Higgs boson discovery opens up new avenues of research for U of S scientist
By Fan-Yee Suen
The potential discovery of the Higgs boson -- an elusive particle that could explain how the universe began -- could see scientists unlocking some of nature’s greatest mysteries, including some that are being researched here in Saskatoon.
“It’s one of the major puzzles in our field,” said University of Saskatchewan physics professor Tom Steele. “[The discovery] starts to give us some framework for looking at new types of questions and ideas with a bit more certainty.”
Steele, who recently returned from the 16th International Conference in Quantum Chromodynamics where the Higgs particle was on everybody’s mind, said the discovery has injected new life into his own research, which looks at how heavy the Higgs boson weighs.
“We have actually been predicting a Higgs mass that is heavier than what has been observed,” said Steele, whose team is using a slight variation of the Standard Model of physics: a theory explaining how particles fit together and predicts the Higgs boson.
“So one of the interesting challenges for us is trying to see if the ideas we’re looking at could possibly be consistent with the discovery that’s been made,” said Steele.
On Wednesday, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) unveiled data from the Large Hadron Collider that is consistent with the Higgs boson, sometimes called the God particle.
Scientists around the world, including Steele, were glued to their television and computers as they watched the live announcement from outside Geneva.
“This discovery is going to be one of the landmarks in terms of what we know about basic fundamental particles and basic fundamental interactions,” said Steele whose research in theoretical particle physics has been published in a number of refereed journals.
Steele said the discovery of the Higgs will impact everyday technology however what the impact will look like is still unknown.
“It’s often hard to predict what new technology might develop from a basic scientific discovery,” he said. Steele pointed to the laser and the transistor as examples of scientific ideas that were once just abstract scientific ideas.
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