Scientists have finally locked onto Higgs Boson, the ‘God Particle’, a discovery that crowns the global scientific community’s most challenging and comprehensive quest for the subatomic particle rightly regarded as “the key to the cosmic riddle”.
Scientists at CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research), Geneva, announced the discovery on Wednesday, in the presence of a tearful Peter Higgs, the British physicist after whom the particle is named, and many other scientists. The breakthrough has been described as the biggest leap in physics.
An overwhelmed Higgs, 83, said: “I certainly had no idea it would happen in my lifetime at the beginning, more than 40 years ago. I think it shows amazing dedication by the young people involved with these colossal collaborations to persist in this way, on what is a really a very difficult task. I congratulate them.”
What exactly is a Higgs Boson? Simply put, it enables particles in atoms to help invest them with mass, the basic building blocks of the universe, which include everything from the lowliest of micro-organisms, through soil, water, minerals, plants, trees, insects, animals and mountains to the most complex life forms including humans, even entire planets and galaxies.
Take away Higgs Bosons from atoms and the results would be chaotic. Their particles, comprising protons, electrons and neutrons, would zip through space with lightning speed, unable to bind together to form atoms. Then all creation would be unthinkable.
“If this missing piece is not found, we’ll have to rewrite physics textbooks,” observed Satyaki Bhattacharya, physicist at the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata. “But if it is found, there’s still lots of work ahead.”
Bosons belong to a family of particles named after the Indian physicist Satyendra Nath Bose, a contemporary of Albert Einstein, his German counterpart, who gave us the Bose-Einstein statistics (B-E statistics), one of the three systems which statistical mechanics, a branch of physics, recognizes. Bosons are characterized by their obedience to B-E statistics. This class of particles includes photons as well as the Higgs boson.
Higgs boson is named after Peter Higgs, the last of the 12 particles postulated by the Standard Model of physics, the theory that describes the basic building blocks of the universe, excluding gravity. Higgs had predicted the particle’s existence roughly 40 years ago.
The discovery can been likened to that of the electron, a subatomic particle, the idea first being floated in 1838, but its presence was confirmed only after 60 years.
Central to the discovery is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest and most powerful particle celerator, housed in a massive 27 km circular tunnel, some 175 metres underground near Geneva. It was built by CERN from 1998 to 2008, to detect the presence of Higgs boson, besides addressing some of the most fundamental questions of physics.
The LHC smashes beams of sub-atomic particles such as protons virtually at the speed of light, recreating conditions that existed for a billionth of a second after the Big Bang, heralding the birth of the universe. As the universe cooled, the theory goes, an invisible force known as the Higgs field permeated the cosmos, made up Higgs bosons.
More than 10,000 scientists and engineers from over 100 countries, including a 150 from India, collaborated to erect the superstructure. Besides, Swapan Sen and Sandeep Sarkar of Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata, developed a prototype of chip named MANAS (Multiplex Analogue Signal Processor), in 1997, which took them 11 years. Some 80,000 MANAS chips were supplied to the LHC.
MANAS’s high speed and vast recording capacity, could help speed up personal computers by 10,000 times and boosting internet speed phenomenally.