Melbourne takes centre stage in Higgs boson announcement
|5 July 2012 |
|It felt like Melbourne was at the centre of the Universe for the historic announcement of the discovery of the Higgs boson particle late yesterday.|
|All eyes were on the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre where more than 800 physicists congregated to join a live hook-up with counterparts at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva where the ATLAS and CMS experiments presented their latest preliminary results in the search for the long sought Higgs particle. |
The momentous news that both experiments observe a new particle in the mass region around 125-126 GeV made a perfect curtain-raiser for Melbourne’s hosting of the 36th International Conference on High Energy Physics (ICHEP), which has drawn physics leaders from around the world, including the directors of the major particle accelerators in Europe, America and Asia.
Director General of CERN, Professor Rolf Heuer said: “ICHEP is the most important conference in the particle physics calendar, and it's great that it's happening in Australia for the first time - a sign of that country's growing stature in the field.”
Federal Minister for Science and Research, Senator Chris Evans, congratulated CERN on its confirmation of the existence of the new particle and thanked Melbourne University Professor Geoffrey Taylor for leading the group of Australian scientists involved in the research.
"Confirming the existence of the Higgs boson has been a life-long quest for many physicists, including many Australians," Minister Evans said.
"This is an historic day. The Higgs boson is the particle which gives weight to all things and this discovery could help scientists understand how the universe was created and how it could end.
"Australia can be proud of the role our scientists played in research into the Higgs boson and I hope this breakthrough will inspire a new generation of Australian researchers and scientists."
Professor Geoffrey Taylor said proving the existence of the Higgs boson was pivotal.
"It will enable us to gain further understanding of the nature of the fundamental building blocks of nature, how they interact and how they gained mass in the very first fraction of a second after the Big Bang," Professor Taylor said.
Meanwhile, researchers the world over are excited by the results of the experiments.
"We stated last year that in 2012 we would either find a new Higgs-like particle or exclude the existence of the Standard Model Higgs. With all the necessary caution, it looks to me that we are at a branching point: the observation of this new particle indicates the path for the future towards a more detailed understanding of what we're seeing in the data," said CERN Research Director Sergio Bertolucci.
The results presented have been labelled preliminary and are based on data collected in 2011 and 2012, with the 2012 data still under analysis. Publication of the analyses is expected around the end of July.
"We have reached a milestone in our understanding of nature," said CERN Director General Rolf Heuer. "The discovery of a particle consistent with the Higgs boson opens the way to more detailed studies, requiring larger statistics, which will pin down the new particle's properties, and is likely to shed light on other mysteries of our universe."
Positive identification of the new particle's characteristics will take considerable time and data. But whatever form the Higgs particle takes, experts claim our knowledge of the fundamental structure of matter is about to take a major step forward.
The acting CEO of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), Dr Greg Storr, said the announcement highlighted the importance of accelerator science.
"Australian scientists are able to access the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, thanks to an agreement with ANSTO," Dr Storr said.
"But we're also very proud of our home-grown accelerators, which are ensuring Australia is well represented in this important area of science."
In addition to fundamental science accelerators, like the LHC, a range of smaller accelerators, such as the Australian Synchrotron in Melbourne, have applications including the study of protein structure and new pharmaceuticals. ANSTO also has two accelerators at its Lucas Heights campus, with another two under construction.
Named after Prof Peter Higgs, the Higgs boson is also known as the God particle, after the title of Nobel physicist Leon Lederman's The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question? which contained the author’s assertion that the discovery of the particle is crucial to a final understanding of the structure of matter.
For more information on accelerator science in Australia, visit the website of Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation.