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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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By muy on 7/5/2012 5:31:23 AM , Rating: 3
"Any possibility your beliefs are flawed? just askng"

yes, some of the beliefs in the scientific might be flawed, but they are the best shot we have at understanding the truth of reality. and unlike religion, science is EAGER to discard any theory that proves incorrect or incomplete
the things i believe are tried and tested and verifiable. the things i believe in hold predictive power towards the future. what i believe are not the ramblings from deluded stone age primitives.

All it takes is one exception to make me doubt/discard a belief i hold.

what does it take for you to doubt/discard your beliefs ?

prove anything scientific wrong that i accept as a truth and i will thank for broadening my scientific knowledge ;)

By dotpoz on 7/5/2012 9:33:22 AM , Rating: 2
Christian do not hate science, they just hate some of science results

By knutjb on 7/5/2012 2:44:19 PM , Rating: 2
they just hate some of science results
First, it's not hate, it's disagree with. Second, it's not the science, it's how the science is presented, i.e. most news reports "God particle" or Jason's "Goddamn particle."

When science is used to denigrate God most religions take a dim view on such presentations. Context and insult, if a third of all news said dotpoz is a clueless fool you would have a problem with how the news is portrayed.

Unfortunately, there is always a fringe of fools on both sides who get their feathers in a ruffle just because everything ruffles their feathers and I discount them first.

By SlyNine on 7/5/2012 2:37:45 PM , Rating: 1
Notice how much we advanced after 1800....

By Captain Orgazmo on 7/5/2012 11:28:11 PM , Rating: 2
Science is not eager to discard theories by any stretch, because scientists are human. Human concerns or attributes like money, ego, bias, and the limits of imagination slow down scientific discovery and technological evolution constantly. Many theories are stubbornly held on to well past their deserved expiry, or unintentionally shaped by our need for meaning and order in things and the way in which we experience existence. It could be said that science is a more advanced religion, as both have the same goal: to explain the universe.

For example, the big bang theory derives from the theme common to all religions, that all things must have a beginning and an end. It would be difficult for humans to believe or comprehend the possibility that the universe just is. Or, take the theory that human-released CO2 is causing catastrophic global warming. You'd think that anyone with a basic understanding of geology (the history of this planet) would see the flaws, but it is believed like dogma.

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