Sunday, June 17, 2012

Finding the Higgs mechanism and boson

A physicist make this controversial comment:
The Higgs was discovered in the 70's when the standard model was put together; this is just the latest confirmation of the standard model. It once again disputes all the naysayers, who think the heirarchy problem is fake. No. The higgs is real. The standard model is real. Its properties, such as the heirarchy problem, are real. Nature has spoken, we have listened.
I agree with it. The Higgs mechanism is an essential part of the Standard Model of high-energy physics and has been quantitatively confirmed since the 1970s. The value of the mass was unknown, and there is always the possibility of some other explanation for the data, but the Higgs was discovered in the 1970s.

There is a separate Wikipedia article on the Higgs boson, where it is described as "a hypothetical elementary particle predicted by the Standard Model (SM) of particle physics." According to rumors at the above blog, the boson has been found to have a mass of 125 GeV, and it will be announced by the LHC as soon as all the data are double-checked.

There will be a fight for credit for the Higgs boson. Part of the problem is that Nobel prizes are not given for theoretical physics, so no prize was given for the Higgs mechanism. So some physicists will be claiming that they should be credited now for work that they did in the 1960s.

It did not really take 50 years to appreciate the value of that work. By 1970, it was clear that the Higgs mechanism gave an important class of models that were advantageous over all the known alternatives. By 1975, we were getting experimental confirmation of those models. The recent LHC experiments add the value of the Higgs mass, but the theoretical and experimental evidence for the SM with Higgs mechanism had been known for decades.

In sum, the Higgs mechanism was proposed by Anderson in 1962, adapted to the SM in the following decade, and experimentally confirmed in the 1970s. The Higgs boson was proposed by Higgs in 1964, and is just now being experimentally confirmed by the LHC (if the rumors are correct).

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