The Higgs in Motion

Find out what all the Higgs-teria is about...

  • Simulated data modelling at the LHC.

    Simulated data modelling at the LHC. 

    Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday CERN announced findings that confirmed the existence of a particle consistent with the Higgs boson. Combining data sets from two experimental detectors at the LHC (CMS and ATLAS), CERN have been able to achieve a confidence level at the ‘five-sigma’ mark, which provides enough statistical significance to herald this result a ‘discovery’.

The Higgs mechanism and subsequent boson were first proposed back in the 1960s by Peter Higgs and 5 other colleagues – a detail which is likely to cause trouble for the Nobel committee, as prizes are only given to a maximum of three individuals. Some 50 years later, experiments at the LHC have finally found something that looks like that particle, weighing in at around 125.3 gigaelectronvolts (about130 times heavier than the proton).

For physicists across the world this result is a monumental achievement and could be one of the most significant findings since the discovery of DNA. However this result doesn’t bring an end to the work at the LHC, for starters scientists must now ascertain whether this particle behaves as predicted by the standard model or whether it is instead something quite different.

However, despite the generous helping of media coverage that the LHC and the Higgs have received over the years, there’s no denying that the science and technology behind it isn't easy to digest.

Ian Sample at the Guardian recently provided a wonderfully down to earth explanation of the Higgs mechanism using some ping-pong balls, a bag of sugar and a couple of catering trays:

Adding to this simplified explanation, Fermilab have also produced this video using animation to further explain the Higgs field:

The LHC is also one of the largest scientific experiments ever to have been created, and is the home to thousands of individual experiments which attempt to understand everything from fundamental particles to the properties of dark matter. This animation from Tom Gibson and Simon Howells at the University of Hertfordshire provides a brief overview of the LHC complex, providing an idea of the scale at which it exists:

The LHC involves some 10,000 people and with the focus on a single particle, it’s easy to forget the individual human investment within such a huge project. Colliding Particles is a beautifully shot series of web-documentaries focusing on particle physicist Jon Butterworth and colleagues as they pass through the challenges and scientific formalities of their work at the LHC. Where these films really excel is in detailing the very human and emotional elements intertwined with their work:

Lastly, on a lighter note, Oxford Sparks have produced this wonderful animation which playfully explores the LHC through a crack squad of protons, who dutifully wing themselves around the central collider tubes to perform experimental collisions:

Update 10/07/12

This time-lapse video documents the making of an art project commissioned by the ATLAS Experiment at CERN. The three-story-tall mural was painted by international artist Josef Kristofoletti on the side of the ATLAS control room directly above the detector.

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