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Researchers Find Evidence of How Higgs Particle Imparts Mass 91

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the type-13-planet dept.
brindafella (702231) writes Physicists at CERN's Large Hadron Colider (LHC) ATLAS experiment have been looking through their data, and have found enough of the extremely rare "W boson" (proton-proton) collisions that they can now declare their results: They have found how the Higgs imparts mass to other particles. From the article: "'Only about one in 100 trillion proton-proton collisions would produce one of these events,' said Marc-André Pleier, a physicist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory who played a leadership role in the analysis of this result for the ATLAS collaboration. 'You need to observe many [collisions] to see if the production rate is above or on par with predictions,' Pleier said. 'We looked through billions of proton-proton collisions produced at the LHC for a signature of these events—decay products that allow us to infer like Sherlock Holmes what happened in the event.' The analysis efforts started two years ago and were carried out in particular by groups from Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, University of Michigan, and Technische Universität Dresden, Germany." Here's a pre-print of the paper.
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Researchers Find Evidence of How Higgs Particle Imparts Mass

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  • by ledow (319597) on Wednesday July 16, 2014 @02:01PM (#47468481) Homepage

    I think because of the scientific method, you come at it from the other direction.

    Someone did some maths. That suggests that it does give matter mass, and in doing so also predicts certain decays.

    Then you look for those decays. The chances of those decays occurring completely at random in the exact way your maths predict, in any other circumstance, are immensely small. Thus - if the decays are there - it's probable that you were right.

    It's like saying, we know there is a certain kind of Yeti in this forest. The maths tells us that its footsteps will look a certain way, walk so far, stay confined to this area, etc.. And when we and others go looking - eliminating all bias they can - we happen to find footsteps exactly like that, exactly where we expected, exactly how we expected.

    Now it doesn't mean it IS a Yeti. It doesn't mean it's even our kind of Yeti. It just means that - from complete assumption and logical consequences of that reasoning, we happen to find exactly what we'd expect if we were right. The chances of us being wrong but something SO SIMILAR happening in the exact right place is immensely tiny and - statistically, predictable enough that you can try to eliminate it as much as possible. This is all that "99.9999%" certainty junk that you see. For things to decay in that way, we're 99.9999% certain that it is because of the original assumption and not anything else along the way (including random chance).

    When you come at it, arse-backwards like that, the chances of you being wrong are small. Unless, of course, some other animal that's equally as unknown happens to completely coincidentally make the exact same footprints. In which case, that's STILL a win for maths/science. We found something out by poking around in the right places that we never knew before and - given the similarity - our maths can't have been far wrong in the first place. And we can spot the error, correct for it, and try to understand it.

    Nobody is seriously saying "this is EXACTLY what we thought". They are saying, when we test under the assumptions made, the evidence of reality appears to fit this best, subject to a certain accuracy. Other hypotheses that predict similar results in the same area either don't exist (which is suggestive that you're right but still has to be proven) or have to be proved wrong in order to get close to making such statements.

  • by Dorianny (1847922) on Wednesday July 16, 2014 @02:05PM (#47468503) Journal
    The Higgs field imparts mass on particles by exchanging virtual Higgs particles with them. A real Higgs particle surfaces when the field becomes excited, but you need a lot of energy for that.
  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday July 16, 2014 @02:16PM (#47468625)

    Best way I can explain it as I understand it:
    There are 1000 theories that explain mass. (I'm making up these numbers for demonstration purposes)
    Given the data they released 900 can no longer be possible.
    Of the remaining 100 theories, 90 require the higgs to provide that mass.
    In the 10 that don't include the higgs as the provider of mass, there are large data sets that mostly rule them out.
    For any of those 10 to work, there would have to be some pretty large coincidences.
    Again, made up the numbers... but you get the idea.

    It'd be like if someone stole your phone, and you found a guy with the same model phone and it's even got the same lock screen on it... and your password works on that phone. Are you 100% sure that's your phone? No... but you're pretty damned sure it is. Probably enough to punch him in the nose. :-)
    Particle physics will now and forever be a game of probabilities. We'll never know 100%, but we'll know 99.99999999999999999999999999999% for sure.

  • by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Wednesday July 16, 2014 @02:46PM (#47468929) Homepage

    "Researchers Find Evidence of How Higgs Particle Imparts Mass "

    Ummm, no. This paper is about an unrelated bit of physics, W-W scattering. It is orthogonal to the Higgs mechanism.

    Reading over the article I don't see any confusion on this point, so I'm looking at the author here on /.

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