Last year (spoilers!), CERN confirmed the discovery of the Higgs boson. Physicist-turned-filmmaker Mark Levinson has made a film about the search for the so-called God Particle. Particle Fever follows a group of scientists through the process of discovery and the construction of the mega-machine that discovered the Higgs, the Large Hadron Collider. Here's a trailer:
"We observe in our data clear signs of a new particle, at the level of 5 sigma, in the mass region around 126 GeV. The outstanding performance of the LHC and ATLAS and the huge efforts of many people have brought us to this exciting stage," said ATLAS experiment spokesperson Fabiola Gianotti, "but a little more time is needed to prepare these results for publication."
"The results are preliminary but the 5 sigma signal at around 125 GeV we're seeing is dramatic. This is indeed a new particle. We know it must be a boson and it's the heaviest boson ever found," said CMS experiment spokesperson Joe Incandela. "The implications are very significant and it is precisely for this reason that we must be extremely diligent in all of our studies and cross-checks."
The NY Times is reporting that a data bump "smells like the Higgs boson". The odor is emanating not from CERN in Europe but from Fermilab near Chicago, where their Tevatron still flings some pretty fast particles.
"Based on the current Tevatron data and results compiled through December 2011 by other experiments, this is the strongest hint of the existence of a Higgs boson," said the report, which will be presented on Wednesday by Wade Fisher of Michigan State University to a physics conference in La Thuile, Italy.
None of these results, either singly or collectively, are strong enough for scientists to claim victory. But the recent run of reports has encouraged them to think that the elusive particle, which is the key to mass and diversity in the universe, is within sight, perhaps as soon as this summer.
Update: The Tevatron is no longer flinging, having been shut down in 2011 due to budget cuts. Which makes the Higgs discovery a little bittersweet, to say the least. (thx, miles)
The teams are sworn to secrecy, but various physics blogs, and the canteens at Cern, are alive with talk of a possible sighting of the Higgs, and with a mass inline with what many physicists would expect.
Since the Higgs' nickname is the God particle, does this count as the Second Coming? (@gavinpurcell)
"We are now entering a very exciting phase in the hunt for the Higgs boson," Sharma said. "If the Higgs boson exists between 114-145 GeV, we should start seeing statistically significant excesses over estimated backgrounds, and if it does not then we hope to rule it out over the entire mass range. One way or the other we are poised for a major discovery, likely by the end of this year."
Its mass -- in the units preferred by physicists -- is not in the range between 158 billion and 175 billion electron volts, according to a talk by Ben Kilminster of Fermilab at the International Conference on High Energy Physics in Paris.
Are the problems that have plagued the Large Hadron Collider and previous high-energy efforts (SSC, I'm looking at you here) a result of the Higgs boson travelling back from the future to meddle in its own discovery? A pair of scientists think it's a possibility.
"It must be our prediction that all Higgs producing machines shall have bad luck," Dr. Nielsen said in an e-mail message. In an unpublished essay, Dr. Nielson said of the theory, "Well, one could even almost say that we have a model for God." It is their guess, he went on, "that He rather hates Higgs particles, and attempts to avoid them."
This malign influence from the future, they argue, could explain why the United States Superconducting Supercollider, also designed to find the Higgs, was canceled in 1993 after billions of dollars had already been spent, an event so unlikely that Dr. Nielsen calls it an "anti-miracle."
7. Do you feel protons decaying? Grand Unification may be occurring near your vital organs. However, this may be caused by far less elegant X bosons -- the poor man's Higgs, as it were. We shall not deal with these "country cousins" here. Still, you must not use electroweak force in this situation. You must at least attempt to curb the force of your nuclei to delay Grand Unification. You would be wise to begin a preventive training regimen for your nuclei right away -- Fermion My Wayward Son (Bloomsbury, 1996) contains the internationally accepted techniques.