CERN turns up power to answer Higgs riddle

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iol scitech feb 14 cern

AP

During its first run, the particle accelerator was used to discover the subatomic particle known as the Higgs boson.

Geneva - Scientists hunting the Higgs boson, the sub-atomic particle believed to have played a vital role in the creation of the universe, decided on Monday to turn up the power in their Large Hadron Collider to try to prove its existence this year.

The CERN research centre near Geneva wants to prove or disprove the existence of an invisible 'Higgs' field permeating the universe quickly, before the giant LHC machine is shut down for a long-term upgrade in late 2012.

“This means more Higgs, more quickly,” said CERN spokesman James Gillies. The existence of the particle was postulated by British physicist Peter Higgs in 1964 but has never been proved.

According to the theory, the particle was the agent that made the stars, planets - and life - possible by giving mass to most elementary particles, the building blocks of the universe.

In the LHC, two beams of energy are fired in opposite directions around the 27km pipe before slamming into each other, spawning particle collisions that recreate what happened a tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang, which brought the universe into existence 13.7 billion years ago.

By boosting the energy of each beam - from 3.5 Tera-electron Volts (TeV) to 4 - scientists will get three times more data from tens of millions of daily collisions, CERN said.

Physicists believe that without the Higgs boson and its associated 'particle field', debris from the Big Bang would never have coalesced to form galaxies, stars and planets.

In December two teams of researchers at CERN, the European particle physics centre, both said they had separately seen “tantalising glimpses” of what might be the Higgs during collisions inside the LHC, deep under the Swiss-French border.

But both groups need to gather enough information independently to claim formal discovery of the boson - or to conclude that there is no Higgs, at least in the form that they and others have been seeking since the mid-1980s.

Whether the existence of the Higgs is proved or disproved, a definitive answer would be a momentous event in modern physics, which combined with cosmology and astronomy is rapidly pushing back the frontiers of knowledge about the universe.

The LHC has been closed for a three-month winter break and is due to close again for 20 months from the end of 2012 for a major upgrade in its equipment and power.

“By the time the LHC goes into its first long stop at the end of the year, we will either know that a Higgs particle exists or have ruled out the existence of a Standard Model Higgs,” said CERN Research Director Sergio Bertolucci.

The Standard Model is an overarching theory explaining how the known universe works, based on the work of Albert Einstein and his two theories of relativity early last century.

The Higgs is the last important element in the model whose existence has yet to be proven. If it is found not to exist, physicists will seek answers from the super-powered LHC when it starts up late in 2014.

The upgrade is intended to let the LHC investigate “New Physics”, which includes concepts such as super-symmetry, dark matter, dark energy and parallel universes, long been the stuff of science fiction. - Reuters

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Meme-Man, wrote

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04:15pm on 14 February 2012
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GivenK - I think you may be a wee bit off there connecting "universal mind" into quantum physics.

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Bobster , wrote

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03:49pm on 14 February 2012
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GivenK, I hope I am not intruding but I must disagree with your statement that “We already know what the Universe is made up of.” That is the whole point. If we knew everything about the universe then there would be no Cern experiment as we would already have known the answers. Also to equate scientific experiment with spirituality in the context of your posting only stimulates debate that does not centre around the context of the article always veers off into the god v science debate. It has become increasingly boring to have every article on science posted on the IOL website immediately spiritualized by “spiritual” people trying to trash the very scientists who have enabled them to make use of this medium of communication. I.e.The internet. Let’s give science its due and leave the spiritual offerings to the religious columns. BTW. Should they harness the Higgs boson and it becomes commercially available I will enjoy floating around in my “Higgsmobile”.

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GivenK, wrote

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03:04pm on 14 February 2012
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Meme, Quantum physics has also discovered that we can't separate the universal mind which controls our material world from the rest of the world. I think that for CERN to come up with a more plausible answer for the public domain, they need more than just science. We don't need to leave longer to understand the Universe coz the answer is right there in YOU. For the record, all Great scientists of the past had great respect for Spirituality..(from Descates to Albert Einstein ). We already know what the Universe is made up of .

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Meme-Man, wrote

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02:20pm on 14 February 2012
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Hi GivenK - I was hoping for a more specific answer, but, thank you. I think the issue is this: Science has a hypothesis that everyone is knowable; spirituality revels in mystery and avoidance of the knowable - from that basis I would say that they are diametrically opposed. The outcome is therefore clear, for every step science makes forward in discovery, it is at the cost of revealing the underlying mechanics of mystery - and thereby giving spirituality and religion an ever smaller island of magisterium to stand on. It is true that quantum physics has revealed properties of the universe that are counter-intuitive to our animal brains, which evolved to deal with a medium-sized environment operating at medium pace. For the record - the cause and evolution of the cosmos has some pretty good theories whose modeling and observed behaviour correlate very well with those theories and allow predictions that hold out in experiment. CERN's quest for the Higgs is just the next exciting step toward confirming yet another step along the path. It is a fantastic and fascinating time to be alive and witness these breakthroughs.

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GivenK, wrote

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01:56pm on 14 February 2012
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Meme, there is a lot to talk about.Nevertheless, for centuries Science has rejected many assertions about the Universe on the basis that they were not scientifically proven....They are many examples in the public archives... They have been to the Moon, but still don't understand the Great causes of the Universe. Now someone is trying to reproduce that in a lab. Gosh!!! in the same way Life can't be created in a lab, the True meaning of the Universe remains hidden in the Realm of Spirituality ....Life is more spiritual than material......Science has to improve it's materialistic approach.....

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Meme-Man, wrote

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12:17pm on 14 February 2012
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GivenK@10.34pm - Science getting closer to spirituality? I'm intrigued - please expand on this thesis.

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GivenK, wrote

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10:34am on 14 February 2012
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At last!! science is coming closer to spirituality.Still scientists should remember that we are living in a Spiritual World where the Unknown contols the Known(material world). The principle of life and what created the Universe emanates from the Divine Cosmic and we need spirituality to explain that ....

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Meme-Man, wrote

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10:22am on 14 February 2012
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That second paragraph will bring the nuts and chicken-lickens out of the woodwork: "CERN wants to prove or disprove the 'Higgs' before shut down in late 2012."... They're about to start clucking about the Mayan prophesies for 2012 and this experiment setting off doomsday... Standby IOL, here comes a deluge of "sky about to fall on our heads" comments....

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