Matt Strassler [January 17, 2013]
Particle physicists have recently discovered a previously unknown, possibly elementary, and certainly important particle. And if you’ve been following along in even the slightest degree, you know the new particle resembles to some degree a type of long-awaited Higgs particle. (For laypersons, here’s my FAQ about the Higgs field and particle, and here’s an article about why the Higgs particle matters so much.) The discovery of such a particle, a ripple in the mass-providing Higgs field, apparently confirms that the Higgs field, without which we and all ordinary matter would explode, really does exist in nature.
The discovery was made back in July. With six months having passed, it seems a good moment to step back and take stock, as some of us did at the Higgs Symposium last week in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. The purpose of this article is to bring non-experts up to date on what we’ve learned over the past six months since the discovery, and to elucidate the questions that lie ahead… using the talks given at the Symposium as source material.
In this article, I want to take a look at what we know so far about the new particle.
- How Higgs-like is this new particle?
- How likely is it that it is the only Higgs particle?
- How likely is it that it is an elementary particle, as the electron is thought to be, as opposed to made from more elementary particles, like a proton is known to be?
- And how likely, if it is elementary and the only type of Higgs particle in nature, is it to be a Higgs particle of the simplest possible type: the so-called Standard Model Higgs particle?
Several of the speakers at the Higgs Symposium addressed these issues in one way or another, and I’ll be reviewing what they had to say in a non-technical fashion (except that now and then I’ll mention a few techy details — which you can easily skip over.).
7. Suppose the Standard Model is Right; What Then? [Coming soon: two perspectives, one from Shaposhnikov who offers an argument as to why the Higgs has a mass of close to 125 GeV/c², and one from me, about how we ought to view this situation, if it turns out to be true.]