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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Finding the Higgs Boson

Two separate teams (ATLAS and CMShave found evidence of the elusive Higgs Boson, whose existence is theorized to explain why things have mass.  While this is not conclusive proof that the Higgs exists, the new data does make it much more likely that we will eventually confirm the existence of this subatomic particle.  

The Higgs Boson, if it exists, was expected to have a mass of about about 125 gigaelectronvolts (in particle physics, this is a measurement of both energy and mass; remember E = mc2), and both teams found a signal bump in exactly that range.  At this time, the chance of error (that the signal they found is not from the Higgs but is merely background noise) is only a few percent. That may seem definitive, but physicists won’t claim success unless they can lower the error rate to less than 0.0001%, something that may be done as more experiments are done.

As a refresher on the Higgs and on the Large Hadron Collider (where all the action is), I’m reposting this 2008 LHC rap:

For more details, here's an explanation by Phil Plait.