Boson-spotter’s guide helps you decode the Higgs

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The elusive Higgs boson, or something very close, has finally been spotted at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland. The next challenge is to pin down whether the new particle is the boson physicists were expecting or some other beast.

One of the first things physicists want to know about the new particle is itsspin, a quantum property that is analogous to the angle of the axis of rotation of a particle. They also want to know whether it has parity, a property most easily explained as whether a particle is identical to its mirror image – or more like your left and right hands. Perhaps most importantly, they will investigate seeming deviations in the rates that the Higgs decays to certain particles compared with the predictions of the standard model of particle physics.

All these things will help determine whether the new particle merely completes the standard model, offers hints to an elegant, more comprehensive extension – supersymmetry – or demands something else totally new.

You can read more about all this – and what it means for physics – in our special report: Beyond the Higgs. To help make sense of the different options, and to illustrate just what the different possibilities are, we drew up the flowchart below:

It’s not clear when we’ll have answers to the questions – the best-case estimates say by the end of the year. In the meantime, take pleasure in the fact that almost anything is still possible.

Written by physicsgg

July 12, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Posted in High Energy Physics

Tagged with ,

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