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Scientists say they're close to discovery of Higgs boson

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A painting shows how a Higgs boson may look. An announcement is expected tomorrow on whether the hunt for the elusive sub-atomic particle is over. Picture: AP Source: AP

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PHYSICISTS have reported finding strong hints of the Higgs boson, the particle believed to give objects mass.

If the US-based physicists can confirm the existence of the Higgs boson, the last missing piece in the standard model of physics, the announcement would rank among the most important scientific breakthroughs of the last century.

The findings from Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in the mid-western US state of Illinois, will be followed by the announcement of more definitive results from a potent European atom-smasher tomorrow.

"Our data strongly points toward the existence of the Higgs boson, but it will take results from the experiments at the Large Hadron Collider in Europe to establish a discovery," said Fermilab spokesman Rob Roser.

The results come from 10 years of data from the Tevatron, a powerful atom-smasher that began its collider work in 1985 and closed down last year.

"During its life, the Tevatron must have produced thousands of Higgs particles, if they actually exist, and it's up to us to try to find them in the data we have collected," said Luciano Ristori, a physicist at Fermilab and the Italian Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN).

"We have developed sophisticated simulation and analysis programs to identify Higgs-like patterns. Still, it is easier to look for a friend's face in a sports stadium filled with 100,000 people than to search for a Higgs-like event among trillions of collisions."

The Tevatron results show that the Higgs particle, if it exists, has a mass between 115 and 135 gigaelectronvolts (GeV/c2), or about 130 times the mass of the proton.

Based on two experiments, known as CDF and DZero, the team found that there is only a one-in-550 chance that the signal is a mere statistical fluke.

However, the statistical significance of the signal measures 2.9 sigma, and is not strong enough to meet the five sigma threshold required to say whether or not the particle has been discovered.

"We achieved a critical step in the search for the Higgs boson," said Dmitri Denisov, DZero spokesman and physicist at Fermilab.

"While 5-sigma significance is required for a discovery, it seems unlikely that the Tevatron collisions mimicked a Higgs signal. Nobody expected the Tevatron to get this far when it was built in the 1980s."

A more powerful machine at the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) in December 2011 announced "tantalising hints" that the sought-after particle was hiding inside a narrow range of mass.

CERN's Large Hadron Collider - the world's largest atom-smasher, located along the French-Swiss border - showed a likely range for the Higgs boson between 115 to 127 gigaelectronvolts.

US-based experiments echoed those findings in March 2012, though in a slightly larger range.

Now, the scientific community is eagerly anticipating the European results later this week.

"It is a real cliffhanger," said DZero spokesman Gregorio Bernardi, physicist at the Laboratory of Nuclear and High Energy Physics at the University of Paris VI & VII. "We are very excited about it

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The problem with all this is gravity.

If everything is made up of these particles, what's gravity grabbing hold of and making sure it all sticks to Earth?

In short, what makes all these particles actually weigh something? What gives them substance?

All matter has mass. We know that, because we can see it and feel it.

But how does it get mass? The theory is that we get mass from a particle that hasn't been discovered yet - the Higgs Boson.

And for the Higgs Boson to exist, the entire universe has to be wrapped in something called the Higgs Field.

As particles fly through the Higgs Field, they pick up mass. The Higgs Boson binds it all together

Read more: http://www.news.com....6#ixzz1zYktHNHT

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How the Discovery of the Higgs Boson Could Break Physics


UPDATE: A leaked video published on CERN’s website earlier today appears to have accidentally announced the discovery of the Higgs boson ahead of the rumored official announcement scheduled for early tomorrow morning. Watch the announcement live on Wired.com beginning at 11 p.m. PT tonight (2 a.m. ET tomorrow morning).

If gossip on various physics blogs pans out, the biggest moment for physics in nearly two decades is just days away. The possible announcement on July 4 of the long-sought Higgs boson would put the last critical piece of the Standard Model of Physics in place, a crowning achievement built on a half-century of work by thousands of scientists. A moment worthy of fireworks.

Read More:


Supersymmetry: The Future of Physics Explained


The Higgs Boson: Whose Discovery Is It?


Higgs Hunt Heats Up With Final Tevatron Data

But there’s a problem: The Higgs boson is starting to look just a little too ordinary.

As physicists at Europe’s Large Hadron Collider prepare to present their latest update in the hunt for the Higgs boson — the strange particle that exists everywhere in space and interacts with all other elementary particles, giving them their mass — other physicists are preparing for disappointment.

That’s because scientists have been secretly hoping all along that, when they finally found the Higgs, it would be an interesting particle with unexpected behaviors — even somewhat unruly. A perfectly well-behaved Higgs leaves less room for new, exciting physics — the kind that theorists have been wishing would show up at the LHC.

The current situation has some physicists starting to worry and, if coming years fail to turn up interesting results, the field could be headed for a crisis.

Since the mid-20th century, particle physicists have been developing a theory known as the Standard Model, which accounts for all the known forces and subatomic particles in the universe. While this model has proven time and time again to be extremely good at predicting particles and forces that were later discovered experimentally, it is not the final theory of everything. The Standard Model still has various problems that stubbornly refuse to cooperate.


Simulated particle collision events in the CMS experiment that would indicate the presence of supersymmetry. CMS collaboration/CERN

Many contenders have stepped up to account for the discrepancies of the Standard Model but none has been more adored than a theory known as supersymmetry. In order to fix the Standard Model, supersymmetry posits that all known particles have a much more massive superpartner lurking in the subatomic world.

“For particle physicists, the more symmetry there is, the nicer a theory is,” said theoretical physicist Csaba Csaki of Cornell University. “So upon first seeing it, most particle physicists fell in love with [supersymmetry].”

The tricky part is that the LHC, in addition to searching for the Higgs, has also been looking for these heavy supersymmetric superpartners. But thus far, nothing is showing up. Furthermore, all indications are that scientists will find that the Higgs weighs 125 gigaelectronvolts (GeV) – or about 125 times more than a proton – which means that it sits exactly where the Standard Model expected it to be.

Great news for the troublesome Standard Model, not so much for its savior, supersymmetry.

Supersymmetry was first proposed in the 1960s and developed seriously during the heyday of particle physics in the 1970s and ‘80s. Back then, large particle accelerators were smashing subatomic particles together and discovering a slew of new bits and pieces, including quarks and the W and Z bosons. Supersymmetry was put forth as an extension of the Standard Model, but the predicted particles were out of reach for atom smashers of that era.

Before the LHC was up and running in 2010, many physicists were hopeful that it would uncover some evidence for supersymmetry. Despite a few promising results, experimental confirmation of the idea keeps failing to show up.

This has a few in the community beginning to seriously doubt their darling supersymmetry will ever be a viable theory.

“It’s a beautiful theory, and I would love it if it were true,” said particle physicist Tommaso Dorigo, who works on one of the LHC’s two main experiments. “But there is not any compelling evidence.”

For two decades, people have been claiming the supersymmetry results were just a few years away, Dorigo added. So as those few years kept coming and going with no results, physicists have tried explaining the non-appearance of these particles by making additions and elaborations to supersymmetry.

Already, the simplest versions of supersymmetry have been ruled out and a Higgs boson at 125 GeV could require even more changes, making many physicists nervous, Csaki said. Tweaking the theory to explain why even the lightest of the predicted superpartners haven’t shown up destroys some of supersymmetry’s beauty, he said.

For instance, one of the best aspects of supersymmetry is that many of its extra subatomic particles make excellent dark matter candidates. Altering supersymmetry could get rid of these potential dark matter particles, and further changes might make the theory even less useful.

“One day we may just look at it and ask if this is still the theory that we’re in love with,” Csaki said.

Of course, all is not yet lost. The LHC is still smashing particles together and, over the next few years, it will do so at higher and higher energies, perhaps finally bringing supersymmetry to light. While the accelerator will be shutdown in 2013 for repairs, 2014 and 2015 will have the machine running at its top capacity.

Many physicists are eager to see if the lightest predicted superpartner – the supersymmetric top quark, or stop squark – will show up. The stop squark is at the heart of supersymmetry and is needed to explain many properties of the Higgs. Without it, many physicists could give up on supersymmetry entirely.

“If after two years of running at high luminosity at the LHC they don’t see anything, we will be out of ideas of the conventional sort,” said Csaki. “We will be in some kind of crisis.”

While troubling, this situation doesn’t bring physics to a grinding halt. The Standard Model still has holes in it, and something needs to account for the dark matter and energy in the universe. Alternative theories to supersymmetry exist. Some require additional forces in nature, new interactions among particles, or for the Higgs boson itself to be composed of simpler pieces.

“However those models have their own problems to be a consistent models of nature,” wrote particle physicist Rahmat Rahmat from the University of Mississippi, who also works on the CMS experiment, in an email to Wired.

As yet, supersymmetry is still the front-runner for theories beyond the Standard Model and most physicists remain optimistic for its prospects.

“I’m really hopeful that besides the discovery of the Higgs, we will also soon see something else,” said Csaki

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Thank you for this thread. I am also a huge Physics fan. I am very excited about the Higgs Boson.

If it really does exist, i would like to see the data. I believe the 'spin' is what gives any piece of matter its mass. All particles spin -save photons and neutrinos . I guess the Higgs Boson gives the particle the energy to spin , thus cause the drag on the space fabric.

Very interesting stuff. Thank you.

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Thank you for this thread. I am also a huge Physics fan. I am very excited about the Higgs Boson.

If it really does exist, i would like to see the data. I believe the 'spin' is what gives any piece of matter its mass. All particles spin -save photons and neutrinos . I guess the Higgs Boson gives the particle the energy to spin , thus cause the drag on the space fabric.

Very interesting stuff. Thank you.

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Higgs boson: Prof Stephen Hawking loses $100 bet

When Peter Higgs first proposed that an invisible field strewn across space gave mass to the building blocks of the universe, the theory was ridiculed by some of the most respected minds of the time.


By Nick Collins, Science Correspondent

6:05PM BST 04 Jul 2012

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His first paper was rejected by a journal, while other scientists accused him and his colleagues of failing to grasp the basic principles of physics.

Despite the sleights Prof Higgs, at the time an 34-year-old physicist at Edinburgh University, was convinced his idea was right although he never envisaged being able to prove it.

Yesterday, 48 years on, his radical concept was finally proved correct by an international team of physicists at the Cern laboratory using a £6 billion piece of equipment designed to uncover the secrets of the Universe.

Announcing the latest results from the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, scientists from confirmed they had discovered a new particle bearing all the hallmarks of a Higgs Boson.

The Higgs Boson helps to explain how fundamental particles gain their mass - a property which allows them to bind together and form stars and planets rather than whizzing around the universe at the speed of light.

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Prof Higgs, 83, who travelled to Switerland to witness the landmark announcement first-hand, was visibly moved as the presentation was rounded off to tumultuous applause from a wildly excited audience, some of whom had waited overnight to secure their seats.

Choking back tears, he said: “I would like to add my congratulations to everyone involved in this achievement. It’s really an incredible thing that it’s happened in my lifetime.”

His response was characteristically modest. Professor Higgs has repeatedly resisted requests for interviews and comments, insisting the limelight should be taken by the scientists who have proved that his theory is correct.

He has long been uncomfortable even having his name attached to the particle, which is the key missing cornerstone of the Standard Model of physics.

The son of a BBC sound engineer from Newcastle, he was raised in Bristol and excelled at Cotham Grammar School.

During a school assembly he saw the name of a former pupil, the great quantum physicist P.A.M. Dirac, on an honours board and decided to read about his work. He was quickly hooked, reading as much as he could find about the subject to satisfy his curiosity.

He went on to King’s College, London, where he graduated with a first class honours in 1950. He was denied a lectureship at the university, however, so became a researcher at Edinburgh University.

His “eureka” moment reportedly came in a flash of inspiration while on a walking trip to the Cairngorms. When one of his initial papers was rejected, he insisted the journal had clearly not understood him.

Upon publication in 1964, he and his colleagues were ridiculed as young pretenders and urged to abandon their research or risk “professional suicide”.

Prof Gerry Guralnik, an American researcher who published a paper on the same subject with colleagues Tom Kibble and Dick Hagen within months of Higgs, recalled a galling encounter with Werner Heisenberg, the esteemed German physicist who gave his name to the famous “uncertainty principle” of quantum mechanics.

He said: “A lot of famous people told us that we were wrong. Heisenberg told me I did not understand the rules of physics, which is pretty scary if you are 26 and are worried about getting a job.”

Yesterday, the scientific community was united in its praise for Prof Higgs, with some calling for him to be given a knighthood.

Prof Stephen Hawking said Prof Higgs deserved a Nobel Prize for his work, but admitted the discovery of the new particle had come at a cost.

He said: “I had a bet with Gordon Kane of Michigan University that the Higgs particle wouldn’t be found. It seems I have just lost $100.”

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