Higgs boson—hidden or imagined?

- Tara Sharpe

You can’t hear it. You certainly can’t see it. But after telltale signs this winter, the world can be more convinced that the Higgs boson might be all around us. The ATLAS team from UVic played a role in the latest announcement of another round of new data from the Large Hadron Collider.

The LHC—recently named by Popular Science as one of humankind’s ten most ambitious science projects—is a giant 27-km circular ring buried 100 m underground near Geneva to accelerate beams made up of trillions of protons into deliberate head-on collisions. It is hoped the data from the collisions will help unveil the secrets of nature by allowing physicists to examine the very building blocks of matter.

On Dec. 13, researchers released results that offered indications the elusive Higgs boson particle actually exists and that a long-standing theory of physics may well be true. The theory is that the elusive particle is responsible for the mass of all things in the universe. The trick is to prove its existence.

ATLAS-Canada spokesperson Dr. Rob McPherson, an adjunct professor at UVic, echoes last month’s announcement from CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (whose facility is the site of the LHC), saying that the researchers see indications of the Higgs Boson appearing in three statistically independent analyses in two different experiments, that no one of these indications is more significant than a prediction that the next role of a pair of dice will be double sixes coming true, but that seeing signs in all of the search channels is very unlikely. CERN also stated that "tantalizing hints have been seen ... [although] not yet strong enough to claim a discovery." CERN News Release  

There was international, national and local media attention revolving around the LHC results, including coverage by the Globe and Mail, Vancouver Sun and Times Colonist. BBC News also mentioned the role played by UVic-ATLAS data in a supercomputing demo in November 2011.

The UVic group brought Canadians into the ATLAS experiment in 1992 and is responsible for several crucial components of the ATLAS detector, one of two large detectors recording the debris from the subatomic collisions.

The ATLAS data centre is housed at TRIUMF, Canada's national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics in Vancouver, founded by UVic, UBC and SFU and owned and operated by a consortium of Canadian universities.

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Keywords: Higgs boson, particle physics

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