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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 7/6/2012 11:36:13 PM , Rating: 2
Because if "reality is a human invention", and we're just making up everything we perceive, then the truth is simply what we imagine it to be. In which case things like science, proof, facts, and truth are subjective in the extreme.

Much like a video game has rules, and to win at the game you play by those rules, so does our particular niche of existence. Regardless of whether the rules are fabricated by our minds or by some external force, they exist as far as we're concerned and we have not found a way to transcend them.

Science, the way it is practiced today, may enable us to gain more mastery over our little niche (i.e. the game world and its pre-defined ruleset) but it has little chance of going beyond that much in the same way your in-game avatar could not exist outside of the game even if it was aware that it was an avatar within a game (remember, the avatar doesn't really exist; it's just an illusion).

I noticed that you still haven't answered my other question about viewing yourself drinking coffee on the scale of an atom. Why not? You're not going to even take a stab at it?

If I am an atom and I see an apparently chaotic cluster of atoms and other particles, explain to me why the "absolute, indisputable reality" I should accept is you drinking a cup of coffee.

RE: I beg to differ
By Jereb on 7/8/2012 7:08:44 PM , Rating: 2
Are you trying to say that if I look at only a single atom of the coffee mug scene, that all i'm going to understand is that there is only a single atom (that's what i observed). Where as if I step back and look at the big picture i'll go "gee whiz, there is a whole lot more to this than I thought".

Wow, you are truly a Davinci of our modern era. Nobody, has heard of this concept prior these postings. How naive and ignorant of you to suggest that others haven't contemplated this also.

Also your game analogy is bit bogus, yeah the avatar exists, it exists within the box as 1 & 0's resulting in pixels etc.

The infinite line thought, did you fail math?? Yeah if you setup an infinite line it goes on forever, but if you move in one direction for a while, you are most definately not in the same spot you just where. It's called relativity, when you set an axis no matter the extremity's of the axis you have a set/start point, and resolution. When you compare any other point you are always comparing it to another set point. If you travel along the x axis, then yeah, delta x, if you are travelling along the y axis, delta y. You can make a far out claim that, you are still in the same place because infinity imposes this proof upon us. Well guess what, singularities also exist in maths', they often mean, an error has occured, we lack the capability to describe it with that concept of mathematics. It's exactly why the whole field of imaginary numbers where created.

"Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn." -- Seagate CEO Bill Watkins

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