Thursday, June 5, 2012
Let physicists and science enthusiasts around the world rejoice! On July 4, 2012, physicists in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva, Switzerland announced the discovery of the God particle! Wait, what? Yes, it is a long story, but an interesting one too. Let us begin.
In 1964, British physicist Peter Higgs posited the existence of a particle that gave other particles mass. This was his theory in a nutshell:
- At the beginning of the Big Bang, all particles were massless. The start of the Big Bang was rather stable, but as time passed on, the universe expanded and chaos, or entropy, increased.
- Then, the process of symmetry breaking and spontaneous symmetry breaking, where miniscule fluctuations in a system bring a chaotic, high entropy state into 2 orderly, low entropy states. These systems would transition through a process called bifurcation, or when a system changes topologically. The figure depicts such variations.
- Spontaneous symmetry breaking, explained by Nobel laureate, Yoichiro Nambu, explains the existence of the Higgs mechanism. This symmetry breaking lead to the Higgs field, a field created by the Higgs boson (just like a magnetic field or electric field).
- Particles that react with this field will acquire mass, like the W and Z bosons. Particles that do not react with the Higgs field, like the photon (which is produces light), will not have mass. The potential of this field is depicted in the figure. Because it resembles a Mexican sombrero, physicists call it the Mexican hat potential.
Higgs was criticized for his work. Yet, now he may have the last laugh. Physicist began to see the importance of his work and coined the Higgs boson a new title, the “God particle” for its transcending force on all matter in the universe.
On July 4, 2012, physicists at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) in Geneva announced that after reviewing data taken from 2011 – 2012, they have found the existence of a boson (a particle with integer spins, like photons) with a mass between 125 – 126 GeV. That is massive, but, it makes sense. If the Higgs boson produces a field of mass, shouldn’t it be affected by its own field? And now that Higgs may be proven correct, there is buzz from physicists including Stephen Hawking that Higgs should receive the Nobel Prize for Physics.
But, do not get your hopes up. Physicists must re-analyze their work and double-check their calculations. In the July 4th press release, officials on CERN’s website stated, “The results are preliminary but the 5 sigma signal at around 125 GeV we’re seeing is dramatic… It is precisely for this reason that we must be extremely diligent in all our studies and cross checks.”
So what comes after discovery of the Higgs boson? Many other theories, such as String theory, the theory that everything in the universe is made of tiny, vibrating strings, would also be supported. Go here for more info String theory and how to prove it. And as the experts at CERN put it, “The next step will be to determine the precise nature of the particle and its significance of our understanding of the universe.” With the existence of the God particle, physicists are one step closed to uncovering their own story of genesis. This is the Holy Grail. genZbuzz out.
What do you think about the God particle? Leave a comment.