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First glimpse of the Higgs boson

By Jonathan Carroll

How to interpret CERN’s announcement.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

I can guarantee you that some time in the next two weeks, someone at a barbeque I’m attending will ask me about the Higgs boson. I don’t blame them – it’s interesting stuff – but it’s not “answer-in-30-words-or-less” stuff. If you’re that go-to person in your family or circle of friends, but you don’t necessarily have the gory details to respond with, hopefully I can give you the ammunition to fire back with: “Oh, the Higgs, yeah, I know about that.”

We’ve explained what the Higgs boson is, and why it’s important, before, so let’s skip ahead to the announcement from CERN on Tuesday night. The basic summary was that scientists found a peak in their signal from the ATLAS and CMS detectors consistent with a Standard Model Higgs boson of mass 125 giga electron volts (GeV) (or so). An electron volt, in this context, is a unit of energy, which thanks to Einstein’s E=mc2 is also a unit of mass. 1 GeV is one billion electron volts; the equivalent of 0.00000000016 Joules.

That peak wasn’t an easy thing to find. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has been slowly ramping up its luminosity (a measure of the amount of data it collects) and is now able to collect more data in a day than it did in all of 2010.

When two beams (each containing hundreds of billions of protons) travelling in opposite directions around the ring collide, about ten protons will interact,...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Jonathan Carroll 
is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Centre for the Subatomic Structure of Matter at the University of Adelaide. This article is reproduced from The Conversation (theconversation.edu.au).