Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Higgs boson discovery announced
A graphic showing traces of collision of particles at the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) .
Carnegie Mellon University physicist, Manfred Paulini, was planted in front of his home computer at 3 a.m. on July 4, 2012, to watch the CERN announcement of the discovery of the Higgs boson. Hearing that data were sufficient to provide nearly irrefutable proof of the particle's existence was surprising to most physicists. First predicted to exist in 1964, the Higgs boson provides mass to other particles and completes the standard model of particle physics, which explains the physics of subatomic particles. So the grand announcement was important not only to their professional lives but to science and history.
Profs. Manfred Paulini, Tom Ferguson, Jim Russ, and Helmut Vogel, who are members of the Experimental High Energy Particle Physics group in the CMU physics department, along with scientists worldwide, celebrated the announcement, including 300 people who crammed into a conference room at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago, with another room for crowd overflow for the announcement. Because the Fermilab is a government facility, the crowd celebrated with nonalcoholic champagne.
Paulini did not raise a glass of champagne to celebrate the breakthrough because "it was too early in the morning for alcohol," he said. "But this was a historical moment in particle physics -- the thing people have been awaiting for 30 years."