World Science Festival: What if Physicists Don't Find the Higgs Boson?

By Joseph Calamia | June 8, 2010 4:59 pm

bigbang“It’s as if we’re fish who have suddenly discovered we’re in water,” said Nobel Laureate Frank Wilczek about the Large Hadron Collider. “The LHC is the device for ruffling up the waters so that we can see waves.”

Wilczek took part in a panel discussion at a World Science Festival event on Saturday. The discussion revealed a bit more about how physicists will do the ruffling and what waves they expect to see. Besides once again allaying doomsday fears, the panel discussed each detector in the LHC and how it will help them find the “cosmic molasses” we’re swimming in–what gives everything in the universe mass.

Their prime suspect is, of course, the Higgs Boson–the last animal in the Standard Model theory’s particle zoo–but what happens if the LHC can’t find it?

“My experiment is looking at the primordial soup, and we know it exists,” said Jennifer Klay, who helped to develop the  detector for ALICE. “We have more job security.” By soup, she means quark-gluon plasma, a liquid-like substance made from proton and neutron innards.

The three-story-tall ALICE detector will first look at a smash-up between lead nuclei.  She explains that a nucleus behaves very much like a liquid drop: “We’re taking two liquid drops, colliding them at very high energies, and trying to boil them into a steam, essentially, of quarks and gluons.” She won’t see the quarks and gluons directly, but will watch the process as they “condense” into more familiar protons and neutrons.

The ATLAS and CMS detectors will hunt for the Higgs. In the same way that physicists can’t see quarks, they won’t directly observe Higgs. Instead, they will use the seven-story-tall ATLAS to pick through the particle spray from protons’ collisions in an attempt to sieve out four familiar particles: two electrons and two “fat” electron cousins called muons. Monica Dunford, an experimental high-energy particle physicist who helped bring the ATLAS detector into operation, calls this “a double needle in the haystack.”

Wilczek believes that experimenters will see these four particles in two to five years after the LHC is running at full speed.

“The worst scenario to me, is that the LHC completes the Standard Model and doesn’t do anything more,” Wilczek said. “That would be horrible. We would learn something very profound, but we would also learn that Nature is a tease.”

Dunford agreed with Wilczek, but added that, given the LHC’s $6 billion price tag, they better find something. “We can’t say, ‘Gosh, we didn’t find anything? How about 20 billion?”

Related Content:
80beats: LHC Beam Zooms Past 1 Trillion Electron Volts, Sets World Record
80beats: In 1 Week, the LHC Will Try to Earn the Title, “Big Bang Machine”
Discoblog: I Swear: Subatomic Particles Are Singing to Me!
Bad Astronomy: LHC smacks some protons!

  • Kozo Aoki

    Jun 12, 2010

    I am Kozo Aoki in Japan.
    I am not a member of the Physical Society of Japan.
    I live in the world of suffering. I am distressful fine.
    My english is not necessarily a good.

    My manuscript ( )
    was submitted to Annalen der Physik in 2009.
    Since 2008, I have been revised my paper to submit.

    But it was not suitable for publication. You may already know it.
    Many researchers around the world already know.

    If it is not wrong, I do wish we should reconsider the modern physics.

    (Feynman Diagram, Dirac sea,
    Parity violation in weak interaction (-> Parity Conservation?),
    Early universe, Kobayashi-Maskawa Theory, …)

    In a paper,
    ‘Effects from the charm scale in K+ -> pi+ nu nubar’,
    A.F. Falk, A Lewandowski, A.A. Petrov,
    Phys. Lett. B505, 107-112 (2001),

    I am thinking that a photon within K+ dcays nu nubar in my paper.

    How do you feel?

    If the world were born to photons(particle-antiparticle pairs) in light,
    we will return to photons.

    Sincerely yours,

    Kozo Aoki

  • Frank


    Very interesting. If I read your paper correctly, a photon is an up quark and an anti-up quark?

  • Kozo Aoki

    I think so. The broad, comprehensive, or extensive photon is my guess.
    It may be a cosmological photon.
    A photon is a pair of an up quark and an anti-up quark.
    A photon is a pair of an down quark and an anti-down quark.
    A photon is a pair of an neutrino and an anti-neutrino.
    A photon is a pair of an muonneutrino and an anti-muonneutrino.

  • Kozo Aoki

    If the world were born to photons(particle-antiparticle pairs) in light,
    we will return to photons.

    Kozo Aoki

  • Kozo Aoki

    At last, my paper is in Press.

    Open Journal of Microphysics

    About OJM
    -> Articles In Press

    Volume 1, Number1(May)
    Hypothesis of Conservation of Particle Number
    Kozo Aoki
    PDF (Size:740KB), PP.1-12

  • Deckard Cain

    I suspect they won’t find the boson higgs.
    There are other gentle and more explaining theories than the one in current trend.

    Take a look at:


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


Quirky, funny, and surprising science news from the edge of the known universe.

See More

Collapse bottom bar