The Most Significant Physics Breakthrough of 2012

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One or Two Higgs Particles?

CERN ATLAS data shows two new particles. (Combined data deleted). Image by CERN

Had the elusive Higgs boson predicted nearly 50 years earlier finally been found? CERN physicists said in the July announcement that more analysis was needed to be sure. Was it the Higgs particle predicted by the standard model – or something more exotic?

On December 13, 2012, CERN made a startling revelation – updated data analysis suggested the existence of two Higgs bosons – one at 123.5 GeV and another at 126.6 GeV. Was this a measurement fluke (most likely) or is the venerated standard model wrong? An extensive search has found no systematic errors in the data analysis or instruments so far.

The CERN data release scheduled for March 2013 should be very interesting.

Additional Noteworthy Discoveries of 2012

Below is a list of other significant accomplishments in physics and related fields this past year:

Curiosity Self Portrait: Image courtesy of NASA/JPL.

Curiosity self portrait. Image by NASA/JPL.

Mars Rover Curiosity – The NASA rover explored the Martian landscape and examined its soil for signs of life.

Sending Messages via Neutrinos – A group of scientists sent a message using a beam of neutrinos for the first time. Almost massless neutrinos – called ghost particles because they rarely interact with other matter – travel at nearly the speed of light.

Color Glass Condensates – Physicists at CERN produced what they believe to be a new form of matter: protons with the customary three quarks but also a saturated swarm of gluons (strong force messenger particles that hold quarks together).

Unbound Planetary “Nomads” – Observations suggest that ejected planets could outnumber stars by as much as 100,000 to 1. There may be a trillion of these planets unbound to any star in our Milky Way galaxy alone.

Negative Light Frequency – Long thought to be a mathematical solution with no physical meaning, a team of researchers observed negative frequency effects in electromagnetic waves.

Lack of Supersymmetry – Experiments at CERN find no evidence for superparticles, virtually eliminating the simplest forms of supersymmetry theory.

Direct Measurement of Time Reversal Violation – A collaboration of physicists verifies a basic tenet of quantum mechanics for the first time.

Majorana Fermions Found – Physicists in Netherlands found the first evidence for non-fundamental particle-like entities produced by electrons in solids. Their existence was first predicted in 1937 by Italian physicist Ettore Majorana.

2012 in Physics

2012 was a good year for science, as you can see. From the Higgs Boson to unbound planets to a possible new form of matter, we’ve made a number of landmark discoveries this past year. If you feel we have left out a noteworthy physics achievement in 2012, please share in the comments below!

Happy New Year to all Decoded Science readers!

Sources:

ATLAS Experiment. Latest Results from ATLAS Higgs Search. (2012). ATLAS News. Accessed January 2, 2013.

Moyer, M. Have Scientists Found 2 Higgs Bosons? (2012). Scientific American. Accessed January 2, 2013.

STFC. Welcome to the Large Hadron Collider. (2012). Accessed January 2, 2013.

Weinberg, S. Conceptual Foundations of Quantum Field Theory, edited by Tian Yu Cao. (1999). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

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