The God particle no longer a theory
- BY:LEIGH DAYTON, SCIENCE WRITER
- From:The Australian
- July 05, 2012 12:00AM
Michio Kaku on the ‘God Particle’
Michio Kaku explains the so-called God Particle, as scientists believe they may have confirmed its existence.
Scientists crack code on God particle
Scientists will reveal their findings into the piece of sub-atomic matter called the God particle.
Scientists Anna Kropivnitskaya, Konstantin Toms and Maria Toms in Melbourne at the high energy physics conference. Picture: Stuart McEvoy Source: The Australian
HUMANITY’S understanding of the origin of the universe after the big bang has taken a historic leap forward with the discovery of a subatomic particle that scientists have been searching for and theorising about for almost 50 years.
In jubilant scenes in Geneva and Melbourne, physicists learned that scientists working at the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland had found what they believe to be the Higgs boson or “God particle”.
The European Organisation for Nuclear Research, or CERN, announced the “milestone in the understanding of nature”, saying it had found a new subatomic particle consistent with the Higgs boson.
“The next step will be to determine the precise nature of the particle and its significance for our understanding of the universe,” a CERN statement said.
Peter Higgs, 83, the shy and softly spoken British physicist who, along with two other groups, published the conceptual groundwork for the particle in 1964, expressed his joy yesterday. He said he was “astounded at the amazing speed with which these results have emerged”.
“They are a testament to the expertise of the researchers and elaborate technologies in place,” he said.
“I never expected this to happen in my lifetime and shall ask my family to put some champagne in the fridge.”
In Melbourne, at the High Energy Physics Conference, where, along with Geneva, the results were announced, young physicists Anna Kropivnitskaya, Konstantin Toms and Maria Toms laughed and said the new particle, or boson, was science, not science fiction.
“But it does improve our knowledge of the universe, the basis, the foundations,” Konstantin Toms said.
“It means the Standard Model of particle physics is true and complete and we have discovered the last missing piece.”
The discovery, by two separate teams, is hailed as virtual confirmation that the Standard Model of physics is correct, as the Higgs is a cornerstone of the model that describes the interactions of all known subatomic particles and forces.
The Standard Model is a highly successful theory but has had several gaps, the biggest of which is why some particles have mass but some, such as the photon, do not.
According to the Standard Model, the Higgs boson is the manifestation of the so-called Higgs field, an invisible energy field filling all space.
The Higgs gives mass to other subatomic particles such as protons, neutrons, quarks and leptons.
University of Melbourne particle physicist Geoff Taylor said it did this in a manner similar to the way water slowed down swimmers. “Subatomic particles feel the effect of the field like bodies moving through water. They gain mass, inertia,” he said. The more a particle “feels” the field, the heaver it becomes.
The boson is believed to exist in a treacly, invisible, ubiquitous field created by the big bang 13.7 billion years ago. The discovery was made by two separate teams, analysing data from the Large Hadron Collider, a giant underground lab where protons were smashed together at nearly the speed of light, yielding subatomic debris that was scrutinised for signs of the fleeting Higgs.
Professor Taylor, who heads the Australian team participating in one of the two experiments – the A Toroidal LHC Apparatus or ATLAS – described the results as “fantastic” and confessed he’d put the champagne on ice in anticipation of the announcements.
Like the second experiment – the Compact Muon Solenoid detector – ATLAS was designed to search for the Higgs, using the Large Hadron Collider built by CERN between 1998 and 2008.
Two CERN labs, working independently of each other to avoid bias, found the new particle in the mass region of about 125-126 gigaelectronvolts, according to data they presented yesterday.
Both said the results were “five sigma”, meaning there was just a 0.00006 per cent chance that what the two laboratories found was a mathematical quirk.
“The results are preliminary but the five sigma signal at around 125 GeV we’re seeing is dramatic,” said Joe Incandela, spokesman for one of the two experiments.
In the 48 years since Emeritus Professor Higgs and five other scientists predicted the existence of the boson, wild claims have been made for the “God particle”.
Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku has said the discovery could begin to explain eternal questions sometimes called the mind of God: “To me, when we finally dicsover the ‘God particle’, this is just the beginning. This can open the floodgates for a whole new branch of theoretical physics.
“There are eternal questions that cannot be answered in the framework of conventional physics. Is time travel possible, are there gateways to other universes . . . are there parallel universes?”
Additional reporting: agencies