CERN Scientists Narrow Search for Possible ‘God Particle’

11 years, 3 months ago - December 14, 2011
Physicists said on Tuesday that they had narrowed the search for the elusive sub-atomic Higgs Boson particle that would confirm the way science describes the Universe.

Experiments at Europe’s giant atom smasher have “reduced the window where scientists think they will find the Higgs boson,” also known as the God Particle, said Bruno Mansoulie, a researcher at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN).

The Higgs boson is the missing link is the so-called Standard Model of physics, which explains how the basic building blocks of all matter fit together.

Its existence if confirmed would explain in a single stroke the mystery of what gives this invisible constellation of particles mass.

Such a discovery would rank in importance with major breakthroughs of the last century, going back to Einstein’s first formulation of quantum physics. For now, however, the Higgs boson exists only in theory. If it turns of to be a mirage, it would force scientists back to the drawing board to rewrite the textbook ofphysics.

CERN reported on Tuesday the midpoint results from two separate experiments that independently arrived at the same conclusion, pointed to activity within a certain range of mass that would be consistent with the Higgs Boson.

The Web-cast presentation was made before several hundred scientists in a atmosphere charged with excitement and punctuated with applause.

Taken together, the results provide “tantalising hints” that the sought-after particle is hiding inside a narrow range of mass, CERN said.

“It’s too early to draw definitive conclusions, we need more data,” said Fabiola Gianotti, head of the ATLAS experiment. “But we have established a solid foundation for passionately exciting months ahead,” she said, adding that a definitive answer was expected with 12 months Developed in the early 1970s, the Standard Model says there are 12 particles, which comprise the basic building blocks for all matter.

These fundamental particles are divided into a bestiary comprising six leptons and six quarks which have rather exotic names such as “charm,” “tau” and “strange.”

The Standard Model also says there are non-matter particles, called bosons, which are messengers acting between matter particles.

This interaction gives rise to three fundamental forces the strong force, the weak force and the electromagnetic force (there is a fourth force, gravity, which is suspected to be caused by a still-to-be-found boson called the graviton).

The mystery, though, is what gives matter particles mass and why some of these particles have more mass than others. The theory behind the Higgs is that the mass does not derive from the particles themselves. Instead, it comes from a boson that reacts strongly with some particles but less, if at all, with others.

One way of looking at this is to think of a cocktail party in which there is a crowd (the bosons) and newcomers (the matter particles).

Imagine what happens when a complete stranger enters the party and walks across the room. Only a few people will know him and come up to him, so he is able to walk across swiftly without much hindrance. But what happens when a celebrity comes in?

The people cluster around the VIP, and it takes him longer to cross the room in terms of physics, this particle has more mass. “The idea is that particles bump into Higgs Bosons all the time, and this contact is what slows them down and gives them mass,” said French physicist and philosopher Etienne Klein.

The Higgs Boson is named after a UK physicist, Peter Higgs, who proposed its existence in a paper to the journal Physical Review Letters in 1964.

Text by the Independent

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