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Archive for Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Physicists say they’ve found ‘God particle’

July 4, 2012, 10:00 p.m. Updated July 4, 2012, 10:00 p.m.

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Geneva — Scientists at the world’s biggest atom smasher hailed the discovery of “the missing cornerstone of physics” Wednesday, cheering the apparent end of a decades-long quest for a new subatomic particle called the Higgs boson, or “God particle,” which could help explain why all matter has mass and crack open a new realm of subatomic science.

First proposed as a theory in the 1960s, the maddeningly elusive Higgs had been hunted by at least two generations of physicists who believed it would help shape our understanding of how the universe began and how its most elemental pieces fit together.

As the highly technical findings were announced by two independent teams involving more than 5,000 researchers, the usually sedate corridors of the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, erupted in frequent applause and standing ovations. Physicists who spent their careers in pursuit of the particle shed tears.

The new particle appears to share many of the same qualities as the one predicted by Scottish physicist Peter Higgs and others and is perhaps the biggest accomplishment at CERN since its founding in 1954 outside Geneva along the Swiss-French border.

Rolf Heuer, director of CERN, said the newly discovered particle is a boson, but he stopped just shy of claiming outright that it is the Higgs boson itself — an extremely fine distinction.

“As a layman, I think we did it,” he told the elated crowd. “We have a discovery. We have observed a new particle that is consistent with a Higgs boson.”

The Higgs, which until now had been purely theoretical, is regarded as key to understanding why matter has mass, which combines with gravity to give all objects weight.

The idea is much like gravity and Isaac Newton’s early theories. Gravity was there all the time before Newton explained it. The Higgs boson was believed to be there, too. And now that scientists have actually seen something much like it, they can put that knowledge to further use.

The center’s atom smasher, the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider, sends protons whizzing around a circular 17-mile underground tunnel at nearly the speed of light to create high-energy collisions. The aftermath of those impacts can offer clues about dark matter, antimatter and the creation of the universe, which many theorize occurred in a massive explosion known as the Big Bang.

Most of the particles that result from the collisions exist for only the smallest fractions of a second. But finding a Higgs-like boson was one of the biggest challenges in physics: Out of some 500 trillion collisions, just several dozen produced “events” with significant data, said Joe Incandela of the University of California at Santa Barbara, leader of the team known as CMS, with 2,100 scientists.

Each of the teams confirmed Wednesday that they had “observed” a new subatomic particle — a boson. Heuer said the discovery was “most probably a Higgs boson, but we have to find out what kind of Higgs boson it is.” He referred to the discovery as a missing cornerstone of science.

As the leaders of the two teams presented their evidence, applause punctuated their talks.

“Thanks, nature!” joked Fabiola Gianotti, the Italian physicist who heads the team called ATLAS, with 3,000 scientists, drawing laughter from the crowd.

Comments

Terry Jacobsen 2 years, 7 months ago

Gravity was there all the time before Newton explained it... It's been there ever since I created it Signed, God

Crazy_Larry 2 years, 7 months ago

Is that really you, gawd, or is it just some deluded person with a computer?

devobrun 2 years, 7 months ago

If I read between the lines I find: 1) 10 billion dollars, 5,100 scientists, decades of time. 2) 5 times ten to the 14 power collisions and about 100 observances of a boson. 3) Cheering, applause, laughter, shedding of tears. 4) Applications offered include clues about the big bang and the creation of the universe.

Here is my take: A lot of time money and resources have been used to find the missing piece of the standard model. Theoretically, the piece has been there, but now it appears to be confirmed experimentally. Whew! With funding in jeopardy, and politicians asking tough questions.....it is a darned good thing that Higgs showed up.

Now the really hard part of the science begins. Continuing to justify the high expense in a time when money is so tight. What is to be expected? Remove Higgs from particles to make them massless? That would be handy.

Use M-theory to explain why the universe was created from nothing, and therefore God is not the origin of the universe? That would be useless.

Quantum mechanics is surprisingly useless when forming a business to build an industry to help people live better and produce tax revenue. Charm, strangeness, and other dimensions of the standard model aren't used to build a vast communication system, or guide an airplane.

I hope that LHC results can someday kick start new solutions to maladies humans suffer from. I doubt that I will see any of that in my lifetime. So cheer the cleverness of physicists who give you a new God......and go to that marine mechanics school to get yourself a job.

eckertdj 2 years, 7 months ago

You are right, mankind has probably already learned enough. No reason to continue futhering our knowledge of the universe. If there is no readily availible way to make money off of it, it clearly has no value to anyone.

devobrun 2 years, 7 months ago

It is not a matter of stopping the learning, seeking, testing, or investigating. It is a matter of tears, cheers, laughter and thrills for a "5 parts per trillion" physics experiment. Are we reading propaganda in the press that supports a philosophy rather than a science?

Science asks when, where, what, how. Real life asks "so what". And modern science asks "why". Quantum mechanics over the last 50 years answers that question with arguments about God. Sigh.

http://www.cleveland.com/books/index.ssf/2010/09/stephen_hawkings_the_grand_des.html

Is this science? Science is the study of what is.....knowledge. Philosophy is the study of meaning.....wisdom. Hawking and many physicists like him overstep the search for knowledge and engage in the search for meaning. Tears of joy seem to not be the reaction of a scientist. "God" particle? Newton turns over in his grave when ever that assertion is made.

devobrun 2 years, 7 months ago

It is not a matter of stopping the learning, seeking, testing, or investigating. It is a matter of tears, cheers, laughter and thrills for a "5 parts per trillion" physics experiment. Are we reading propaganda in the press that supports a philosophy rather than a science?

Science asks when, where, what, how. Real life asks "so what". And modern science asks "why". Quantum mechanics over the last 50 years answers that question with arguments about God. Sigh.

http://www.cleveland.com/books/index.ssf/2010/09/stephen_hawkings_the_grand_des.html

Is this science? Science is the study of what is.....knowledge. Philosophy is the study of meaning.....wisdom. Hawking and many physicists like him overstep the search for knowledge and engage in the search for meaning. Tears of joy seem to not be the reaction of a scientist. "God" particle? Newton turns over in his grave when ever that assertion is made.

devobrun 2 years, 7 months ago

Sorry for the double post. I don't like the new comment interface on this site. Or what my browser does with the new LJW when my ad blocker is on. Oh well, you get what you pay for.

FloridaSunshine 2 years, 7 months ago

I don't care for it, either, devobrun. And you're quite right, we get what we pay for...

Cait McKnelly 2 years, 7 months ago

Given that this took place in Switzerland at the CERN laboratory and to my knowledge, the US didn't contribute a dime to it, I think it's safe for you to go crawl back into your dark hole as not a penny of your "tax dollars" went for it.

parrothead8 2 years, 7 months ago

"Quantum mechanics is surprisingly useless when forming a business..."

LMAO. What do you think businesses do? What do they sell? Research in quantum mechanics led to the computer you use to post here, as well as most electronic advances in the last century.

Tristan Moody 2 years, 7 months ago

Agree with this. Ever get a PET scan? See a neon sign? Glow in the dark stuff? Photovoltaic cells? Really, any electronic equipment that was developed in the last thirty years? Quantum mechanics has benefited you.

Tristan Moody 2 years, 7 months ago

A possibly apocryphal story, but poignant nonetheless:

A politician, upset with the amount of money spent on basic scientific research, was grilling a prominent physicist during a hearing regarding the use of the research.

"What is the practical purpose of all this research?" the politician said.

Replied the physicist: "What is the practical purpose of a newborn baby?"

Leslie Swearingen 2 years, 7 months ago

It was Michael Faraday who was one of the earliest workers with electricity and he told people that he was quoting Benjamin Franklin, a man who was curious about many scientific things and knew some of the best scientists of the time. In Faradays autobiography it is a woman who asks him and he replies, well, madam I will tell you what Mr. Franklin says, which is, what is the use of a newborn child?

johnsont1 2 years, 7 months ago

For starters, 5,100 scientist = 5,100 jobs. Plus, there's a very practical application in things like computers from the materials that have been researched over the years in building these particle colliders. People that think as narrowly and naively as you contribute to the reason scientists are flocking away from the US to conduct their research.

Liberty275 2 years, 7 months ago

"10 billion dollars, 5,100 scientists, decades of time"

Seems like a waste, but it is the nature of humans to ask why, and this is a machine that can help answer that question. We can't stop looking for answers, as looking for answers is a big part of what makes us human.

Lots of money, but it benefits all of humanity and will do so even more in the future.

geekin_topekan 2 years, 7 months ago

So, who is going to hold the patent on the God particle?

classclown 2 years, 7 months ago

God particle...pffft. The truth is there are boy atoms and girl atoms. With nature being the way it is, they just naturally want to be together. So all those boy atoms sticking to girl atoms and vice versa is what gives us mass.

It's natures way.

FloridaSunshine 2 years, 7 months ago

More GREAT laughs thanks to tange!! Wow...SO funny!!!

hyperinflate 2 years, 7 months ago

So are the boy particles with an affinity for other boy particles just supposed to accept this as the natural order of things?

FloridaSunshine 2 years, 7 months ago

Truly fascinating, all of this, isn't it?

RoeDapple 2 years, 7 months ago

So . . . how long before we use it to annihilate ourselves?

yourworstnightmare 2 years, 7 months ago

Just as Galileo, Newton and Kepler had the cutting edge invention of the telescope, modern physicists have the particle accelerator and the particle detector.

This is truly a remarkable feat and an astounding test of the Higgs hypothesis. This team of scientists predicted what the properties of a Higgs boson might be, and they have detected such a particle in their atom smashing experiments.

Other aspects of Higgs quantum theory that can now be tested include the idea that the Higgs boson gives mass to matter (i.e. it is the transition particle between energy and matter), which also might help explain how gravity works. Another tantalizing idea is that the Higgs boson might be the elusive "dark matter" that is predicted to be most of the mass of the universe. These are of course hypotheses that must be tested by further experimentation.

Leslie Swearingen 2 years, 7 months ago

(i.e. it is the transition particle between energy and matter) So, everything could be in the process of recreation every moment. The Big Bang might still be going on. Nothing is solid because there is space in atoms. It is exciting and alarming to realize that we see so very little of what is around us, and that every species is seeing a slightly different version, almost like mutiverses. What do the smallest and the largest creatures perceive?

hyperinflate 2 years, 7 months ago

turns out it was behind the couch the whole time.

classclown 2 years, 7 months ago

tange 37 minutes ago

And, when those stuck together boy and girl atoms are in an excited state, can they still be said to be particles and/or do they come in waves?

=============================

Then we end up with glue particles. For all your adhesive needs.

classclown 2 years, 7 months ago

hyperinflate 30 minutes ago

So are the boy particles with an affinity for other boy particles just supposed to accept this as the natural order of things?

===========================================

They are responsible for black holes.

FloridaSunshine 2 years, 7 months ago

Watched this full-screen...takes my breath away...beautiful and fascinating... Thx, tange!

beatrice 2 years, 7 months ago

Is God held together by God particles?

Put another way, which came first, the God or the particle?

Stuart Evans 2 years, 7 months ago

interesting note: the particle was originally named the goddamn particle, as it was extremely elusive. only shortened to be called the god particle to keep nuts from flipping their lids.

jafs 2 years, 7 months ago

It's worth noting that Higgs and the scientists at CERN were very upset by the term "God particle".

Most scientists don't think that these sorts of discoveries are about God or the lack thereof.

It's an interesting discovery, of course.

yourworstnightmare 2 years, 7 months ago

The term "god particle" is an invention of the popular media. I agree that most scientists are not pleased with calling it the "god particle".

It is the Higgs boson.

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