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Higgs boson discovery marks ten years anniversary

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On July 4, 2022, it will be ten years since physicists at CERN announced the discovery of the Higgs boson. After a search of almost fifty years, the missing elementary particle from the standard model had finally been found.

Peter Higgs already predicted in 1964 the existence of this subatomic particle, which is responsible for the mass of atoms. But only thirty years later, the Large Electron-Positron Collider (LEP) really begins to search for the mysterious particle.

Together with other particle accelerators, the LEP is making more and more clear about the possible mass of the Higgs particle, but still no tangible evidence is found. Until 2008 The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN particle lab in Geneva, Switzerland, begins its first series of runs.

The underground, ring-shaped particle accelerator has a circumference of 27 kilometers, cost billions of euros to build and has the main mission of demonstrating the Higgs particle. Never before have subatomic particles collided so hard and strongly with each other due to human action.

Not the end of the world, but champagne

It will take another four years, but then the champagne can open. The particle is picked up after a splashing collision of protons, which go almost as fast as light. Soon after, the Higgs boson disintegrates again. But in 2012, enough evidence is found to rule out other explanations for the dates. The chance of a random hit is less than 1 in 3.5 million.

Fiercer than ever

The LHC has been active for several months after a three-year maintenance break. At 6.8 teraelectronvolts (TeV), the energy released during proton collisions is greater than ever. The wait has not been in vain. The third run has started. “On July 5, 2022, the Large Hadron Collider will begin a new measurement period. At full power, with the brightest beams we can make. The Swiss circular accelerator chases protons to enormous energy and the speed of light. When they collide, Higgs particles form, among other things. So much so that we can study them better than ever,” says Bentvelsen.

Black matter

But the LHC does more. “There are still all kinds of links with other particles that we do not know well. In addition, the experiments hunt for deviations in certain processes, for which now and then clues have already emerged. There is always the possibility of unknown new particles,” says Bentvelsen.

According to him, there are still some great challenges ahead. “There are still many unanswered questions in our field. In the universe, about four-fifths of all matter cannot be seen. What is dark matter? We only know a small part of the matter that exists.”

Asked about the expectations for the future, the scientist is very enthusiastic: “with the accelerator and detectors like ATLAS at CERN, we can go on for years, looking for new particles, for more precision, for deviations from what we think we know.”

Exciting global quest

But you don’t necessarily have to go to Switzerland for new insights into elementary particles. “Interestingly, the particle world and the universe can also be looked at in all kinds of other ways. From cosmic ray antennas in the desert of Argentina to neutrino detectors in the depths of the Mediterranean Sea and gravitational wave antennas in Italy,” explains the professor. “We may soon be doing measurements in Limburg. We can still learn a lot about the universe and its building blocks, if we analyze this data and knowledge. These are exciting times.”

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