CERN: We’re sure this is a Higgs boson, but we’re not sure which one it is

CERN physics

Last July physics researchers at CERN said they thought they had found evidence of the Higgs boson, a theoretical but essential component of our standard model of physics, and the raison d’être of the enormous Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Now they’ve come back with further analysis of their data, and they’re more sure than ever that what they found is the real deal.

How sure? Well, these are scientists so there’s still a note of caution, but Joe Incandela, a spokesman for one of the LHC experiments, went on-record with a pretty confident statement: “The preliminary results with the full 2012 data set are magnificent and to me it is clear that we are dealing with a Higgs boson.”

However, they’re still not sure what kind of Higgs boson they’re looking at. From today’s statement:

“Having analysed two and a half times more data than was available for the discovery announcement in July, they find 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. It remains an open question, however, whether this is the Higgs boson of the Standard Model of particle physics, or possibly the lightest of several bosons predicted in some theories that go beyond the Standard Model. Finding the answer to this question will take time.”

It’s not surprising that this task takes time. CERN said a month ago that its storage systems were holding 100 petabytes of data.

The research organization has been working closely with companies such as Yandex to sift through that information in search of unusual events, and in Thursday’s statement CERN pointed out that finding one event means looking through around a trillion proton-proton collisions.

“To characterize all of the decay modes will require much more data from the LHC,” the statement read. For now, the LHC is turned off – it will come back online next year.

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