Friday, July 22, 2011

Here Comes the Higgs?!?!?

A recently published article, summarizing new data presented at a high energy physics conference in Europe, show an excess of particles in the mass spectrum that may end up being the Higgs boson, as some like Nobel winner Leon Lederman have called the 'God particle.' This is a particle that has been predicted for some 45 years, from a theory known as the Standard Model. This is the theory that covers the known forces and particles in Nature, minus gravity. It has been wildly successful when compared with experimental data, and one of the key pieces is the Higgs boson and Higgs field. This particle and field are responsible for nothing less than the matter we are all made from. It is the theoretical mechanism that allows energy to transform into matter, which is summed up by Einstein's E = mc^2.

Physicists on the experiments producing these data do caution the world NOT to jump to any conclusions. In science, rumors are left just as that, rumors. There are strict statistical results that are needed before one can claim discovery. There are double and triple checks of analysis algorithms, calibrations of the detectors, fine-tuning theoretical programs called Monte Carlos to re-check the backgrounds for these types of particle decays, and many other checks before anyone would even think of calling a few excess events a discovery, especially something as vital as the Higgs. We will see over the next few months what the final conclusions are, but this provides a sense of excitement for the world of physics.

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