Higgs boson

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A Higgs boson is an hypothesized elementary particle whose direct existence is predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics, but proved to be difficult to observe. It serves a key role in attempting to explain the origin of mass of other elementary particles of the Standard Model. Some writers believe that proof of the particle's existence will help undermine belief in Creationism, [3] hence the nickname "God particle".

It has been indirectly observed with only a probability of certainty of 4 standard deviations by the Large Hadron Collider, and 5 standard deviations (which is equivalent to a certainty of approximately 99.9999667%) by ATLAS - particle accelerators based at CERN in Switzerland. Physicist Leon Lederman coined the term "God Particle" to describe the Higgs boson.[1].

On July 4, 2012, Physicists at CERN announced the observation of a particle whose properties are consistent with mathematical predictions relating to the Higgs boson. However, CERN has yet to definitively state that the particle they observed is, in fact, the Higgs.[2] The particle cannot, technically, be confirmed to exist with certainty - and therefore the best that can be said is a new particle has been discovered, the observed properties of the particle are consistent with those predicted of Higgs boson. The process now begins to determine the precise mechanism by which the Higgs boson confers mass, as its existence has been confirmed to the level of accuracy deemed necessary to constitute discovery. That level of accuracy is the "5 sigma test", that says that the probability that the discovery was a statistical fluke is less than one in a million.

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Overview

The Higgs boson is a boson, whose group includes other fundamental building blocks of the universe, such as photons. The Higgs boson, however, is unique in that it allows mass, under the Higgs theory, in the Standard Model. It is believed to be around 126 GeV (Gigaelectronvolt) in mass.[3]

2012 CERN discovery

In July 2012 CERN announced evidence of discovery of a boson with an energy level and other properties consistent with those expected in a Higgs boson. The available data raised a high statistical likelihood that the Higgs boson had been detected. [4] This high statistical likelihood is due, in part, to the separate obtaining by two distinct teams of data within the realm of statistical error for the predicted properties of the Higgs.[5]

Reaction in the popular press and blogosphere

Perhaps spurred by the seeming religious significance of the phrase, some bloggers and authors have apparently gone out of their way to disparage the discovery.

  • [4], written by a Conservapedia author.
  • "It will certainly be amusing if it turns out that the scientific media is reading the tea leaves wrong and CERN is summoning famous particle physicists to Switzerland in order to announce the failure of the Standard Model. But that won't be half so hilarious as if their announcement of the proof of Higgs boson is eventually followed by a reluctant admission that it doesn't actually exist in spite of all their sigmas." written by Thomas Beale, a blogger for Vox Day.[6]

Other bloggers quickly responded to the latter, with statistical evidence.

  • "Ignorance is Blitz" from science writer Phil Plait.

Scientists at ATLAS have confirmed that there is a 99.99996% likelihood that the July 2012 particle observed is indeed the Higgs boson. Whether it is the Higgs boson is largely a matter of semantics, and will have to wait until its properties are elucidated more.

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