A New Boson

The physicists, ever cautious, aren’t calling it the Higgs boson yet. It has the right mass, in the range of 125-126 billion electron volts (GeV.) The excess of particles of that mass appearing in the experiments at the Large Hadron Collider is statistically significant – what they call 5 sigma. We can think of that as several million to one against the discovery being a statistical fluke. Still, the mass is all they have so far. They need to do more experiments to see if its other properties, such as spin, match the predictions of the Standard Model of particle physics. They hope to be able to do that by the end of 2012. Then the physicists might feel comfortable calling this new boson the Higgs.

With the success of the Standard Model so far, and the long search for the Higgs boson to complete it, there is a natural tendency to hope that this new boson is it. A wish for the satisfaction of completion and of the correctness of the model. But the hope that it is wrong is just as strong, because if this is not the Higgs the model predicts, then it’s something new. The highest points of science are not when you find what you expect. They are when you find the unexpected. When you find something new.

Will this boson confirm what we thought we knew, or is it the beginning of a completely new direction?


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