Also Known as the "God Particle," the Higgs Boson May Be Real
Aug 6, 2009 Jeremy Small
A Simulated Higgs Boson Event - CERN
Scientists with the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory say their machine has a 50% chance of discovering the particle which is believed to give mass to the universe.
Known as "the God particle," the Higgs Boson is believed to be the last undiscovered atomic particle and is theorized to be responsible for giving mass to the universe. To understand the role of the Higgs Boson is to understand how the atomic world interacts with the world at the macro level where Newtonian physics governs matter. Matter is made of molecules; molecules of atoms and atoms are made of a cloud of electrons about one-hundred-millionth of a centimeter in diameter. The nucleus is made of protons and neutrons which are about two thousand times the mass of an electron. The ratios of particle weight are small but very precise, so much so that scientists like Peter Higgs believed there was a reason for the precision.
Peter Higgs and the Higgs Field
According to his professional website, Peter Higgs currently remains a particle-physics theorist at the University of Edinburgh. He showed in 1964 how to give mass to fundamental particles that would otherwise remain massless. Higgs's work led to the so-called Standard Model of elementary particle interactions which has been confirmed by decades of work at particle physics laboratories around the world, but it also predicted the existence of a mysterious new particle that became known as the Higgs boson. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has been built by CERN (The European Organization for Nuclear Research) to search for the elusive boson, a discovery that could lead to Higgs being awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics.
The Higgs field is an energy state that permeates the universe and is the environment for quantum interactions believed to be necessary for mass. The Higgs Boson is a representation of the breaking of symmetries at the quantum level in which massless inputs are responsible for particles which have mass. There are also hints that the mechanics of operation in a Higgs field also may play a role in unifying forces at the atomic level. In addition, the Higgs Boson is the theoretical representation for the process which gives a particle mass. The discovery of the Higgs Boson would be meaningful in terms of unifying theories and attributing mass. Scientists also suggest that lack of evidence for the Higgs Boson would also be scientifically significant in that it would show that a different mechanical model of mass attribution would be necessary that would likely be considered exotic and unexpected.
CERN, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the Tevatron Particle Accelerator
Also working on discovering the Higgs Boson is Fermilab and their Tevatron Particle Accelerator in Batavia, Illinois. "We're not racing CERN," says Fermilab director, Pier Oddone, in New Scientist. He points out that many physicists working at the Tevatron are also heavily involved with the Large Hadron Collider in Europe. Past experiments and theoretical models predict that the Higgs boson has a mass that is equivalent to a value between 114 and 184 GeV (billion electron Volts). This range falls within Tevatron's sensitivity, which suggests that if the Higgs is real, it will only be a matter of time before it turns up at Fermilab.
One thing that will aid physicists is the fact that the Tevatron collides protons with anti-protons. The resulting collisions create less background noise than the proton-proton collisions at LHC are expected to produce. According to co-spokesman Jacobo Konigsberg, a physicist at the University of Florida, Gainesville, "The Tevatron is working beautifully and in the next two years we could double the data taken during the last eight."
The Higgs Boson, Last of the Undetected Particles?
"The Higgs boson is infamous as the only particle predicted by the standard model of physics that remains undetected. In theory, every other particle in the universe gets its mass by interacting with an all-pervading field created by Higgs Bosons. If the Higgs is discovered, the standard model could justifiably claim to be the theory that unifies everything except gravity."
Ultimately, the Higgs Boson represents a large piece of the puzzle of the Unification Theory, which explains the Universe and its forces in one equation that applies to everything from massless particles to large galaxies.
Ananthaswamy, Anil. "Glimpses of the God particle? If the blips in the debris of the Tevatron particle smasher really are signs of the Higgs boson then it's not what we expected. It might mean that it's time to replace the standard model with a more complex picture of the universe." Mechanical Engineering at NU. Northwestern University, 12 June 2007. Web. 12 Aug. 2009. <http://www.mech.northwestern.edu/hartmann/SROP_ScienceDiscussions/2007/Articles/TheGodParticle.html