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Math Science

Has the Higgs Boson Particle Field Been Hiding in Plain Sight? 163

Posted by Zonk
from the it-blinded-us-with-science dept.
sciencehabit writes with a link to the ScienceNow site, noting an article saying the Higgs boson may already have been found in previous observations of the known universe. A theorist at Michigan state is arguing that scientists may have already found evidence for the elusive particle. The key appears to be that the particles that make up the Higgs field are of various 'strengths', and some of those particles may tug on others very weakly. "The lightest Higgs can be very light indeed, but it would not have been seen at [CERN's Large Electron-Positron (LEP)], because LEP experimenters were looking for an energetic collision that made a Z that then spit out a Higgs. That wouldn't happen very often if the lightest Higgs and the Z hardly interact. 'Just within the simplest supersymmetric model, there's still room for Higgs that is missed,' Yuan says. However, this lightweight Higgs is not exactly the Higgs everyone is looking for, says Marcela Carena, a theorist at Fermilab. 'The Higgs they are talking about is not the one responsible for giving mass to the W and Z,' she says. It can't be because it hardly interacts with those particles, Carena says. Indeed, in Yuan's model, the role of mass-giver falls to one of the heavier Higgses, which is still heavier than the LEP limit, she notes."
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Has the Higgs Boson Particle Field Been Hiding in Plain Sight?

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  • by tverbeek (457094) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @12:28PM (#22168488) Homepage
    Turns out it was under the couch all this time.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by clonan (64380)
      The extra wieght of the Higgs particle is what makes the change fall out of my pocket!

      I knew it wasn't me!!!
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by SL Baur (19540)

        The extra wieght of the Higgs particle is what makes the change fall out of my pocket!
        Perhaps, but more importantly, it is not symmetric and has been known to attract left or right socks more strongly than the other. This explains the dryer effect.
        • but left and right socks are the same, except for cartoon socks and toe socks.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by vtcodger (957785)
          ***Perhaps, but more importantly, it is not symmetric and has been known to attract left or right socks more strongly than the other. This explains the dryer effect.***

          Doesn't the drier affect have to do with putting two pairs of black socks into the washer and getting three black socks and one blue one out of the drier? Perhaps you were thinking of the DB25 affect where when reassembling an elderly computer system you will -- with 50% probability -- find that when attempting to make the last connectio

    • by onion2k (203094) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @12:38PM (#22168688) Homepage
      I've got one here on my desk. Curiously it looks, and smells, just like an orange.

      Tastes like an orange too.

      Actually, come to think of it, I think this might be an orange.
    • by Hognoxious (631665) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @12:52PM (#22168896) Homepage Journal
      Search in reverse order - you'll find it quicker that way.
      • by sammy baby (14909)
        Hee. Every time someone says "it's always in the last place you look," I feel a mild compulsion to ask why you'd keep looking if you had already found it. I think your formulation is funnier. :)
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 24, 2008 @12:56PM (#22168962)

      Yep ... Were all doomed!

      From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higgs_boson_(fiction) [wikipedia.org] "In the science fantasy series Lexx, one character points out that although all-out nuclear war sometimes destroys all life on planets as advanced as Earth, it is much more common for such planets to be obliterated by physicists attempting to determine the precise mass of the Higgs boson particle, since the moment the mass is known the planet will instantly collapse into a nugget of super-dense matter "roughly the size of a pea."

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        And why exactly would the world collapse to the size of your package?
    • by Splab (574204)
      yeah, it always turns up the last place you look.
  • by moogied (1175879) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @12:31PM (#22168534)
  • From the article, this struck me as odd:

    "Physicists suspect that empty space is permeated by a Higgs field, which is a bit like an electric field. And just as an electric field consists of particles called photons, the Higgs field consists of particles called Higgs bosons. The Higgs field drags on particles to give them mass, akin to molasses tugging on a spoon."

    Electric fields consist of photons? If that's not a typo of some kind, would someone care to explain?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by TrebleJunkie (208060)
      Ah.. Found my own answer.

      "In physics, the photon is the elementary particle responsible for electromagnetic phenomena. It is the carrier of electromagnetic radiation of all wavelengths, including gamma rays, X-rays, ultraviolet light, visible light, infrared light, microwaves, and radio waves."

      For some reason, my feeble mind never really made that connection.
      • "In physics, the photon is the elementary particle responsible for electromagnetic phenomena. It is the carrier of electromagnetic radiation of all wavelengths, including gamma rays, X-rays, ultraviolet light, visible light, infrared light, microwaves, and radio waves."
        It took me a while to wrap my head around that as a kid. "Wait, photons are light. How can they be associated with radio, you hear that!" Who needs drugs to break your mind when you have science instead?
        • by Mr2cents (323101)

          Who needs drugs to break your mind when you have science instead?
          I wouldn't be surprised if there are know cases of spontaneous head explosions caused by thinking about quantum mechanics for too long..
      • by ceoyoyo (59147)
        Kinda. It also transmits the electromagnetic charge. So if you have a charged particle (say an electron) it's constantly spewing out virtual photons that "tell" other charged particles that there's an electron around and they should either be attracted or repelled.

        If there's enough available energy around you can get some real photons that carry away energy that we observe as electromagnetic radiation.
    • by clonan (64380)
      The particle that transmits electromagnetic radiation either through light or EM field is the phonton.

      The electron carries a charge and creates the photon to transmit the field.
      • by David Gould (4938)

        The particle that transmits electromagnetic radiation either through light or EM field is the phonton.
        On first scan, I saw your "either" as "ether". Makes sense given the context. Now I just have to figure out what a "phonton" is.

    • by tylersoze (789256) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @12:40PM (#22168724)
      Yep that is correct. The photon is the carrier of the electromagnetic force, and light is an electromagnetic wave. The force felt between charged particles is caused by the exchange of virtual photons. All fields can be thought of as made of quantized particles. In the case of the fundamental forces: Electromagnetism - photons, Gravity - graviton (theorized), Weak Force - W and Z bosons, Strong Force - 8 colored gluons.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by tylersoze (789256)
        Another interesting thing is that the range of the force is determined by the mass of its carrier particles. Gravity and Electromagnetism have infinite range, whereas the Weak Force has a very small range due to the mass of the W and Z (which is suppose to come the Higgs). Now gluons are actually supposed to be massless, but the Strong Force is range is still limited due to the fact the gluons have color and change interact with themselves (it's the only force that gets *stronger* with distance) unlike the
        • by jfengel (409917)
          I've never been 100% clear on this. Is the weak force really infinite but just drops off to effectively-zero faster than electricity and gravity to?

          At least, that was the way I thought of it. You're saying (if I get it) that because the mediating particles are massful rather than massless, they're limited to sublight speeds. That is intriguing, but I don't quite follow the implications.

          I've never seen an equation for weak or strong interactions corresponding to the Maxwell or Newton/Einstein equations fo
          • by niklask (1073774) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @01:58PM (#22169992)

            I've never been 100% clear on this. Is the weak force really infinite but just drops off to effectively-zero faster than electricity and gravity to?
            Not really. Both electromagnetic and gravitational potentials have a simple 1/r dependence (because of massless mediating particles). If the mediating particle is massive then the potential is not as simple. Take the Yukawa potential which nicely describes pion exchange in the nucleus. It goes as exp(-mr)/r. Now, the Yukawa potential works for massive scalar fields. If the field is not scalar, like the W and Z bosons which are axial-vector bosons the potential is somewhat different, but the point is the same.

            I've never seen an equation for weak or strong interactions corresponding to the Maxwell or Newton/Einstein equations for electricity and gravity. Is that because we just don't model weak force as a field because the particles don't move fast enough?
            Electromagnetic and weak interactions has been unified for a long time now and are nicely described by a Lagrangian. The strong interaction is much more complicated because of the self-coupling of the mediating particles. But that's not to say there is no Lagrangian.
            • by sconeu (64226)
              I'm assuming a typo.

              Both electromagnetic and gravitational potentials have a simple 1/r dependence

              Should be 1/r^2.
            • by tylersoze (789256)
              I dunno, I kind of think of it like that, exp(-mr)/r just drops off a lot faster than 1/r, but it always does have a non-zero value, albeit effectively zero beyond a short range.

              I've always found it interesting that they could fairly accurately model the strong force at the nucleon level as pion exchange long before they theorized quarks with color as the "real" cause of nuclear binding. It's like the layers of an onion.
            • "I've never been 100% clear on this. Is the weak force really infinite but just drops off to effectively-zero faster than electricity and gravity to?"

              Not really.
              Yes really. The Yukawa potential is technically infinite ranged, in that it never drops to zero at any finite distance. But it decreases much faster than a 1/r potential, so it "effectively" drops off to zero after a few e-foldings.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by tubapro12 (896596)
        Don't forget, Really Really Strong Force is 64 brown grues.

        (At first glacne, I saw "grues" in place of your "gluons" for some reason).
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by lazyforker (957705)

      Electric fields consist of photons? If that's not a typo of some kind, would someone care to explain?

      I think the author forgot to specify that the electric field is time-varying (to have an associated magnetic field). The combination of the two varying fields propagates as an electromagnetic wave ie light (photons). Take a look at Maxwell's Equations: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maxwell's_equations [wikipedia.org]

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mdmkolbe (944892)
        Even static electric and/or magnetic fields are transmitted via photons. They behave slightly differently than "regular" photons and so are called "virtual" photons, but they are no less real than the photons you are familiar with. (Explaining it further would require going into quantum theory.)
    • No, you're dead on (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 24, 2008 @01:18PM (#22169350)

      Electric fields consist of photons?


      Since nobody's made this point yet, I'll put it out there.

      The statement is literally correct. Say you have a field in 3-space. That field itself is a 3-vector at every point in that space. When you make a fourier transform of the field, you get the field as a function of a momentum-like 3 vector. That vector is quantized, and the excitations of it are what we refer to as "photons". Add in special relativity, and you have the basics of quantum field theory.

      Try the first chapter of Lahiri and Pal's "A First Book of Quantum Field Theory". If you've had undergrad calculus, it shouldn't be that bad.
  • ...must be one of the ugliest plural forms I've recently encountered.
  • Yikes! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Rgb465 (325668) <gbk@insiUMLAUTghtbb.com minus punct> on Thursday January 24, 2008 @12:36PM (#22168634) Homepage
    Am I really the only one worried that determining the precise weight of the Higgs Boson will result in the Earth being crushed into a tiny particle the size of a pea?
  • The Higgs Boson (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheBearBear (1103771) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @12:37PM (#22168656)
    From Wiki...

    It is the only Standard Model particle not yet observed, but would help explain how otherwise
    massless elementary particles, still manage to construct mass in matter. In particular, the difference between the massless photon and the relatively massive W and Z bosons


    I always wondered what they use to measure the mass of elementary particles (not atoms). Can anyone explain? Also, maybe photons and higgs boson do have mass, but our instruments just aren't sensitive enough (kinda what the summary is saying)?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by clonan (64380)
      A lot of times they use charge. You can determine the charge of a particle and then place it in a known EM field and observe how quickly it reacts which gives you mass.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by marcosdumay (620877)

        If you put a particle with known velocity and electrical charge in a known magnetical field, it will run on a circle. You can calculate its mass by the circle's radius.

        At particle accelerators the magnetical field there is a given, since you need it to keep the particles inside the building while they are gaining speed.

    • Re:The Higgs Boson (Score:5, Informative)

      by dmitrybrant (1219820) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @12:43PM (#22168756) Homepage
      The mass of elementary particles is measured in units of energy (thank Albert Einstein for that connection), namely the electron-volt. Essentially, physicists look for the amount of energy it takes for a certain particle to come into existence. The photon does not have mass by definition, since it travels at the speed of light. The Higgs Boson, on the other hand, is expected to be quite massive.
      • by forand (530402)
        Sorry IAAPP and while you can equate energy with mass doing so without thought causes problems. The true equation is a conservation of a four vector length. The mass is measured in whatever units you want and often in particle physics we set the speed of light c=1 but mass and energy have different units which must be accounted for so masses are often quoted as MeV/c^2 or mega electron-volts divided by c^2.
    • by u-bend (1095729)
      I don't actually have an answer to any of your questions, I just wanted to say that while scanning your comment, my brain initially fabricated the phrase "massive W and Z bosoms."

      In cup size, I suppose that would be relatively massive.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I always wondered what they use to measure the mass of elementary particles (not atoms). Can anyone explain?

      Mass, energy, and momentum are related by a simple equation. If you know the momentum and the energy of a particle, then you can determine its mass.

      The momentum of a charged particle can be measured from the curvature of the particle's trajectory in a magnetic field.

      Energy can be determined through various means, which usually have to do with measuring the energy given off when the particle slows down when going through matter. For example, you could have a leaded glass block. As a fast-moving electron

    • Re:The Higgs Boson (Score:5, Informative)

      by mdmkolbe (944892) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @01:26PM (#22169448)

      Mostly it comes down to conservation of mass/energy. If we know we put 3 electrons and 20GeV of energy into the reaction chamber and got out 2 electrons, 10GeV and one unknown particle then that unknown particle must have a combined mass/energy to balance things out. (Remember that E=mc^2 so mass could have been converted to energy and vice vesa.)

      So how did they measure the mass of the first particle? As one of the sibling posts said, put an electrically charged particle into a static electric field and watch how fast the field moves the particle (this can be observed at the macroscopic scale using gas bubble chambers).

      Of course the above requires you to know the charge of the particle, so how do we measure the charge of an elementary particle? Simple! Fill the air with neutrally charged oil droplets and "spray" them with the particle. Some droplets will pick up 1 particle and some will pickup 2 or 3 or 4. Put them in a static electric field and measure how strong the field has to be to suspend the droplets against the force of gravity. You don't have to know which ones picked up how many particle, you just have to measure the difference in the required field strength. (See the Oil-drop experiment; note measuring the mass of oil droplets is hard be macroscopically possible.)

      So in summary: we measure particle mass in terms of the masses of other particles. The first particle's mass was measured in terms of it's electric charge. The first particle's electric charge was measured in terms of how much force it imparted on an oil droplet. The oil droplet's mass was measured relative to a lump of platinum-iridium sitting in Paris. That lump was just pointed to and called 1 kilogram.

      Any questions?

    • I always wondered what they use to measure the mass of elementary particles (not atoms). Can anyone explain?

      You always can have some information on the mass from the kinematics of a particular interaction. The mass of charged particles is usually measured by a mass spectrometer [wikipedia.org]. But one way of measuring the mass of photons (chargless for sure) is to observe how they travel through a vacuum. The theory says that they are massless for one. But if they did have some small mass, they would travel slightly s
    • what else?
  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @12:44PM (#22168780)
    So they won't need their brand-spanking new accelerator after all!

    Maybe we could put it to good use as a theme park ride instead. Imaging all those superconducting magnets accelerating your cart up to 99.99% of the speed of light - what a ride that would be.

    With the relativistic effects, you might even be able to come out of the ride before you went in.

    The fact that it operates in a vacuum might be a problem ... have to think about that.

    • The fact that it operates in a vacuum might be a problem ... have to think about that.
      Maybe Lance Bass will spend millions to ride that ride. Heck, half of that would probably come from Paypal donations.

    • "With the relativistic effects, you might even be able to come out of the ride before you went in."

      Hardly, but it will be quite a long, long line just to get a disapointing short trip...

  • I wonder if there are antiparticles to these that have antimass? And what would enveloping mass with antimass fields enable you to do? What would happen to E=mc^2 if m is negative?

    Might make an interesting story, if someone's already written it please link..
    • by mdmkolbe (944892) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @01:33PM (#22169562)

      What would happen to E=mc^2 if m is negative?

      You get a negative energy.

      This is actually possible near the event horizon of a spinning blackhole. The zero energy state around a spinning blackhole is a particular orbit (I believe due to frame dragging, but I'm not positive), but a slower orbit must have lower energy which thus must be negative energy. The Penrose process uses this trick to extract energy from a blackhole.

    • Antiparticles don't have "antimass", they have normal mass. For charged particles, the antiparticle has the opposite charge. Uncharged hadrons (such as the neutron) have the opposite charge distribution (which I believe is usually/can only be detected by observing the magnetic field created by a spinning particle that has charge distributed through it). I'm not certain what property is different in other neutral particles; Wikipedia says that neutrinos and antineutrinos have opposite spins and that Z is its
  • "...the Higgs boson may already have been found in previous observations of the known universe." But what about in observations of the unknown universe, did they find anything there?
  • Correction (Score:2, Interesting)

    by VenomousGecko (659254)
    Shouldn't "A theorist at Michigan state" be "A theorist at Michigan State University"? Adds clarification, for me at least.
  • The Higgs they are talking about is not the one responsible for giving mass to the W and Z, ... the role of mass-giver falls to one of the heavier Higgses, which is still heavier than the LEP limit.

    Obviously, jeesh. Have you even looked at Higgs recently?
    "This little Higgsy went to market."

  • by MrNougat (927651) <ckratsch AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday January 24, 2008 @01:14PM (#22169294)
    What's this ... behind your ear ... ?

    Oh, look! It's a Higgs boson!
  • by Mike Van Pelt (32582) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @01:31PM (#22169510)
    This isn't the Higgs Boson you're looking for.

    You can go about your business.

    Move along.

  • by PinkyDead (862370) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @01:33PM (#22169558) Journal
    Clearly the Higgs Boson was contained within an SEP field.

    Which suggests that we are one step closer to actually creating an infinite improbability drive - the ramifications of which are... well I don't know, but they are at least big, possibly huge.
  • Maybe it's hiding behind a barn.
    • by rts008 (812749)
      Actually, I think Schrodinger's cat stole it and is playing with it in the box.
  • Do good ideas in HEP really take 16 months to get published/recognized? The paper linked from TFA is from September 2006 [arxiv.org].
  • A theorist at Michigan

    My, what an awesome discovery! Those chaps at Michigan sure are smart. Someone give them some more funding.

    State

    I mean, what a bunch of nonsense. It isn't even the *right* Higgs boson!

    I kid, I kid...
  • Nicholas Cage found it after breaking into Los Alamos and finding a codebook hidden in Richard Feynman's desk which contained a simple substitution cypher pointing to the particle accelerator at Cern, where he discovered a vast underground cavern containing piles of gold doubloons stolen from all the Spanish Galleons that supposedly "sunk" in the 1500s. Hidden inside one of the chests of gold was a stone tablet containing ancient cuneiforms which had been painstakingly DES encrypted by hand, and when decryp
  • There's a book, Flashforward, about how the search for the Higgs Boson quantum decoheres the entire planet, and people catch a glimpse of the future for themselves in the most probable location, like a decade in advance. Kind of a depressing story, but pretty damn interesting one all the same.

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