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Science

Search for Higgs "God Particle" Gets Interesing 392

Posted by kdawson
from the putting-the-standard-model-to-bed dept.
holy_calamity writes "The Large Hadron Collider is in trouble again. It will start work sometime in spring 2008, not November this year as planned. The delay has been blamed on an 'accumulation of minor setbacks,' and comes on top of a 'design fault' that saw breakdown of magnets supplied by the competing Fermilab. Yesterday Slate nicely rounded up increasingly loud rumors among physicists that Fermilab may already have seen the Higgs particle, the 'holy grail of particle physics' the LHC was build to find."
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Search for Higgs "God Particle" Gets Interesing

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  • Re:god? (Score:5, Informative)

    by morgan_greywolf (835522) * on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @01:25PM (#19400795) Homepage Journal
    They are undoubtedly talking about the still-only-theoretical Higgs boson [wikipedia.org], that's supposed to explain the difference between massless particles like the photon and other particles that have mass. Basically, if the Higgs boson is found, it goes along way to proving various Grand Unified Theories (GUTs) of cosmological physics.

  • by wizardforce (1005805) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @01:28PM (#19400837) Journal
    From the article:

    The current rumor, which comes in time for the summer conference circuit, may be different. It claims an experiment at the Tevatron has found a peak twice as high as the previous rumors' bumps. And unlike the other rumors, this one includes details: the new particle's mass, for instance, which fits within theoretical bounds on the standard model Higgs. Some versions include a decay chain, which describes what the new particle turned into as the experiment progressed, and which may be consistent with the standard model's predictions.

    the higgs particle is one of the last yet undiscovered predictions of the standard model.

    But what happens if the Higgs turns out to be just right? Well, then the standard model predicts that you'd need a machine roughly a quadrillion times more powerful than the LHC to find anything new.

    if we find the higgs it makes the standard model more convincing as far as its predictive power but by no means means it is correct.
  • Re:god? (Score:2, Informative)

    by slashthedot (991354) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @01:28PM (#19400841) Homepage
    Perhaps it has to do with the assumption of this particle having some god-like properties.
    The Wikipedia article says it was mentioned in the movie "Solaris". Anyone remember what this particle did in the movie?
  • Re:god? (Score:3, Informative)

    by UbuntuDupe (970646) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @01:35PM (#19400957) Journal
    That he doesn't exist.

    *please mod informative, please mod informative*
  • Re:god? (Score:5, Informative)

    by WaZiX (766733) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @01:39PM (#19401031)
    "God"? What has god got to do with this?

    It's often referred to as the God particle because of its significance in physics, it would explain why matter has mass.
    It probably also has a lot to do with the fact that the existance of the Mass-Free Higgins Boson particle was theoretically predicted, but has never been observed (until now?). This elusiveness to be observed and hence proven it existed is probably the reason why it got this nickname...
  • Solaris (Score:2, Informative)

    by iknownuttin (1099999) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @01:43PM (#19401093)
    The Wikipedia article says it was mentioned in the movie "Solaris". Anyone remember what this particle did in the movie?

    I saw the original Russian version made in the '70s (yeah, queue the "In Soviet Russia, movies make you!", jokes) . It was a very original movie.

    Basically, these cosmonauts go to a space station orbiting Jupiter, I think, or one of the outer solar planets. Anyway, on the station, anything their thinking of, will manifest. For instance, the protagonist really misses his wife who died a number years before. She appears. But, she's not completely human: she rips through a metal door with her bare hands. Also, she doesn't remember much. The other station members just kind of live with it for the exception of one who committed suicide.

    Anyway, I won't give out too much of the movie, but if you want something along the lines of "2001", this is a movie to see. I haven't seen the American remake with George Clooney.

    It's also a good break from most of what passes for SciFi these days, you know: monster in space kills everyone on space station, space ship, or colony except for the hero who just barely escapes with his/her life only to discover that the monster isn't dead - cue sequel. Basically, rip offs of the "Alien" movies.

  • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @01:45PM (#19401129) Homepage Journal
    From the Guardian [guardian.co.uk]:

    Finding the Higgs boson will confirm scientists' most complete theory of the universe and the matter from which it is created. "It's probably the closest to God that we'll get," said Jos Engelen, Cern's chief scientist.
  • Re:god? (Score:4, Informative)

    by physicsnick (1031656) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @01:50PM (#19401195)
    Actually the Higgs won't prove anything about GUTs. It's part of the Standard Model.
  • by Henry V .009 (518000) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @01:57PM (#19401293) Journal
    There's a good wrap-up of this at http://dorigo.wordpress.com/2007/06/05/the-higgs-r umor-spreads-again/ [wordpress.com]

    He's been following it since the rumor first surfaced. Imagine how the LHC folks will feel if this turns out to be accurate. Billions spent to search for a particle that is found before their collider is even complete.
  • blame Mr. Lederman (Score:3, Informative)

    by slew (2918) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @02:04PM (#19401407)
    I think it was Mr. Lederman [wikipedia.org] that originally coined this phrase in his pop-sci book, The God Particle...

    I think he's also attributed to the wiki-quote...

    My ambition is to live to see all of physics reduced to a formula so elegant and simple that it will fit easily on the front of a T-shirt.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @02:13PM (#19401565)
    Well, the experiments are competing. Yes there is collaboration.. but it's at the top level and mostly lip service. Fermilab + CERN are friends only as long as they are useful for each other. Drill down a bit where you find the actual experiments, and the competition is quite strong and has been around for years.

    It's mostly funding related, whichever experiment produces the results will continue to see money, which means scientists get to keep their job. Within Fermilab, the competition between experiments is mostly a friendly one, but it doesn't change the fact that the competition exists.

    Would it ever expand to active sabotage? Of course not. But the rivalry is in fact there.
  • Error (Score:3, Informative)

    by WaZiX (766733) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @02:14PM (#19401587)
    I thought the Higgs-Boson was mass free because of it's nature as the particule responsible for mass...

    Upon reading wikipedia, I was wrong: link [wikipedia.org]

    The Standard Model does not predict the value of the Higgs boson mass. If the mass of the Higgs boson is between 115 and 180 GeV, then the Standard Model can be valid at energy scales all the way up to the Planck scale (1016 TeV). Many theorists expect new physics beyond the Standard Model to emerge at the TeV-scale, based on unsatisfactory properties of the Standard Model. The highest possible mass scale allowed for the Higgs boson (or some other electroweak symmetry breaking mechanism) is around one TeV; beyond this point, the Standard Model becomes inconsistent without such a mechanism because unitarity is violated in certain scattering processes. Many models of Supersymmetry predict that the lightest Higgs boson (of several) will have a mass only slightly above the current experimental limits, at around 120 GeV or less.

    Sorry.
  • Re:god? (Score:2, Informative)

    by dougman (908) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @02:25PM (#19401751)
    I like your jab at Bush, but here's a couple of facts:

    An appropriations rider was passed by Congress in 1996 (the Dickey Amendment) forbidding federal funding for any research that creates, injures or destroys human embryos. Clinton signed it into law. Bush sought to relax that law.

    "The President's answer was that there ought to be no restrictions on the private sector but that federal subsidies should be limited to lines that had already been harvested and should not be used to encourage the destruction of embryos. In short, it was a reasonable middle ground. It's worth noting that other countries, such as Germany, Ireland and Austria, ban even the private sector from creating embryos for stem cell research." (WSJ 7/12/2004)

    If you care to check with the Office of Management and budget, you'll also find out that bush was the first (and only) president to fund Human Embryonic research. During his first four years in office (I didn't see newer numbers) the NIH budget for Embryonic research increased every year.

    Regardless of the "moral" issue - why should the government be researching stem cells anyways? I thought their job was to secure the country and make sure we can freely go about our business. The gov't is supposed to give us health care, social security, welfare, and now stem cells? Just what we need.
  • by The_Wilschon (782534) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @02:25PM (#19401761) Homepage
    Supersymmetric Higgs is the equivalent particle (actually 5 particles, IIRC) to the Standard Model's Higgs boson which is predicted by a Quantum Field Theory which includes supersymmetry and predicts all of the particles that we have already seen.

    IIRC, the standard model Higgs has not been excluded yet. But a whole lot of people are expecting to see SUSY (supersymmetry) at the LHC, so those same people also expect to see a SUSY Higgs rather than a standard model Higgs.

    The Tevatron is still running, and running better than it ever has been before (higher luminousity). Well over 2 fb^-1 of data have been taken so far, and by the end in 2009, about 8 fb^-1 are expected. A few months ago, CDF published a new measurement of the W boson mass, which is coupled to the Higgs mass, which suggested that the Higgs mass ought to be fairly low. A fairly low mass Higgs might be observable at the Tevatron, so a whole lot more people than before are looking for the Higgs a whole lot harder than before. This W mass measurement is probably the "rumor" referred to in TFSummary.

    Of course, we can't just look at one event and say "Oh look! I saw the Higgs boson!" There are a lot of other processes that have signatures very similar to the Higgs signature (I've worked on measuring one of those processes, Z + b jet), so we need to have a lot of Higgs events in order to distinguish them from background events. The top quark discovery was announced with, IIRC, 22 top pair events. I'd guess that we'll need even more than that number of Higgs events to have a decent Higgs discovery measurement.

    Even if the Tevatron does discover the Higgs, don't worry, there will still be plenty for the LHC to do. Measure the properties of the Higgs, for one. But more importantly, within a few months of LHC startup, we should see SUSY.

    Also, I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Fermilab and CERN are not in competition. CDF and D0 might be considered to be in competition, as might ATLAS and CMS. But not really even with those pairs. It is science, and it is scientists. We are concerned with getting science done, wherever it is done. An enormous number of the people at Fermilab now are either already also working at CERN or are planning to start CERN work soon. The fact that a Fermilab designed system failed is not indicative that Fermilab is trying to sabotage CERN, but rather just that people make mistakes. Fermilab has no incentive to sabotage CERN.
  • Re:god? (Score:5, Informative)

    by morgan_greywolf (835522) * on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @02:31PM (#19401863) Homepage Journal
    The problem with most GUTs is that they make assumptions that certain things, like the Standard Model of particle physics, are true. The problem is that the Standard Model is unproven, as the Higgs boson has never directly been observed.. If the Higgs boson can be observed, it goes a long way towards proving the Standard Model, which in turn, helps to support various GUTs that depend on the Standard Model.
  • Re:god? (Score:3, Informative)

    by morgan_greywolf (835522) * on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @03:23PM (#19402631) Homepage Journal
    Einstein once criticized quantum physicists for building unproven theories on top of other unproven theories, and I believe the Standard Model was one of them. Yes, it has since withstood the rigors of many other experiments and observations. But direct observation of the Higgs boson, which has been indirectly observed, would be a great symbolic and psychologically significant victory for particle physics.

    So, yes, I agree in principle, but in spirit, direct observation of the Higgs boson would be quite significant.

  • by vondo (303621) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @03:39PM (#19402875)
    Many of the people the GP is referring to work for Fermilab. They are paid by Fermilab to work on one of the CERN experiments. In fact, after CERN itself, I suspect Fermilab is the single largest contributor to the CERN experiments. Fermilab is going to do this kind of physics whether it is done using their own accelerator or not. Of course, they would rather it be done with their own accelerator, but some time (say a year) after the LHC turns on that's not really feasible anymore.

    So they won't lose the brainpower.
  • A few corrections (Score:5, Informative)

    by Roger W Moore (538166) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @04:42PM (#19403891) Journal
    Supersymmetric Higgs is the equivalent particle (actually 5 particles, IIRC) to the Standard Model's Higgs boson which is predicted by a Quantum Field Theory which includes supersymmetry and predicts all of the particles that we have already seen.

    A few corrections. a SUSY Higgs is NOT the equivalent of adding 5 new particles to the SM but, infact involves doubling the number of particles and then adding 4 new Higgs bosons (since the SM already has one). What you are thinking of is a two Higgs doublet model which does NOT require SUSY i.e. we can have 5 Higgs bosons without Supersymmetry.

    But more importantly, within a few months of LHC startup, we should see SUSY.

    Woa! Nobody should expect to see SUSY ANYWHERE! For all we know, although it is a beautiful theory, it may be completely wrong! Even if it does occur in nature it may not occur within reach of the LHC energies. While the solution to the fine tuning problem would require SUSY at a "low" energy (compared to the GUT scale!) the upper limit is very rough. If SUSY occurs at 10TeV it is somewhat unnatural but by no means a huge problem even 100Tev is probably not out of the question - and this is assuming that nature uses SUSY to solve finte tuning - it may well not. Don't get me wrong - I'm someone looking for SUSY - and I hope to see it but it is by no means expected no matter how keen theorists get about it!
  • by rubycodez (864176) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @04:48PM (#19403955)
    oh, and should have mentioned nature has likely built such mega-accelerators for us http://www.bioedonline.org/news/news-print.cfm?art =1509 [bioedonline.org]
  • by perturbed1 (1086477) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @05:03PM (#19404109)

    This week is "the Trigger and Physics week" for ATLAS [atlas.ch], which is one of the two major experiments at the LHC. The opening talk by the head of the collaboration clearly laid out the LHC schedule, but on slides that are not published on the agenda. The original article that is referred in the /. gist has gotten it wrong!

    The LHC schedule can not be publicly released until it is approved by the CERN council, which is meeting on the 18th of June. Presumably, once approved, CERN will make a public statement about the plans.

    Currently, the plan is to close the experiments for "bake-out" and readying towards a full LHC cool-down and vacuum test around end of March. "Closing the experiments" means that the beam-pipe is one sealed throughout the 27km ring, which seriously limits the movement, fixing and other assembly tasks of the detector communities, so this is a "deadline" for detectors to be "ready for data-taking".

    It takes anywhere between a month or two to ready the ring for insertion of *a* beam. It is looking likely right now, that *a* beam will be inserted into the ring around mid-May. However, that is not enough for the operation of the LHC. The LHC is a Collider, so it needs *two* beams to collide. Colliding two beams within an average design beam spot of 16 microns, is no easy task after having them traveling around 27km. (Before the beams are steered the collide, they are "squeezed" to a smaller radius so that the "density" of collisions are higher. This density of collisions, is what determines the luminosity, or, the number of interactions that happen between two beams, and gives the effective high resolution power of the collider.)

    Once "one" beam is commissioned inside the LHC, the other beam, traveling opposite to the first one, will be commissioned. Noone really knows how long it will take to really understand and fine-tune the path (or orbit) of the beams inside the ring, but that is what determines when the LHC will get collisions and the first real data will start flowing, if the detectors, can actually time-in and calibrate, and move/push the data off of the detectors into the Grid for analysis. Now, Lyn Evans, who is the head of the LHC commissioning has repeatedly said that he imagines that is will take at least 3 months to get collisions, once a single-beam is commissioned..

    So FALL 2008 is the earliest any realist is expecting to see collisions from the LHC. Then the ball is in the detectors' courtyard to collect data continuously and efficiently, to be able to calibrate all detectors in a timely fashion, to identify and fix detectors problems, and to push the (high bandwidth) data out to the analysis farms...

    First physic results out of the LHC will not be before Summer 2009... The first paper will be a boring "foo is the multiplicity of events" and the next will be "bar is the cross-section for Drell-Yan/mininum bias processes" paper. The one after that might be interesting though!!

  • by pair-a-noyd (594371) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @06:36PM (#19405009)
    Can we please drop all these "holy grail" and "god particle" and other such nonsense terms?
    There is no "god" or religion. Never was. It's all fairy tales for physically mature children.
    If we can get past the childish and immature references to non-existant things SCIENCE *may* be able to progress.

    This has been a Public Service Announcement.
    Thank you.
  • by Phroon (820247) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @09:03PM (#19405995) Homepage

    Maybe the Higgs boson test will, like other species that tried to make one, turn us into merely a dark stain on the space-time fabric.
    Discovery != Production.

    The thing is, there is a good probability that we've already created at least one Higgs boson at Fermilab. The problem with this kind of science isn't making one, it's that you have to make 3000 (or more). The problem then is that you lose 3000 of them because the decay chains of the Higgs boson turns into something you can't separate from background (along with other event selection requirements), this eliminates 99% of the potential Higgs events. In the next stage you then lose another 70% of the remaining events because the kinematics of the ideal decay look like a background (you can still extract some statistical significance from them, however). This leaves you with a handful of events that are 'signal like', seeing these events has to be statistically significant, so you have to know the errors on your models and on the data very well (the error isn't on the data itself, it's on our understanding of the data; i.e.. the calorimeters don't measure energy perfectly, so that error is here).

    So if we discover it, it's not because of one Higgs being produced, it's because we've collected enough events that look like Higgs, separated them from the background and understood the errors on our measurements. It's a very difficult task.

    I worked with the chair of the Higgs group at CDF last summer, it was rather enlightening. They have a lot of work to do though. What it comes down to is there are two competing experiments/detectors at Fermilab, CDF and D0. They do not cooperate very much to keep them from becoming biased and so they have confirmation of discoveries. Back when LHC was looking to turn on in 2007, the only way Fermilab could possibly have a Higgs discovery is if the two experiments collaborated and released a joint Fermilab Higgs result. Even then, Fermilab would quite possibly need to be (statistically) lucky for the result to be a discovery of the Higgs. Now however, with an extra half year of data, analysis and checking, Fermilab might just discover the Higgs before the LHC even turns on. Even after the LHC turns on, it'll take a while for Physicists working on LHC to analyze the data, so the Fermilab people have a bit of time there as well.

    Can we get a "-1 Wrong" moderation option?
    Agreed, or at least a "-1 Uninformed".
  • Re:god? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chemicalscum (525689) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @12:03AM (#19407139) Journal
    The term "god particles" was pushed by the Nobel prizewinning particle physicist Leon Lederman (though he may not have invented the term) he even wrote a popular book with this name. He was Director of Fermilab back in the early nineties during the push to get congressional funding for the Superconducting Super Collider which was designed to find the Higgs Boson.

    I think he pushed the term to try to get approval from the religious right in congress who were typically suspicious about funding big science. They SSC ended not getting funding anyway. Primarily because of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the congressman no longer felt the need to pony up for any big project the physicists proposed as which they thought would give them technical superiority over the Soviets (and maybe the new super weapon of mass destruction). So the funding motion fell.

    The religious right was certainly not going to fund the cathedrals of science. Anyway Lederman was not really using the term in the sense that Christians or religious Jews would, but rather in the same way that Einstein used the word "God" to mean the totality of physical law.

  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @01:43AM (#19407673)
    "God particle" is an affectionate term for the particle use by Actual Scientists. Stop whining about its.

    Hard core pendantry can be really ugly, kids.

    But if you must: the term was coined by Leon Lederman, who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1988. That scientific enough for you?

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not "Eureka!" (I found it!) but "That's funny ..." -- Isaac Asimov

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