After almost a year of suspense as physicists at CERN sifted through figures, parsed data, and double and triple checked their math, this morning saw the team behind the discovery of the Higgs boson finally confident enough to officially announce to the world that they had, in fact, really found a Higgs boson. The only thing that’s uncertain now is which Higgs boson they’ve found, because come on, it wouldn’t really be physics without at least one question left unanswered.
Though finding the Higgs boson has been billed as the key to completing the Standard Model of particle physics, it isn’t only that, and while CERN researchers have been confident for some time that they’re closing in on the boson, they still don’t understand exactly what version of the Higgs they’re seeing in the data. It could be the one described in the Standard Model, or it could be a more exotic flavor of Higgs theorized elsewhere. According to the official statement from CERN, which is no doubt the most thoroughly hedged announcement of good news in recent memory:
Having analysed two and a half times more data than was available for the discovery announcement in July, they find that the new particle is looking more and more like a Higgs boson, the particle linked to the mechanism that gives mass to elementary particles. It remains an open question, however, whether this is the Higgs boson of the Standard Model of particle physics, or possibly the lightest of several bosons predicted in some theories that go beyond the Standard Model.
In other words, yes, that is definitely a Higgs boson, but there’s plenty more work to do before we understand exactly what that means. Say what you will about the world of physics, but its residents can rarely be accused of moving too quickly.
- We’ve been inching closer and closer to just calling this a Higgs boson for a while now
- Here’s a good, simple explanation of just what we think the Higgs boson is
- Seriously, CERN has really been keeping us in suspense on this angle