Illustration courtesy CERN
There was once an idea. The idea became a theory. Men of Physics pursued a particle for evidence of the forces of nature. Would there be electrons and protons or quarks or photons? It is hard to wrap your mind around Theoretical Physics much less the significance of the Higgs boson discovery. One thing is for sure, man’s understanding of the fundamental forces of the universe just reached another milestone. The excitement is not just the discovery but sharing this momentous occasion in your lifetime.
Clearly, mankind has come together in a global effort both in intellect and resources to achieve this brilliant human advancement in science. Several years and $10 billion dollars later more than 3,000 scientists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland provided evidence of the Higgs boson. The idea began in the 1960’s by the British physicist Peter Higgs but required the largest scientific project ever constructed to solve the mystery that was beyond human understanding.
Higgs theory was that the universe has subatomic particles one of which provided a kind of energy field that gives matter its mass.
Since the Higgs boson was incredibly difficult to detect, the LHC was constructed to smash protons together to detect its fleeting presence. So after 800 trillion collisions, measurements of billion electron volts and “five sigma” standard for physics discovery, a new particle theory emerges.
“The Higgs mechanism is the thing that allows us to understand how the particles acquire mass,” said Joao Guimaraes da Costa, a physicist at Harvard University who is the Standard Model Convener at the LHC. “If there was no such mechanism, then everything would be massless.”
On July 4, 2012, Rolf Heuer, CERN director said “We have reached a milestone in our understanding of nature….. The discovery of a particle consistent with the Higgs boson opens the way to more detailed studies, requiring larger statistics, which will pin down the new particle’s properties, and is likely to shed light on other mysteries of our universe.”
Paul Nurse, president of Britain’s science academy The Royal Society, said: “This is a big day for science and for human achievement … Today moves us a step closer to a fuller understanding of the very stuff of which the universe is made.”
Prof Stephen Hawking told the BBC News, “This is an important result and should earn Peter Higgs the Nobel Prize.”
So not just congratulations to the scientist’s involved but to mankind for showing that nations can come together with imagination and determination to advance our understanding of the universe.