The Large Hadron Collider, a series of tunnels constructed deep underground on the Swiss-French border, is playing host to perhaps the most dramatic piece of scientific research of our era: the search for the Higgs boson particle. Operated by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the LHC is the world's most advanced particle accelerator, and all the effort and investment into it has recently paid off, at least in part. On July 4th 2012, the CERN team announced that they have discovered a particle "consistent with" their expectation for what the Higgs boson should be, bringing us closer to the ultimate goal of better understanding the composition of all matter.
Oct 8, 2013
Higgs boson scientists awarded Nobel Prize in physics
Drs. Peter Higgs and François Englert have been awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for their work in identifying and discovering the Higgs boson, the so-called "God particle" that could explain how the universe's elementary particles obtained their mass shortly after the Big Bang. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the winners at a press conference held this morning in Stockholm, Sweden, following an unusually lengthy delay. The two will share a prize of 8 million Swedish krona (about $1.2 million) that will be awarded at a ceremony in Stockholm in December.Read Article >
Higgs, an 84-year-old British professor at the University of Edinburgh, predicted the existence of the particle that would bear his name in 1964, when he laid the framework for the Higgs mechanism. Englert and Dr. Robert Brout, Belgian physicists at the Free University in Brussels, actually "beat" Higgs by two weeks with a 1964 paper outlining the existence of an invisible forcefield that endows elementary particles with mass. They stopped short of identifying the particle associated with this forcefield, as Higgs did, though Englert and Brout would later argue that its existence was implied by their work.
Aug 3, 2012
The Large Hadron Collider and processing data at a million gigabytes per secondRead Article >
Using the Large Hadron Collider, CERN recently discovered a particle consistent with the Higgs boson, but preliminary results are far from conclusive. ITNews sat down with David Foster, CERN's deputy head of IT, to discuss what it takes to calculate the massive amounts of data associated with such experiments and how the organization is planning for the future. With each collision, raw data is filtered through thousands of machines at CERN's data center at a mind-boggling speed of a petabyte (one million gigabytes) per second, then is instantly distributed to additional facilities for further processing by using grid technology. Of course, the intricacies of the organization's data infrastructure are far more complicated. Fortunately, CERN has someone leading its IT department who fully understands that information technology means a whole different thing when talking about the "God particle."
Jul 7, 2012
Large Hadron Collider's secrets revealed in dramatic photo setRead Article >
In a special photographic feature yesterday, The Atlantic published 34 pictures showing the construction of the Large Hadron Collider, the massive particle accelerator that made this week's discovery possible. It's a dramatic set — aside from our favorite above, which shows the interior of the LHC, there are detailed photographs of the individual parts and of the computing grid that processes the results. It's been a heavy few days for CERN-centric news, but this is one feature that's really worth checking out — head over to The Atlantic for the full story.
Jul 5, 2012
What is the Higgs boson?
Since the discovery of a particle consistent with the Higgs boson yesterday, a lot of people have been trying to work out what exactly it is. Scientists at CERN presented their findings in a highly technical presentation — despite being written in Comic Sans, it went over the heads of much of the assembled scientific press, not to mention the thousands of amateurs following the announcement via Twitter and the livestream. Thankfully, experts around the world and across the internet have taken it upon themselves to enlighten the particle-watching public — here are our four favourite explanations.Read Article >
1. The Guardian's science correspondent Ian Sample uses ping pong balls, sugar and a tray from the cafeteria to provide a surprisingly clear summary of the basics.
Jul 5, 2012
Stephen Hawking on how the Higgs boson discovery cost him $100Read Article >
This morning scientists at CERN announced that they had indeed discovered a new particle that appears to be consistent with the Standard Model Higgs boson. The BBC spoke with physicist Stephen Hawking, who described the implications of the finding — while also mentioning a losing wager he'd placed on whether the particle would be found. Check out the video below to see one of our greatest minds discuss an incredible discovery.
CERN scientists inexplicably present Higgs boson findings in Comic Sans
For many of us, the most shocking revelation to come out of CERN's Higgs boson announcement today was quite unrelated to the science itself. Rather, we were blown away by the fact that a team made up of some of the most undoubtedly brilliant people in the world believe that Comic Sans is an appropriate font for such a historic occasion.Read Article >
While criticizing the much-maligned typeface is almost as much of a cliché as using it by now, and there could even have been worse choices, Comic Sans designer Vincent Connare seems to agree that his infamous creation isn't quite the best match for particle physics announcements. Particle physicist Brian Cox, on the other hand...
Jul 4, 2012
CERN announces discovery of new particle consistent with Higgs boson
Scientists at CERN say they've found a new particle consistent with the Standard Model Higgs boson with 5-sigma certainty — a false positive probability of about 1 in 9 trillion. Evidence of the particle's existence in the 126GeV mass range was gleaned from the CMS (video below) and ATLAS experiments at the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva. CMS spokesperson Joe Incandela explains, "this is indeed a new particle. We know it must be a boson and it’s the heaviest boson ever found."Read Article >
Before the particle can be determined to be the Standard Model Higgs, scientists will need to find out more about its properties in order to rule out the possibility that it's something "more exotic." While the Higgs particle would still leave us well short of a complete picture of the universe (see: gravity), it would fill a major hole in the Standard Model of particle physics by providing strong evidence for what's called electroweak symmetry — a symmetry between the weak force and the electromagnetic force. In order for the theory to work, force-carrying particles can't have any mass; a fact that's always been at odds with experimental results. The Higgs mechanism explains how particles come to acquire mass, and the Higgs Boson's discovery would confirm that the mechanism is at work.
Watch this: CERN now broadcasting update on Higgs boson liveRead Article >
CERN is holding a seminar to update the world on the progress it has made searching for the elusive Higgs boson. Experiments have been conducted with the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator at CERN's labs in Switzerland since 2008, and rumors are flying that the hypothesized Higgs boson may finally have been tracked down. If so, it would all but confirm the validity of the Standard Model of physics. CERN has information about the event at its website, or you can watch the stream live below — it's set to kick off any minute now.
Jun 8, 2012
CERN confirms its mistake, neutrinos obey the speed limit of light after all
CERN has confirmed that the anomalous results which indicated that neutrinos traveled faster than the speed of light were caused by faulty machinery. The findings were reported on heavily last September, and since then scientists the world over have been trying to explain how the neutrinos broke one of the fundamental laws of physics. Earlier this year, there was word that the team behind the results had found possible faults in its test equipment, and the error has now been confirmed.Read Article >
While it may seem like a huge blow to the team, CERN Research Director Sergio Bertolucci was pragmatic in his summary of the events. He thanked the scientific community for its collaboration on finding the error, and explained why mishaps like this show the strength of science:
May 27, 2012
Physicist depicts Large Hadron Collider in da Vinci-style sketches
Leonardo da Vinci didn't invent the Large Hadron Collider, but if he had, this is what his sketches may have looked like. These drawings are the work of Dr. Sergio Cittolin, a research physicist who's been at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) for more than 30 years. A lifelong doodler, Cittolin is in charge of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment at the LHC, and was inspired to compose his da Vinci-style sketches years before collider operations became a reality. His first rendering appeared on the cover of a CMS design report, replete with da Vinci's trademark inverse typography, which can only be deciphered when reflected in a mirror.Read Article >
"I thought that the Leonardo style was suitable to give the feeling of anticipation of new ideas," Cittolin said during a 2009 interview with Symmetry Magazine. "Da Vinci was the father of all engineers and described many of his inventions a long time before technology was ready to realize them." Aside from their remarkably faithful line style, Cittolin's drawings also bring a distinctly organic aesthetic to a technology that seems anything but. The idea, according to the physicist, was to simply "present the idea of data analysis to the world within the naturalist world of Leonardo." You can browse through Cittolin's full gallery here.
Apr 6, 2012
Large Hadron Collider turned on again, reaches record energy levels
For the first time in 2012, scientists have turned on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland. Two stable proton beams were collided at four different observation points in the LHC for the experiment, and the team at CERN cranked up the energy of each beam to 4 teraelectronvolts (TeV). The resultant collision set a new world record of 8 TeV of collision energy — levels which should help extend current research. As CERN's Steve Myers explains, scientists had felt safe to crank up the energy after "two good years of running at 3.5 TeV per beam gave us the confidence to increase the energy for this year without any significant risk to the machine."Read Article >
Now that the LHC has been proven to work at the higher energy levels, much of the rest of the year will be dedicated to the search for the Higgs Boson, a glimpse of which may have been seen in December. Results won't come immediately, however, as the increased energy output also increases background noise, so CERN estimates that "the full year’s running will still be necessary to convert the tantalising hints seen in 2011 into a discovery, or to rule out the Standard Model Higgs particle altogether."
Mar 31, 2012
Find the Higgs Boson in 'Ms. Particle-Man' for iOS and browsersRead Article >
We may not be any closer to conclusively finding the elusive Higgs Boson, but Michael Falk's Ms. Particle-Man gives you a chance to look for it in the form of a retro iOS and browser title. The titular bow-adorned character must make it through three different colliders, collecting energy and battling the lepton, gluon, and quark "boss particles." Gameplay is challenging, unforgiving, and quite satisfying. It's $0.99 on the App Store, but you can head over here to play it for free with the Silverlight plugin.
Mar 23, 2012
Would a Higgs boson by any other name be as elementary?Read Article >
As is often the case with scientific discoveries, the Higgs boson particle was actually the subject of concurrent research by multiple scientists. io9 points out that in 1964, when Peter Higgs published his famous paper, at least five other scientists were on the same track, some of whom believed they had better scientific grounds for postulating the particle's existence. Now that the particle's name has been cemented in the public's consciousness, it's unlikely that it will get renamed to something more generic like the "scalar boson," but it is unique in the world of physics for being named after a person instead of a property. Check out io9 to follow the rest of the story.
Feb 23, 2012
Faster-than-light neutrinos may not be so fast after allRead Article >
A lot of scientists have been working hard to debunk faster-than-light neutrinos, but it looks like we might not need them after all — the group behind the initial experiment has found two problems that could have affected its results. Initially, the OPERA team gained prominence for finding its neutrinos at CERN traveled 60 nanoseconds faster than light would have over an equivalent distance. The two problems the researchers are reporting would affect the experiment in opposing ways. On the one hand, the group noticed a problem with the oscillator used to time the neutrinos' flight, which would overestimate the particles' flight time (making them appear slower). The other effect would make the neutrinos appear faster, and is related to the optical fiber connecting the GPS signal and the team's main clock. While tests to check these two issues are scheduled for May, the actual neutrino velocity question won't be re-examined until some time later in 2012.
Dec 26, 2011
Large Hadron Collider's ATLAS experiment reconstructed in Lego
It's not quite a do-it-yourself particle accelerator for the home, but as part of an outreach project at the Niels Bohr Institute, Physics postdoc Sascha Hehlhase has assembled a stunning model of ATLAS, one of the ongoing experiments at the Large Hadron Collider, entirely out of Lego bricks. The attention to detail is quite impressive, capturing the "muon and magnet system to the innermost pixel detector." Hehlhase breaks down his work by the numbers: about 9,500 pieces, 1 x .5 x .5m in size ("roughly 1:50 in scale"), and about 81 hours of work total — 48 hours to build the 3D model and 33 hours of construction ("spread out over several weekends and happy hour").Read Article >
A construction manual is said to be forthcoming, with alternate instructions for finding the missing Higgs boson brick (key to the Standard Model in both particle physics and subsequently in Lego brick physics, as well) and for building a medieval fort with a dungeon and working catapults. The LHC's other five particle detector experiments are not included.
Dec 22, 2011
LHC discovers first particle since opening: the Chi-b (3P) bosonRead Article >
It's not the Higgs, but the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has discovered a new boson by the name Chi-b (3P). As explained to the BBC, the new particle is a more excited state of Chi particles already observed during collisions, and is comprised of "beauty quark" and a "beauty anti-quark" bound together. Although the excited state had been theorized by the Standard Model of particle physics, it had not been observed until now. The discovery helps complete our understanding of the universe and is hailed as the first clear observation of a new particle since the 17-mile underground accelerator opened for business in 2009.
Dec 12, 2011
Higgs boson 'glimpsed' but evidence not conclusive
On Tuesday, teams working at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland are expected to present evidence that the Higgs boson particle has been glimpsed. However, the evidence will not be conclusive according to an email sent to staff by Rolf-Dieter Heuer, CERN's director-general. University of Manchester professor Stefan Soldner-Rembold, calls the quality of LHC's results "exceptional" but cautions that we'll likely have to wait less than a year to find out if the Higgs particle has been discovered.Read Article >
Two teams — Atlas and CMS — are sifting through billions of collisions looking for evidence of Higgs boson. Recent rumors claim that they have seen indications of a Higgs spike at 125 GeV within a 2.5 to 3.5 sigma level of certainty (where three sigma is an "observation" and five sigma is a discovery). Nevertheless, if the two teams at LHC announce a spike at the about the same place then physicists would be confident that they're close, but obligated to wait until they've reached a five sigma conclusion before announcing the discovery of Higgs boson.