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  (Source: Stephen van Vuuren)
The world of physics takes a bold leap forward with a single laborious finding

The world's two most advanced particle detector experiments -- ATLAS and CMS -- have both detected signs of a particle that eluded physicists for almost a half century -- a particle researchers suspect is the Higgs boson.

I. Hunting for Higgs -- Inside the Most Expensive Machine Created by Man

The two detectors are housed within a 17 mile in circumference underground tunnel in the Alps, a tunnel which is chilled to temperatures colder then outer space.  The particle accelerator and attached detection apparatus is a triumph of engineering, and at $10B USD is the single most expensive piece of laboratory equipment in the history of mankind.
 

Brought online in 2008, the collider suffered from early hiccups, typical of large particle accelerators.  But before long it was setting records and gathering data which led to the discovery of new exotic particles.
 
LHC Track
The LHC track stretchs 17 miles and is colder than space. [Image Source: Entropy Bound]

But the biggest payoff for the high cost and years of effort came when the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) announced that they had detected signs of the Higgs-like boson, a particle whose operation necessitates a super-powerful collider and world class detection equipment.

Just a couple days before U.S. Department of Energy's FermiLab published data from their now-defunct Tevatron indicating that they were 99.8 percent (roughly 3σ) sure that they had detected a Higgs-like boson.  That level of confidence is called an "observation" in particle physics.

II. From "Observation" to "Discovery"

By contrast the threshold of confidence for a "discovery" is 5σ -- and CERN delivered precisely that on Wednesday.

Using data gleaned from record 7 TeV and 8 TeV proton collisions, the CMS and ATLAS teams jointly pinpointed a Higgs boson or similar particle to within the 125-126 GeV mass region, with the requisite 5σ confidence.

That result is strengthened by the fact that the observation at the Tevatron predicted a mass between 115 and 135 GeV.

The CMS experiment spokesperson Joe Incandela comments:

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.  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.

Higgs boson observation
A CMS detector view of a Higgs boson creation from a 8 TeV collision. [Image Source: CERN]

ATLAS experiment spokesperson Fabiola Gianotti comments:

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, but a little more time is needed to prepare these results for publication.

Atlas Higgs
An ATLAS detector view of a Higgs boson creation from a 8 TeV collision. [Image Source: CERN]

III. The Hunt is Over, But the Discoveries Have Just Begun

The discovery of the new boson is a momentous day for particle physics, and one that comes despite wise caution on the parts of the men and women involved.  Physicists were wary of jumping the gun and announcing the discovery, lest they make a mistake and alienate a public who already is less than highly interested in taking a trip into the cerebral land of modern particle physics.

The Higgs boson is theorized to give rise to the so-called Higgs mechanism, a form of electroweak symmetry breaking.  A simple analogy of this complex effect is to think of a sort of "sticky field" that coats particles like a spoon dipping through a jar of honey.  This "sticky" effect is thought to give protons, neutrons, and electrons -- the building blocks of matter that most of us are familiar with -- their mass.

To summarize in the simplest terms, researchers are now have detected a particle which they believe may give all standard particles their mass.

 Nebula wide
Finding the Higgs boson is a major step on the road to discovering the secrets of the universe.
[Image Source: NASA]

The discovery takes researchers a step closer to confirming the "Standard Model of particle physics", a theory which in turn opens the door to more advanced applications, such as string theory.

Much work remains to be done, though.  The particle, while observed with a high measure of confidence, was poorly quantified, aside from its mass.  By further probing observed Higgs-like bosons, researchers will be able to tune, accept, or reject certain compenents of Standard Model theory.  These changes could help researchers better understand mysterious components that make up much of the non-visible universe -- such as dark matter and energy.

In short, Higgs boson -- also nicknamed the "Goddamn particle" or "God Particle", for short, by a famous Nobel laureate -- is only the first step in a bold journey for mankind, a journey which will take humans, quite literally where no man has gone before.

Sources: CERN, Atlas Team, CMS Team



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RE: I beg to differ
By EricMartello on 7/5/2012 12:13:00 AM , Rating: 0
Our science is based on our perceptions or, in terms of things we cannot yet test, suppositions of what we could perceive if we had the right tools (i.e. passing the event horizon of a black hole).

Almost all scientists are specialists - that is akin to being one-trick ponies which are helpless outside their specific area of study. They may be really good at analytical problems but fail when it comes to connecting the dots of something a bit more abstract. This is an inherent limitation to science as a profession, and it's why we haven't made any major technological advances since the 60s. Most tech today is simply gradual evolution of tech that was around since WWII, but prior to WWII we went from riding horses to flying jet planes and traveling thru space in under a century.

I'm not really getting into philosophy by suggesting that people step back and look at the full picture.

Why is space a human fabrication?

Space implies that we exist within some kind of "container", but supposing space exists as we perceive it, there is no "smallest possible unit of space". There is no limiting container providing boundaries to what we perceive as our universe.

It is possible for "existence" to occur on any scale (big or small in terms humans can understand), space does not exist. Think about it. If you scaled yourself down to a point where an atom is 1 billion times larger than you, wouldn't that atom appear the same as a star is to us at our current vantage point? Wouldn't the distance you need to travel around said atom be as vast as it would be if we wanted to go around a star of the same relative size?

The easiest analogy to this would be the illusion of motion through space as presented by animation on your computer screen. Imagine you are a character in a game, depicted by pixels. The pixels represent you, the atoms and particles that make up your body...when you move within the world of the game, it seems like you are going somewhere but the pixels themselves never change position relative to each other. In fact, nothing really changes. If you turned off the monitor the game would still continue running, wouldn't it? Your in-game avatar would continue to "exist" regardless of whether or not it is being displayed on the monitor...but since it's existence or lack thereof changes nothing so it is nothing.

The point is that if you can't think along these lines as a scientist you'll never ask the right questions and because of that you'll never have the answers you really want.


RE: I beg to differ
By Jereb on 7/5/2012 1:46:35 AM , Rating: 2
I get what your saying but it comes across as a bit dire dont' you think?

Most scientists have a specialty, well yeah that's the point. That's no different from saying i'm pretty good at soccer but poor at baseball. It doesn't matter if a scientist is only able to study a single miniscule topic that nobody may ever look at or connect to another topic. The point is that someone may read the research and the results, then may apply, interpret or flat out disprove those results in another way. You only need to put some more in the big pile of science and see what comes out.
It would be absurd for anyone to consider themselves an expert in all things, that's why there are research teams full of multiple disciplines.

Not quite sure I agree with your space analogy either, on one hand yeah you could interpret it in the "container" way you suggested. It's just a word used to describe something. It doesn't need to have finite boundaries at all. The same with a unit of space, we give meaning to the unit. So yeah, there is no "smallest" unit of anything when we can choose the definition.

I think you're going off topic a bit here with the existence analogy, but I can assure you that many a weed smoking college students would have tempted the same thought of existence. It would be ignorant to say that scientists don't ask these questions because here we are, asking them right now, just because i'm not wearing a lab coat doesn't make it any more relevant. The only difference is, scientists and others likely had the knowledge, tools or otherwise to show it's nothing more than an entertaining thought which is unable to be proven in the now.


RE: I beg to differ
By Digimonkey on 7/5/2012 9:32:12 AM , Rating: 2
Science makes assumptions. Scientist work on the basis this is reality, and they work to explain things as we perceive them with our senses and using tools when they are beyond our senses.

I'm sure Scientists are no stranger to philosophy, but it wouldn't go hand in hand with their work. If they come to the conclusion there is no way to prove or disapprove something then they don't bother, and why would they when so much is still left to be feasibly discovered?

If what you're saying is that scientists these days lack imagination, wellI definitely seems that way, but you never know when some great thinker of our century will present themselves and their work and turn our current understanding of physics or some other field of science upside down. It just doesn't happen often.


RE: I beg to differ
By WalksTheWalk on 7/5/2012 9:42:24 AM , Rating: 2
I disagree with your main point. Many scientists are looking at sub-particles, matter, dimensional transitions, etc. and have begun the mathematical proofs to show they are correct. having said that, there have been plenty of examples of mathematical models having been thought to be correct, only to be disproved by experiments. Experimental science is need to prove or disprove what we believe to be true at the time.

In the examples you gave earlier you mentioned the possibility of two states being active at the same time. This comes primarily from sciences current inability to measure those states well. By definition, the very act of observing a state changes it since observation requires interaction at the sub-atomic level. Our tools are still blunt instruments that bash rather than dissect.

As an aside, the tone of your posts on this topic are fairly condescending. You state such things as if you have perceptions greater than that of the larger scientific community. Maybe you're a brilliant person that is a giant in the field of science, maybe not. In other words, you're coming off as kind of a wanker.


RE: I beg to differ
By MrBlastman on 7/5/2012 12:55:05 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Almost all scientists are specialists - that is akin to being one-trick ponies which are helpless outside their specific area of study. They may be really good at analytical problems but fail when it comes to connecting the dots of something a bit more abstract.


In the thirty seven years that I have been on this earth, I can count the number of people I have met that can properly extrapolate, cross-reference and come to a conclusion on something entirely unrelated to the subject matter by results in that subject matter in question on just one of my hands.

They are that few.

Most humans lack the proper training, well, effort in their brain to do this. I'm not saying they can't, they just don't know how because it hurts too much to push that hard to reach this point.

When you get there, though, it is effortless and feels natural.


RE: I beg to differ
By Reclaimer77 on 7/5/2012 3:38:14 PM , Rating: 1
LOL okay Morpheus. Take the blue pill!!!

I suppose you think you're interesting and philosophical, but you're really just full of shit. And regurgitating someone elses crazy ideas because you think they make you sound intellectual is SO boring. Please, get over yourself.

quote:
Why is space a human fabrication?


Except it's not. It's real. We know it's real for obvious reasons. And please, don't waste my time with that "it's only what we can observe with our senses, so it's not really real" bullshit.

We might not fully understand space and time, but we know it's not a "fabrication". It's real. We could be ENTIRELY wrong about it. Every single theory or shred of data might be wrong about space, but that doesn't change the fact that it plainly exists.

quote:
Space implies that we exist within some kind of "container", but supposing space exists as we perceive it, there is no "smallest possible unit of space". There is no limiting container providing boundaries to what we perceive as our universe.


Is this supposed to be your idea of an original or thought-inspiring concept? This has been explored to death in science fiction and scientific debates.

Space isn't the absence of everything. Only now we're beginning to understand the Universe essentially is a mesh of the spacetime continuum. It's real even thought we cannot literally see it and in the physical universe it's manifested as a vacuum. But thanks to our "flawed" observational science and ample evidence, we have arrived at that conclusion.

I'm not as close minded as I'm sounding, I have considered these things. What I take exception with is your condescending position on science, and how if everyone thought like you, we would still be living in caves.

We have an unlimited capacity for imagination and creativity. But science cannot work that way. Things have to be studied and quantified, and yes, a lot of this is based on our perceptions. But unless we're part of the sickest joke in the Universe, we have to assume that our five senses are reliable in their perception of the world around us.

quote:
This is an inherent limitation to science as a profession, and it's why we haven't made any major technological advances since the 60s. Most tech today is simply gradual evolution of tech that was around since WWII, but prior to WWII we went from riding horses to flying jet planes and traveling thru space in under a century.


Fundamentally flawed analysis. Observational science and engineering are two completely different fields. We're using that tech today because it works really well. Yes we COULD be living in sky domes with flying cars, like the Jetsons. But that wouldn't be practical.

You're trying to put the cart before the horse. Mastering the elements at our disposal is key for advancing our technological state. And science is how we achieve that. Without scientific research and knowledge, we cannot engineer things with every increasing advancement.

Take the Warp Drive from Star Trek, for example. Scientists have already made a great argument for it's feasibility and the possibility of similar forms of FTL travel. Is it their fault we don't have it yet? No. It's because we simply do not have the engineering and materials available to make it a reality. Gathering the anti-matter. Control a reaction of anti-matter and matter through a focusing crystal. And in turn using that reaction to form and manipulate the null-field "warp bubble" allowing the ship to traverse great distances by manipulating space and time.

No major technical advances? I would beg to differ. Did you read the article? Pretty sure we couldn't do this in the 1960's.

Your timetable is a bit off as well. 50 years in human terms wouldn't even be a grain of sand in the hourglass of the Universe. By what scale are you measuring our progress? What is your comparison based on?


RE: I beg to differ
By MrBlastman on 7/5/2012 10:29:14 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Control a reaction of anti-matter and matter through a focusing crystal. And in turn using that reaction to form and manipulate the null-field "warp bubble" allowing the ship to traverse great distances by manipulating space and time.


Ah but you can't even hope to manipulate something you don't even understand or comprehend. In theory, manipulation of spacetime through gravitic mechanisms is absolutely plausible--we have to define and fully understand that "nothing" to do it well.


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