What began with one man in a patent office and the insight that mass and energy are the same has culminated at the largest particle collider ever built, employing 2400 full-time employees and 10,000 visiting scientists: CERN
has announced the discovery of the Higgs boson, a major vindication for the Standard Model of particle physics.
The announcement was marked by celebration
"everywhere that members of a curious species have dedicated their lives and fortunes to the search for their origins in a dark universe." (NYT, very poetic) 1,000 people waited overnight to be in the auditorium during the announcement; Peter Higgs
was given a standing ovation; the presenting scientists were interrupted again and again by waves of applause.
Scientists are carefully calling the new boson a "Higgs-like particle," stating that it's unclear yet whether the new boson behaves exactly as the hypothetical Higgs is predicted to behave. The Higgs is thought to be responsible for explaining why particles have mass
, by creating a Higgs field that is like, in the traditional metaphor that you will see in every article, a pool of molasses that causes mass to "stick" to other particles as they move through it. (Wired has some pretty good explanation
in their coverage of the announcement.)
Higgs himself appeared to weep
(photo at 12:10 p.m. in the liveblog).
However, the results are not exactly as predicted, and this is good news for physics. Notes the NYTimes, "There are hints, but only hints so far, that some of the channels are overproducing the Higgs while others might be underproducing, clues maybe that there is more than the Standard Model at work."
Physics for the sake of physics not your thing? How about the ROI for industry? For every euro invested by corporations, they got 3.5 euros in return from new technology, including silicon detectors.