Higgs Boson Mystery Could Be Solved Soon

Posted December 23rd, 2011 at 11:30 pm (UTC+0)
2 comments

An event with four identified muons from a proton-proton collision in ATLAS. This event is consistent with coming from two Z particles decaying: both Z particles decay to two muons each. Such events are produced by Standard Model processes without Higgs particles. They are also a possible signature for Higgs particle production, but many events must be analysed together in order to tell if there is a Higgs signal. This view is a zoom into the central part of the detector. The four muons are picked out as red tracks. Other tracks and deposits of energy in the calorimeters are shown in yellow. (Photo: ATLAS Collaboration)

An event with four identified muons from a proton-proton collision in ATLAS. Such events are produced by Standard Model processes without Higgs particles. They are also a possible signature for Higgs particle production, but many events must be analysed together in order to tell if there is a Higgs signal. - Click photo for larger version (Photo: ATLAS Collaboration)

A definitive answer on whether or not the so-called “God Particle”  exists could come in 2012, according to a scientist involved in solving the mystery.

The search for the subatomic particle called the Higgs boson went into overdrive in 2008, when the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, in Switzerland switched on its sophisticated atom smasher called the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) .

Results of  the CERN experiments,  known as Atlas and CMS, were announced recently at a seminar.

Rumor was that the Higgs boson had finally been found.  Instead, the teams revealed they’d found tantalizing hints of where the Higgs boson may be found, if it exists at all.

Dr. Pierre Savard, associate professor of physics at the University of Toronto, is currently involved in the Atlas experiments to track down the elusive particle. He says that before each experimental team revealed its findings, neither knew the other’s results.

Once those results were revealed, it became clear both the Atlas and CMS experiments pointed to “a certain excess of events at a certain mass, and that the two sets of results were consistent with each other.”

Dr. Pierre Savard (Photo: University of Toronto)

Dr. Pierre Savard (Photo: University of Toronto)

One reason scientists hope to find the Higgs boson is because of the critical role it’s believed to play in physics;  as a building block of the universe.

The Standard Model of particle physics provides an explanation for sub-nuclear physics, and some aspects of cosmology in the earliest moments of the universe. In the standard model, it’s the Higgs boson that gives mass to all particles.

Despite the recent CERN findings, there are those who remain skeptical that while the Higgs boson may exist it will never be found, while others doubt its existence at all.

“The evidence is quite interesting, but it’s not completely convincing, so the conclusive evidence will come in 2012 if there is a Higgs boson,” Dr. Savard says. “But it’s possible that what we saw  was just a big statistical fluctuation and it’s not really there.”

If the Higgs boson is not found researchers would have to go back to the drawing board.  In effect, Dr. Savard says, no Higgs boson, no mass, no universe.

“So if the electron didn’t have a mass, for instance, we wouldn’t have hydrogen, wouldn’t have atoms and we wouldn’t be around.”

Without the Higgs boson, the current explanation within the Standard Model of how particles acquire mass is wrong.  On the other hand, Dr. Savard says, if the mysterious sub-atomic particle is found in the course of the ongoing experiments and the teams are able to confirm that it behaves like the Standard Model hypothesized, then the mechanism for giving particles mass would also be probably found.

The Large Hadron Collider/ATLAS at CERN (Photo: CERN)

The Large Hadron Collider/ATLAS at CERN (Photo: CERN)

Dr. Savard believes scientists are closing in on determining whether the Higgs boson is real.

“We’re quite close. The Large Hadron Collider is working very well, and right now it’s in a shut-down period for three months and we’ll start taking data in March.”

According to Dr. Savard, the important thing to emerge from the recent findings is that both the Atlas and CMS experiments have the sensitivity to make a conclusive determination of whether the Higgs boson is there or not, and that within six or nine months after the LHC goes back on line, the experiments should have a definite answer.

Dr. Pierre Savard joins us this weekend on the radio edition of “Science World.”  He’ll give us some insight into the search for the elusive Higgs boson. Tune in (see right column for scheduled times) or check out the interview below.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Other stories we cover on the “Science World” radio program this week include:

2 Responses to “Higgs Boson Mystery Could Be Solved Soon”

  1. [...] finds a boson, but not the Higgs bosoniTWireLarge Hadron Collider finds new particleTelegraph.co.ukVoice of America (blog) -Daily Mail -DailyTechall 139 news articles » // © [...]

  2. Marc Bell says:

    How can a proton have a mass <1,800 the Higg's boson. I had understood that the only particle that had mass the Higg's.

About Science World

Science World

Science World is VOA’s on-air and online magazine covering science, health, technology and the environment.

Hosted by Rick Pantaleo, Science World‘s informative, entertaining and easy-to-understand presentation offers the latest news, features and one-on-one interviews with researchers, scientists, innovators and other news makers.

Listen to a Recent Program

Listen Sidebar

Broadcast Schedule

Broadcast Schedule

Science World begins after the newscast on Friday at 2200, Saturday at 0300, 1100 and 1900 and Sunday at 0100, 0400, 0900, 1100 and 1200.

Science World may also be heard on some VOA affiliates after the news on Saturday at 0900 and 1100. (All times UTC).

Contact Us

E-Mail
science@voanews.com

Postal Mail
Science World
Voice of America
330 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC 20237
USA