Higgs boson-like particle discovery claimed at LHC

 

The moment when Cern director Rolf Heuer confirmed the Higgs results

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Cern scientists reporting from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) have claimed the discovery of a new particle consistent with the Higgs boson.

The particle has been the subject of a 45-year hunt to explain how matter attains its mass.

Both of the Higgs boson-hunting experiments at the LHC (Atlas and CMS) see a level of certainty in their data worthy of a "discovery".

More work will be needed to be certain that what they see is a Higgs, however.

Prof Stephen Hawking tells the BBC's Pallab Ghosh the discovery has cost him $100

The results announced at Cern (European Organization for Nuclear Research), home of the LHC in Geneva, were met with loud applause and cheering.

Prof Peter Higgs, after whom the particle is named, wiped a tear from his eye as the teams finished their presentations in the Cern auditorium.

"I would like to add my congratulations to everyone involved in this achievement," he added later.

"It's really an incredible thing that it's happened in my lifetime."

Prof Stephen Hawking joined in with an opinion on a topic often discussed in hushed tones.

"This is an important result and should earn Peter Higgs the Nobel Prize," he told BBC News.

"But it is a pity in a way because the great advances in physics have come from experiments that gave results we didn't expect."

'Dramatic'

The CMS experiment team claimed they had seen a "bump" in their data corresponding to a particle weighing in at 125.3 gigaelectronvolts (GeV) - about 133 times heavier than the protons that lie at the heart of every atom.

The BBC's George Alagiah explains the Higgs boson

They claimed that by combining two data sets, they had attained a confidence level just at the "five-sigma" point - about a one-in-3.5 million chance that the signal they see would appear if there were no Higgs particle.

However, a full combination of the CMS data brings that number just back to 4.9 sigma - a one-in-two million chance.

Prof Joe Incandela, spokesman for CMS, was unequivocal: "The results are preliminary but the five-sigma signal at around 125 GeV we're seeing is dramatic. This is indeed a new particle," he told the Geneva meeting.

The Atlas experiment results were even more promising, at a slightly higher mass: "We observe in our data clear signs of a new particle, at the level of five sigma, in the mass region around 126 GeV," said Dr Fabiola Gianotti, spokeswoman for the Atlas experiment at the LHC.

Peter Higgs Peter Higgs joined three of the six theoreticians who first predicted the Higgs at the conference

Prof Rolf Heuer, director-general of Cern, commented: "As a layman I would now say I think we have it."

"We have a discovery - we have observed a new particle consistent with a Higgs boson. But which one? That remains open.

"It is a historic milestone but it is only the beginning."

Commenting on the emotions of the scientists involved in the discovery, Prof Incandela said: "It didn't really hit me emotionally until today because we have to be so focussed… but I'm super-proud."

Dr Gianotti echoed Prof Incandela's thoughts, adding: "The last few days have been extremely intense, full of work, lots of emotions."

A confirmation that this is the Higgs boson would be one of the biggest scientific discoveries of the century; the hunt for the Higgs has been compared by some physicists to the Apollo programme that reached the Moon in the 1960s.

Statistics of a 'discovery'

Swiss franc coin
  • Particle physics has an accepted definition for a "discovery": a five-sigma level of certainty
  • The number of standard deviations, or sigmas, is a measure of how unlikely it is that an experimental result is simply down to chance, in the absence of a real effect
  • Similarly, tossing a coin and getting a number of heads in a row may just be chance, rather than a sign of a "loaded" coin
  • The "three sigma" level represents about the same likelihood of tossing nine heads in a row
  • Five sigma, on the other hand, would correspond to tossing more than 21 in a row
  • Unlikely results are more probable when several experiments are carried out at once - equivalent to several people flipping coins at the same time
  • With independent confirmation by other experiments, five-sigma findings become accepted discoveries

Scientists would then have to assess whether the particle they see behaves like the version of the Higgs particle predicted by the Standard Model, the current best theory to explain how the Universe works. However, it might also be something more exotic.

All the matter we can see appears to comprise just 4% of the Universe, the rest being made up by mysterious dark matter and dark energy.

A more exotic version of the Higgs could be a bridge to understanding the 96% of the Universe that remains obscure.

Scientists will have to look at how the Higgs decays - or transforms - into other, more stable particles after being produced in collisions at the LHC.

Dr Pippa Wells, a member of the Atlas experiment, said that several of the decay paths already showed deviations from what one would expect of the Standard Model Higgs.

For example, a decay path where the Higgs transforms into two photon particles was "a bit on the high side", she explained.

These could get back into line as more statistics are added, but on the other hand, they may not.

"We're reaching into the fabric of the Universe at a level we've never done before," said Prof Incandela.

"We're on the frontier now, on the edge of a new exploration. This could be the only part of the story that's left, or we could open a whole new realm of discovery."

The Standard Model and the Higgs boson

Standard model

The Standard Model is the simplest set of ingredients - elementary particles - needed to make up the world we see in the heavens and in the laboratory

Quarks combine together to make, for example, the proton and neutron - which make up the nuclei of atoms today - though more exotic combinations were around in the Universe's early days

Leptons come in charged and uncharged versions; electrons - the most familiar charged lepton - together with quarks make up all the matter we can see; the uncharged leptons are neutrinos, which rarely interact with matter

The "force carriers" are particles whose movements are observed as familiar forces such as those behind electricity and light (electromagnetism) and radioactive decay (the weak nuclear force)

The Higgs boson came about because although the Standard Model holds together neatly, nothing requires the particles to have mass; for a fuller theory, the Higgs - or something else - must fill in that gap

Paul.Rincon-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk and follow me on Twitter

 

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1125.

    The boson can form only from the matter density in space and that is only 3.6E minus 25 kg and to raise that up to 140 GEV
    needs
    The particulate states in space have already been identified
    and defined mathematically in a theory called Sankhya in Vedic Science

    Leptonic region. See all the details in http://s1.webstarts.com/Sankhy...

    contact [Personal details removed by Moderator]for proof.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1124.

    1108.annieavatar
    1096.SeeDubya
    Make a typo and everyone's on your back - anyway if the universe is a creation of mind - who's mind was it?

    Must have been another typo.. the universe is a creation of mine!

  • rate this
    -11

    Comment number 1123.

    Graphene promises to deliver vastly more than this hypothetical semi-discovered entity so beloved of CERN.

    Please, you've had your fun so stop spending on this & focus instead on the good stuff. If we don't, we're in very big trouble. I have a long list of things* I really do think we should take very seriously & in this I'm not on my own.

    * far longer than 400 characters.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1122.

    Layman higgs. Empty space contains an all surrounding sea of higgs "sticky" energy. It sticks to real particles to produce the effect of mass inertia. The faster you go the more higgs energy sticks which you carry with you and get "heavier". In CERN they smash the high speed 'heavy' particles together to shake off a lump of higgs energy that very briefly sticks to itself to produce a particle.

  • Comment number 1121.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 1120.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1119.

    Brilliant.
    Dark Energy, Dark Matter, The Graviton and England's midfield are the next mysteries to be solved.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1118.

    @SeeDubya (1044):

    "In manufacturing engineering, six sigma equates to 3.4 per million and five sigma 233 per million. Why is five sigma one in 3.5 million for a physicist?"
    __

    Because physicists are right and engineers are wrong ;-)

    See http://www.math.unb.ca/~knight/utility/NormTble.htm
    under Far Right Tail Probabilities, for Z=5.0, it says P=2.867E-7
    so 1/P = 3.5 million
    (for a 1-tailed test)

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 1117.

    I'm afraid I'm also less than impressed. Never forget this particle is supposedly POST 'Big Bang' so we are no nearer understanding the origins of the universe.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1116.

    1058.PatBenatar
    "There was nothing *that* contentious about Galileo's. But the church was very insecure about the idea of the world being knowable through observation, because it undermined their authority. The church was, as now, very distinct from its Bible."

    I know that, but thank you.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1115.

    #1089 Thats a popular myth. Few people ever though the earth was flat. A monk in 12th century Linconshire proved the earth was curved by pointing out that as you approach Lincoln the first thing you see is the top of the cathedral above the horizon. Sailors knew the same thing with masts.

    #1100 Does it matter if God made it or the big bang blew it into being? Its there. Thats whats important.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1114.

    @SeeDubya (1044):
    "In manufacturing engineering, six sigma equates to 3.4 per million and five sigma 233 per million. Why is five sigma one in 3.5 million for a physicist?"
    __

    Because physicists are right and engineers are wrong ;-)

    See http://www.math.unb.ca/~knight/utility/NormTble.htm
    under Far Right Tail Probabilities, for Z=5.0, it says P=2.867E-7
    so 1/P = 3.5 million
    (for a 1-tailed test)

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1113.

    As prof. Farnsworth would say "Good news, everyone!"

    Science FTW

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1112.

    Yay, we found a thingy we don't really understand. Let's find loads more thingies we don't comprehend. It is a big jigsaw puzzle that gets more confusing the deeper we go. All I really want is to be able to teleport to work from my house, if a Higgs bosun gets me 0.001% closer then I am happy.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1111.

    1065.abuuzahraa

    Quran Allah says (blah) (10:61)
    In this beautiful verse Allah clarifies that nothing is hidden from Him in this universe, no matter how minute it may be.

    i refer you to post 1080.
    As for its beauty, i find it a somewhat clumsy tome,( though they say it reads better in Arabic.) but each of us has our own view.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1110.

    1097. If the Cern experiments are just proving what Democritus knew, why would the powers that be wait to use it against us now? Moreover, how is it "hidden knowledge"? Democritus' writings are available to anyone who wants to read them!

    As penance for your internal logic fail, please draw a Calabi-Yau manifold, to present to the class tomorrow morning.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1109.

    1052.MichaelBinary
    “higgs field is composed of countless billions of higgs particles... any created higgs boson would just join the billions of Higgs bosons ?”
    This pictorial view isn’t really correct. Higgs field isn’t really like a ball-pit of bosons. The boson is just an excited state of the field and doesn’t normally exist as such. Eg you can’t see the wind, only its effects.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 1108.

    1096.SeeDubya
    Make a typo and everyone's on your back - anyway if the universe is a creation of mind - who's mind was it? God, if you like, and as we live in a hologram universe, and "create" what we see, we must be part of "God" or a greater power. As anyone who has seen auras can tell you it's possible, by soft focusing your eyes to see "inbetween" matter that we think is solid. Confirmation.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1107.

    @BelPaese (1063) - What on Earth are you talking about?? *Any* addition to a base of knowledge can be used for technological advancement, although not necessarily in the near future. However, if no pure research is undertaken, I would expect progression to eventually stall.
    Please expand on your statement.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1106.

    @1070-Massirati
    "Thank You Will - I'ts a shame there are too many Scientists out there who dont share that view!"

    I'd say most do share that view. Science is one of the most culturally diverse areas to work in. Not to mention that it tends to attract fairly open minded people. As with most things, just a vocal minority setting the reputation of the silent majority!

 

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