Science wires reverberate with news of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) once again accelerating particles following a 2 year hiatus. Catching wind of LHC successfully out of the starting blocks this past Sunday, my initial reaction was “holy crap, that’s fantastic”. Officially LHC shut down in February 2013 for “upgrades” and maintenance in preparation for this week’s curtain – particle collisions at almost double the previous velocity.
In 2013, the Nobel prize in Physics went to Francois Englert and Peter W. Higgs for theories developed in 1964 on how particles acquire mass.
The awarded theory is a central part of the Standard Model of particle physics that describes how the world is constructed. According to the Standard Model, everything, from flowers and people to stars and planets, consists of just a few building blocks: matter particles. These particles are governed by forces mediated by force particles that make sure everything works as it should.
“The entire Standard Model also rests on the existence of a special kind of particle: the Higgs particle. This particle originates from an invisible field that fills up all space. Even when the universe seems empty this field is there. Without it, we would not exist, because it is from contact with the field that particles acquire mass. The theory proposed by Englert and Higgs describes this process.
On 4 July 2012, at the CERN laboratory for particle physics, the theory was confirmed by the discovery of a Higgs particle. CERN’s particle collider, LHC (Large Hadron Collider), is probably the largest and the most complex machine ever constructed by humans. Two research groups of some 3,000 scientists each, ATLAS and CMS, managed to extract the Higgs particle from billions of particle collisions in the LHC.
Even though it is a great achievement to have found the Higgs particle — the missing piece in the Standard Model puzzle — the Standard Model is not the final piece in the cosmic puzzle. One of the reasons for this is that the Standard Model treats certain particles, neutrinos, as being virtually massless, whereas recent studies show that they actually do have mass. Another reason is that the model only describes visible matter, which only accounts for one fifth of all matter in the cosmos. To find the mysterious dark matter is one of the objectives as scientists continue the chase of unknown particles at CERN.”
Back to my “holy crap, fantastic” – recognizing magnitude, does little to solidify that event in accessible terms. I can “holy crap” all week long, “fantastic” would be wrapping a middle aged head around theoretical physics. Toss me a crumb Hadron, you have my undivided attention. Out there somewhere is a merciful person or website capable of patient baby steps from the Standard Model to ramifications of your greatness.