When researchers at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, announced last year that they believed they’d found the Higgs boson, a particle thought to play a role in how other subatomic particles get their mass, physicists around the world rejoiced. The much sought-after “God particle” would be the final piece of the puzzle predicted by the Standard Model, which is the main theory of particle physics. But scientists had more work to do to confirm it truly was the Higgs boson—mainly a lot of data analysis of its characteristics.
Now, physicists and particle enthusiasts around the world can breathe a sigh of relief. On 14 March, the researchers reported that the particle is indeed the Higgs boson.
“The preliminary results with the full 2012 data set are magnificent, and to me it is clear that we are dealing with a Higgs boson,” said Joe Incandela, a spokesperson for CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid), one of the experiments conducted at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. The LHC is the world’s largest particle accelerator located about 100 meters beneath the border of France and Switzerland. CERN built the LHC to study the smallest known particles—the fundamental building blocks of all things.
Since the initial discovery last July, the scientists have collected two and a half times more data to analyze whether the particle had the characteristics of a Higgs boson, which included having no spin. Spin refers to a quantum property of elementary particles.
In 2011, I had the pleasure of interviewing Fernando Lucas Rodríguez, an IEEE member working on one of the experiments at the LHC. Rodríguez is a control system coordinator of an experiment called TOTEM (shorthand for total cross section, elastic scattering, and diffraction dissociation measurement). He spoke about the excitement surrounding the LHC and wondered whether 2011 would be the big year for discoveries. As it turns out, he was just one year off, with the 2012 discovery and this year’s confirmation of the particle.
How do you feel about the news that the particle scientists found really is the Higgs boson? How do you think this will affect our understanding of the universe?