Thursday, July 5, 2012

Higgs Boson- the God particle.

Lot of news is pouring about Higgs Boson- the God particle after European Center for Nuclear Research says its teams have discovered a new particle that is consistent with the Higgs boson -- a subatomic particle considered so significant to the understanding of the universe that it has been called the God particle.

So what's the Higgs boson?

The Higgs particle, and its associated field, were hypothesized back in the 1960s by British physicist Peter Higgs and others to fill a weird gap in the Standard Model, one of physics' most successful theories. The model as it stood had no mechanism to explain why some particles are massless (such as the photon, which is the quantum bit for light and other types of electromagnetic radiation), while other particles have varying degrees of mass (such as the W and Z bosons, which play a part in the weak nuclear force). By rights, all particles should be without mass and zipping around freely.

They suggested that all particles had no mass just after the Big Bang. As the Universe cooled and the temperature fell below a critical value, an invisible force field called the ‘Higgs field’ was formed together with the associated ‘Higgs boson’. The field prevails throughout the cosmos: any particles that interact with it are given a mass via the Higgs boson. The more they interact, the heavier they become, whereas particles that never interact are left with no mass at all.

This idea provided a satisfactory solution and fitted well with established theories and phenomena. The problem is that no one has ever observed the Higgs boson in an experiment to confirm the theory. Finding this particle would give an insight into why particles have certain mass, and help to develop subsequent physics. The technical problem is that we do not know the mass of the Higgs boson itself, which makes it more difficult to identify. Physicists have to look for it by systematically searching a range of mass within which it is predicted to exist. The yet unexplored range is accessible using the Large Hadron Collider, which will determine the existence of the Higgs boson. If it turns out that we cannot find it, this will leave the field wide open for physicists to develop a completely new theory to explain the origin of particle mass.

The international effort to find it has used tremendous amounts of energy to crash subatomic particles into one another in giant underground tracks, where they are steered by magnetic fields. Several different experiments have been done by independent teams to ensure accuracy.

It is believed that Fermilab's atom smasher, called the Tevatron, must have produced thousands of Higgs particles over its life before it was shut down last year after it was overshadowed by CERN's more powerful Large Hadron Collider.

Two independent teams at CERN, the physics lab in the Alps on the French-Swiss border, have now said that they have "observed" the new boson, or subatomic particle. The CERN teams did not outright say that they have discovered the Higgs boson itself, which has been the focus of a 40-plus year pursuit.

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