Saturday, May 03, 2008

Finding The Higgs Boson

Continuing this theme of stuff that attracts skeptics, how about the Higgs boson? As of right now, it really is just hypothetical. There's no observational evidence for it – but check back in a year or so.

In the meantime, here's a good short summary of the observations that physicists need to make, and when something might turn up.

Finding The Higgs Boson
The Higgs’ ministrations are usually hidden away in the vacuum, but if enough energy is brought to bear in a tiny volume of space---at the point where two energetic particles collide---then the Higgs can be turned into an actual particle whose existence can be detected. Theoretical calculations made using the standard model of particle physics combined with previous experiments serve to limit the possible range of masses for the Higgs particle. Right now that mass is thought to be larger than 114 GeV but smaller than about 190 GeV.

And in spite of all the publicity that the Large Hadron Collider is getting, the discovery could actually be made as a result of experiments which are already ongoing at the Tevatron:
The Tevatron delivers more than enough energy to create a particle in that energy range. The main issue, then, is luminosity, or the density of beam particles crashed together per second. The Tevatron recently established a record high luminosity: 3.1 × 1032 per cm2 per second. What would a Higgs event look like? One speaker at the meeting, Brian Winer (Ohio State), said that the “most Higgs-like Higgs event” seen so far was one in which (it is surmised) the proton-antiproton collision at the Tevatron had created a fireball which then decayed into a W boson (one of the carriers of the weak nuclear force) and a Higgs particle.

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