The Higgs Boson Discovery: The Announcement on 4 July 2012

It was July 4th, 2012, when scientists at Switzerland’s CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) announced their extraordinary discovery: a new particle consistent with the Higgs boson. This discovery has been labeled revolutionary because it completes the last piece of particle physics’ Standard Model, allowing us to explain how particles acquire mass. Let’s find out why it’s so important and how scientists were able to find it using cutting-edge vacuum technology.

Introduction: A Little History and What’s Next

The Higgs boson, also known as the “God particle,” is an elementary particle in the Standard Model of particle physics, which is the foundation of our science. It is thought to be created by quantum excitation of the Higgs field.

The Higgs boson was named after Peter Higgs, one of six physicists who proposed the Higgs mechanism in 1964 to explain why some fundamental particles have mass while others do not. This particular mechanism implied the existence of the Higgs boson.

The only elementary scalar particle

The Higgs boson is unique in that it is the Standard Model’s only elementary scalar particle. While all elementary particles discovered so far spin, scalar particles have no spin instead.

There are 17 fundamental particles in the current Standard Model. Only two of these, the electron and the photon, were known to anyone 100 years ago. They are currently divided into two groups: fermions and bosons. The fermions, which are the building blocks of matter, have a spin of + or – ½, while vector bosons have a spin of 1. And now, the Higgs boson has been added, with no spin.

The role of Higgs

The Standard Model is a theory that describes how matter’s fundamental particles interact with one another. It is a successful theory that has been tested by numerous experiments over a long period of time. It does not, however, explain everything. It does not, for example, explain the masses of elementary particles.

The Higgs mechanism is a method of inculcating mass into elementary particles. It achieves this through a Higgs field, which is a force field that pervades all of space. Because the Higgs field is so strong, some particles interact with it more strongly than others.

The greater a particle’s interaction with the Higgs field, the greater its mass. The Higgs boson is a particle that acts as a bridge between the Higgs field and other particles.

The discovery of the Higgs boson is a significant step forward in our understanding of the universe. It helps to explain how the world around us is constructed from the smallest things we are aware of.

What’s next for the Higgs boson?

Now that we know that the Higgs boson exists, we want to know more about it. In particular, we want to know its mass.

The mass of the Higgs boson is a critical number. It controls the strength with which the Higgs boson interacts with other particles. The heavier the Higgs boson, the weaker the interaction.

So far, we only have a rough idea of the mass of the Higgs boson. We know that it is between 115 and 127 GeV. (gigaelectronvolts). This is a relatively small amount for such a critical particle.

The hierarchy problem

We’d also like to know more about the Higgs field. We’d like to know why the Higgs field has its strength. This is referred to as the hierarchy problem.

The hierarchy problem is a major unsolved problem in particle physics. It is one of the main reasons why physicists believe there must be new physics beyond the Standard Model.

The Higgs boson is a very important particle, and we have only scratched the surface of what it can tell us about the universe.

Discovering the Higgs Boson with CERN’s Large Hadron Collider

Scientists announced the discovery of the Higgs boson at CERN in 2012, thanks to the Large Hadron Collider’s ATLAS and CMS experiments. This was a major scientific breakthrough since the Higgs boson had been predicted but never observed by the Standard Model of particle physics.

How did scientists find the Higgs boson?

Scientists discovered the Higgs boson by smashing together particles at higher energy levels in a supersensitive vacuum chamber. Scientists were able to create and observe the decay of a particle that appeared to be the Higgs boson itself. According to theory, the particle had a short lifetime and decayed in ways that the Higgs boson should, according to theory. This allowed them to confirm the existence of the Higgs boson and measure its properties.

As a result, Higgs and Englert were awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics.

God particle – with the assistance of vacuum technology

How were these experiments carried out?

The fundamental experiments that support this science require complex machines that operate under the most stringent vacuum conditions. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) became the world’s largest operational vacuum system in 2008. It employs an impressive array of vacuum technologies and operates at various pressure levels.

Indeed, ‘vacuum’ technology is at the cutting edge of almost all high-energy physics, particle acceleration, and surface science. A vacuum is defined as “an environment in which the pressure is much lower than the atmospheric pressure.”

Agilent vacuum technology

CERN has worked with Agilent Technologies for over 50 years, when the company was still known as Varian Vacuum. Agilent is a producer of vacuum pumps and accessories.

The partnership between Agilent and CERN, the world’s leading nuclear research organization, started in Torino, Italy, with the establishment of a factory in the 1960s. The factory’s specific purpose was to manufacture ion pumps used to create ultra-high vacuum (UHV) in the LEP (Large Electron Positron Collider), the largest particle accelerator at that time. Since then, CERN has used Agilent ion pumps in some of the most advanced particle physics experiments, including the 2012 discovery of the Higgs Boson in the LHC (Large Hadron Collider), today’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator.

Since then, CERN granted Agilent multiple contracts for the supply of ion pumps, the most recent one being a four-year contract to produce ion pumps and controllers in September 2020. The contract is the most recent milestone in the long-running collaboration, revealing faith and confidence in the ongoing relationship as well as the great science it will produce.

Today, the highest possible level of vacuum on the planet, known as XHV (eXtreme High Vacuum), is obtained by using a combination of pumps that always include ion pumps. All major innovations in ion pump technology have been developed at Varian/Agilent Vacuum and have evolved from the original sputter ion pump invented at Varian in 1957. Have a look at the most recent Agilent ion pumps here.

Space-time and vacuum: a lifelong interest

In the 17th century, the science of the vacuum began. To date, vacuum solutions fuel not only academic and government labs, but large physics projects worldwide.

Vacuum technology will play an integral role in the development of remarkable instruments and systems that capture time and space in ways beyond our imagination. Agilent is dedicated to supporting this tech progression by providing the most advanced, innovative, and high-performing vacuum technology equipment and machinery.

Today, a decade after the discovery of the Higgs boson, we still know that the science of the vacuum will undoubtedly be at the heart of many future cosmic discoveries and technological advancements.

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