The furore surrounding the world-famous Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will reach its peak tomorrow when particle physicists working at CERN are expected to reveal whether or not they have found the elusive Higgs Boson, or ‘God’ particle. A theoretical necessity in keeping our postulated ‘standard model‘ of particle physics, scientists have been accelerating and colliding particles for several years, examining the resulting debris in the hope of finding the mysterious particle.
CERN’s team will hold a press conference tomorrow at 9am EST, when it is thought that they will announce their discovery of the Higgs at a mass-energy of 125 GeV to a certainty of 2.5 to 3.5 sigma (corresponding to 96% to 99.9%, respectively). For it to be a confirmed discovery, it must reach a certainty level of 5 sigma, so although this is incredibly exciting it is by no means a confirmed discovery just yet – however, it significantly strengthens the hope and optimism for a bona fide 5 sigma finding in the near future.
I’m afraid this blog post won’t be particularly enlightening until after this much-awaited news, which may impact the entire scientific community and have huge knock-on effects on issues such as scientific policy, funding and global co-operation. For now, I’ll leave you with a brief Fermilab video explaining exactly what the Higgs is, and why it’s important that we find it.
This post will be updated tomorrow – hopefully with exciting news for the future of science!
Edit: For a lovely little stop-start animation explaining the Higgs Boson and LHC, see our recent video post.
14th December update: What have CERN found?
The news announced at CERN yesterday was a great step in the right direction, but unfortunately still leaves the Higgs saga with an inconclusive ending. The researchers used a combination of data from their ATLAS and CMS experiments to narrow down the range of possible masses at which the Higgs might be found to 124-126 GeV. This came with an associated confidence level of 3.5 sigma – for it to be considered a certified discovery, this level must rise to 5 sigma.
However, overall CERN were optimistic that we won’t have to wait too long to achieve this, with both Fabiola Gianotti, spokesperson for ATLAS, and CMS spokesperson Guido Tonelli claiming that we should have a 5 sigma finding within the year of 2012.