December 6, 2022



The Higgs boson turns 10. Why this particle might unlock new physics

5 min read

Ten years up to now, scientists launched the invention of the Higgs boson, which helps make clear why elementary particles (the smallest developing blocks of nature) have mass. For particle physicists, this was the highest of a decades-long and vastly powerful journey – and arguably an essential consequence throughout the historic previous of the sector. However this end moreover marked the beginning of a model new interval of experimental physics.

Within the earlier decade, measurements of the properties of the Higgs boson have confirmed the predictions of the usual mannequin of particle physics (our biggest thought for particles). Nevertheless it has moreover raised questions regarding the limitations of this model, akin as to whether or not there’s a additional elementary thought of nature.

Physicist Peter Higgs.
wikipedia, CC BY-SA

Physicist Peter Higgs predicted the Higgs boson in a sequence of papers between 1964 and 1966, as an inevitable consequence of the mechanism accountable for giving elementary particles mass. This concept suggests particle loads are a consequence of elementary particles interacting with a self-discipline, dubbed the Higgs self-discipline. And in accordance with the equivalent model, such a self-discipline should additionally give rise to a Higgs particle – meaning if the Higgs boson wasn’t there, this would possibly in the long run falsify the whole thought.

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Nevertheless it shortly grew to develop into clear that discovering this particle will be troublesome. When three theoretical physicists calculated the properties of a Higgs boson, they concluded with an apology. “We apologize to experimentalists for having no thought what’s the mass of the Higgs boson … and for not being positive of its couplings to different particles … For these causes, we don’t wish to encourage massive experimental searches for the Higgs boson.”

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It took until 1989 for the first experiment with a crucial probability of discovering the Higgs boson to begin its search. The thought was to smash particles together with such extreme vitality {{that a}} Higgs particle may be created in a 27km prolonged tunnel at Cern in Geneva, Switzerland – crucial electron-positron (a positron is form of equal to an electron nonetheless has reverse price) collider ever constructed. It ran for 11 years, nonetheless its most vitality turned out to be merely 5% too low to supply the Higgs boson.

In the meantime, most likely essentially the most daring American collider in historic previous, the Tevatron, had started taking information at Fermilab, close to Chicago. The Tevatron collided protons (which, along with neutrons, make up the atomic nucleus) and antiprotons (virtually equal to protons nonetheless with reverse price) with an vitality 5 situations better than what was achieved in Geneva – completely, enough to make the Higgs. However proton-antiproton collisions produce an entire lot of particles, making it much more sturdy to extract the signal from the data. In 2011, the Tevatron ceased operations – the Higgs boson escaped detection as soon as extra.

In 2010, the Giant Hadron Collider (LHC) began colliding protons with seven situations additional vitality than the Tevatron. Lastly, on July 4 2012, two neutral experiments at Cern had each collected enough information to declare the invention of the Higgs boson. Within the subsequent 12 months, Higgs and his collaborator François Englert gained the Nobel prize “for the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles”.

This almost sells it fast. With out the Higgs boson, all the theoretical framework describing particle physics at its smallest scales breaks apart. Elementary particles will be massless, there will be no atoms, no folks, no picture voltaic strategies, and no development throughout the universe.

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Hassle on the horizon

But the invention has raised new, elementary questions. Experiments at Cern have continued to probe the Higgs boson. Its properties not solely determine the loads of elementary particles, however moreover how safe they’re. Because it stands, the outcomes level out that our universe isn’t in a superbly secure state. As a substitute, similar to ice on the melting stage, the universe would possibly immediately bear a speedy “section transition”. However reasonably than going from a powerful to a liquid, like ice transitioning to water, this would possibly comprise crucially altering the loads – and the authorized pointers of nature throughout the universe.

The undeniable fact that the universe nonetheless seems safe suggests one factor could also be missing throughout the calculations – one factor we’ve not discovered however.

After a three-year hiatus for repairs and upgrades, collisions on the LHC are literally about to resume at an unprecedented vitality, virtually double that used to detect the Higgs boson. This would possibly help uncover missing particles that switch our universe away from the plain knife-edge between being safe and shortly current course of a piece transition.

The experiment would possibly help reply completely different questions, too. May the distinctive properties of the Higgs boson make it a portal to discovering darkish matter, the invisible substance making up plenty of the matter throughout the universe? Darkish matter simply isn’t charged. And the Higgs boson has a novel approach of interacting with uncharged matter.

The equivalent distinctive properties have made physicists question whether or not or not the Higgs boson gained’t be a elementary particle in any case. May there be a model new, unknown drive previous the other forces of nature – gravity, electromagnetism and the weak and highly effective nuclear forces? Maybe a drive that binds so far unknown particles proper right into a composite object we title the Higgs boson?

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Such theories might help to deal with the controversial outcomes of current measurements which suggest some particles don’t behave exactly the easiest way the same old model suggests they should. So studying the Higgs boson is essential to understanding whether or not or not there’s physics to be discovered previous the same old model.

Finally, the LHC will run into the equivalent draw back as a result of the Tevatron did. Proton collisions are messy and the vitality of their collisions will solely attain so far. Even though we’ve the whole arsenal of current particle physics – along with refined detectors, superior detection methods, and machine studying – at our disposal, there’s a prohibit to what the LHC can acquire.

A future high-energy collider, significantly designed to supply Higgs bosons, would enable us to precisely measure its most important properties, along with how the Higgs boson interacts with completely different Higgs bosons. This in flip would determine how the Higgs boson interacts with its private self-discipline. Finding out this interaction would possibly as a result of this truth help us probe the underlying course of which provides particles loads. Any disagreement between the theoretical prediction and a future measurement could be a crystal-clear signal that we’ve to invent mannequin new physics.

These measurements might have a profound impression that reaches far previous collider physics, guiding or constraining our understanding of the origin of darkish matter, the start of our universe – and, possibly, its last future.

This text by Martin Bauer, Affiliate Professor of Physics, Durham College, and Stephen Jones, Assistant Professor of Physics, Durham College is republished from The Dialog under a Artistic Commons license. Learn the unique article.

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