Today, physics professor Jeffrey Richman will give a talk at the Chancellor’s Community Breakfast entitled “From the Big Bang to the Higgs Boson in Less Than an Hour,” discussing the discovery of the elusive Higgs boson by an international team including UCSB physics researchers.
Scientists have been theorizing on the Higgs mechanism for years, and though the existence of the elusive particle was predicted 50 years ago, it had been notoriously difficult to pinpoint. Last summer, however, a collaborative effort from scientists around the world used the Large Hadron Collider — the world’s largest and highest-energy particle accelerator built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research near Geneva — to detect the Higgs particle.
According to Richman, one of the main goals of the LHC has been to search for the long-theorized Higgs boson, and it now seems like this goal has finally been achieved.
“Physicists have come a long way since the Higgs mechanism was first suggested, but only now have we explicitly found a particle that looks like it confirms the theory,” Richman said. “There were other measurements that pointed in this direction and these gave us a lot of encouragement. The particle that was discovered showed up pretty much right on schedule given the expected properties of the Higgs particle and the amount of data that we had collected.”
The Higgs mechanism provides an explanation for how elementary particles acquire mass through certain kinds of interactions. The Higgs boson is a manifestation of the space-permeating field that interacts with particles, otherwise known as the Higgs field; with its discovery, scientists can now explain how forces between elementary particles work.
The boson is named after Peter Higgs, one of several physicists who predicted its existence in the 1960s. Higgs attended the CERN seminar last July, where UCSB professor and High Energy Group member Joe Incandela was one of two scientists to present the Higgs boson findings to an international audience.
According to Richman, more testing and research is needed to confirm that the particle discovered was actually the Higgs boson particle, though the discovery made will remain a major mark in history no matter what.
“There’s already a fair amount of information that points to this particle being the Higgs particle, or a Higgs-like particle,” Richman said. “If it weren’t the Higgs particle, it would be something extremely important — anything with the properties we have observed so far has got to be fundamental, so I don’t think there’s any doubt of this being a major discovery.”
UCSB’s High Energy Group members include physics professors Claudio Campagnari, Joe Incandela, David Stuart, Jeffrey Richman and several other engineers, researchers and UCSB post-doctoral, graduate and undergraduate students. The group is supported by the Department of Energy and receives large contributions from the Compact Muon Solenoid experiment, which designed and built the Large Hadron Collider in CERN to discover the Higgs boson.
According to Sema Quadir, a second-year biopsychology major, it is a privilege to be taught by professors who are pioneers in their field. Quadir said her decision to attend UCSB was largely due to the prestigious reputation of professors like Richman, Stuart, Incandela and Campagnari.
“UCSB is well-renowned for its research and that was a big part of why I wanted to come here,” Quadir said. “I think it’s so cool that professors teach you what they’re discovering. It’s not just all out of a textbook; you’re actually learning about new things that are happening right now.”