The Higgs boson is one of the most important, most abstract, and most interesting ideas in current physics. Dubbed the “god” particle after an editor disallowed one of the co-discoverers from calling it “that goddamn particle”, it is the only remaining particle in the Standard Model that has not been directly observed by humans.
The fact that we’ve never seen any evidence of its presence is a big deal. The Standard Model is a shining jewel of modern physics, a mathematical model describing the most basic facets of the world using a symmetry group. The predictions of this model have been confirmed so many times and in so many different ways that it’s almost become more exciting to think of what it would mean if the theory were broken by some strange event than to rejoice at yet another correct prediction.
So this is why the missing Higgs boson fascinates so many. But why is it missing at all? The answer comes from the Standard model itself and its mathematical foundations. Like the sides of a many-faceted jewel, a symmetry group has many parts, all reflecting some basic property of an underlying structure. Every single observation so far indicates a jewel of a certain shape, and we’ve seen every face except for one. There seems to be no other possible structure that would fit the observations and create a complete crystal to speak, so we’re left inevitably with the conclusion that one face remains in the dark.
But now something very interesting has happened. Evidence of the Higgs boson may have been found! Not at the new and fancy Large Hadron Collider, but the good old Tevatron, home of Fermilab. Apparently a rather prominent physicist passed some rumours going around the physics world to a blogger.
On a completely different issue, I’ve heard that there’s a rumor going around Aspen that the Tevatron will be announcing discovery of gluon + b → b + Higgs, which would then require large tan(beta), which would fit the MSSM. I guess we’ll find out in a couple of weeks.
This is big news – the observations indicate a “light” Higgs boson, which is why the older Tevatron was able to find it when everyone thought the higher power Large Hadron Collider would be required. What does a light Higgs boson mean? Something very inspiring – that particle physics isn’t quite done figuring out the world quite yet.
…a light Higgs boson pretty much proves that there has to be new physics beyond the Standard Model well below the Planck scale. The new particles should be bosons and the only natural reasons why the Higgs, or the new bosons, should stay light is supersymmetry.
The best fits based on this assumption imply that the squarks and slepton masses – and more generally, other superpartner masses – should be close to 500 GeV or so and they should be observable by the LHC, possibly by the end of 2011.
But what does Fermilab, the apparent source of this grand discovery have to say about it?
I find it interesting that there is not an explicit denial, but a statement that these rumblings in the physics community are “just rumours”. Rumours can’t be published in scientific journals – so I suppose we’ll have to wait and see just what this all means.