Changing Planet

Breaking News – We found the Higgs, Unless You’re a Scientist

By Alaina G. Levine

Lindau, Germany- At 11am 4 July 2012, Rolf Heuer, Director General of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, announced that results from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) show that “We have discovered a new particle. It is a boson….We have found the last missing corner stone of the standard model. We can close a chapter.”

Ok, but is it the Higgs Boson?

That depends if you are a layperson or a scientist, he said. As a layperson, yes, “We have it. As a scientist, I would say we have discovered a boson and now we just have to figure out which boson it is.”

If it is a Higgs Boson, “it will tell us that there’s a certain field out there everywhere for which the fundamental particles like quarks and bosons get their mass,” he said. But it is not a solidified announcement. “It is the beginning of a long journey to investigate all the interesting properties of this particle. If it is scalar it will be the first fundamental scalar ever discovered and could give us a lot of information about the Standard Model and everyone is excited about this.”

However he did say that the probability of the existence of the Higgs is roughly one in one million.

Just how similar is the particle they discovered to the one that Peter Higgs, who attended the press conference, predicted? “It’s premature but we can say right now it is consistent with the Higgs Boson for the Standard Model,” said Heuer.  “We need more data. Ask me again in 3 or 4 years.” He compared the search for this Boson to a situation where you see a person across the way and you think it’s your best friend but perhaps it’s your best friends twin. As they come closer and closer you get more data and learn more.

Joe Incandela, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and spokesperson for one of the two research groups working on this problem, amplified the importance of this discovery. “The existence of a Higgs-like scalar supports the concept of supersymmetry,” an important aspect of the Standard Model.

Some interesting points: In answer to the question how many particles were used in this research, Incandela responded that 500 trillion particles were used. Think of it this way, he said: if each particle was the size of a grain of sand, there would be enough particles to fill an Olympic size pool, but the number of particles (or sand grains) that actually reduced results could fit on your fingertip.

How about the ROI for industry? Well, three companies, one French, one Italian, and one German, helped build the system, and according to the team, for every Euro they spent in R&D, they got three and a half Euros back. In addition, new technology was specifically developed for the LHC. “We developed the silicon detectors from this,” said Incandela.  “10 years ago we didn’t have this technology.”

But the significance of this discovery is not lost on its founders. “We are reaching into the fabric of the universe at a level we have never gone before,” said Incandela. “We have completed one part of the story. We are on the frontier. We are on the edge of exploration. Maybe this is the edge of the story and maybe we will see another particle.”

“The Standard Model is not complete. It is not the ultimate theory of particle physics and the dream is to find the ultimate theory and we are seeking that,” said Fabiola Gianotti , the Head of the ATLAS experiment at the LHC. “I would be delighted if this is a Standard Model Higgs Boson.”

“As an experimentalist, when we work we have no bias in what we’re seeing. We really want to observe nature,” said Incandela.  “The theory of Higgs led us to look for this particle. We have no prejudgments of nature. We know that the story is not complete. We know that there is Dark Matter in the universe, and maybe in the future we can ask where does out mass come from. If this is a Higgs and it is not the Standard Model Higgs, it will act as a portal a guide to what to do next. The more complicated and bizarre it turns out to be it helps us more.”

But he might have to wait some time. Even with this new discovery, the LHC will only continue its run of experiments by a few more months. “We will extend this run by 2.5 months to 3 months. Then we will shut down the LHC for two years.” He said. “We can’t go beyond these three months because we really need a lot of maintenance.”

There could be worse days in the life of a Director General I must say,” said Hauer. “I am really pleased with all the dedication of all the people who contributed to this success.”

Reporting from Lindau, Germany, at the 62nd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting (Physics),  Alaina G. Levine is a freelance science writer, professional speaker, corporate comedian, and President of Quantum Success Solutions, a leadership and career consulting enterprise. She can be contacted through her website at

Alaina G. Levine is science journalist, professional speaker, corporate comedian, and science and engineering careers consultant. As President of Quantum Success Solutions, a career consulting enterprise with a focus on advancing the professional development expertise of scientists and engineers, she has been advising emerging and established scientists and engineers about their careers for over a decade, and has personally consulted with hundreds of early- and mid-career scientific professionals. The author of over 100 articles pertaining to science, science careers and business in such publications as Science, Nature, Scientific American Online, IEEE Spectrum, New Scientist, and Smithsonian, she was recently named a Contributor to National Geographic, where she writes articles and blogs for NatGeo News Watch. Levine also writes the Careers Column for The Euroscientist and the Profiles in Versatility career column for the American Physical Society's national publication, APS News. Previously, she directed a master's program in science and business and taught entrepreneurship to science graduate students at the University of Arizona. She has given over 450 workshops and seminars around the country and in Europe. Levine holds degrees in mathematics and anthropology from the University of Arizona, studied abroad at the American University in Cairo as a DoD National Security Education Program/Boren Fellow, and pursued grant-funded research in cosmology and mathematics history. Recently, she was honored with a travel fellowship to cover the 62nd Lindau (Physics) Nobel Laureates Meeting in Lindau, Germany (which she used to cover the meeting for National Geographic and APS News), during which she broke the Higgs news for NatGeo. She also has been honored as a Logan Science Journalism Fellow at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Robert Bosch Stiftung Science Journalism Fellow and an Institutes for Journalism & Natural Resources Fellow. In addition, Levine is an award-winning entrepreneur, winning more than 20 business and leadership awards in under a decade, including being named one of the youngest YWCA Women on the Move winners; the Tucson Leader of the Year, an honor previously bestowed upon former US Surgeon General Richard Carmona; and a Tucson 40 Under 40 Leader, an honor she shared with former US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Read her complete bio at
  • Trenton Scott

    Why announce now when they aren’t sure what they have? Premature announcements are not good. Progress is extremely slow and having shows like this without solid proof is simply unwarranted drama. Not good enough. Are there five clear channels as the Higgs Theory predicts or not? Has any other facility or experiment confirmed these partial findings? No. Billions have been spent and years of effort from a cast of thousands….

  • William Perry

    Man cannot prove a straight line exists, much less mass. This “standard model” is a religion as much as anything.
    When scientists get to the top of the mountain, they will find a group of Shamen

  • Nikola Milovic

    I am neither a physicist nor a theorist, but logician.
    I know that an absolute vacuum, by science is not empty. There is something of which all things were made, and science is not yet mature enough to explain.
    When the particle acceleration in vacuum tubes, the inner composition of the unknown with that irritated, and on the accelerating particle is “glue” the composition and the collision with the target, this “smart” glued composition leaving the place, “skirmish” in the back in their own way in initial state.
    Proof: all fall apart in less than a billionth of a second, and science does not have time to analyze it, nor will it be able to do with the present technique, based on the finite speed of light, which is not true.
    Is it possible to measure the speed of return of the “debris”, I doubt you can, because they return a lot faster than the speed of light.
    The greater the acceleration of known particles, it gets more and more unknown to scientists, “baptized” as they wish, but none is viable.
    What does that prove?

  • fernando mancebo rodriguez

    If the boson of Higgs exists, then the Cosmos must to be stuffed of them.
    These bosons also must to be immutable, stationary and with equal density through the Universe.
    I other cases, the mass of particles should be different in any place as for the density of these bosons.
    On the other hand, the bosons of Higgs must to be bigger and powered particles that could be discovery and seen in any place of the space.
    Then, the CERN particles can’t be the boson of Higgs because disappear quickly and alone is getting in the great machines as the particles accelerators.
    But much more, the boson of Higgs is contrary to the physical observation because if they exist, then the particles can different mass in each place of the space.


  • Professor Abed Peerally

    The story of what is mass requires insight into the origin of the universe, of matter, energy, gravitation, and of what is the reality of existence. I know that the only way we can understand mass and its cause requires we have a concept of integrating relativité and quantum theory. I have such a concept. It does not indicate there should be a particle doing that. It is a concept much more fundamental, penetrating, amazing and futuristic than what goes about as Higgs Particle. This is not denying as I have said earlier, that there could be one particle that médiates aspects of Beta decay. In addition to my paper combining SR and GR(SAJS, 104: 221-224), I can see that understanding Einstein relativité deeply is a sine qua non to understand the deepest realities of the universe. I bet there is no particle that can confer mass. What confèrs mass is a subparticle phenomenon about which I will élaborate in due course.

  • Concerned

    This is turning out to be one of the biggest scamms in science. Now you need 4 more years to suck the tax payers money just to justify some thoerists curiosity.

  • JP Hadden

    Slight query – “However he did say that the probability of the existence of the Higgs is roughly one in one million.” I think this is a misquote – surely it should be that the probability the particle (higgs or not) DOESN’T exists is 1 in a million – ie the prob that the data which shows it was a random noise fluctuation.

  • fernando mancebo rodriguez

    The Higgs’ boson is not discovered, it is created artificially and it can’t be found in nature.
    Then, what has been proven really with the artificial creation of the W, Z bosons and especially the Higgs boson? Because they are artificial and unstable particles that may not survive in nature, and therefore, the field and Higgs boson theories are erroneous and lacking of any real application in the Cosmos.

  • Daniel Stolte

    So sad to see that none of these comments make any sense whatsoever…

  • Professor Abed Peerally

    When we talk about HB we are basically talking about the origin of mass and the advocate of this mass hypothèses believe that the reality of existence and of matter would be consequently explained . Actually the opposite will occur. The whole problematic of what constitutes reality of matter and life would be exacerbated beyond any possibility of récupération and a big chunk of science for décades would be obliterated.

    General relativité and spécial relativité provide the first steps for approaching an appréciation of what is the universe like. Another important ingrédient is Heisenberg uncertainty. There is enough in thèse two concepts to make me realise that we humans are just as impossible to explain as God. It is not difficult to therefore see that there is a possibility since we do exist there can be some existence far superior to ours. We exist because it is impossible, so far. to explain why we do exist. The same applies to whether God exists. So in other words it is a futile and useless, so to say. exercise to go on and on to dispute whether it is more correct to be a theist or an atheist. If we believe in ourselves then you can believe in any other incredible thing.

    N’ext there is this incompréhensible point of création ex nihilo. i have a feeling that most people will somehow, sooner or later, sensé there is something in this. So when we attempt to explain the origin of the universe we have to realise, unlike S. Hawking, that time is not so fondamental after all. Who says there was a item 0. Emphatically there is no need to make that assumption. There was a different kind of time, not our time. Similarly there could have been a different kind of space, not our space before our own existence happened. Maybe the nothing that produced something was a kind of space with it own time.

    The point being made is that we have become too educated and we know too much about science, scientific mettons, and we remain encloses within thèse wall. We have, again unlike Hawking’s claim that philosophy is dead, attempt to understand the universe with a tinte of philosophy. Why for instance there is entropie, what is it that makes particles move about rather than stay permanently still, why time moves forward, why did matter evolve from from small to big and bigger ones and so on. When you combine thèse with relativité in the widest possible sensé, then you will see that combining relativité with quantum theory become simple and straightforward, and you will realise gradually what is existence and everything that this entails. I enjoy being hazy and provocative.

  • […] the lead off article is one in National Geographic [Link] that nicely illustrates the futility of trying to communicate with bogs. It vastly transcends the […]

  • Leonardo Rubino

    It’s very sad to be always doubtful and suspicious with news coming from what could be the most precious and charming thing: the world of science and of the scientific knowledge.

    Unfortunately, many facts, not negligible, really push you to suspicions and criticisms. ONE CANNOT PRETEND NOT TO NOTICE that, just yesterday, they told us two and two is nine; I’m talking about the story of superluminal neutrinos, later corrected.
    That news shouldn’t even have been proposed and all those who learnt with passion even just some rudiments of relativity and electromagnetism, should immediately keep their distance.
    On the contrary, many theoretical “physicists”, all over the world, have been able to applaud the news on superluminal neutrinos!!!!!!!
    Many others didn’t applaud, but they didn’t keep their distance, either!!!

    Besides, many blogs can prove I didn’t do that, but I immediately attacked that news…
    It seems that there is, in the air, a great need of private lessons on basic physics (basic electromagnetism and basic relativity) for many official physicists and researchers, all over the world.

    On the basis of that, read my whole opinion, with all the mathematical and physical easy explanations, at the following link: (also in Italian language)

    And just to put further irons in the fire, what to say about the dying and unjustifiable dark matter?

    Finally, what to say about the recent news on the Higgs boson, now found: first of all, the scientific environment from which that news comes from is the same one, again. Furthermore, this kind of announcements have got a behaviour in common: they all diverge, instead of converging to a point of common deep knowledge of the Universe. In fact, such a boson just apparently brings an answer to us (on what it would do), but, at the same time, it also brings another half a dozen of new questions (on what it really is and on how it would do what they say it does).
    It’s not so clear, in people’s mind, what mass is exactly given by such a Higgs boson. In my opinion, it’s because the whole environment and the whole subject are not so clear…
    By summing it up a bit, Higgs boson would give a mass to other particles, through the friction among them and the Higgs’ field!
    It’s like if there is a guy, whose name is Anthony (and I don’t know him) and after long researches and investigations I’m told that Anthony has been introduced to Jennifer by Josephine, through Michael. And so, now, I still don’t know Anthony, but not only: from now on, I do not know also Jennifer, Josephine and Michael…
    In fact, the echo of the news on the Higgs’ boson has not yet faded out and there is already who has (re)started to hunt the superhiggs, in environments with 43 dimensions!
    And the story goes on…

    That’s what I think about.

    Thank you for your attention.



    Leonardo Rubino.


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  • Domenica

    Hi Matt, I know you are trying to adsders the masses, and do not know what your feelings are about other theoretical physicsts on this site (I know some other bloggers do not want others stealing their thunder), but as far as I am aware there is no real public forum for professionals, apart from conferences which are themselves very limited . Anyway if you do not wish that kind of thing, please tell me. In regards to the no Higgs scenario on your other page, my view is that you missed one very likely possibility no Higgs, no technicolor, no supersymmetry all that stuff being wrong. And this is now not as outlandish now as it sounds. A low width SM Higgs is now very unlikely. With no supersymmetric particles seen, by all previous standards in physics, that theory deserves to be called a speculation. It is really very unlikely. Technicolor it has really had a tough time to get it not to disagree with experimental facts as they are known now, in which process it has lost much of its appeal. Sure one can say there are many variants of the above two theories according to which nothing should yet be seen. But the point is that as old frontiers fall (a metaphor for a theory version) one can always twist and turn and introduce new parameters to put up a new bastion. Really Feynman was right, when presented with a variant of superstrings, its not the desire of agree with experiment that should tell you how many dimensions to compactify, but the theory itself.

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