The detection of a Higgs boson-like particle represents a major advance in our understanding of the laws which govern the universe, says Professor Geoff Taylor.
“This is a very exciting time for physicists,” says Professor Taylor, who is chair of the 36th International Conference on High Energy Physics (ICHEP 2012) underway in Melbourne.
New data from ATLAS and CMS, two experiments independently looking for the Higgs boson and both underway at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC), was presented to conference attendees.
Both studies pointed to the existence of a previously unknown boson, consistent with the Higgs boson.
“As scientific discoveries go, this is up there with finding a way to split the atom,” Professor Taylor said.
“People have been working towards this for many years, and Australian groups have been part of this from the beginning so for the best part of 25 years.
“And to now be part of the reportage is a real privilege.”
Australian research and technology helped to build the ATLAS detector at the LHC, and of around 3000 researchers working at the facility at any one time there are around 30 Australians.
Data generated by the ATLAS experiment is also processed in Melbourne as part of an international grid of computer farms.
Australia’s involvement in the particle-smashing work at the LHC is co-ordinated by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Particle Physics at the Terascale (CoEPP) where Prof Taylor is also Director.
The CoEPP brings together particle physicists based in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide.
Professor Ray Volkas, Director of CoEPP’s Melbourne node, described the discovery as a “triumph”.
“The discovery of this new particle at CERN, likely to be the Higgs boson or something closely related, cements our understanding of how the universe is put together,” Prof Volkas said.
“It is a triumph of the human ability to nut out nature using deep theoretical reasoning and amazingly skillful experiments. Humans are capable of both great intelligence and great stupidity.
“This is a magnificent example of great intelligence, and represents the triumph of hope.
“More work needs to be done to know the exact properties of this particle. Most of us hope that while it is related to the Higgs boson, it is not precisely the standard Higgs.
“A non-standard Higgs would point to the future, to a yet deeper understanding of the fundamental basis of the world.”
The search for the Higgs boson has occupied the minds of the world’s top physicists, and an array of increasingly powerful particle-colliding machines, since its existence was first theorised in the 1960s.
The theory proposes a “Higgs field” permeates the universe and it interacts with fundamental particles of matter to give them mass, though until now there was no conclusive proof this exists.
The ARC Centre of Excellence for Particle Physics at the Terascale (CoEPP) was established in February 2011, to work on global endeavors in high energy physics, advanced computing and accelerator science.
The Australian Research Council’s funding commitment is $25 million over 7 years.
This currently supports the work of more than 20 senior investigators and 60 students or post-doctoral researchers.
Melbourne Node Director is Professor Ray Volkas, Monash Node Director is Associate Professor Csaba Balasz, Adelaide Node Director is Professor Anthony Thomas and Sydney Node Director is Associate Professor Kevin Varvell.
CoEPP Centre Director is Professor Geoff Taylor.
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