Higgs Boson Glimpsed At Work For First Time

The world’s largest particle collider has given us our first glimpse of the Higgs boson doing its job.
For 50 years, the Higgs boson was the final missing piece in the standard model of particle physics, which elegantly predicts how fundamental particles and forces interact. The ATLAS…

The world’s largest particle collider has given us our first glimpse of the Higgs boson doing its job.

For 50 years, the Higgs boson was the final missing piece in the standard model of particle physics, which elegantly predicts how fundamental particles and forces interact. The ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland, was one of the detectors that helped discover the Higgs in 2012.

Now ATLAS physicists report seeing pairs of particles called W bosons scattering off each other inside the detector. This rare process can be used to test how the Higgs actually operates.

“We know these particles very well, but we have never seen them interact in this way before,” says Marc-André Pleier at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. “With this measurement, we can check that the Higgs boson does its job.”

W mystery

The Higgs was dreamed up to explain why some force-carrying particles like the W and Z bosons have mass, while others such as the photon do not. In the process, theorists realised that the Higgs could solve another mystery involving the W boson. When they tried to calculate how often W bosons should interact with each other, the results were physically impossible without the Higgs and the theory started to break down. Allowing W bosons to toss a Higgs between them as they collided solved the problem.

“This is one of the things that people put out there saying there must be a Higgs boson,” says Matthew Herndon at the University of Wisconsin Madison, who works on similar problems with another LHC experiment called CMS. It also makes W scattering one of the best places to look for physics beyond the standard model – which does not take gravity into account and cannot explain mysteries such as dark matter and dark energy.

Since the Higgs’s discovery, physicists have been scrutinising its properties to see if it is the same particle predicted by the standard model or if it is a weird variant that will uncover chinks in the model’s armour.

“We have a pretty good idea of what this boson should look like,” says Pleier. “Like a ‘wanted’ poster in the Wild West, where the eye colour or a scar or whatever correspond to certain quantum properties. This is what we do with direct measurements of the Higgs boson.”

Higgs interrogated

So far the Higgs has been frustratingly picture perfect. With the LHC shut down for an upgrade until 2015, it seemed that physicists would just have to wait to collect more information. But another way to interrogate the Higgs is to test how it operates. If W bosons can exchange more than one Higgs, for example, they should fly off each other much more often than the standard model predicts.

“The rates of these scattering processes and the energies you see them at would be forced to change fairly dramatically,” says Herndon. “So this is a good bet for looking for new physics.”

What has made this a challenge is that W bosons scatter off each other incredibly rarely at the LHC, even less often than a Higgs boson is produced. The LHC works by smashing protons together at close to the speed of light. Every so often, one of those protons will emit a W boson. We can only look for scattering if both protons happen to emit a W at the same time, and if those W bosons happen to be aimed at each other.

ATLAS has seen evidence for 34 of these events among billions of collisions, says Pleier. So far, everything fits with the standard model’s predictions. But seeing the effect at all is a milestone, and Herndon says that the CMS experiment will be releasing its version of these results soon, adding to the data pool.

“We’ve never looked in this corner of the standard model before,” says ATLAS team member Jake Searcy at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. “This is the start of something that’s going to be very interesting in the years to come.”

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About Earth Changes Media w/ Mitch Battros

Mitch Battros is a scientific journalist who is highly respected in both the scientific and spiritual communities due to his unique ability to bridge the gap between modern science and ancient text. Founded in 1995 – Earth Changes TV was born with Battros as its creator and chief editor for his syndicated television show. In 2003, he switched to a weekly radio show as Earth Changes Media. ECM quickly found its way in becoming a top source for news and discoveries in the scientific fields of astrophysics, space weather, earth science, and ancient text. Seeing the need to venture beyond the Sun-Earth connection, in 2016 Battros advanced his studies which incorporates our galaxy Milky Way - and its seemingly rhythmic cycles directly connected to our Solar System, Sun, and Earth driven by the source of charged particles such as galactic cosmic rays, gamma rays, and solar rays. Now, "Science Of Cycles" is the vehicle which brings the latest cutting-edge discoveries confirming his published Equation.
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