and other parameters, in order to see what kind of particles they are. These measurements carry a probability, such as 95%, or 99%, or the infamous “five-sigma” requirement for certainty: 99.99997%.

In order to be more specific, this only states that is’s very unlikely for the particle to exist in the investigated area of 114 to 145, which is commonly believed to be the area we should search in. Lower energies could be hiding the boson, but smaller particle accelerators, to which lower energies are available haven’t been able to find it either; maybe, indeed, there is nothing to find – or maybe we just have to be more patient and look harder.

UPDATE: hurah, hurah. wouldn’t you know it – the Higgs boson does exist and it’s well ‘kicking’! This is a really old post, however it’s well worth updating. Not to nudge Hawking or anything, but… CERN researchers found and confirmed with subsequent measurements that the Higgs boson – the God particle responsible for granting matter with mass – does indeed exist.

Scientific world buzzing around rumour that God particle has been detected

Credit: CERN

The world scientific community is absolutely abuzz with the rumour that the Higgs boson, the elusive God particle, may have just been detected. The rumour started after an internal note was leaked from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC); it’s not yet exactly clear if the memo is authentic, but it seems real enough to have physicists extremely excited, and awaiting confirmation.

God particle rumoured to be found

The whole fuss started with a comment at Columbia University mathematician Peter Woit’s blog, Not Even Wrong. It got pretty much the whole world excited, but some are skeptical and suspect a hoax, while others believe the memo is real, but the results are just a statistical anomaly that will dissappear upon further inspection; still, nobody can contain a “what if” feeling.

“If it were to be real, it would be really exciting,” said physicist Sheldon Stone of Syracuse University.

If it turns out to be a hoax, or just some unimportant anomaly, the researchers at CERN will have to continue their hunt for the Higgs boson, but even if it turns out to be true, their work is just beginning. They will of course have to confirm the existence of the God particle, and start understanding and interpreting its properties, as well as fit them in what is known today as the Standard Model.

The God (damned) particle

Few people know that Higgs, the man who “named” the boson, wanted to name it the Goddamned particle, and not the God particle, but editors thought that just wasn’t ‘catchy’ enough. Almost as mysterious as the particle himself, Peter Higgs rarely gives interviews, despite the fact that he is one of the most admired physicists today. The particle named after him is a hypothetical massive elementary particle predicted to exist by the Standard Model of particle physics, and its existance or lack of existance will be confirmed by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. It is, so far, the only particle in the Standard Model that hasn’t been observed so far in experiments, but also the most important, because it is believed to bestow mass to all other particles, which makes it the most wanted prize, as well as the missing puzzle piece from the model. Its importance is so great, that models without this boson are actually called the Higgsless models.

If indeed found, the Higgs boson would provide certainty of the Standard Model, and give physicists a certain ground to walk on when elaborating new theories and understanding the very universe we live in.

Hunting for the Higgs boson

The LHC isn’t the only particle accelerator hunting for the elusive particle; the Tevatron, at Fermilab in Illinois are also trying to find this subatomic particle, as well as other bits of matter and information. What they are doing is accelerating particles to incredible speeds and then smashing them together, generating a “shower” of other particles, some of which provide insight about the Big Bang.

In this rumour, the signal seems to point out to the properties you would expect from a Higgs boson, but some of the signal is inconsistent with predictions; but that’s not bad news at all !

“Its production rate is much higher than that expected for the Higgs boson in the Standard Model,” Stone told SPACE.com in an email interview. So the signal may be evidence of some other particle, Stone added, “which in some sense would be even more interesting, or it could be the result of new physics beyond the Standard Model.”

However, speculating on these results shouldn’t be done, at least not until this is confirmed by the people at CERN. We could be dealing with one of the biggest discoveries of all times, and we’ll be waiting with our fingers crossed, just like everybody in the physics community; we’ll also keep you posted with further developments of the situation.

Large Hadron Collider creates mini big bangs and incredible heat

The Large Hadron Collider at CERN has taken another step towards its goal of finding the so called ‘god particle‘: it recently produced the highest temperatures ever obtained through a science experiment. The day before yesterday, 7 November was a big one at the LHC, as the particle collider started smashing lead ions head-on instead of the proton – proton collisions that usually take place there.

Representation of a quark-gluon plasma

The result was a series of what is called mini big bangs: dense fireballs with temperatures of over 10 trillion Celsius degrees! At this kind of temperatures and energies, the nuclei of atoms start to melt in their constituend parts, quarks and gluons, and the result is called a quark-gluon plasma.

One of the primary goals of the Large Hadron Collider is to go back further and further in time, closer to the ‘birth’ of the Universe. The theory of quantum chromodynamics tells us that as we ‘travel’ in the past more and more, the strength of strong interactions drops fast and reaches zero; the process is called “asymptotic freedom”, and it brought David Politzer, Frank Wilczek and David Gross a Nobel Prize in 2004.

The quark-gluon plasma has been studied in great detail at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Upton, New York, which produced temperatures of 4 trillion degrees Celsius. These collisions will allow scientists to look at the world in a way they never could have before, showing how the Universe was about a millionth of a second after the big bang. One can only wonder what answers this plasma has to offer, and it already produced a huge surprise, acting like a perfect liquid instead of a gas, as expected. Still, one thing’s for sure: the Large Hadron Collider is producing more and more results each month, and whether it confirms current theories or proves them wrong, science will benefit greatly from this particle collider

The Higgs boson was initially called the ‘goddamn particle’

Peter Higgs is not the rockstar type of scientist; the particle physicist rarely gives interviews, despite the fact that he is the one who proposed the existence of a fundamental particle that gives all matter its mass. Almost as mysterious as the particle itself, he simply calls it the “boson named after me”.

Higgs visited Geneva for a peek at the LHC to see how research is going; it should be said, that despite what most people outside physics think, the Large Hadron Collider is not all about the Higgs boson. That particle is just the most popular one. A small part of its popularity probably comes from the media friendly nickname it was given, the “god particle”.

The term is largely believed to belong to Nobel prize winner Leon Lederman; however, it wasn’t his choice actually. Higgs explains:

“He wanted to refer to it as that ‘goddamn particle’ and his editor wouldn’t let him. I find it embarrassing because, though I’m not a believer myself, I think it is the kind of misuse of terminology which I think might offend some people.”

When asked the question that was on everybody’s tongue, what will he do if the goddamn particle is confirmed, Higgs gives an absolutely brilliant answer:

“I shall open a bottle of something,” he says, back in coy mode. A bottle of what? “Champagne,” he says thoughtfully. “Drinking a bottle of whiskey takes a little more time.”

Update: Well it seems like Dr. Higgs most certainly had one of the most satisfying cups of champagne in history, seeing how indeed the Higgs boson fundamental particle has been confirmed by researchers in the summer of 2012, two years after this interview. Cheers, Dr. Higgs!