Tuesday, July 26, 2011

God Particle Redux (From The Telegraph)

Existence of God particle to be decided by next year

It has been speculated upon for decades and at the weekend there were hints that the existence of the highly sought-after “God particle” had finally been confirmed. 


It has been speculated upon for decades and at the weekend there were hints that the existence of the highly sought-after God particle had finally been confirmed.

The Large Hadron Collider is a 17-mile ring of superconducting magnets Photo: AP

        But at a press conference on Monday, the physicists in charge of the Large Hadron Collider said that they had only established where the Higgs boson was not to be found, and that its location continues to elude them. 

        However they added that as the amount of data created by the atom-smashing experiments increases, they now expect to know whether or not the most-wanted particle exists within 18 months.
If it is tracked down, it will explain how particles come to have mass and provide the final piece in the Standard Model of physics that was first set out in the 1970s, while if it turns out not to exist then the textbooks could be ripped up.

        Rolf-Dieter Heuer, director general of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (Cern), told reporters: “I would say we can settle the question of the Higgs boson, the Shakespearean question ‘to be or not to be’ at the end of next year.”

        Buried 300ft below the border between France and Switzerland, the Large Hadron Collider is a 17-mile ring of superconducting magnets around which two beams of particles are sent at close to the speed of light, then smashed into each other. 
        Scientists working on several experiments then study the wreckage of the high-energy collisions in the hope of spotting particles that explain how the universe works, as well as answering questions about possible extra dimensions and the mysterious dark matter.

        The £6billion LHC – which features in a book written by The Da Vinci Code author, Dan Brown – suffered several early setbacks after its launch in September 2008, with a helium leak caused by a faulty electrical connection leading to more than a year of repairs.

        But on Friday researchers suggested they were close to achieving one of their main aims – catching sight of the elusive Higgs boson.

        It was first postulated by the Scottish physicist Peter Higgs in 1964 as part of the Standard Model of physics, as an invisible field that gives mass to particles, but remains theoretical.

        Results from two of the collider’s detectors, called Atlas and CMS, suggested “bumps” in their data that might prove first glimpse of the Higgs.

        It had previously been thought to have a mass between 114 and 185GeV (gigaelectronvolts), as theories and models mean “we know everything about it, except if it exists”.

     Prof Heuer said recent experiments meant the range from 150 to 200GeV has now been ruled out as a possible “hiding place” for the Higgs.

        It narrows down the search, probably to within the 115 to 140GeV range.

        “If we find this Higgs then this thing holds together and the Standard Model is valid. If we do not find this low-mass Higgs, that means the Standard Model is no longer valid as we know it today.”

        However Prof Heuer said even disproving the Higgs’s existence would be a “breakthrough”, as the question would still be settled and a new search would be on to explain the fundamentals of the physical world. 


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