Sunday 01 July 2012

In Search Of The Higgs Boson

Days from now, scientists at l’Organisation Européenne pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN) are expected to make the long-awaited announcement confirming the discovery of the Higgs boson. Named after Peter Higgs (though credit must also be given to Satyendra Nath Bose), the Higgs boson is an elementary subatomic particle theorized to exist by the current Standard Model of particle physics. According to this theory, the associated Higgs field is assumed to govern the mechanism by which mass in elementary particles is derived. In 1998, CERN began construction of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), with a goal (among others) to detect the remnants of the Higgs boson (which itself would decay too rapidly to be detected) that would have been created by high-energy particle collisions inside the particle accelerator. Previously, limited experiments were able to exclude ranges of energy and mass that could be carried by the Higgs boson. However, the exact characteristics of the particle remain undefined to date. In popular culture, the Higgs boson has also been dubbed the “God particle”, lending it both a metaphysical and a religious significance that it neither deserves nor warrants. Failure to confirm the existence of the Higgs boson may imply that the current fundamental theories of physics are not correct. Indeed, the discovery (or not) of the Higgs boson will mark a watershed moment for science, when we strive to question the most basic assumptions that we make about our physical world. Yet, regardless of the subsequent findings, this research will also represent a triumphal moment for science, for we are destined to gain a deeper understanding of how our universe works.

By Philip Jong • At 12:01 AM • Under Column • Under World
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