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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 8:17:45 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
I disagree. Philosophy QUESTIONS our perceptions on the things around us. But our perceptions of reality aren't governed by it.


Philosophy is simply a fancy word to describe abstract thought processes. It can be as mundane as trying to understand why people are the way they are, or it can be expanded to something like trying to understand existence.

Our perceptions of reality are just that - perceptions. A perception doesn't make something real. We choose to acknowledge something as being real.

I said this before...but I'll repeat it. Imagine you are holding a cup of coffee in your hand, about to drink it. It's real, right? You feel the cup in your hand and you smell the coffee. That's your perception of the scenario.

Now, at the very same moment you are holding that cup of coffee, imagine looking down on yourself from a third party view and then imagine that your vantage point is 1:1 with the size of an atom. What do you see?

Do still you see yourself sitting there? Do you see or smell the coffee anymore? If you are the size of an atom, all you would see (maybe) is a cluster of atoms in an apparent "chaotic" state.

If we did the same thing but scaled upwards until the sun is the size of an atom relative to us, meaning we are larger, how would the universe appear to us? Would we see intricate stars and galaxies or would it be very similar to the above?

quote:
I don't think that's philosophy more than it is a silly mind game or thought exercise. And yes, a tree falling in the woods DOES make a sound even if nobody is there to hear it :)


It's just an attempt to explain a way of looking at things from a different perspective.

quote:
Not following to be honest. The fact that we cannot always quantify something or explain how it works, doesn't change it's reality. That's a typically arrogant human way of looking at things.


Reality is a human invention...perhaps not deliberate, but what you're referring to as reality isn't actually there on any vantage point aside from your own.

quote:
We know space exists, and we can be sure of that. This is obvious. The fact that all it's secrets haven't been revealed is irrelevant to the philosophical discussion here imo.


How do we know space exists? We assume it does because we're assuming that we're "inside a universe". People are not looking at it from the top down, they're looking at it from within and yet they want to understand what it is.

quote:
If space isn't real, than obviously, neither are we. At which point I guess this discussion is moot lol.


Why must we be real or not? If, at the fundamental level, everything and nothing can coexist eternally then we simply are...but due to peoples' egos, they expect a more profound explanation.


RE: I beg to differ
By Reclaimer77 on 7/5/2012 8:37:20 PM , Rating: 2
Abstract thought is all well and good, but you've crossed completely over to the other side. You actually BELIEVE this crap.

I can't discuss this any further if you actually think "reality is a human invention". I understand the concepts you're tripping out on, but you're going just way too far with them.


RE: I beg to differ
By EricMartello on 7/6/2012 3:37:55 PM , Rating: 2
OK, then humor us and respond to the questions about viewing yourself from two different perspectives simultaneously as I wrote in the previous comment.

Perspective 1 is your own, and you see yourself holding a cup of coffee about to drink it.

Perspective 2 is the same "scene" as above, except the vantage point is from that of an atom.

If reality is as absolute as you believe it to be, shouldn't your perceptions of both 1 and 2 be identical?


RE: I beg to differ
By Jereb on 7/8/2012 5:55:41 PM , Rating: 2
Uhhhh, no?? Why would they be the same?

On one hand your large enough to actually smell the coffee, that being the hydrocarbons(Help me out scientists) can be registered by your olfactory senses.
On the other the scene hasn't changed at all, your just a lot smaller. You're making the assumption that if you scale down the size of you body and get really close to an atom all you'll see is a cluster of chaotic particles. That hasn't changed anything about the scene at all, why would anything change at all, of course it's the same. The coffee is still there, you're still wacthing yourself(?) smell and look at the coffee.

And just an FYI on a previous comment, reality isn't a human invention, it's a human description.


RE: I beg to differ
By EricMartello on 7/8/2012 6:52:50 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Uhhhh, no?? Why would they be the same?


By saying this you're essentially agreeing with me that reality is entirely based upon our perception, and that is not an absolute.

quote:
On the other the scene hasn't changed at all, your just a lot smaller.


You're right so far...

quote:
You're making the assumption that if you scale down the size of you body and get really close to an atom all you'll see is a cluster of chaotic particles. That hasn't changed anything about the scene at all, why would anything change at all, of course it's the same. The coffee is still there, you're still wacthing yourself(?) smell and look at the coffee.


This is where you're getting tripped up...the scene IS identical and nothing is changing per se, however depending on your vantage point the scene is vastly different in both appearance AND physical characteristics.

Reclaimer was saying that reality is absolute, meaning that regardless of what we believe or think, reality is a constant that doesn't change. My point is that reality is simply and illusion because the very same cubic meter of "space" could be anything depending on your perspective.

We're not even talking about other dimensions here...yet if you are at the perspective of an atom vs your "normal" perspective as a human, the very same scene is vastly different in appearance and physical properties.

On your human perspective, the smell of coffee is your body perceiving molecules being emitted into the air from the coffee, but what are molecules?

If you are the size of an atom, you will be much smaller than a molecule and therefore would not be able to inhale one. In fact, you would not be able to breath because you'd be smaller than air molecules themselves.

If your entire existence was from the perspective of an atom, what would lead you to believe that the apparently chaotic cluster of atoms is also a person holding a cup of coffee?

For all we know, our perspective as humans in this universe is no different. If we could enlarge ourselves to be a million times larger than a star, we may discover that the universe is actually a cup of coffee someone is about to drink. :) But from our current perspective nobody has any reason to even consider that as a possibility.

What points am I trying to make here?

- Space does not exist because there is no "smallest possible unit of existence". Meaning you can be infinitely large or small, and therefore there is an unlimited amount of apparent "space".

- Time does not exist because time implies change and nothing ever changes within existence fundamentally. Change is a perception, and perception is an illusion.

- For any given "unit" of measure ANYTHING is possible and ANYTHING can exist at any given moment.

- Our perspective determines reality, not just appearance but also the physics of our existence. This is the best way to understand our existence on a fundamental level.

If science wants to find a way to control this, it would need to discover a way for us to change our perspective of existence...but we are physically bound to our current scale (as stated above, we as humans could not exist at the scale of an atom because, for one thing, we could not breath).

Funny how the answer to everything is right in front of us and is remarkably simplistic, but we really can't do anything about it...yet. :)


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