Our View Fermilab helped in hunt for ‘God particle’
July 6, 2012 4:20PM
Updated: August 9, 2012 6:20AM
The good news is that scientists have announced they’ve pretty much found the long-sought Higgs boson, the so-called “God particle” that gives matter its mass.
That will help to confirm theories about how the universe is structured. But as welcome as such a major scientific breakthrough is, we have to admit to feeling a little regret that the particle wasn’t found here by Fermilab’s long-operating Tevatron, the collider which shut down last year.
Fermi’s final results, published Monday, came close to documenting the elusive particle, which first was proposed a half-century ago. It was even Fermilab’s former director, Leon Lederman, who came up with the nickname “the God particle.”
Fermilab’s Tevatron accelerator led to the discovery of such other subatomic particles as the bottom quark and top quark. But a bigger superconducting super collider proposed for the facility in the 1980s that would have kept Fermilab at the forefront of physics research never was built. Illinois lost out to Texas in a bid to build the SSC, but after construction was started in that state Congress pulled the plug on funding for the project.
The workhorse Tevatron may well have produced scads of Higgs bosons, but it didn’t have the firepower to document one.
Now, researchers at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, say they have found the footprint of the Higgs boson from research done on the Large Hadron Collider, even though they haven’t actually seen it. They made the official announcement from CERN, on the border between Switzerland and France, on Wednesday. Rolf Heuer, the director of CERN, hedged a bit about the find, saying the newly discovered particle is a boson, but stopping just shy of claiming that it is the Higgs boson itself.
“We have observed a new particle that is consistent with a Higgs boson,” Heuer said.
Though Fermilab can’t claim to have found the Higgs boson here in Illinois, at least we helped the rest of the world track it down.