Thursday, January 2, 2014

The LHC Upgrade (and the Higgs)

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is shut down for an upgrade. The lab that detected the Higgs Boson (aka the poorly named "God" Particle) will increase its energy from 8 TeV (8×1012 electron volts) to 14 TeV. The physics goals will be to progress "beyond the standard model." The discovery of the Higgs more or less completed the so-called standard model. It means that there is nothing left to work out in the framework model that physicists have hammered out over decades to explain most of the fundamental interactions—with the notable exception of gravity.

Detecting the Higgs boson was a fantastic achievement and a spectacular confirmation of our understanding of fundamental physics. However—it was so expected that it was, in a way, boring. It would have been very interesting had the Higgs not been found where it was expected! It is hoped that the upgrade to the LHC might result in new physics, physics not covered by the standard model. This might include detecting the next great unseen: dark matter. There is also anticipation that we will be able to start discerning among the different non-standard models that incorporate gravity.

We'll see.

As for the Higgs boson, here is a talk on the Higgs that I gave to high school students in 2012. The goal was to try to explain, in very simple terms,  how the Higgs field leads to mass. Maybe you'll find it useful.

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