Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Let's Not Jump the Gun with the Higgs!

CERN physicists in a webcast tried to share their excitement with colleagues around the world, on their putative discovery of the Higgs. Well, can you blame them for being somewhat impatient? We're talking about a search lasting decades that's likely been one of the costliest in the history of science. We're talking of a location with its Large Hadron Collider, that was set up as THE place to dig out the Higgs boson - especially after the Superconducting Supercollider in the U.S. fell through due to lack of funding. One of the sorriest retrenchments in our history, followed by the retreat from space (and please don't get me going on the so-called "private sector" space exploits!)

Anyway, Dr. Rolf Heuer, director general of CERN, while referring to the new discovery as "a historic milestone" was nevertheless cautious in asserting that it's too soon to know for sure if the new particle (coming in at 125 billion electron volts) is actually the long sought particle. I totally agree and would suggest hypers, humpers and pumpers pipe down until further analyses are made. To be blunt, it's way too soon to be saying definitiely that THE Higgs has been found. (People may still recall how too many jumped the gun last year on the discovery of "superluminal neutrinos")

To fix ideas here, the subatomic particles are basically classified into two groups according to their "spin" - see e.g.

as either FERMIONS (example: the electron) or BOSONS. The Fermions are called so because they obey Fermi- Dirac statistics, e.g.

while the BOSONS (for example the photon, and Higgs boson) obey Bose-Einstein statistics: E.g.

Thus, these "statistics" are critical in basically determining, or rather predicting, the extent of occupancy of the particular species of particle with reference to the energy state of the particle.

The existence of the Higgs itself is tied to the so-called "Standard Model", according to which the Higgs is the only visible (and accessible) manifestation of an invisible field called the "Higgs field".   The so-called 'Standard Model' is generally defined as the symmetry: SU(3) x SU(2) X U(1)

where each of the factors defines a matrix. (Readers can review any of the past blogs on matrices, including unitary or posed as groups. See, e.g. )Spontaneous symmetry breaking would therefore resolve this combination into constituent parts, e.g.:

SU(3) associated with the 'color force' of quarks

SU(2) x U(1) associated with the electro-weak force

One possible symmetry breaking (quark -boson format) is:

SU(3) x SU(2) X U(1) -> SU(3) + SU(2) x U(1)

which would occur at a particular ambient temperature (T_qb) for the universe at some epoch (E_qb) in the past. In the foregoing, the synthesis of SU(2) and U(1) into the locally gauge invariant electro-weak theory requires a mechanism which confers mass to three vector bosons while leaving the photon massless. This 'mass-giving' mechanism is called the Higgs Field or Higgs mechanism. It demands the existence of one or more massive, spin-0 bosons otherwise called Higgs bosons.

The problem? The culmination of analyses of over 800 trillion proton-proton collisions over the past 2 years have generated a quandary. When the physicists are buttonholed they admit they know little. The CERN results are mostly based on measurements of two or three of the dozen different ways, or “channels,” by which a Higgs boson could be produced and then decay. Worse, there are hints that some of the channels are overproducing the Higgs while others might be underproducing.

The upshot? There may not be ONE Higgs here, but two or three. Much like the case of the neutrino, which was once believed to be one entity only, but we now know is THREE: the electron neutrino, the tau neutrino and the muon neutrino, see e.g.

All we can say now is stay tuned!

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