(Online Course) Contemporary Issues for IAS Mains 2012: Sci & Tech Issues – What Next After A Higgs boson

Science and Technological Issues

What Next After A Higgs boson – Like Particle?

The ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC Apparatus) collaboration at CERN
has announced the sighting of a Higgs boson-like particle in the energy window
of 125.3 ± 0.6 GeV. The observation has been made with a statistical
significance of 5 sigma. This means the chances of error in their measurements
are 1 in 3.5 million, sufficient to claim a discovery and publish papers
detailing the efforts in the hunt.

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Rolf-Dieter Heuer, Director General of CERN since 2009, said
at the special conference called by CERN in Geneva, “It was a global effort, it
is a global effort. It is a global success.” He expressed great optimism and
concluded the conference saying this was “only the beginning.” Another
collaboration, called CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid), announced the mass of the
Higgs-like particle with a 4.9 sigma result. While insufficient to claim a
discovery, it does indicate only a one-in-two-million chance of error. Joe
Incandela, CMS spokesman, added, “We’re reaching into the fabric of the universe
at a level we’ve never done before.”

The LHC will continue to run its experiments so that results
revealed on Wednesday can be revalidated before it shuts down at the end of the
year for maintenance. Even so, by 2013, scientists, such as Dr. Rahul Sinha, a
participant of the Belle Collaboration in Japan, are confident that a conclusive
result will be out.

“The LHC has the highest beam energy in the world now. The
experiment was designed to yield quick results. With its high luminosity, it
quickly narrowed down the energy-ranges. I’m sure that by the end of the year,
we will have a definite word on the Higgs boson’s properties,” he said. However,
even though the Standard Model, the framework of all fundamental particles and
the dominating explanatory model in physics today, predicted the particle’s
existence, slight deviations have been observed in terms of the particle’s
predicted mass. Even more: zeroing in on the mass of the Higgs-like particle
doesn’t mean the model is complete. While an answer to
the question of mass formation took 50 years to be reached, physicists are yet
to understand many phenomena. For instance, why aren’t the four fundamental
forces of nature equally strong? The weak, nuclear, electromagnetic, and
gravitational forces were born in the first few moments succeeding the Big Bang
13.75 billion years ago. Of these, the weak force is, for some reason, almost 1
billion, trillion, trillion times stronger than the gravitational force! Called
the hierarchy problem, it evades a Standard Model explanation.

In response, many theories were proposed. One theory, called
super symmetry (SUSY), proposed that all fermions, which are particles with
half-integer spin, were paired with a corresponding boson, or particles with
integer spin. Particle spin is the term quantum mechanics attributes to the
particle’s rotation around an axis. Technicolor was the second framework. It
rejects the Higgs mechanism, a process through which the Higgs boson couples
stronger with some particles and weaker with others, making them heavier and
lighter, respectively. Instead, it proposes a new form of interaction with
initially-mass less fermions. The short lived particles required to certify this
framework are accessible at the LHC. Now, with a Higgs like particle having been
spotted with a significant confidence level, the future of Technicolor seems
uncertain. However, “significant constraints” have been imposed on the validity
of these and such theories, labelled New Physics, according to Prof. M.V.N.
Murthy of the Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IMS), whose current research
focuses on high-energy physics.

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