Wednesday, July 4, 2012

God Particle. Higgs Boson. How Did the Universe Get Created?



The discovery of a particle consistent with the Higgs boson has been announced by physicists from the Large Hadron Collider's CMS and ATLAS detectors.
The discovery was detailed at a major conference to update the world on the continuing efforts by CERN scientists to find the last remaining piece of the Standard Model that underpins the foundations of our Universe. The Higgs boson mediates the "Higgs field" that ultimately endows all matter with mass -- finding the Higgs is therefore imperative for physicists to understand what gives the Universe substance.
When reports first surfaced that Peter Higgs -- one of the six physicists who, in the 1960s, developed the theory behind Higgs boson -- had been invited to CERN for this morning's announcement, the event became hard to ignore: something historic was about to happen...
This "new boson" revealed itself in the CMS data as a "bump" at 125 GeV/c2, a value that places it at over 130 times more massive than a proton.
After combining all the results gathered over many different channels in the CMS, the level of certainty -- 4.9-sigma -- came tantalizingly close to the "Gold Standard" (5-sigma) for subatomic particle discovery. This means there is a one-in-2 million chance of the result being a random fluctuation, or noise. For all intents and purposes, this is a discovery of a particle that acts very much like a Higgs boson...
However, more work needs to be done to figure out if this is indeed a Higgs boson or some unexpected renegade particle that just acts like the Higgs (although the latter is highly unlikely). Also, if it is a Higgs boson, is it a part of a larger Higgs family of particles?...
"I think we have it," said CERN Director-General Rolf Heuer. "We have discovered a particle that is consistent with a Higgs boson."

Physicists Find Elusive Particle Seen as Key to the Universe

'God particle' find sets scene for one hell of a row 

Ian Sample
July 5, 2012 - 11:02AM

It was announced less than 24 hours ago, but rows over who deserves credit have already broken out. 

It’s good news for physicists, but a big headache for the Nobel committee. 

The discovery - or near discovery - of the Higgs boson, will see someone win a Nobel prize, but deciding who deserves credit for the work is a minefield. Traditionally, the science Nobel prizes are given to a maximum of three people, whose contributions are judged to be the most important. 

British physicist Peter Higgs congratulates the experiment team after last night's announcment.
British physicist Peter Higgs congratulates the experiment team after last night's announcment. Photo: Reuters

The rule is archaic in that it harks back to a time when much of science was done by individuals or smaller groups. Two teams of scientists at Cern, amounting to thousands of people, carried out the painstaking work of spotting traces of the particle amid the subatomic debris of more than a thousand trillion collisions inside the Large Hadron Collider. All deserve credit for that effort. 

 But this is the least of the Nobel committee’s problems. The prize is more likely to go to theoretical physicists who worked on the theory almost 50 years ago. Here the parentage becomes more muddled. 

 Six physicists published the theory within four months of each other in 1964. They built on the work of others. 

Physicists applaud the announcement last night in Melbourne.
Physicists applaud the announcement last night in Melbourne. Photo: Angela Wylie

Physicists applaud the announcement last night in Melbourne. Photo: Angela Wylie The first to publish, that August, were Robert Brout and Francois Englert at the Free University of Brussels. Brout died in 2011, and the award cannot be given posthumously. 

Second to publish was Peter Higgs, with two papers on the theory in September and October 1964. In his second, he became the first to mention explicitly that the theory demanded a new particle in nature, which was given the name Higgs boson in 1972. 

Third to publish was a group of three theorists, including two US researchers, Dick Hagen and Gerry Guralnik, and a British physicist, Tom Kibble. Their work was published in November. 

Professor Geoffrey Taylor. Photo: Angela Wylie All three teams worked independently. 

So there are at least five living physicists who can lay claim to the Nobel prize. If the particle discovered at Cern is confirmed to be the Higgs boson, then Higgs is certain to be honoured. That leaves four physicists competing for two places. Englert published first, and would be hard to dismiss. That leaves one place. 

Rows over who deserves credit have already broken out. In 2010, the US physicists complained when the organisers of a conference in Paris on the Higgs particle credited only Higgs, Englert and Brout for the theory. 

The quandary raises a familiar issue for the Nobel committee. Restricting those honoured with a Nobel helps maintain their prestige. But in modern science, few discoveries are born in final form from so few parents.


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