As the much-anticipated lead-up to the CERN announcement on Wednesday unfolds, the scientific community is rife with many speculations and few rumours. In spite of this deluge, it may be that we could expect a confirmation of the God particle’s existence in the seminar called by physicists working on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
The most prominent indication of good news is that five of the six physicists who theorized the Higgs mechanism in a seminal paper in 1964 have been invited to the meeting. The sixth physicist, Robert Brout, passed away in May 2011. Peter Higgs, the man for whom the mass-giving particle is named, has also agreed to attend.
The other indication is much more subtle but just as effective. Dr. Rahul Sinha, a professor of high-energy physics and a participant in the Japanese Belle collaboration, said, “Hints of the Higgs boson have already been spotted in the energy range in which LHC is looking. If it has to be ruled out, four-times as much statistical data should have been gathered to back it up, but this has not been done.”
The energy window which the LHC has been combing through was based on previous searches for the particle at the detector during 2010 and at the Fermilab’s Tevatron before that. While the CERN-based machine is looking for signs of two-photon decay of the notoriously unstable boson, the American legend looked for signs of the boson’s decay into two bottom quarks.
Last year, on December 13, CERN announced in a press conference that the particle had been glimpsed in the vicinity of 127 GeV (GeV, or giga-electron-volt, is used as a measure of particle energy and, by extension of the mass-energy equivalence, its mass).
However, scientists working on the ATLAS detector, which is heading the search, could establish only a statistical significance of 2.3 sigma then, or a 1-in-50 chance of error. To claim a discovery, a 5-sigma result is required, where the chances of errors are one in 3.5 million.
Scientists, including Dr. Sinha and his colleagues, are hoping for a 4-sigma result announcement on Wednesday. If they get it, the foundation stone will have been set for physicists to explore further into the nature of fundamental particles.
Dr. M.V.N. Murthy, who is currently conducting research in high-energy physics at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IMS), said, “Knowing the mass of the Higgs boson is the final step in cementing the Standard Model.” The model is a framework of all the fundamental particles and dictates their behaviour. “Once we know the mass of the particle, we can move on and explore the nature of New Physics. It is just around the corner,” he added.