Oct 8, 2013

Nobel Prize to Englert and Higgs

The Nobel Prize in Physics was just awarded to Francois Englert and Peter Higgs! The "Brout-Englert-Higgs" mechanism (or BEH mechanism) solves the puzzle of why the electromagnetic and weak interactions have different strengths by positing a field that pervades all of space, manifesting in the "Higgs boson" as a particle. This particle has been sought for decades and was finally discovered at the LHC at CERN, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments (the latter of which I am a part).

The Higgs boson discovery is the capstone of over 40 years of scientific achievement in collider physics. It is a truly remarkable testament to the wondrous things we can accomplish together with a sustained international commitment to basic scientific research. However, it leaves open many questions about nature. Why, for instance, is the energy scale of the Higgs interaction so much different than the energy scale of gravitational interactions? What is dark matter, and does it have a relation to the Higgs? Are there other particles that we haven't observed yet? Why is there so much more matter in the universe than antimatter? Collider physics now turns to the next stage in its quest to understand the fundamental interactions of nature, and explore answers to these questions. We're hoping this is not the last great discovery from the Large Hadron Collider physics program, but only the first.

Now, if we can only get the government to open again, maybe NSF and DOE (who provided around 22% of the funding and capital to the LHC projects) can stand up and say "Congratulations!"


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