After analyzing "two and a half times more data" since initial findings last summer, scientists at the CERN research labs in Switzerland say that they are pretty sure that they found what they think they found. After wowing the world last July with the announcement that they had discovered the Higgs boson, the CERN team double checked their work and are reasonably certain that the particle they observed was a Higgs boson—even if it wasn't the Higgs boson.
In a frustratingly non-committal statement, CERN said 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." Yes, "more and more" is not exactly a dead-on lock, but when you're dealing with highly-theoretical sub-atomic particles, that's about as precise as most Ph.D.s are willing to get. "It takes around 1 trillion (1012) proton-proton collisions" to produce a single detectable Higgs event, so you're just going to have to take what you can get.
They added that "It remains an open question" if this is the real-deal boson that Higgs dreamed of when trying to solve the Standard Model of particle physics, or some other lesser boson, but they'll keep crunching the numbers and get back to us. (But it probably is.)
The latest confirmation is both a stunning scientific and technological triumph—but not a Nobel-worthy one, apparently—and a gigantic letdown for physics researchers. Just last week there was chatter on the internet that this confirmation was coming down, but that the Higgs boson, while real, isn't quite what science had hoped for. Some recent tests suggested it might not fit into the Standard Model in quite the way it was predicted to, and probably won't reveal any amazing new secrets about how the universe is built. We're not entirely sure what all that means, but with science being science we'd just say that no mystery is ever completely sovled. Or to put it another way, there's always another "God particle" around the corner.
Big analysis of new data on the Higgs boson, and -- it's looking pretty vanilla. home.web.cern.ch/about/updates/…— Sean Carroll (@seanmcarroll) March 6, 2013
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