Higgs is HERE! (We're pretty darn sure.)
This week, in Melbourne, Australia, is the International Conference on High Energy Physics. That meant the folks at CERN had to go into overdrive cranking out data so that they would be able to make an announcement at the conference – a very BIG announcement.
On Wednesday, they told the world that they have discovered a particle that they are 99% sure is the elusive Higgs Boson, predicted back in the 1960s. (When they’ve had time to analyze all their data, in a month or so, they’ll hopefully be able to call it an official discovery of the Higgs.)
Why should you care? Well, why do St. Louisans care about the Cardinals winning the World Series? It’s not like we did anything to bring it about, and it didn't really affect us after the fact. And yet, I stayed glued to the TV last fall because it's exciting to see the home team excel. Well folks, Team Humanity just hit a home run.
Of course, knowing that doesn’t make it any easier to understand. When we start talking about particles this weird, I need all the help I can get, so here are some videos and other sources to help you get a sense of what’s going on:
For a super quick explanation that involves juggling and Velcro, you can check out this clip from yours truly on Fox 2 news:
I also talked about the Higgs Boson back in December, when CERN first reported that they were onto something. You can review the basics, read my favorite Higgs joke, and watch a rap about CERN, all here.
Next, learn about CERN and its hunt for Higgs from Jorge Cham’s video comic, The Higgs Boson Explained. This has been my favorite explanation of Higgs since I learned about it a few weeks back.
Then you’re ready for the stuff CERN itself posted. This description of the Higgs is given by John Ellis, a physicist with long white hair, a British accent, and physics formulas on his t-shirt. (What’s not to love?!) He compares Higgs to snow in a really good analogy:
Lastly, check out this announcement interview by Joe Incandela, the lead scientist/spokesman on one of CERN’s two teams that discovered the Higgs. True, he’s an American in a suit, but if you watch you’ll see how excited he is, and how hard he’s working to stay in “scientist mode” and not bounce up and down saying, “OMG like we totally discovered something freakin’ AMAZING here!!!” The closest he gets is saying, “But we think this is pretty darn significant” – which is saying a lot, if you’re a physicist:
And if all of this isn't enough to get your heart bursting with pride at mankind’s ability to probe into the depths of the universe, consider this: Quantum mechanics started out just as esoteric and “useless” as Higgs, but eventually led to the development of the MRI machine. When evaluating physics' contributions to society, it's important to take the long view, because you never know -- The discovery of the Higgs Boson could end up saving your great grandchild’s life!