Of Particular Significance

The Higgs Symposium in Edinburgh

POSTED BY Matt Strassler

POSTED BY Matt Strassler

ON 01/09/2013

I’m enjoying my first visit to Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom, as a visitor at the new Higgs CenterCentre (it is the UK after all) for Theoretical Physics, recently founded in honor of Professor Peter Higgs and of the discovery of a candidate Higgs particle at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).  Today is the first day of the Higgs Symposium, a three-day workshop organized by the centre (and co-sponsored by the IPPP) that is celebrating the history of and the science behind (and ahead) of the recent discovery.  (I’ll be speaking on Friday.)

There was a quick introduction by Richard Ball, the centre’s director — who was the first one to show a photo of a blackboard containing the equations of Higgs’ work, along with an great old photo of Peter Higgs from the days when he was writing his famous papers, dug out of the records at the University of Edinburgh.  (Experts: For a Higgs doppelganger, see here.) Then a set of hour-long talks began.  The first of these was a wonderful historical talk, looking back over 50 years, by Chris Llewellyn Smith.  Professor Llewellyn Smith played a significant role in the Higgs discovery, with his contributions ranging from showing in the 1970s why a Higgs particle is necessary if quantum field theory (the types of equations we use today to describe particles) is correct, to pushing for the LHC to be built while head of the CERN Council and then as Director General of CERN in the 1990s.   If time permits, I’ll may describe later a few of the fascinating historical twists that he described — though I’m afraid that most of them would be of interest mainly to experts in the field.  For the moment, those interested may want to read his article that appeared in the journal Nature in 2007, entitled “How the LHC came to be“, which covers some related issues.

Following this we have so far had talks by Joe Incandela (spokesman of the CMS experiment) and Eilam Gross (co-convener of the Higgs search group at ATLAS) summarizing the experimental situation.  As expected, there wasn’t anything new announced here; the talks involved an overview (for the audience of mostly theorists, including quite a few students) of how the measurements are done, and a review of previously announced results.  I’ll describe a few interesting details of their talks later today or tomorrow.

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