Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Accidental Particle:

The story of the Higgs boson goes back almost 50 years, to when the theories that would ultimately be combined into the Standard Model were first developed. At that time, physicists were aware of three apparently distinct forces that could influence the motion of particles: the electromagnetic force, responsible for familiar phenomena like thunderstorms and televisions, and two other forces that were important in nuclear processes, known as the strong and weak forces. They knew of a fourth force, too—gravity—but it was far too weak to be important in these experiments.

The Higgs saga begins in 1960 with a physicist named Sheldon Glashow, who had just wrapped up his Ph.D. at Harvard and was working in Copenhagen, waiting for a visa to come through so he could begin his postdoctoral work in Russia. Glashow had a hunch that two of the three forces—electromagnetism and the weak force—were actually manifestations of the same thing, an "electroweak" force. In 1961, he published a paper that tried to describe both forces with a single mathematical framework.

11:37 AM