The Latest from CERN: It’s a Higgs!

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Parity: The letter I has positive parity. L has negative parity.

Parity: The letter I has positive parity. L has negative parity.

Physicists have known since the 1920’s that particles also have angular momentum. It is represented by a particle’s quantum spin number. Matter particles or fermions have non-integer spin, such as an electron which has a spin number of 1/2. Force carrying particles or bosons have integer spin, like photons which have a spin of 1. As noted, the Higgs boson has a spin of 0.

A particle’s parity has to do with mirror symmetry. The letter I looks the same in a mirror, so it has positive parity. The letter L does not, so it has negative parity. More rigorously, parity involves a transformation from x, y, z co-ordinates to -x, -y, -z co-ordinates. The Higgs boson is unaffected by this transformation, so has positive parity.

Higgs Breakthrough

The discovery of the Higgs boson represents a number of significant milestones in 21st century physics:

A New Elementary Particle. The Higgs boson is the first fundamental particle experimentally verified since the top quark in 1995. It is the last of the fundamental particles predicted by the Standard Model to be found. It is the first zero spin particle ever discovered.

British physicist Peter Higgs – for whom the Higgs boson is named. CERN Photograph by Claudia Marcelloni.

Higgs Field Explains Particle Mass. The Higgs field permeates our universe. The Higgs boson is a quanta of energy of that field.  Interactions with the Higgs field determine the masses of all particles. The Higgs is also the first evidence of a scalar field. (A scalar field has magnitude but no direction.)

Support for Cosmic Inflation . Cosmic inflation theory proposes a scalar field existed ever so briefly in the very early moments after the big bang. This scalar field is said to have expanded our universe exponentially in less than the blink of an eye — resulting in the extreme uniformity and zero spacetime curvature geometry of the visible universe we see today. The Higgs discovery gives credence to scalar fields and strengthens the viability of cosmic inflation theory.

Resources

Geneva Press Release. New results indicate that particle discovered at CERN is a Higgs boson. (2013). Accessed March 19, 2013.

Dennis Overbye. CERN Physicists See Higgs Boson in New Particle. (2013). NYTimes.com. Accessed March 19, 2013.

Kathryn Jepsen. Higgs-like particle still looking like the Higgs. (2013). Symmetry Magazine. Accessed March 19, 2013.

Clara Moskowitz. 6 implications of finding a Higgs boson particle. (2013). Foxnews.com. Accessed March 19, 2013.

Frank Wilczek. Thanks, Mom! Finding the Quantum of Ubiquitous Resistance. (2012). Pbs.org. Accessed March 19, 2013.

Groleau, R. Elementary Particles. PBS. Accessed March 19, 2013.

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