Speculation is building in the international physics community about the contents of a press conference that has been called by scientists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), to be held at 9am Geneva time (3am EST) on July 4, 2012. Peter Higgs himself is flying to attend the press conference.
Physicists expect that the announcement will be positive proof of the Higgs boson particle and a successful mission for the team. The anticipation reached a frenzied state yesterday when scientists from the Tevatron at Fermilab in Illinois announced that they had found significant supporting evidence for the existence of the Higgs boson.
So, you might be asking what’s so important about finding the Higgs boson?
The short answer is that the Higgs boson can account for all of the unexplained mass in the universe.
The long answer:
In particle physics, there is a theory called the “Standard Model” that endeavors to explain all electromagnetic and nuclear reactions between particles. The “Standard Model”, derived in the 1970’s, explains that the universe is completely comprised of matter (fermions) and force (bosons). The brilliance of the “Standard Model” is that it has been able to successfully explain nearly all experimental physics.
Particle physics is the study of the individual elements that comprise our universe. As most know, atoms are composed of smaller components; neutrons, electrons and protons. When electrons jump between atoms, new substances are formed, but the nucleus of an atom generally remains unchanged unless it undergoes a nuclear reaction. The neutron/proton nucleus is also known as a hadron, which is made up of quarks. Quarks come paired in six different varieties; up and down, charm and strange, top and bottom. Quarks can also be classified as first, second, or third generation.
According to the “Standard Model,” all matter consists of two different types of particles, quarks and leptons (i.e. electrons and neutrinos), held together by bosons. Bosons describe the force between particles.
There are three elementary bosons called gauge bosons; the photon (electromagnetic force), the W and Z boson (the weak force) and the gluons (the strong force). Then there are two additional suspected, yet unobserved, bosons, the Graviton and the Higgs.
The Higgs boson was originally suggested in the 1960’s by British physicist Peter Higgs. Higgs postulated that a particle gains mass by passing through the Higgs field, a combination of an electromagnetic field and a solid. Before the Higgs portion of the “Standard Model,” it was assumed that W and Z bosons interacted with other elementary particles, however, the mass of those bosons was always so large that it unbalanced and broke the “Standard Model”.
Thus, it was postulated that there had to be at least one other particle added to the mass equation, the Higgs boson. Ever since the search as been on to find the elusive Higgs, leading to the construction of the LHC.
The LHC is the world’s largest particle accelerator. Built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), and situated along the border between France and Switzerland. LHC’s sole purpose is to be a platform in which to test particle physics theories. It is run by engineers and scientists from hundreds of universities and laboratories from over a hundred different countries.
One of the main objectives of the LHC, since its conception, is to find the Higgs boson. So how might the Higgs boson have been found? The Higgs boson is known to be unstable, decaying into certain particles based on its expected weight. The scientists designed their particle collision experiments in a way that will emit particles of a particular mass. If the particles within an expected range are more numerous then the collision alone can explain, then the rest of the observed particles are proof of the Higgs boson.
I’m eagerly awaiting the announcement tomorrow. If the scientists at the LHC found proof of the Higgs boson, it would be huge for the scientific community and the future of science as we know it.