What happens if the Higgs boson is confirmed?

Is it just a matter of stating that the theory that predicts the particle is validated, or are there unknown properties that we need to see in order to complete the theory? How far does this put us from a theory of quantum gravity?


The question everyone will be asking at that point is whether the Higgs boson has Standard Model properties. If this is the particle predicted by the Standard Model (SM), then this leaves particle physics at kind of a dead end. Physicists will still talk about supersymmetry and other theories, but they will have difficulty getting experimental evidence to motivate their theories. If it has non-SM properties, that will be tremendously exciting and theorists will have an opportunity to use the new discovery to motivate new models and/or modify old ones.

I would predict that it will not be immediately apparent whether this is a SM Higgs particle or not–it may take years of further measurements to determine exactly how it interacts with other particles.

To answer your other question, a SM Higgs particle is certainly not going to help develop a quantum theory of gravity. And gravity is such a high-energy scale phenomenon that even a beyond-the-Standard-Model theory may not have implications for physics at that scale.

At the risk of looking foolish later, I will predict right now that the Higgs particle (assuming it has been discovered–we’ll find out in a couple of days) will turn out to have Standard Model properties. There have been some hints of anomalous findings in the last few years, but these kinds of things have a history of being statistical flukes, so I’m not optimistic. I will be happy to be proved wrong.

The recession will end, Tardis technology will become possible, and everyone who understands quantum physics will get a pony.

Unlimited free energy.

Both of them? :smiley:

Is Graham back from holiday?

While we’re on the subject, why is this thing called the “God Particle?” What’s so special about it?

But the Earth will shrink to the size of a pea.

It gives all other particles their mass, according to Standard Theory.

I think…

List of unsolved problems in particle physics
(and this is a rather minimal list)

The weak and electromagnetic forces are described in similar ways in the Standard Model, yet we observe them behaving very differently. This can be accounted for by introducing into the model a new field with simple, but specific, properties that allow for the breaking of the “electroweak symmetry”, resulting in a working description of nature in which electromagnetism is mediated by a massless photon and the weak interaction is mediated by two massive force carriers, the W and Z particles.

This mechanism gives the W and Z their masses naturally and fundamentally. It also provides the necessary hooks to explain the masses of other elementary particles, but this is less automatical or fundamental. Composite particles such as protons get the bulk of their mass from binding energy, not from the presence of this field.

If all the above is true, there is an additional prediction. It should be possible to create an excitation of this new field, which is jargon for: there should be a new particle due to all this. The Higgs boson is that particle.

Because a book publisher wanted to move product.

It’s not that there aren’t issues remaining in particle physics; it’s that if you find a SM-like Higgs particle at the LHC and nothing else, then theorists don’t have experimental guidance for addressing those issues. Take supersymmetry, for example, which is on the list that you provided. I imagine that people who have spent their careers working on supersymmetry will not abandon it just because the LHC doesn’t find evidence for it. (Or at least not all of them will). But without experimental confirmation, the only information they will have are mass exclusion limits. So they’ll know that certain classes of supersymmetric theories are wrong, but they won’t be able to prove that any particular theory is right. You might have people saying, for example, “Well, supersymmetry just exists as a badly broken symmetry, with the SM particles being low in mass and their superpartners being really heavy, too heavy to find at the LHC.” So now you’re talking about a theory that can’t be proven wrong. Or right. You can write papers about that, but particle physics is not going to progress much that way.

In general, particle theorists (or perhaps I should say phenomenologists and model-builders–this would not apply to string theorists and some of the other theorists) have been counting on beyond-the-SM phenomena from the LHC to guide their future work. Without such guidance, it is much harder to solve the “problems” (such as the hierarchy problem listed in your article), and you end up with a situation where theoretical work has been decoupled from experiment, which is demoralizing for the researchers and problematic for the progress of the field as a whole.

Quite right. Pure marketing.

I don’t dispute that finding something beyond a single Standard Model Higgs would be more informative than not finding something. My post was just to convey that “dead end” might give the wrong impression to a lay reader that we should just pack up and go home. On the contrary, there are lots of deep theoretical and experimental questions hanging over our heads. The road ahead is indeed tougher if Nature is not forthcoming with clues, but there is still a road ahead.

Shouldn’t that make it the Priest particle?

aaaaand, the discovery of the Higgs boson is now official. (Well, use of the term ‘discovery’ is not quite official because each experiment separately measures an excess a hair under 5 sigma, the technical hurdle for use of the word ‘discovery’, but it can be safely taken for granted that the combination of both ATLAS and CMS signals is well over 5 sigma).

What does this mean? Well, some wikipedia pages will be hastily edited. Any higgsless model is going into the dustbin of history. But beyond that we still don’t know for sure that this is a Standard Model higgs. That will take another 6 months to possibly many years. The exciting possibility is that it somehow deviates from the Standard Model prediction. There are currently a few hints that this could be the case, but they are at low statistics and still statistically consistent with the Standard Model.

My goodness, why has no one thought of that one before. Awesomely brilliant :smiley:

I vote we all start using the idea from now on, and try to kill the “God particle” virus.

What happens? Peter Higgs and his colleagues get a call from Stockholm, and probably pretty soon, as they aren’t getting any younger.

I read this article yesterday - Stop calling it the God particle!. It discusses how the Higgs got it’s name, and how even if it’s confirmed to exist there are still many, many, many unanswered questions in physics.

Possibly the biggest scientific discovery of our time, the Higgs Boson, announced in glorious MS Comic Sans Font.