God particle 'may have finally been discovered'

Jul 04, 2012, 15:49 IST | ANI

Physicists have observed a new particle consistent with the long-sought Higgs boson, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) announced on Wednesday

According to CERN, two independent teams observed a new particle in the mass region around 125-126 GeV (gigaelectronvolts) at the level of 5 sigma, Xinhua reported.

More studies and cross-checks will be, however, needed to determine the precise nature of the particle, researchers said.

Such a long journey

The long and complicated journey to detect the Higgs boson - 'the God Particle', which started with one small step almost 25 years ago, might have finally reached its goal.

The Higgs boson is the final building block that has been missing from the “Standard Model”, which describes the structure of matter in the universe.

It combines two forces of nature and shows that they are, in fact, different aspects of a more fundamental force.

The particle is also responsible for the existence of mass in the elementary particles.

Weizmann Institute scientists have been prominent participants in this research from its onset.

Most of us experience the world as a diverse and complex place. But the physicists among us are not content with visible reality. They are striving to get to the bottom of that reality and to see whether it is, as they think, based on the absolute simplicity displayed by the early universe.

They expect to observe a range of particles that are different “ensembles” of a handful of elementary particles.

The scientists are hoping to see a unification of the four fundamental forces of nature that act on these particles (the weak force responsible for radioactivity, electromagnetic force, the strong force responsible for the existence of protons and neutrons, and gravitation).

The first step in the journey to unify the forces was completed with the almost certain discovery of the Higgs particle: The union of two elementary forces – the electromagnetic and weak force, to become the electroweak force.

One aspect of the Higgs boson, named after the Scottish physicist Peter Higgs, manifests itself in the giving of mass to the weak force carriers – the “W” and “Z” particles.

In the effort to discover the Higgs boson, unify the fundamental forces and understand the origin of mass in the universe, scientists built the world’s largest machine: a particle accelerator nestled in a 27-km-long circular tunnel, 100 meters beneath the border between France and Switzerland, in the European particle physics laboratory, CERN, near Geneva.

This accelerator, called LHC (Large Hadron Collider), accelerates beams of protons up to 99.999998 percent the speed of light.

According to the theory of relativity, this increases their mass by 7,500 times that of their normal resting mass. The accelerator aims the beams straight at each other, causing collisions that release so much energy, the protons themselves explode.

For much less than the blink of an eye, conditions similar to those that existed in the universe in the first fraction of a second after the Big Bang are present in the accelerator.

As a result, particles of matter are turned into energy, in accordance with Albert Einstein’s famous equation describing the conversion of matter into energy: E=mc2.

The energy then propagates through space and the system cools. Consequently, energy turns back into particles of matter and the process is repeated until particles that can exist in reality as we know it are formed.

The collisions produce energetic particles, some of which exist for extremely short periods of time. The only way to discern their existence is to identify the footprints they leave behind. For this purpose, a variety of particle detectors were developed, each optimized for capturing particular types of particles.

The likelihood of creating the Higgs boson in a single collision is similar to that of randomly extracting a specific living cell from the leaf of a plant, out of all the plants growing on Earth.

The findings of the study were reported by LHC particle accelerator scientists at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, CERN, near Geneva.

God Particle video leaked to website

The Cern physics laboratory near Geneva appeared to have leaked crucial details of its hunt for the long-sought Higgs boson – ‘God particle’ on Tuesday when it accidentally posted a video announcing the discovery of a new particle on its website.

Cern, which takes credit for inventing the World Wide Web, inadvertently released a video interview on its website dated 4 July 2012 in which spokesman Joe Incandela states the lab has “observed a new particle”.

A press officer at the laboratory blamed a technical glitch for the video going live. The interview was taken down shortly after.

Speaking on the video, Incandela stopped short of claiming the particle was the Higgs boson, saying more work was needed to be sure.

“We have quite strong evidence that there’s something there. It’s properties are still going to take us a little bit of time,” the Guardian quoted him as saying.

The details Incandela revealed suggest it has the hallmarks of the Higgs particle.

“We can see that it decays into two photons, for example, which tells us it’s a boson, it’s a particle with integer spin, and we know its mass is roughly 100 times the mass of the proton. And this is very significant,” Incandela said.

“This is the most massive such particle that exists, if we confirm all this, which I think we will.

“It’s something that may, in the end, be one of the biggest observations of any new phenomena in our field in the last 30 or 40 years, going way back to the discovery of quarks,” he said.

A spokesperson for Cern said that the video went live on the internet due to a “technical fault”.

They added that the lab had recorded several videos in advance with spokespersons at the lab. 

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