Today, the crackpot scientists at CERN revealed the detection of something resembling the Higgs boson. Or, if you want, a detection consistent with a Standard Model Higgs.
That’s a far cry from several media reports claiming a definitive “discovery,” but something’s there. Whether it’s actually the Higgs or an entirely new particle is unclear.
What CERN did find, without a shadow of a doubt, is the heaviest boson ever observed, at an energy of about 125-126 GeV (gigaelectronvolts).
(Oh, and I’m just gonna sit this “Why A Low-Mass Higgs At 125 GeV Means The Universe Might Spontaneously Explode” link right here.)
According to CMS experiment spokesperson Joe Incandela, “The results are preliminary but the 5 sigma signal at around 125 GeV we’re seeing is dramatic. This is indeed a new particle. We know it must be a boson and it’s the heaviest boson ever found.”
The “5 sigma signal” he’s referring to is simply a scale of certainty, 5 sigma being the heighest achievable, at about 99.99994% confidence. Between ATLAS and CMS, the two experiments searching for the Higgs boson, scientists have observed signals between 4.5 and 5 sigma.
The God Particle?
The Higgs boson is like a very small, very important, and very missing piece of a modern physics puzzle. The one right in the center of the picture, invisibile but theoretically holding everything together. The final key.
It’s what gives every particle — all the matter in the universe — its mass. It’s why everything in the universe isn’t randomly shooting off in various directions at the speed of light. We owe a lot to the Higgs, I guess.
Truth is, the Higgs boson is needed to confirm our Standard Model of physics, and maybe even some new theories. Without it — well, if there turned out to be no Higgs, it’d (in a manner of speaking) be back to the drawing board.
Or, we could be dealing with a different kind of Higgs, something a bit more unusual that could help us understand such quandaries as dark matter. After all, we can only observe about 4% of the total matter in the universe, a fact that probably keeps some scientists up at night. According to CERN, a more “exotic” Higgs Boson “could be a bridge to understanding the 96% of the universe that remains obscure.”
While CERN hammers out the details, we can only sit here and speculate.
Image courtesy CERN.