Higgs Boson: Innovative Discovery

Historical Perspective of the Higgs Boson

The topic of a Higgs boson can obviously be delved into at much greater depth than here. However, its background and sensationalism in the press as well as science (enough to have the Nobel prize awarded to Higgs and Englert in 2013) merits a determination of exactly what all the attention was over.

Our entire universe, per the standard theory (or standard model) of 1970s, is made up of 12 matter particles (6 quarks making up protons and neutrons + 6 leptons making up electrons and electron neutrinos or positive electron) and 4 forces (gravity, electromagnetic, strong, weak). All particles may have NO inherent mass, but instead gain mass by passing through a field – the Higgs field (which allows photons of light to pass through unaffected while W and Z bosons gain mass) — hence the carrier particle which affects other particles is called the “Higgs boson.”

Considered “the elementary particle” in the standard model of particle physics, the Higgs filed is contrasted with the electromagnetic field (the latter of which can be induced). A type of “weak force,” the difficulty in identification of “something present everywhere” had been in creating excitations to definitively identify the existence of this particle. Named after Peter Higgs and Satyendra Nath Bose (hence Higgs and hence “boson”), the 40-year search culminated at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Europe, with a particle with mass 125-127 GeV/c^2 resembling the Higgs boson identified – a zero-spin and positive parity particle, with no electrical charge or color charge and a “Mexican hat” appearance. [CERN stands for “Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire”, or European Council for Nuclear Research.]

On a very basic level, it was considered that weak force particles should not have mass – but on the contrary, per existing theories, they would have to have large masses but remain symmetric and at very short range. The presence of the necessary “Higgs field” holding particles together has been since utilized to explain why quarks and electrons have mass as well. The challenge with identification of the Higgs boson was that production would be difficult and decay would occur in 1/10^22 second. Since conception of the theory in 1964 and the time from 1980-2010 in development of a capable machine of detection.

Present-day Developments related to the Higgs Boson

The presently shown “standard model of particle physics reveals that two items – (1) gauge invariance and (2) symmetries were used to explain all but gravity in the world. However, proving this theory implied that particles as the Higgs boson must have mass – as was recently shown.

Two beams accelerated to very high energies were required to be generated, and collision occurring – the time of decay negated detection by the particle detector, so all decay products had to be registered in a “decay signature” with the process reconstructed from this signature. Using a probability model which predicts with higher probability that the boson does exist. A 5-standard deviation difference between “chance alone” and “not chance, but existence of a true Higgs boson” was required. 25 petabytes per year produced by collisions, with the Large Hadron Collider computing grid at CERN (energy 14TeV, 7x any prior collider, with 300tt proton-proton collisions analyzed using a computer grid of 170 facilities in a 36-country network (largest in world in 2012).

Future Implications: Higgs Boson in Innovation and Future Invention

So what does it all mean, as far as everyday life – can our iPhone or Android work better because of discovery that Higgs boson exists? Or can we teleport in time?

If we are to take clues from history (where else would we look than history, our imagination or science fiction, anyways?), then at least history shows a several-decade lag between discovery of something interesting scientifically and its subsequent application. Examples of this include atomic energy (both constructive and destructive uses), nuclear energy (both constructive uses such as positron emission tomography or PET for medical diagnoses and negative uses such as nuclear enrichment for weapons), quantum mechanics used in transistors, microchips, mobile phones, MRI scanners, etc. Going back further, radio waves, sonar, electricity, and even the discovery of fire/explosions had implications which people found use for later on (entertainment, object detection underwater, lighting, combustible engines, respectively, as examples). The internet, a way of communicating this article, is probably also a good example of physics resulting in promotion of so many things (largely not physics).

(Portions of this text are from sources of the internet, which may include CERN at http://home.web.cern.ch, howstuffworks.com, wikipedia.org)