This morning, my Twitter feed (@erchristensen) lit up during the CERN press conference, so it’s only fitting that I post something here. What? Your Twitter feed didn’t mention the press conference? Nothing about the Higgs bosun? How strange. What’s it like living in that non-nerdy world of yours?
Anyway, the press conference discussed the latest results from experiments designed to detect the Higgs boson. The Higgs boson is (at this point) a theoretical subatomic particle that gives other particles mass. Sometimes referred to as the “God particle,” the Higgs bosun is at the heart of quantum mechanics. So proving it exists and learning all we can about it would help us better understand the universe on a fundamental level.
So did they find it? No. Well, maybe. First, the scientists were able to eliminate a couple of other options for locating the Higgs bosun. Second, and more exciting, they have found something that looks rather promising, but the scientists at CERN can’t say for sure they’ve found it. The two experiments are 94% and 98% confident. That’s good, but not good enough. So where does that leave us? Well, more experiments are needed. But 2012 is looking like it might be the year that scientists zero in on the Higgs bosun.
Curious about the science behind these atom smashing experiments? Wondering why 94% and 98% confidence levels aren’t enough? Then look to Phil Plait’s (@badastronomer) Bad Astronomy blog for a great explanation that everyone can understand. And if you haven’t already, follow his Twitter account and bookmark his blog.