Thursday, July 12, 2012

Higgs Boson Particle and Field Explained

Not exactly medical but an area of great interest for me and one that is so fundamental to our world I thought worth talking about. If you want to get a sense of science and how little we still don't know or understand I recommend you read 

 

A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bill Bryson - available here and in digital form eBook and audio. This form the opening paragraph

Welcome. And congratulations. I am delighted that you could make it. Getting here wasn't easy, I know. In fact, I suspect it was a little tougher than you realize. To begin with, for you to be here now trillions of drifting atoms had somehow to assemble in an intricate and intriguingly obliging manner to create you. It's an arrangement so specialized and particular that it has never been tried before and will only exist this once. For the next many years (we hope) these tiny particles will uncomplainingly engage in all the billions of deft, cooperative efforts necessary to keep you intact and let you experience the supremely agreeable but generally underappreciated state known as existence. 

Worth sharing since there is a lot of interest right now following the announcement on July 4, 2012 at CERN that "CERN experiments observe particle consistent with long-sought Higgs boson"
The core of the announcement is a discovery of the heaviest boson to date at 125GeV with a 5 Sigma signal (translation - pretty sure it is an accurate reading...1 sigma means the results could be random fluctuations in the data, 3 sigma counts as an observation and a 5-sigma result is a discovery)

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

So what does it all mean (or how do I understand this without becoming an expert in particle & quantum physics and quantum

The history of the the Higgs Boson dates back to Peter Higgs prediction of a mass-generating Boson that was eventually given his name. Fast forward and we have been on the hunt for this elusive particle in large part because the detectors were either unable to see them at the energy levels or create sufficient energy in the collisions to generate the particle or evidence for the particle. But the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) stepped up the game and in 2011 we saw data suggestive of evidence of the particle and on Jul 4 CERN confirmed the data was even more convincing.

So what is the Higgs Boson - this page offers the top 5 winners to the competition in 1993 to produce an answer that would fit on one page to the question

‘What is the Higgs boson, and why do we want to find it?’

This explanation (<4 minuets) provides a good basic understanding of the underlying particle and physics

This animation shows the time lapse of the data as it evolved over time
And as the data was captured they applied this process to determine what they were looking at:

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