On the 24th of July 1964 a thirty-five year old Peter W. Higgs submitted a paper entitled “Broken Symmetries, Massless Particles and Gauge Fields” to the Physics Letters publication. At the time he could only imagine that this idea could lead to a five decade search to prove or disprove his theory and even more far-reaching is the thought that he would still be around to witness the announcement that they may have found it!
In his paper, Higgs claimed that there is such thing as a field that can explain how the other mass bearing particles in the standard model acquired their mass, and it has always been the belief that different particles react differently with this field to give them their individual properties in relation to others.
Forty-eight years later and the scientific world is focused on a small group of individuals at the CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) laboratory who are about to present their latest findings in the search for this elusive particle. The hype has been building for a few days in the run up to the presentation as certain members of the press had detected that there may have been a breakthrough, which may have contributed to the rather large attendance in the modest lecture theatre. The presentation was introduced by Rolf-Dieter Heuer who has been the Director of CERN since 2009 and has overseen the experiments during this period.
The Large Hadron Collider or LHC for short is the £4bn piece of equipment that has been the centre point of the experiments for the last five or six years of the hunt for the Higgs. The world’s most expensive machine; it is a ring 27-km in circumference that lies several metres underground at the CERN headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
The teams of thousands of scientists working at CERN have been using the collider to fire beams of protons in opposite directions around the ring so that they smash into each other inside one of the detectors and can be photographed and analysed to see if there are signs of an unusual new particle. The problem with this is that the particles decay so quickly that they are very difficult to spot and may only appear once or twice out of trillions of collisions.
The huge detectors known as ATLAS and CMS are positioned along the route of the collider to record the data and it is both of these that have presented evidence to the degree of accuracy required for an official scientific discovery.
There is much more work to be done over the next few years to further concrete the discovery and to confirm exactly what type of particle it is, but for now all the evidence points in the direction of a theory devised way back before we even landed on the moon. This discovery I would say is equally as important and is a second giant leap for Mankind towards our understanding of everything.
“I think we have it” – Rolf Heuer CERN Director, 4th July 2012, CERN Headquarters Geneva.
Further information about the experiments including the full press release statement and a video of the presentation is available at www.cern.ch
~Rick D~ @rickdinnage