Physicists spot Higgs boson


This simulation depicts a detection of the Higgs in the Compact Muon Solenoid experiment used by physicists working at the world’s largest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider. (Image courtesy of CERN)

In an announcement that received international attention, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) on July 4, 2012, said that physicists observed a new particle whose properties are consistent with the predicted Higgs boson, a particle much smaller than an atom that is theorized to be crucial to understanding the nature of the world around us.

About 15 Princeton researchers are members of the international collaboration that has been hunting for the Higgs at the world’s largest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a 27-kilometer underground circular tunnel crossing the border of Switzerland and France.

“A huge amount of work goes into making sure things are working properly,” said Daniel Marlow, the Evans Crawford 1911 Professor of Physics, who works on luminosity measurements — a key measure of how well the LHC is functioning — with his colleague Assistant Professor Valerie Halyo. Princeton physics professors Christopher Tully and James Olsen are leading initiatives to evaluate signs of the Higgs particle.

The Higgs particle and its corresponding Higgs force field are essential for explaining how particles have mass and how the universe evolved. “Without the Higgs, matter would not exist as we know it,” Tully said.

Support for Princeton particle physics research at the LHC comes from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The luminosity measurements and other infrastructure projects are funded by the DOE and the National Science Foundation.