The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN – the organization’s name has changed, but original the acronym remained) announced that the CRM experiment operating at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has published new evidence in Nature Physics today showing that the Higgs boson behaves as the Standard Model for particle physics predicted.
“With our on-going analyses, we are really starting to understand the BEH mechanism in depth,” says CMS spokesperson Tiziano Camporesi in a statement. “So far, it is behaving exactly as predicted by theory.”
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Higgs discovery was a mild letdown
The Higgs boson, the particle responsible for giving other particles mass, was one of the last pieces of the Standard Model that had not been observed and was the main justification for building a new particle collider. As on previous CERN projects, two separate experiments were conducted in parallel, CMS and ATLAS, so that agreement between them could give us confidence in the results (building one collider is hard enough, building multiples for verification is out of the question). Two other experiments, ALICE and LHCb, are also using the collider but haven’t been specifically studying the Higgs boson.
So when both experiments announced the discovery of the Higgs in 2012 it was a triumph for the scientists involved, but most of them would have rather found something new and startling instead of confirming a four-decade-old theory. With this new evidence the chances for a big surprise seem even more remote.
CERN scaling up for new physics
But the experiments are by no means finished. CERN also announced today that the LHC would restart in early 2015 following and that it would be operating nearly double the energy from the first run, up from 7 TeV to an estimated 13 TeV next year.
“There is a new buzz about the laboratory and a real sense of anticipation,” says CERN Director General Rolf Heuer at the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) meeting in Copenhagen. “Much work has been carried out on the LHC over the last 18 months or so, and it’s effectively a new machine, poised to set us on the path to new discoveries.”
Scientists can’t actually see what happens when particles collide, so they surround the collision site with layers of high precision sensors that record the aftermath. Increasing the energy of the collision gives researchers more information about what’s happening and makes it possible for rarer, higher energy decays to take place. Hopefully with the substantial jump to 13 TeV we will see something that no one expected, giving the next generation of theorists new problems to puzzle over.