10 years ago, at the Large Hadron Collider in Cern, Switzerland, the world changed with the discovery of the Higgs boson, also known as the “God Particle.” This was evidence of the Higgs field, an invisible energy field throughout the universe.
The discovery of the Higgs boson explains three out of four fundamental forces of nature. It allowed scientists to understand how electrons have mass and how they create a cloud around a nucleus. It explained why a neutron is more massive than a proton, and why a proton is stable while a neutron decays.
Essentially, the discovery of the Higgs boson facilitated by data from the Large Hadron Collider ushered in a new age of scientific discovery. Now, scientists are firing up the Large Hadron Collider again for a new round of data collection and discovery.
The Hadron Collider, a huge proton smasher, starts its third period of data collection this week. Prof Daniela Bortoletto, head of the particle physics department at Oxford University and part of the team that discovered the Higgs boson, reflected on the discovery to The Guardian and discussed possible new areas of discovery.
“The Higgs field explains why atoms exist, why we exist. And the fact that we can put it in a context that we think that we understand, I think is pretty cool,” Bortoletto said.
Bortoletto and the rest of the team hope to learn how the Higgs boson interacts with muons — negatively charged, fundamental particles — and couplings to the Higgs boson itself.
“Understanding, for example, the Higgs self-coupling could [help us] understand the shape of the Higgs potential and understand better what happened at the beginning of the universe.”
The third period of research began this Tuesday, with the Hadron Collider operating at 13.6 trillion electronvolts (TeV) compared to the former 13 trillion. Bortoletto expects this will double the research data sheets.
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