Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Standard Model and The Search For The Higgs Boson

Posted by Youtube user:Bestofscience

Two recent experiments from Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois, reported a small excess of events between 115 and 135 GeV (gigaelectronvolts), which they believe to be hints of the long sought Higgs boson. The results of Fermi's experiments seem to support those of experiments conducted last year at CERN’s LHC, which also may have spotted the particle at a similar wavelength; around 125 GeV. What does that actually mean?

Searching for sub-atomic particles like the Higgs, is a matter of smashing larger particles together -Larger in this case meaning things like protons- and then searching the debris of the resulting explosion for anomalies. Because Like every other particle described by the standard model the Higgs, if it does exist, would only be detected at a specific energy level or wavelength of radiation, finding it is really just a matter of looking in the right place. So the experimental results obtained by physicists at Fermi, the LHC, and other accelerators around the world, now seem to suggest that physicists are finally doing exactly that. And the general buzz amongst physicists, the ones I follow anyway, seems to be that we are in fact on the verge of discovering the Higgs.

Why does that matter, and why should you care?

Finding the Higgs matters because the standard model of particle physics predicts the existence of at least 17 fundamental particles, including the Higgs. This collection of particles consists of the Higgs boson, believed to be responsible for imparting all matter with mass, four particles corresponding to the fundamental forces, and 12 particles of matter; the matter particles being divided into two categories, quarks and leptons, and appearing as pairs, or "generations". This theoretical model is largely regarded as one of the most successful theories of all time, as it has consistently been used to make accurate scientific predictions since the current formulation was finalized in the mid 1970's.

But the accuracy of the equations derived from the standard model rely on the assumption that the Higgs is a real thing. So confirming the existence of this theoretical particle is vital to the theory's validation, and in turn, a major part of our current understanding of the physical universe. And you should care, particularly if you are of the mind that ours is a reality governed by natural laws and forces, rather than malicious deities and supernatural effects, because the world of quantum theory is the quest for the ultimate explanation of EVERYTHING.

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Source: Wired Science

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