The story of the Higgs boson has yet to be told. Almost eleven years have passed since CERN physicists confirmed that they had found a new particle whose properties were consistent with the characteristics they attributed to this peculiar boson. July 4, 2012 humanity witnessed a monumental milestone, but that moment was not the culmination of a project; in reality it was the first bend in a path in which we have only taken a few steps.
Today physicists continue to study the properties of the Higgs boson. In fact, it is so important to know this particle a little better that CERN technicians have introduced in the LHC, its largest particle accelerator, the necessary modifications to produce several million Higgs bosons over the next three or four years.
Currently this machine operates with a higher level of energy with the hope of verifying, among other purposes, if this boson is really a fundamental particle. Or if, on the contrary, it has some kind of internal structure. The Higgs boson is important because it allows us understand how they acquire mass elementary particles as a result of their interaction with the Higgs field.
If this mechanism did not exist, the Standard Model, which is still today the most successful theory of physics, would not be valid. Most surprising, however, is that the physicists involved in CERN’s ATLAS and CMS experiments have identified a strange phenomenon that could provide them with indirect evidence for the existence of new particles that have not been predicted by the Standard Model.
The Higgs boson is the best asset for physicists to identify new particles
The researchers who are part of the ATLAS and CMS experiments have been cooperating since the discovery of the Higgs boson in order to describe the properties of this particle as precisely as possible. A very important part of your job is to understand the mechanisms involved in the decay of this boson because it disintegrates to give rise to the production of other particles.
The Higgs boson triggers the production of a collection of virtual particles that cannot be directly detected.
CERN physicists have suspected since the discovery of the Higgs boson that a good understanding of its decay is very important, and the experiments they have carried out in the ATLAS and CMS detectors confirm this. In fact, they have found evidence of a process that causes this boson to decay into a Z boson, which is a fundamental particle that acts as a mediator in the weak nuclear interaction, and a photon, which is the elementary particle that acts as a mediator in the electromagnetic force.
However, what is most interesting is that the Higgs boson does not decay directly into a Z boson and a photon; along the way it triggers the production of a collection of virtual particles that cannot be directly detected. And finally, we come to the most surprising part of this article: physicists at CERN suspect that some of these virtual particles are new particles that interact with the Higgs boson and have not been predicted by the Standard Model.
ATLAS and CMS scientists have studied the decay of the Higgs boson separately using the data collected in the collisions between protons that have been carried out during the last phase of activity of the LHC. The strategy they have devised in these two experiments has been similar and they have essentially reached the same conclusions, which is why they have decided to join forces to jointly study the data collected by the LHC in the collisions carried out between 2015 and 2018.
This joint effort is what has allowed them to find solid evidence for the decay of the Higgs boson into a Z boson and a photon, as well as the intermediate production of virtual particles. The hopeful thing is that according to these scientists the possibility that some of them are unknown particles is very real. Florencia Canelli, who is a coordinator at CMS, assures that “this study is a very powerful tool that helps us to test the Standard Model“. It is possible that the long-awaited new physics is close. Fingers crossed.
Top image: CERN
More information: CERN
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