Higgs boson behaving as expected
Pier Oddone of Fermilab talks during the Australian Science Media Centre background briefing on the search for the Higgs boson in Melbourne in July (Reuters)
By Dan Satherley
CERN scientists working at the Large Hadron Collider have good news and bad news to report.
The good news is further research has shown the particle discovered in July is likely to be the Higgs boson they had been hunting for nearly five decades.
But that's also the bad news.
Initial testing suggested the particle could have been something more exotic than the basic Higgs boson, whose existence was first postulated in the mid-1960s to fill in gaps in the Standard Model, scientists' current best understanding of physics.
This would have opened up new areas of research, allowing scientists to increase their understanding of the universe and strange phenomena like dark energy.
But new data released at a conference in Kyoto this week has failed to show the particle is behaving any differently to what the Standard Model had predicted.
"We will not know after today whether it is a Higgs at all, whether it is a Standard Model Higgs or not, or whether any particular speculative idea beyond the Standard Model is now excluded," says theoretical physicist Matt Strassler.
"What we are likely to see is some incremental changes in what we know."
It's still early days for the scientists, as the particle was first discovered less than five months ago.
"Knowledge about nature does not come easy," writes Strassler.
"We discovered the top quark in 1995, and we are still learning about its properties today – there were over a dozen talks about the top quark earlier in this conference. And we will still be learning important things about the Higgs during the coming few decades. We’ve no choice but to be patient."
Some theories postulate the existence of other types of Higgs bosons, such as supersymmetry, which requires five.
But for now, "the Standard Model still rules", says former CERN scientist John Ellis.