The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) of the European Council of Nuclear Research (CERN) is a giant particle accelerator (synchrotron) in Geneva, Switzerland. Ten years ago, on this date (July 4), LHC announced that physicists around the world had been eagerly awaiting the discovery of the Higgs Boson boson for decades.
For decades, particle physicists had anticipated proof of the existence of the Higgs boson as the “last missing piece” of the Standard Model of Physics† The particle was crucial in confirming the presence of the Higgs fieldwhich gives mass to all elementary particles.
The Higgs boson was called the “God particle” in Leon M. Lederman and Dick Teresi’s 1993 book The God Particle: If the Universe is the Answer, What’s the Question? because of the long-held assumption by physicists that the particle must exist, despite some evidence. The authors wrote: “This one boson is so central to current physics, so crucial to our ultimate understanding of the structure of matter, yet so elusive, that I’ve nicknamed it the God Particle. Why God Particle? Two reasons. First, the publisher wouldn’t call it the Goddamn Particle, although that might be a more appropriate title given its villainous nature and the expense it incurs. And two, there’s some kind of connection with… another booka a lot older…”
CERN announced confirmation of the existence of the Higgs boson on July 4e2012.
Speaking about the significance of the Higgs boson, CERN Director General Fabiola Gianotti said: “The discovery of the Higgs boson was a monumental milestone in particle physics. It marked both the end of a decades-long journey of discovery and the beginning of a new era of studies of this very special particle.” Gianotti also led the ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC Apparatus) experiment. CERN during the discovery of the Higgs boson.
A decade of Higgs Boson research has passed, and scientists have unraveled several mysteries associated with the particle. Recently, CERN’s physicists published multiple research papers in the journal Nature, highlighting the achievements and further goals of the Higgs Boson study. Here’s an overview of the same:
The mind-boggling revelations of the Higgs Boson study
The discovery of the Higgs boson was the result of an international collaboration between the ATLAS and CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) teams at CERN, more than 5,500 engineers, technicians, particle physicists, students and many other support members from 54 countries. Members of more than 240 scientific institutes from around the world participated in the search for the Higgs boson at the LHC, making it one of the largest science projects in history.
According to CERN, all LHC results obtained so far are based on only 5 percent of the total amount of data the accelerator will deliver during its lifetime. It has already confirmed a number of theories and predictions of the Standard Model of physics and also revealed new information.
Here are some of the most important performance from the Higgs Boson study:
- The experiments have shown that the new particle has no intrinsic angular momentum or quantum spin, as predicted by the Standard Model.
- Researchers observed that the Higgs bosons were produced from and decayed into pairs of W or Z bosons, confirming that these particles get their mass through their interactions with the Higgs field, as predicted by the Standard Model.
- Experiments have also shown that the top quark, bottom quark and tau-lepton (the heaviest fermions) obtain their mass through interactions with the Higgs field, which was also predicted by the Standard Model. The observations confirmed the existence of an interaction or force called the Yukawa interaction, which is part of the Standard Model and is mediated by the Higgs boson. These interactions play an important role in explaining the nuclear forces that hold protons and neutrons together.
- The mass of the Higgs boson was measured as 125 billion electron volts (GeV). Although the mass of the Higgs boson is not predicted by the Standard Model, along with the mass of the heaviest known elementary particle, the top quark, and other parameters, it can determine the stability of the universe’s vacuum and explain why the universe not collapse on its own†
- So far, more than 60 composite particles (particles made of more than two elementary particles) have been discovered that are predicted by the Standard Model, including exotic ‘tetraquarks’ and ‘pentaquarks’.
According to CERN, “The experiments have also uncovered a series of intriguing hints of deviations from the Standard Model that compel further investigation, and have studied the quark-gluon plasma that filled the universe in its early moments in unprecedented detail.” Research is also underway on new particles beyond those predicted by the Standard Model.
According to CMS Representative Luca Malgeri, “The Higgs boson itself may point to new phenomena, including some that may be responsible for the dark matter in the universe.”
The road ahead of us
Research into the Higgs boson is still ongoing and the LHC is continuously providing us with valuable data related to Higgs fields and the Higgs boson. Researchers have yet to find answers to questions such as, “Does the Higgs field also give mass to the lighter fermions, or could there be some other mechanism at play? Is the Higgs boson an elementary or composite particle? Can it interact with darker fermions? matter and the nature of this mysterious form of matter? What generates the mass and self-interaction of the Higgs boson? Does it have twins or kin?”
Although scientists have collected a lot of information about the particle in the last 10 years, there is a lot of information yet to be discovered. Meanwhile, researchers from CERN are also ddevelop plans for a new collider, dubbed the Future Circular Collider, which would be 100 km (62 mi) in circumference — significantly larger than the 27 km LHC. Once up and running, the FCC can spew out massive amounts of Higgs bosons, allowing scientists to map how these particles interact with other matter.
Current plans are to build the FCC in phases. The tunnel will initially house an electron-positron device that collides electrons with their antimatter counterpart, the positron. This allows scientists to study specific phenomena associated with the four heaviest particles, including the Higgs boson, and help determine exactly how the Standard Model differs from reality.
The same instrument would then be used again to build a proton-proton collider that will operate on 100 tera-electron volts (TeV) energy, potentially enabling the discovery of new particles.
It appears that the investigation has just begun.