Manual Most Wanted Particle: The Inside Story of the Hunt for the Higgs, the Heart of the Future of Physics

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This wave is, or would be, the Higgs boson. And it has to show up at the LHC or the field is either not there or is very different from what we expected. There was nowhere to hide. Inventing a whole-universe-filling field to make your math come out right is pretty radical.


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But it was looking as though it might just have worked. On July 4, , we had seen something fundamentally new, which fit the description of the particle predicted by mathematical understanding of previous data, coupled with some prejudices about aesthetics, symmetry and how a decent universe ought to hang together. As I write this, the restart of the LHC with higher-energy beams for physics is expected early in —April 1, in fact. One thing we will definitely do with that upgraded LHC, and hopefully with other machines, too, is examine very closely how well the Standard Model works above the electroweak symmetry-breaking scale.

This energy regime is qualitatively different from anything we have looked at before. In this regime, the electromagnetic and weak forces are in some sense unified. Certainly their strengths are now comparable. Without the discovery of the Higgs boson, this would have been a no-go area for the Standard Model. With the discovery of the Higgs, the Standard Model has a new lease of life.


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It can make predictions for very high-energy physics, covering everything even an upgraded LHC is able to reach. This is a bold claim, and putting it to the test will be intriguing. One area I find fascinating is the theoretical activity stimulated by the fact of observing a new boson with a definite mass. A lot of this work is very technical, but one general theme is a re-examination of symmetries and quantum corrections already in the Standard Model to see if they contain more physics than we first thought.

There are all kinds of possibly misleading clues scattered around and games that can be played. For example, consider a numerical coincidence. The sum of the masses squared of the fermions is very close to the sum of the masses squared of the bosons. To put it another way, if you had found a symmetry that imposed a condition that the sum of the fermion masses must equal the sum of the boson masses, you could have predicted a Higgs mass of about GeV. Not too far off what we have measured!

Most Wanted Particle

The catch is that there is no symmetry we know of that imposes this, so at present it is just a curiosity. Equally, although a bit of numerology might give a clue, it is only useful if it is a clue to a real dynamical theory. The way to go is to make measurements and do real calculations, not play number games.

Yet despite this, as an idea supersymmetry is never likely to go away. The beauty and elegance of the mathematics behind it, coupled with the fact that it is required by string theory, or M-theory, or most likely any other attempt to bring gravity and quantum field theory together, will ensure, I guess, that it remains an important part of the toolbox of theoretical physics, cosmology and mathematics more or less indefinitely. What is at stake is whether supersymmetry has anything to do with electroweak symmetry-breaking, or with dark matter, or indeed whether it has anything to do with any phenomenon ever likely to be measured in a particle-physics experiment.

And supersymmetry is only currently the most popular extension to the Standard Model. Cock-a-hoop though the Standard Model may be with its latest success in predicting a fundamental scalar boson and extending its region of applicability well above the electroweak energy scale, the Standard Model is clearly not the full story.

There still must be something beyond it, supersymmetry or no. The most glaring omission is gravity. We have, thanks to Einstein, a very good theory of gravity, but it is not a quantum theory.

What Next for Particle Physics?

Other problems and omissions include the small point of the missing 85 percent or so of matter in the universe—the dark matter that is visible only by its gravitational effects on galaxies and other astrophysical objects. Is it a new fundamental particle? Worse, there is dark energy, which makes up 68 percent of the stuff matter plus energy in the universe. From one point of view, dark energy is just a label for the fact that the rate of expansion of the universe is increasing, for reasons that are unclear. While we are at it, why are we made of matter and not antimatter?

And why are there three copies, three generations, of the fundamental particles? And why does the weak force see only particles with left-handed spin, ignoring the right-handed ones? And then what about the neutrinos in all of this, and why are they so light when the top quark is so heavy? There are a lot of seemingly arbitrary features of nature here that, to a certain type of mind e.

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What Next for Particle Physics? Home Contact us Help Free delivery worldwide. Free delivery worldwide. Bestselling Series. Harry Potter. Popular Features. New Releases. Description "A vivid account of what the process of discovery was really like for an insider. His narrative seethes with insights on the project's science, technology and 'tribes, ' as well as his personal and often amusing journey as a frontier physicist.

Most Wanted Particle The Inside Story of the Hunt for the Higgs, the Heart of the Future of Physics

But before the Higgs was found, its existence was hotly debated. Even Peter Higgs, who first pictured it, did not expect to see proof within his lifetime. The quest to find the Higgs would ultimately require perhaps the most ambitious experiment in human history. Signed Copies available from Larry and Sandy Feldman Book Search Search.

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Advanced Search. By Jon Butterworth. But before the Higgs was found, its existence was hotly debated.


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