Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The Hunt for the Higgs Boson

By Stephen Luntz

Elisabetta Barberio spent the past two decades designing and carrying out experiments that helped to find the Higgs boson.

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When the 2013 Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded to Prof Peter Higgs and Prof Francois Englert it was widely seen to be also recognising the work of the 3000 scientists who collaborated to find the Higgs boson.

While the Nobel Prize for Peace can be given to an organisation, the science prizes cannot be shared between more than three people. The rule is something of an anachronism in the modern era, where many of the greatest discoveries involve large teams, but never more so than in the case of the Higgs boson. Along with the Moon landing it represents one of the great triumphs of collective science, and Prof Elisabetta Barberio was one of those who played a part.

Barberio says she was always interested in science as a child. “In Italy, physics is a compulsory part of the high school curriculum. I decided I liked it and would study it at university,” she says. After an undergraduate degree at the world’s oldest university, Bologna, she did her PhD at Siegen, Germany, on the electroweak interaction.

The discovery that electromagnetism and the weak nuclear force are two aspects of the same phenomenon, known as electroweak, was the first step towards proving that the four fundamental interactions of nature are united. Under the conditions we experience today, the two interactions behave as very different phenomena. However, the two merge at energies...

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