Tuesday, June 24, 2014

So About That Higgs Boson Thingie

I believe you recall that the Higgs boson was discovered in 2012 by CERN; the so-called 'God particle', the discovery of which would go a long way towards explaining the Big Bang and, thus, how we got here. The search for it was the reason we have the Large Hadron Collider.

Well, if a new study, co-authored by Robert Hogan at King's College in London, holds up against scrutiny, we kind of... well... shouldn't be here. He'll present his findings further on Tuesday- today, technically-  but in layman's terms, what ought to have happened is that, microseconds after the Big Bang, the universe should have expanded so fast that it disrupted enough of the area around it to cause quantum fluctuation and make the Bang collapse right back in on itself. Obviously, there is some sort of explanation as to why that didn't happen, up to and including the study being in error somehow, and obviously the next step is to go figure out what that reason is.

There is also some other Higgs news, although I will in no way claim to be versed enough in the language to be able to intelligently explain what's going on. But although I urge you to just click ahead to Ian O'Neill's writeup at Discovery News, I still need to make some attempt at an overview. As I read this, it looks to be saying that the Higgs boson has until now just been... a boson, one of the two types of particles in quantum mechanics. A boson that decays into other bosons. What's just happened is that a Higgs boson has decayed into the other type of particle, known as a fermion. This does not, though, qualify as a 'discovery' that they can announce and be all proud of, because the experimental significance isn't yet high enough; that is, they're not sure enough that they saw what they think they saw. To qualify, you need 5 sigma worth of standard deviation, and right now they're sitting at 3.8 sigma.

What does that mean? Quite frankly, I can't parse it out for the life of me, but I'm sure someone out there who knows more about quantum mechanics than I do can help me out on it.

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