July 4th is the big day! And not only because of fireworks. It’s the day of a press conference at which it is widely anticipated that CERN (the giant European particle physics laboratory) will announce that the Higgs boson—that much-touted particle needed to make the Standard Model of Physics complete—has been found at the Large Hadron Collider. Or at least, that something that looks very much like it has been observed.
What’s the Higgs, you say? You’ve been living under a rock? Well, here is the best explanation we’ve seen of what the Higgs is and why it’s important, courtesy The Guardian’s Ian Sample:
Normally, we would not be writing anything suggesting the Higgs had been found until the proof was in our hot little hands. Rumors schrumors, we say—many a CERN press conference has ended in disappointment. But this morning, Kate Travis, an editor at ScienceNews, found a leaked CERN video in which a spokesperson all but announces the discovery of a new particle.
If the Higgs boson is the “God Particle,” then some particle physicists just turned polytheistic. To explain a recent experiment, they wonder if five Higgs bosons give our universe mass instead of one.
Last month, we discussed a curious experiment at the Tevatron particle accelerator at Fermilab near Chicago. Colliding protons and antiprotons, the Tevratron’s DZero group found more matter than antimatter.
This agrees well with common sense–if the Big Bang had really churned out equal amounts of matter and antimatter, the particles would have annihilated each other, and we wouldn’t be here. Unfortunately, the physics for this matter favoritism doesn’t make sense.
For one, it requires some fudging to fit the Standard Model, the organizing theory for particle physics. This might seem sad since we were so close to finishing the Standard Model up, with the Higgs filling the last cage in physicists’ particle zoo:
For those who believe the Standard Model is nearly complete, the discovery of the Higgs boson–a theoretical particle that imparts mass to all the other particles–would close out the final chapter. But for others who think that undiscovered physics properties exist–so-called new physics–a sequel to the Standard Model is needed. [Symmetry]