By Phil Plait | July 4, 2012 3:10 am

Scientists using the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva have announced the discovery of a new subatomic particle to very high confidence that is consistent with what we expect the Higgs particle to look like.


This plot shows the discovery as seen in one of the LHC detectors. Hang tight, and I’ll explain it!

OK, the quick version. The Higgs particle is extremely important, because the Standard Model of particle physics – the basic idea of how all particles behave – predicts it exists and is what (indirectly) gives many other particles mass. In other words, the reason electrons, protons, and neutrons have mass is because of this Higgs beastie. Last year, the Guardian put up a nice article explaining this. A more technical discussion is on Discover Magazine’s Cosmic Variance blog from 2007. Sean Carroll has been live-blogging the announcement, and has lots of good info as well.

This particle is very hard to detect, because it doesn’t live long. Once it forms it decays in a burst of energy and other particles (think of them as shrapnel) extremely rapidly. The only way to make them is to smash other particles together at incredibly high energies, and look at the resulting collisions. If the Higgs exists, then it will decay and give off a characteristic bit of energy. The problem is, lots of things give off that much energy, so you have to see the Higgs signal on top of all that noise.

So, you have to collide particles over and over again, countless times, to build up that tiny signal from the Higgs decay. The more you do it, the bigger the signal gets, and the more confident you can be that the detection is real. I described all this in detail last December, when preliminary results from LHC were announced. I strongly urge you to read that first!

Back now? Good. So last year, an excess signal was seen at an energy around 125 GeV – that’s a unit of energy physicists use, and it also indicates the mass of the particle decaying. Because energy and mass are interchangeable at some level, detecting the energy emitted when a particle decays tells you its mass.

A proton has a mass of about 1 GeV, so this excess found is about 125 times that much. Last year’s results were tantalizing, but the strength of the signal only led to a confidence level of about 90% that it was real. Nice, but not enough to claim a discovery.

Today that all changed. Two different detectors at the LHC both independently found a strong signal between 125 and 126 GeV at about the 5 sigma level – that means they can claim a 99.9999% confidence this signal is real! This means they found a previously undiscovered particle which, as it happens, is within the range of mass the Standard Model predicts for the Higgs particle! That’s what that plot above shows: a bump in the energies detected, and it’s seen so strongly that it can be called a discovery.

That’s huge.

Now technically, that’s all the physicists can say: the particle is definitely there. But is it the Higgs? Well, to be fair, they can’t actually say that. But if it walks like a Higgs, looks like a Higgs, and quacks like a Higgs… yeah.

So there you have it. A new fundamental particle has been found, and if it’s the Higgs – which it really really really looks like it is – is the first step to our truly understanding such basic concepts as mass and gravity in the Universe. It’s technical, and it’s complicated, and it’s the result of a vast amount of time, money, and effort by thousands upon thousands of people… but it’s real.

And it’s only the first step. There’s much work to be done. But oh, what a step. The Universe has once again done something wonderful — let us peek behind the curtain and get a glimpse of its inner workings.

Never forget this either: we humans did this. The discovery of this new particle, and the vast potential it has, was all because we’re curious. This huge machine, the LHC, was built solely because we wanted to find things out, and some people had the vision to fund it and build it. When we wish to explore, when we wish to see what’s over the next hill, wonders unfold before us.

All we have to do is want it enough.

Image credit: CERN

Related Posts:

Mass effect: Maybe Higgs, maybe not
Europe: Day 3 — CERN! The LHC!
Brian Cox calls ‘em like he sees ‘em
LHC smacks some phrotons (with video I took when I visited the LHC in 2008)

MORE ABOUT: Higgs, LHC, particles

Comments (175)

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  1. HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGGGGGGGGSSSSSSSS! Oh my sweet sweet 125GeV, high-five that five sigma. Me gusta máss la ciencia! “The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is … the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island … in the midst of … infinity, and… we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, … piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such …vistas of reality, and of our … position therein, that we shall … go … into the peace and safety of a new … age.” (To completely mangle and change the meaning of H.P. Lovecraft’s opening paragraph of Call of Cthulhu [http://www.dagonbytes.com/thelibrary/lovecraft/thecallofcthulhu.htm]

    But of course, I’m hesitant to become too excited. But I’m excited.

    ‎”We are entering the era of ‘Higgs’ measurements” !

    Okay, so, it’s a ~126.5 GeV :)

    [snark] But damn, that black hole that CERN created to find the Higgs Boson…sucks it had to destroy Earth [/snark]

    “Scientist: I’ve [discovered] a [particle] that gives [mass] to [existence].
    Anti-scientist: Uh, right, and what’s positive about that?
    Scientist: Well, it’s a [particle] that gives [mass] to [existance].
    Anti-scientist: Couldn’t it also give mass to [non-existence]?
    Scientist: This is a [particle]… for the world… to give [mass] to [existence].
    Anti-scientist: Well, great. Thanks for stopping by.
    Scientist: You just don’t get it here! Huhoooo!”
    (Brain Candy Version)

  2. For a change, the astronomy night shift has allowed me to watch the announcement in real-time. I am still amazed that they found this within my lifetime. Congrats to CERN and all those involved

  3. The actual amount Fizzygoo, is 125.3 +/- 0.6 GeV, so you are a little on the high side there :)

  4. Andreas H

    As I understand this, it is almost the best case scenario.

    It is close enough and with enough confidence to be called a Higgs but there is enough deviation from the SM (standard model) that needs to be closer observed and examinded that could hold important new physics. Also the energy of 126.5 GeV is very favorable for further examination for the LHC.

    I think there was some fear of a “nightmare” scenario if we would exactly find the SM Higgs and nothing else, essentially confirming theory but with no opportunity to get us any further. It looks like that has been avoided and in the coming years physicists can build upon this discovery and advance our understanding of the universe!

  5. drake

    This is a glorious day. To think it’ll happen in my lifetime.

  6. “Peter Higgs was pretty heavy!” hehe

  7. Gary Ansorge

    What I want to know is, does the Higgs entangle, or merely dance the twist?

    …and where’s the anti-higgs?

    Way cool results.

    GAry 7

  8. Robbert

    I consider myself to be a reasonably smart person, but most particle physics are beyond me. The thing I wonder though, is that they need to smash the atoms to bits to find the Higgs Boson. But it would have to have a ‘natural habitat’ so to speak. Where it exits to give gravity to the universe, or am I going about this the wrong way?
    Aside from that, great discovery, another notch for the Standard Model.
    Still no FTL drive though, real science is exiting but makes for some poor science fiction.

  9. Simon

    What’s with the kink around 135 GeV?

    Looks like that’s well outside the 2 sigma range on the graph as well.

  10. Great summary. It’s been an exciting morning that’s for sure!

  11. Laurie

    Great article – good explanation of the discovery and I love the metaphor of “peeking behind the curtain”! Yeah for human curiosity and for the scientists who persist in looking…

  12. Dessi

    The Higgs boson is related to gravity but it is not the particle that carries gravity itself. That particle, the graviton, is still not discovered. It is expected that the graviton is massless, similarly to the gluons (carriers of the strong nuclear) force and the photons (the carriers of the electromagnetic force, i.e. packages of light). The Higgs, in contrast, is very heavy.

    The Higgs is related to a concept called “symmetry breaking”. The Higgs boson helps explain why all particles are not the same – why some have mass and others do not. If symmetry was not broken moments after the Big Bang, the four fources of nature would still be one and the same force and the universe would be one homogeneous whole – no galaxies, no atoms, no people.

    So you can say that the Higgs field will be the culprit if it is experimentally confirmed that the gravitons exist and are massless. The masslessness of the gravitons will be determined by their interaction with the Higgs field.

  13. Matthias Flor

    Dummy question: Is there something else going on around 135 GeV, or is that not statistically significant?

  14. Jörg

    Please change the last sentence. It sounds like The Secret…

  15. Dadoo

    I’m always reading (and seeing on TV) that we hardly understand gravity, so I have to ask: will this help our understanding of gravity, at all? Will it get us any closer to the “unified theory of everything”? Will it finally allow us to say, for sure, whether string theory is right or wrong?

    It would be cool, if it shed some light on how to control gravity; we might actually get our flying cars. :-)

  16. Bigfoot

    So how come Higgs doesn’t stick to gluons?

  17. SkyGazer

    Congrats CERN!
    And thank you BA for NOT using “god particle” in your story.
    That´s a first today after reading all morning about it and watching tv/internet.

  18. Bigfoot

    Well, calling it the “god particle” is not entirely inappropriate. It is, after all, why Catholics have mass!

  19. Deist
  20. SkyGazer

    ok you win

  21. Gert

    Gary Ansorge:

    If the Higgs, as expected, is scalar, that means it has a spin of 0. If I don’t miss my guess, that means that it cannot have an anti-particle, since -0 = 0.

  22. Someguy


    Very few are “not smart enough” to study particle physics, most are just not interested enough.

    Anyway, I feel very excited, but at the same time and I am tormented by jealousy at the fact that I wasn’t a part of this! Oh, how I want to be physicist.

  23. Mitja

    Isn’t there another spike at a little over 135?

  24. @Robbert & @Dadoo: you misunderstand: the Higgs boson has *nothing* to do with gravity. What it gives to other particles is *mass*, not *weight*. The Higgs field this boson is the carrier of is why not all particles are massless like the photon, and thus unlike the photon do not zip across the universe at the speed of light.
    However, the Standard Model, of which the Higgs boson was the last theoretical element not discovered experimentally, says nothing about gravity. Indeed, it’s its one big weakness: it’s incompatible with our understanding of gravity as described by General Relativity.
    The Higgs boson has nothing to do with the force of gravity. It does something much more fundamental: it gives mass itself to other particles (and itself, by the way). That particles with mass attract each other through the force of gravity is a separate phenomenon.
    I’m not a scientist (just an engineer 😉 ), so my explanation may be a bit unrigorous in parts. But I believe it’s still essentially correct. Feel free to explain better if you can :) .

  25. Thameron

    ‘Vast potential’? Such as? A source of limitless clean energy perhaps? Affordable deep space travel maybe? Revolutionary medical techniques? Or is it something more along the lines of letting a tiny fragment of the population understand the workings of the universe a little bit better? Confirmation experiments are nice but they aren’t exactly revolutionary. Higgs predicted. Higgs found.

  26. TheBlackCat

    @ Gary Ansorge: I think, like most fundamental bosons, the Higgs boson is its own antiparticle, so there is no anti-Higgs boson.

    @ Robbert: You need to remember the first law of particle physics: “The basic building blocks of matter do not occur in nature.”

    And Bigfoot wins the thread.

  27. fernando

    is the higgs they found ‘up’ or ‘down’? haha, here we go again

  28. Cairnos

    @Thameron #17

    Well the same could have been said for all those guys who had predictions about how atoms were put together and interacted…. then part of that tiny fragment of the population understood the workings of the universe just enough better to think ” Doesn’t this mean that…if we could convert some of that mass…”, next thing, exeunt Hiroshima stage left and nuclear power plants. Sometimes that little bit better is quite enough, no?

    Still, does this mean I get my goddamn flying car at last 😉

  29. So,

    I remember Stephen Hawking placed a bet that CERN/LHC would never find the Higgs boson.

    Guess it seems he’s losing this one :-)

  30. Huh, what’s the deal up at 136-137 GeV? (Oooh, 137…)

  31. Heh – he already admitted losing his bet, what a great sport that man is:

  32. thereisnorule6

    if the protons mass is 1 and the Higgs mass is 125 and the proton contains a Higgs, how does that work?

  33. If it walks like a duck, spins like a duck, and quarks like a duck???

    @Robbert: because it has a very short lifetime. Think about it this way. Let’s say you’re at the target range, and the Lone Ranger is shooting at clay pidgins right nearby. Obviously you’ll want to know if he’s shooting silver bullets, right? But you can’t look at them while they’re still tied up in the gun. You can’t look at them after they’ve hit the pidgin. And they’re traveling too fast to study while they’re in flight. The only way you can see if they’re silver bullets is based on how the pidgin gets blown to pieces.

    The Higgs boson has a very short lifetime outside of other subatomic particles. The only way for us to study them is to smash those particles together and see the results of the decay. Based on how the Higgs decays (blows itself to pieces), we can infer its existence.

    Does that help?

    @Matt: that’s a little higher than the results predicted by the Tevatron folks earlier this week, so it’s probably a statistical anomaly. But, because this is SCIENCE!, CERN et al. will probably be exploring that in the near future.

  34. kurt_eh

    Very cool.

    Now, the outstanding question is, if Higgs got in a fight with Triangle Man, who would win? 😉

    (Gotta love TMBG)

    In all seriousness, it’s an outstanding achievement by CERN and the LHC!

  35. Jaja

    Sounds like another “tower of Babel” situation to me.

  36. Robbert

    @TheBlackCat: Noted!

    @Daniel Snyder: It does indeed and that was kind of what I thought. So it is stable when it is part of a bigger whole? But figuring that out is probably the next big step…

  37. Tony

    What happened to all the crackpot lawsuits that claimed the CERN facility would cause a black hole to form and swallow the earth?

  38. Michael

    @Mitja and Matt McIrvin: Yeah, there is a blip around there. It was even bigger last year, but it seems to be getting smaller with more data. Statistical flukes happen all the time and at the moment 135 GeV is nothing to get excited about. The bump at 125 GeV, on the other hand, got a lot bigger with more data indicating that it’s probably real. As usual, we have to wait for more data to be certain what’s happening.

    @thereisnorule6 and @Robbert both: Higgs particles have a very short lifetime wherever they are. Daniel’s analogies are helpful but, sadly, no analogy is perfect. This is a common conceptual problem people face. Higgs particles do not normally exist, even inside other subatomic particles. During a high energy collision sometimes some of the kinetic energy of the colliding particles is converted into a Higgs, which then decays into other particles after a short time.

    Daniel is correct that this process happens so quickly we can only see the debris left over afterwards, but it is incorrect to think of the debris as stuff which was originally present. It is created out of the kinetic energy of the original particles. We’re not used to the conversion between mass and kinetic energy in our daily lives so it takes some practice to build up intuition about it.

    People will occasionally talk about “virtual particles”, popping in and out of existence according Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. That is one (correct) way of reading the mathematics of quantum field theory, but it can be confusing for laymen (or sometimes physicists!). A better way, I think, of thinking about the whole business is in terms of fields. It is quantum _field_ theory after all. Prof. Matt Strassler has written quite a bit about the field theory perspective on particle physics for laymen. It might be helpful to peruse some of his writings: http://profmattstrassler.com/

    (I am in no way affiliated with Prof. Strassler. I’ve just found his writing to be clearer than usual on the subject.)

    @Tony: Well the LHC is still running so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. :)

  39. John Carter

    It already happened! We’re just on the event horizon and don’t realize time is passing faster everywhere else! LOL!

  40. TheBlackCat

    @ John Carter: Shhh! Don’t give them any ideas.

    btw, is that your real name?

  41. John Carter

    Can you post info on the people and groups who provided the funds to make the Collider possible?

    Those should get some credit for great vision and having the confidence to take a chance on such a project.

  42. Doug Little

    A great result. Enough variability in some decay channels that maybe hints at new physics and enough correlation with the SM to warrant the discovery of the/a Higgs and have the theory hold up. Particle physicists aren’t out of a job yet.

  43. James


    Now they can finally shut up about it!!

  44. “Can you post info on the people and groups who provided the funds to make the Collider possible?

    Those should get some credit for great vision and having the confidence to take a chance on such a project.”

    It is funded by the member states.

    The USA spends about one-and-one-half million dollars on the military—per minute. Nuff said.

  45. Mr. Moody

    Thank you for that explanation. Pretty understandable for somebody who never took physics in college (had a kick-ass physics teacher in high school, though).

    On CNN this morning there was a “panel” interviewing one of the head folks (if not THE head folk) in charge of CERN. He rattled off some stuff about the HB being a different particle, not meta and not energy, yada yada yada, and one of the talking heads asked rather crassly “why should we care about this?” Now, it was purely a matter of poorly wording the question, but to ask a guy whose entire professional career was spent trying to find something that particular question in that way did not help the interview. I did not get much information out of the rest.

  46. Ian

    If this indeed the Higgs, what could this mean for science in the next say…….5 years? Does this open the door to new technologies or ideas? How does this fit in with String theory and the multiverse?

  47. Larry

    Nice explanation, Phil. Not being a sub-atomic particle kind of guy, I haven’t been paying too much attention to this but it does show the scientific process at its best (and most expensive). This should prime the pump for new PhD theses for decades to come.

  48. Peter Davey

    On the BBC Radio 4 News, this morning, one commentator was pointing out that the discovery of the electron sparked the whole electronics revolution, and that the discovery of this particle might well do as much.

    To misquote: “The future is a different country, they will do things differently there.”

  49. Ablonso

    Mr.Moody: Surely he answered that question quickly and clearly. If he couldn’t, then he shouldn’t be one of the head people for the project, or at least shouldn’t have been sent to CNN to be the face of CERN. News networks are going to be crass and in their context it’s a reasonable question. They have millions of viewers thinking exactly the same thing.

  50. Timmy

    blah blah blah science. How long until I get my anti-gravity generator?

    Actually it is always cool to see long-held scientific theories finally proven (maybe “upheld” is a better word) years later by experimentation and observation.

  51. http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/assets/2012/07/04/sn-higgs-combined.jpg

    Bottommost ATLAS line: the four-point dip between 118 – 122 GeV has no effect at all on the fitted line. The four-point rise between 124 – 128 GeV is the Higgs. Two additional points leading the Higgs peak go down as the fitted line goes up.

    To borrow an economics phrase, “cautious optimism.”

  52. ceramicfundamentalist

    @ #34 peter: we may be witnessing the birth of “bosonics”

  53. TheBlackCat

    @ ceramicfundamentalist: We already have that. The earliest versions were called “lenses” and “spears” 😉 (gravity and light are both bosons). I think it would be better to call its “Higgsonics”

  54. Happy Birthday US
    Happy Birthday Higgs

  55. Glenn

    very exciting times!

  56. Mike Saunders

    if the protons mass is 1 and the Higgs mass is 125 and the proton contains a Higgs, how does that work?

    A proton doesn’t ‘contain’ a Higgs Boson. The proton just resides inside the Higgs field. The Boson is just the manifestation of the field as a particle.

  57. Tara Li

    Ok. The Higgs generates mass – mass generates gravity – do we have our TOE yet, or is this just more tidying up while we wait for someone to come up with a new breakthrough?

  58. Tim Gaede

    The SSC would have been capable of collision energies nearly triple that of the LHC, which is still not running at full power.

    Is there any indication as to what type of discoveries the SSC could have made that the LHC could not?

  59. MNP

    Chance for cool sci-fi stuff once again defeated. Oh well, at least we learned something.

    Still, why does it do what it does?

  60. Steve D

    Wonder why Daniel Snyder (22) writes pidgin English. Most shooters I know shoot clay pigeons. PETA gets real upset if you use live ones. They may get upset enough to stop running those ads, and nobody wants that.

    Otherwise, it’s a good analogy.

    I hope when they serve up Nobels, the prize goes to CERN as a whole and not one or two players. But give one to Higgs.

  61. Doug Little

    Ok. The Higgs generates mass – mass generates gravity, do we have our TOE yet

    No, the standard model has nothing to say about gravity. It describes the fundamental particles their properties and the interactions between them via the electromagnetic, weak and strong nuclear forces.

  62. Fleegman

    Apologies in advance for the stupid question, but if the red line on the plot is the “best fit” for the black datapoints, why is it so smooth until it gets to the expected Higgs energy range?

    It just seems that any other variance from the Bkg Fit Component is ignored in all other regions. How can the fit be perfectly smooth until we get to the lovely spike indicating Higgs?

  63. GlaDOS

    This was a triumph.
    I’m making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS.
    It’s hard to overstate my satisfaction.

  64. DanM

    The Nobel is never shared by more than three recipients for any one prize. So, no they won’t be giving it to the entire CERN team (a cast of thousands). But Peter Higgs is still alive (in his 80’s) and has yet to win a Nobel. Maybe this is his moment? They do not award Nobel Prizes posthumously, so some alacrity would be in order.

  65. SkyGazer

    And of course there is a loser too.
    In this case no one less than Stephen Hawkins…


  66. Catman

    I thought “god particle” was short for “goddam particle” …

  67. Matt

    What about that bump at 135 GeV?! It’s nearly as big as the “higgs” bump at 125.

  68. SkyGazer

    @78. Catman
    Correct, but the publisher changed it.

  69. heng

    yeah, i’m with @mitja here:whats with the step at roughly 137?
    that looks like 2-3sigma, easily… if you take the whole downstep even more so…
    if not for the other bump, that would have me hoping for more measurements.

  70. Old Geezer

    All of this is meaningless as John Boehner has promised to introduce legislation in the next session of Congress to repeal it.

  71. MeganMcC

    The Seminar has been uploaded at the CERN website with slides here for anyone who may have missed it;


  72. Magoonski

    So now we have the answer? We know what the universe is made of completely and fully? That’s so boring. If they didn’t discover the Higgs (or something that is so much like the Higgs that we’ll just call it that), then we would have so many new and exciting questions to answer, restructure the entirety of physics itself! The mystery is over, it was all midichlorians.

  73. Ricardo

    So, how long until the first quack misuse the Higg’s hype to sell his brand new miraculous bosonic therapy? Or better yet, how long until some crackpot misappropriate this as proof for his favorite revolutionary theory/belief system? (come on, you know it’s going to happen :-))

  74. Laurie

    Higgs is the first celebrity particle!

    Wait, how will Sheldon Cooper take the news? Will they have to rewrite the season premiere of the Big Bang Theory? Stay Tuned…

    I’m shooting a fireworks show tonight. I’ll be seeing particle collisions and showers of elementary particles. I’ll send one up for Phil (who explains stuff good) and another for everyone at CERN.

  75. SkyGazer

    @86. Ricardo
    Something like homeopathic light nanowater that sucks up by means of quantum mechanics those bosons that make you heavy?
    I give it a week.

  76. Nick L

    Nerts. I was hoping that they were going to psych out everyone and announce they had found preliminary evidence regarding the existence of the graviton.

    Joking aside, here’s hoping that the Higgs turns out to have more variety than Baskin-Robbins as a reminder that while we have one answer, it doesn’t mean that we have all the answers.

  77. Catman

    @85 Maghoonski – We have an answer to ONE of the problems, there are plenty others. The Truth is Out There – or maybe In Here :-)

  78. Valdis Kletnieks

    What will be *really* interesting is if it turns out there’s a 125Gev particule, but it’s *not* the Higgs. (or if it turns out to be *one of* the Higgs – at least 1 supersymmetry theory predicts 5 very similar but distinct ones).

    Take a count of the data reduction that had to be done – literally billions of collisions, and in the end, one of the slides basically said “we expected 30 candidate events and we found 34” or something like that.

    I wonder what sort of experiment they can do to verify that this particle is indeed the mediator for mass. How would the mediation make it act differently than if it was just some random unexplained-by-the-Standard-Model muon-ish particle? (Though if it turned out to be just a random superheavy muon, *that* would be major news too.)

  79. lqd

    @DanM #76

    The Red Cross, UN, and IAEA have all won Nobel Prizes, so apparently the prizes can be given to organizations as well as people. Still, that might be for the Peace Prize only, I don’t think any science Nobels have been given to organizations.

  80. Steve

    92 comments, yet no one has pointed out that the Higgs mechanism is *not* actually responsible for giving protons and neutrons their mass!! Incredible!!

    The Higgs mechanism supplies mass to the quarks, and the W & Z bosons. Weirdly, although the quarks are the building blocks of protons and neutrons, various screening mechanisms mean that these are not merely the sum of the masses of the quarks and gluons. Rather, their mass can be entirely explained by QCD without reference to the Higgs mechanism.

    This does not make today’s announcement any less exciting, but it is always a good idea to be as correct as possible :)

    Relevant link —> http://arxiv.org/abs/1206.7114

  81. Dr.Sid

    Bump on the graph ? That’s it ? No FTL drive ? No lightsaber ?

  82. George Martin

    For those who might be interested, Sean Carroll of Cosmic Variance did live blogging from Cern of the event. (Cosmic Variance is a Discover Magazine blog.) Towards the end of the account he says:

    10:40 am (Sean): Personal editorializing by me: we’ve found the Higgs, or at least a Higgs. Still can’t be sure that it’s just the vanilla Standard Model Higgs. The discrepancies aren’t quite strong enough to be sure that they really represent beyond-Standard-Model physics… but it’s a strong possibility.

    (The “a” emphasis was Sean’s.)

    For example:

    9:45 am (Sean): And now for decays into a tau lepton and an anti-tau. Another tough one to pick out over the background. Joe is surprised that they did as well as they did.

    And … no sign of a Higgs in that channel! Very small significance, but potentially a very intriguing result. Could mean that we have something Higgs-like, but not precisely the Standard Model Higgs.

    9:46 am (John): First surprise – where are the tau pair decays?

    9:48 am (Sean): Total significance: 4.9 sigma. It went down because of the absence of tau decays. But that could secretly be good news!

  83. Very cool.

    They won’t yet say for certain this is Higgs, but is there another possibility? Is there some theory that predicts something different at 125 GeV? What are the possibilities for it not being Higgs? If it’s not, does that mess up the standard model?

    Also, what is the next step? Does having a predicted particle show up bring us closer to understanding the parts of the universe that we don’t understand yet? If we still don’t have a model that joins in all together does this help with that?

    Finally, is there some practical use that will eventually trickle down from this? Will knowing this make it easier to do something or possible to do something we couldn’t before?

  84. Brian Too

    @ 83. Old Geezer,


    Of course political weirdness does not have to originate at the national level. Perhaps Texas, S. Carolina or Tennessee could do something to make us smile?

  85. Muz

    This is fantastic news!.
    In the words of the immortal Douglas Adams “Well that about wraps it up for God” and not before time pardon the pun.

  86. Robert Komara

    Phil! What is up with that 3.5 ish Sigma shoulder/signal at about 136.5 GeV? It looks significant. Is it another possible Boson or are we seeing something else?

  87. Robert Komara

    Phil! What is up with that 3.5 ish Sigma shoulder/signal at about 136.5 GeV? It looks significant. Is it another possible Boson or are we seeing something else? It seems to be consistent between the 7 TeV and 8 TeV data sets.

  88. Ricardo

    @88. SkyGazer
    … aaand it has been done already, not surprisingly by Mike Adams. Search for “conscious cosmology” on NaturalNews.com. Those guys never cease to amaze me…

  89. ZZMike

    (Sorry about the eMail – I didn’t notice the comment link.)

    OK, they’re almost certain they’ve found it. And it gives other
    particles mass.

    So are we anywhere nearer understanding how it does that, and what makes
    inertia “work”?

    Similarly for the graviton, which is said to enable gravitational
    attraction. Nice, but how?

    (Maybe the principles are hard to understand because we (most of us)
    still think of “particles” as little BBs. But it may be harder to
    part with that concept than try to understand massless spin-2 fields.)

    As an aside, I really wish media commentators would stop referring to it as the “God particle”. (So does Higgs, I’m told.)

    PS: If it is definitely confirmed, does Peter Higgs get a royalty? If the Particle is such a Really Big Deal, he ought to start preparing his Nobel acceptance speech. Not that he needs another medal.

    Peter Davey (#56) : “On the BBC Radio 4 News, this morning, one commentator was pointing out that the discovery of the electron sparked the whole electronics revolution, and that the discovery of this particle might well do as much.”

    The difference is that we find electrons everywhere. It’s hard to find an electron-free place. We’ve been looking for the HB for years, and not until we trained terawatts at the problem, and rounded up about 6000 physicists. It’s not likely that we’ll be grinding out Higgs bosons by the bucketful any time soon.

    Still, in physics, “any time soon” is just a relative concept.

  90. Michael Simmons

    We have known about fusion for a long time now but we are very far from any practical use (other than bombs). I expect as we push to high and high energy levels the practical uses (other than the feel good feeling that we understand the universe better or better bombs) will drop. At some point politics will step in and demand practical uses for the return on investment.

    Also whats up with AMS-02, shouldn’t we be getting publish results from it soon.

  91. John Titor

    This must be stopped!

  92. jimbo

    how accurate is the “condensation” analogy? a massless particle will attract higgs field lines around it and acquire mass. OK but however if we now add a second identical particle really close to the first one, the finite availability of the field lines would mean that the two particles now have less mass? or are there infinities involved?

  93. realta fuar

    Only one obvious mistake in this post (implying the SM has anything to say about gravity) which was nicely cleaned up, as usual, in the comments. Not bad, considering.

  94. Robbert

    @ Michael #46
    That link made it a lot clearer for me what is going on. Saying that I understand it would be a gross overstatement, lets say that the blurry image I had in my mind had a single zoom and enhance pass over it CSI style. Still blurry and useless, but getting closer.

  95. Cheers BA and great to see the discovery graph here. :-)

    In today’s newspaper in South Australia – The Advertiser 5th of July 2012 – we had a few interesting items that make for some strange juxtapositions with paradoxical implications for who and where we are in this 21st century Common Era.

    On page 6 we had a short single column of writing noting the discovery of the Higgs boson and on page 25 we had a two-thirds page article “Big bang for boffins by Clare Peddie which went into much more depth about it and was actually pretty good.

    On page 32 of the same paper we had a two paragraph tiny item and thumbnail photo of Herbig-Haro 110; the same one the BA recently discussed here in so much greater depth.

    On pages 32-33 was the US government “Nation Ocean Service” [sic] (NOAA I think they meant?) denying that mermaids – & zombies – were actually real following a TV “doco” show that made wild claims to the opposite effect – at least mermaids~wise. Complete with large illustrations spanning most of two pages of people in costumes both mermaid and zombies.

    So here we are in 2012.

    Unpeeling the most esoteric layers of sub-atomic particle physics and gaining amazing new insights into the nature of our cosmos. Confirming lifetimes~worth of hard brain thoughts and calculations and astoundingly precise observations using technological, engineeering wonders most folks cannot even start to comprehend.

    Witnessing the formation of new worlds hundreds of light years away and shrouded in obscuring gas and dust, capturing baby photos of other planetary systems in their earliest days / eons.

    And people having to be officially told by the US government or agencies thereof that mermaids ain’t real after watching some nonsense on TV.

  96. Nigel Depledge

    Ceramicfundamentalist (61) said:

    @ #34 peter: we may be witnessing the birth of “bosonics”

    No, that has already happened.

    Photons are bosons, and we use these in fibre-optics all over the place now.

  97. Mitja

    Thank you Michael! I hope it’s more than statistical fluke :) @Matt, @heng read all of Michael’s comments!

  98. TheBlackCat

    @ Nigel Depledge: As I mentioned, so are gravitrons, and we have been throwing and launching stuff all over the place for much longer 😉

  99. ctj

    what, over 100 comments and not a single reference to the LHC rap?

    (i don’t know how to put the link in this comment, so i put it in my name)

  100. As a statistician, I have to react to this 99.9999% nonsense: that the probability of observing the phenomenon under the null hypothesis is equal to 0.000001 does not mean (I repeat, does not mean) that the alternative hypothesis is true with probability 1-0.000001 = .999999 !!! This is the usual p-value fallacy, repeated over and over in the articles and forums about Higgs. The 0.000001 figure simply implies that the null hypothesis is quite unlikely wrt the observations, but nothing quantifiable in such a simplistic transform.

  101. Michael Simmons

    Reading http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proton 99% of the mass of a proton comes for the mass of the energy within it (e=mc2) and not from the mass of the quarks inside it.
    I assume the same can be said for neutrons and hence pretty much all of the mass we experience in the macroscopic world is the mass of the energy contained with in it.
    Is that correct?

    My understanding of the higgs is that its like putting no mass table tennis balls into flour. With some tennis balls ( wet ones say) a lot of flour gets stuck on them. With others (dry tennis balls) very little sticks. The mass of the flour on the ball is what gives the ball its mass.
    The higgs doesn’t explain what mass is, only how particles end up having it.
    It doesn’t explain why mass has inertia or gravitational attractive force.
    Is this correct?

  102. Wzrd1

    @ 83. Old Geezer, that TRAITOR! He was supposed to introduce legislation to repeal gravity!

    @Messier Tidy Upper, The Philadelphia Inquirer has the Higgs story on the front page. Zip for zombies and mermaids, which I find encouraging.

  103. its just a illusion of knowledge- miss interpretation- The Higgs boson doesn’t explain gravitation. Mass and gravitation are connected together by EFE (weak field approximation). By association, the Higgs boson should also explain gravitation… It doesn’t.
    • The Higgs boson doesn’t explain spacetime curvature.
    • The Higgs boson doesn’t unify mass, gravitation, spacetime curvature and general relativity in a single 4D theory.
    • The Higgs Field is not proven. The Higgs boson requires a Higgs field to explain mass.

    • The estimated mass of the elusive higgs boson particle is in the ranges of 114 – 145 GeV( 125.3), even its discovery is occurred, its become only hypothetical particle, and one can not explain the mass of an electron 511 KeV from a so called god particle elusive higgs boson having mass of the ranges of 114 – 145 GeV. Mass of proton = 938.272046(21) MeV which is very very low than that of the estimated mass of the elusive higgs boson particle is in the ranges of 114 – 145 GeV.how can it is possible the higgs boson is building block of a proton and electron? It is just searching of sun into the moon or is it possible to find out the the elusive massive higgs boson particle from the collision of having very very lower mass of protons in the CERN lab?- by dr. rk dhaugoda of nepal –

  104. Nigel Depledge

    @ TBC (108) –
    You are right, but can we really call mediaevel warfare “gravitonics”?

  105. Doug Little

    TheBlackCat @108,

    There are theories out there that don’t require the graviton to mediate the force of gravity. Instead gravity is an emergent property of a finer underlying dynamical system. Gravity has always been the red headed step child when it comes to forces, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is mediated by something else other than a boson. You can read about it here.. Pretty interesting stuff and a whole different way to look at gravity.

  106. SkyGazer

    @100. Ricardo
    Damn, that was a horrific read. Another site to blacklist for ever.

  107. Zman

    So… Assuming that the Higgs has been found, just what will the LHC be up to now/next?

  108. VinceRN

    So what is the time frame for figuring out if this is a standard model Higgs, or something Higgs like that supports some other model? Or can they find out for sure?

  109. mike burkhart

    This is realy big news. We may be near to understanding how the Universe formed in the second after the big bang this has always been a puzzel. For some reson the decay of these particles formed more particles then anti-particles no one knows why ,but now we may find the answer. The particules then mostly destroyed the anti-particles althro a few may still be around, this is why the universe is more matter then anti-matter. Can we please stop calling this the “God” particle, this Catholic beleves God is more then a particle. OK Theology lession over.

  110. if it’s the Higgs – which it really really really looks like it is – is the first step to our truly understanding such basic concepts as mass and gravity in the Universe.

    In what sense is this true? The Higgs as detected fits the Standard Model exactly. So isn’t this discovery just confirming a set of theories that have been in place since the 1970s? How is it a step toward something new?

  111. puppygod

    @John Titor (107)

    Don’t worry. The difference between S and C is crucial. In this attractor field they are cool.

  112. And I’m sure we’re all thinking of this clip from “The Big Bang Theory”:


  113. Entropy

    @ JW Mason

    The Higgs as detected may fit the SM, but there is certainly room for it not to. It decays to two photons twice as often as expected so far, with significance close to 3 standard deviations. It also just does not decay to taus, so far. If either of these hold up, we have a physics revolution. The photon result is most directly resolved by adding a new charged boson, the tau result would imply that leptons don’t get their masses from this Higgs, but from another source. If they go away with more data, this amounts to any of the numerous experiments confirming bizarre predictions of quantum mechanics or general relativity, only slightly more profound since it’s a fundamental component of nature. Using the Higgs as a probe, we can better learn the masses of the quarks and hopefully discern a pattern explaining the different particles’ values.

  114. phil e.

    Stevan Hawking bet on this too? A while ag, he placed another bet concerning the existence of black holes. He lost when Cygnus X9 was discovered and later nearly confirmed to be a black hole. Never would have thought him the betting man. I hear the next major hypothetical particle to be sought is the gravitron. Prehaps good ol steve will bet on that too. Or mabey the trydacheron. ( forgive my spelling)

  115. jimbo

    can someone comment on my question above (#109)? Would help conceptualise. To ask the question in different words, if there is a given finite energy density in space from the higgs field, then if enough massless particles are in close enough proximity they would use up the available energy and thus acquire smaller masses than their nominal expected masses. Is this what happens?

  116. A different spin. Particles aren’t things but relationships. The discovery adds information to tables of behavior, but the underlying mechanism of Reality is an information process, not the interaction of “particles”. What’s being done at CERN is like looking into the mandalbrot set trying to discover it’s cause. Very interesting work, I applaud the scientist’s perseverance and the taxpayers working to fund it.

  117. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Hippity Higgs, Hooray!

    So we have finally found that missing 2 % of our mass (as quark and gluon interaction in hadrons makes up the rest)?

    Just kidding, it is the Higgs field that starts the bootstrap mess that is mass anyway.

    The more interesting thing is that a standard 125-126 GeV Higgs, and it looks to be modulo noise in small statistics channels, have implications for cosmology.

    – It would mean a quasistable vacuum. So now we finally know how the universe ends!

    – It would predict supersymmetry above the weak scale. If LHC, or ILC, can test that it means string theory will be much more likely.

    Those two together could predict (an anthropic) multiverse by way of underlying dynamics (predicting the quasistability) and the landscape (predicted from string theory).

    @ Valdis Kletnieks:

    Can’t say I agree. It may be interesting for particle physicists, but they are nearly married to cosmologists now. And the standard Higgs is the most exciting particle out of an accelerator yet, see above.

    @ Georges Martin:

    I am partial to a standard Higgs, see above why. But I think Carroll is on a fishing expedition – the statistics of the individual small channels are way below the detection statistic for the Higgs. There is nothing there yet.

  118. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    #8, 25:

    “where’s the anti-higgs?”, “cannot have an anti-particle”.

    The Higgs is its own anti-particle. [Wikipedia]

    #10, 27, 79, 82. 101:

    “What’s with the kink”, “another spike”, “that bump”, “that step”, “shoulder”.

    A kink is no particle, but typical noise. That is why they need 5 sigma fits to particle signals.

    The noise including the kink has been decreasing while the signal has been increasing.


    Weight vs mass works. I would say that since Higgs gives just a few fundamental particles mass (some like the photon are zero mass), and it doesn’t give itself mass proportionally to energy, it doesn’t look like gravity at all.

    “the Standard Model, … it’s incompatible with our understanding of gravity as described by General Relativity.”

    You can quantize GR just fine, you get gravitons out of it too.

    It’s just that GR theory is effective, and it and its quantization breaks down for high energies.

  119. Torbjörn Larsson, OM


    “How is it a step toward something new?”

    Already answered above, IIRC. The detection completes the important parts of the theory and its testing. They can now move on.

    BTW, you can’t “confirm” theories.

    The best you can do is to see if they work or not. If they do they get stronger. But I don’t think that is “confirmation” as much as testing. (You may describe it differently.)

    If they are the remaining theory predicting some phenomena, you can start to relax. It is probably a fact of nature that it works that way. But I don’t think that is “confirmation” as much as elimination of competition.

  120. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    @ Xian:

    “As a statistician, I have to react to this 99.9999% nonsense: that the probability of observing the phenomenon under the null hypothesis is equal to 0.000001 does not mean (I repeat, does not mean) that the alternative hypothesis is true with probability 1-0.000001 = .999999 !!! This is the usual p-value fallacy, repeated over and over in the articles and forums about Higgs. The 0.000001 figure simply implies that the null hypothesis is quite unlikely wrt the observations, but nothing quantifiable in such a simplistic transform.”

    That is formally true of course, but it is also a perverse way of claiming that we don’t know that there are real facts besides mathematical truths. If the theory is the only working alternative, it is either a fact or not. If it isn’t noise, we can as well attribute the remaining probability mass to the hypothesis. (Observation = due to effect.)

    Here particle physicists have gone out of their way to eliminate the look-elsewhere effect, which means adjusted p-value to abate data fishing along the energy range. So we can’t complain about p-values having a “fallacy”.

    There are several misunderstandings, some are indeed caused by fallacies, some are caused by bayesian inference substituting for its statistics (Jeffreys–Lindley paradox; where the problem is that bayesian inference is inferior), and so on. But I don’t think there is a generic “fallacy”, or we wouldn’t have look-elsewhere elimination (say), which the physicists learned the hard way when they learned how to do statistics.

  121. ZackB


    Reply to: anon-12hg372hjkhk@craigslist.org


    Hadron Collider. This is a large collider, used but only slightly. I used it for a while to detect the Higgs Boson, but still has plenty of life left for detecting other bosons or whatever you might want to use it for, accelerating ions, etc. Bring friends – the whole collider is heavy/lots of parts, I can help but it will take more than two of us to load it up. Please only reply if you can actually pick this up by this weekend – I am moving to Austin and my lease is up on Sunday, so it has to be out by then. Also, I have some end tables and chairs available.

  122. Gary Ansorge

    25. Gert


    31. TheBlackCat

    Also cool.

    The commenters here are what David Brin would call a “smart mob”. Phil, it is way cool to see another of Davids “predictions” be realized.

    Thanks to all, especially to those asking questions I may have been too intimidated to ask. Kudos.

    Gary 7

  123. Messier Tidy Upper

    @120. Wzrd1 :

    @Messier Tidy Upper, The Philadelphia Inquirer has the Higgs story on the front page. Zip for zombies and mermaids, which I find encouraging.

    Cheers. It is a bit. Maybe its just my local papers that are the problem? :-)

  124. Robert Komara

    @Torbjörn Larsson, Don’t be so quick to dismiss the bump at higher energies as noise. Even the CMS spokesperson, Joe Incandela, stated that they still had work to do on that shoulder at the seminar. Remember that last year, when CERN was hinting they had found the Higgs, the signal was only at 3 sigma. This bump/ shoulder/ spike/ what have you is at least three sigma. Maybe they have something wrong with their background calculations or maybe there is an unknown composite particle hiding there or maybe it is just noise, but it doesn’t hurt to think about it and speculate because we might be missing out on something cool if it is just thrown in the old noise dust bin and ignored.

  125. Joseph G

    Woohoo! Does this mean July 4th will be global Higgs Day? :)
    Seriously, this is exciting.
    I do have a question that may or may not have been answered already, though (I may have simply not understood the explanation) but does this evidence bring us any closer to unifying GR and quantum physics? I know that mass isn’t gravity, and the Higgs apparently mediates (but does not cause?) mass, but I’m still not clear on whether the “completion” of the standard model bring us closer to a theory of quantum gravity, or not?

    @143 Zack B: Win 😀

  126. Lawrence

    Scientists at CERN were asked how they knew it was the Higgs Boson. “Well”, said the scientist “It walks like a Higgs, spins like a Higgs, and Quarks like a Higgs, so it must be a Higgs!”

  127. Maybe Hawking bets against these things to motivate people to prove him wrong.

  128. Peter B

    Lawrence @ #148 said: “…spins like a Higgs…”

    Spins like a Higgs, eh?

    How about Australian Test cricketer Jim Higgs, who was a spin bowler?


  129. christina knight

    In spite of the exuberance over the recent discovery, it is not yet definitively clear what has been discovered. Some web sites and blogs have been honest enough to admit this uncomfortable truth (although they remain in the minority). There is no question that something interesting has been found, but I am still betting that it is not the Higgs. Instead I think it reveals that there is a greater complexity to the space-time structure than has been previously conceived of. In fact it may be the first indication of evidence of a hierarchical stratification of the space-time geometry (which provides the extra-dimensional structure that is suggested by string theory). christina anne knight

  130. JimB

    So… Now what? What do they do with the LHC now that it has made this discovery? Turn off the lights and go home? Or just keep looking at the Higgs until they run out of money? Are there other cutting edge experiments they can do with the LHC? Was it built just for this one discovery?

  131. christina knight

    Instead of the Higgs it is possible that what has been found is an interstratum, intermediate boson that would fit in with a model of hierarchically stratified space-time geometry. In this model space-time consists of three strata comprising 12 dimensions (9 space and 3 time). Because of the stratum dependent variation in the constant c, there is a stratum dependent variation in the effects special relativity has on the the motion of particles as they oscillate through the tri-stratum structure. At the energies produced at LHC the strata are compressed and there is a brief synchronization between the strata that produces (very briefly) an intermediate boson that almost immediately decays.

  132. T

    @Michael “Statistical flukes happen all the time and at the moment 135 GeV is nothing to get excited about. The bump at 125 GeV, on the other hand, got a lot bigger with more data indicating that it’s probably real.”

    Either the green band is a two sigma band or it is not. If it is a two sigma band for the given amount of data, then almost all of the data points other than the signal at 125GeV should be inside the green band. Since about half the data points are outside the green band, the green band cannot be a two sigma bound for the points, not even if the samples are non-Gaussian. To put it differently, since the bump at 137 GeV is about the same size as the one at 125 GeV and it is interpreted as a statistical fluke, then the bump at 125 GeV also has a high probability of being due to chance.

    Is there a paper that explains and justifies the statistical techniques used in the interpretation of this data? Because the way the result is presented right now, it makes no sense from a statistical point of view.

  133. Entropy

    @ JimB

    The LHC was justified by saying “at the very least, it will either find or exclude the Higgs.” That is not, however, all that the LHC can do. It will continue to investigate supersymmetry, for example, or other possible solutions to the hierarchy problem. The TeV scale is the most likely scale for new physics until the Grand Unification scale many orders of magnitude larger because it is the scale at which the electroweak force splits into electromagnetism and the weak force (meaning everything involved in the splitting is on this scale). Basically, if the LHC doesn’t find anything else, humans are very likely done finding new particles for the foreseeable future. It’s still important, though, to verify that there in fact isn’t anything else to find.

  134. W Sanders

    “I like big bosons
    and I cannot lie!
    You other physicists can’t deny!”

  135. Joseph G

    Regarding the question of what’s left for the LHC to do, the short answer seems to be a heck of a lot :) Based on what I’m reading, it looks like they’re preparing to do some runs at even higher energies in 2013. And there are plans in the works for a “Super LHC” upgrade after 2018 that could increase beam luminosity (not the same as energy, but important all the same for hunting for rare phenomena) by a factor of 10.
    So yeah, the LHC is just hitting its stride. “Look at me still talking when there’s science to do” 😉

  136. Joseph G

    @155 W Sanders: Heh, I needed that today 😀

  137. Messier Tidy Upper

    @145. Messier Tidy Upper :

    @120. Wzrd1 : “@Messier Tidy Upper, The Philadelphia Inquirer has the Higgs story on the front page. Zip for zombies and mermaids, which I find encouraging.”
    Cheers. It is a bit. Maybe its just my local papers that are the problem? -MTU

    Then again .. there is the fact (not merely coverage of it) that, yeah on the same day as we discovered the Higgs boson – or a particle consistent with it – a US govt agency had to officially deny mermaids existed. Which is where I came in with #113. :-(

    We’re a paradoxical lot us humans.
    Capable of such extremes of smartness and stupidity.

    @156. W Sanders : LOL. Nice one. Cheers! :-)

    @ 150. Peter B : Cheers for that ref too – love the way you think and with Higgs being a cricketer who I don’t recall and I’m a huge cricket buff, yeah, bonus! Thanks again. :-)

  138. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    The bump was probably just a Higgup.

  139. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    Did we just discover the beginning…..or the end?

  140. Peter B

    Charles J. Slavis, Jr. said @ #164: “The bump was probably just a Higgup.”

    Okay, I’ll pay that.

    *golf applause*

  141. simionovthehutch

    I am passionate by sience from a life-time… I swalow hours and hours reading about it. I manage to aquire a good level of knowledge of relativity theory… and about other things.(however i am and will be a dilletant only). But in this case i feel helpless :( Some information are missing to me. The basics of nuclear fisics i suppose…:( And its hard to find a peer-to-peer book to take me from Max Planck to Sir Higgs :( In the other hand studying ALL things to A to Z is quite annoying(not counting i cant understand a thing! if its too tehnical/mathematicall). If such a book exist please mail me.

  142. simionovthehutch

    I figure out its quite a dillema for a sience publisher. To wich level of difficulty to stop .:) For example Science journal is low(and its comprehensive). By the way … I read them all from 1968 to 2008 .From 2008 by now i missed some… Has anyone observed that the level of difficulty is year by year lowest?. The Science Journal of 70’s-80’s was much more detailled…:D .

  143. Satan Claws

    For those who’re curious about the original slides, you can read them here: http://indico.cern.ch/event/197461

  144. Swami

    Is the Anti-Higgs the Dog Particle?


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