Looming holy grail of particle physics


It’s been about over a month since I visited Cern in Switzerland. Cern is every particle physicists dream workplace given their unmatchable physics gadgets. It’s one of very few places in the world where particle physics is no longer just pen, paper and imagination rather experimental. Yesterday, they made an announcement that the Higgs boson – a particle that has been theorized for decades – is closer to being found now more than ever before.

The Higgs Boson particle is thought to be what gives particles their mass. Its prediction was brought about by the Standard model of particle physics. So far it is the only fundamental particle that has not been observed in experiments. The particle is popularly known in the media as the God Particle after the reference in Leon Lederman’s book The God Particle. Its discovery is expected to help answer a lot of questions in Particle Physics and Theory Physics in general. And given its very elusive nature and the fact that finding it would give the Standard model of the universe weight(ha-ha), yesterday’s finding aroused a lot buzz and excitement around the world.

The LHC(Large Hadron Collider) at Cern houses two detectors ATLAS and CMS which have been said to detect a Higgs signal at 125GeV at a 2.5-3.5 sigma certainty level. This in physics means that the result is still inconclusive. However, a 5 sigma certainty level is considered the threshold for a formal discovery. For this though we might have to wait another year according to Cern scientists.

There’s probably nothing more exciting than formulating a theory that makes a prediction about a nature of the universe that hasn’t been observed and then looking for the said nature and finding it. Einstein’s general relativity predicted with accuracy the correct value for gravitational light bending of the stars caused by the sun as was observed during a solar eclipse in 1919 by Arthur Eddington. The Big Bang Theory predicted a remnant of the big bang as a background radiation all over the universe as was discovered years later by Bell Laboratory scientists. And now the Standard model predicts the Higgs boson and it would be amazing to see to it manifest even though some physicists think that not finding it would be just as interesting.


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