Number 298 (Story #1), December 4, 1996 by Phillip F. Schewe and Ben Stein|
THE HIGGS BOSON DOES EXIST AS A PHYSICAL PARTICLE. This is the growing consensus among scientists who attended a round of particle physics meetings this past summer. The so-called Higgs mechanism is the process, involving the interaction with a hypothetical Higgs boson, by which elementary particles such as quarks or Z bosons acquire mass. Does the Higgs itself have mass? Insofar as all elementary particles spend at least part of their time existing as a combination of other particles (as prescribed by quantum field theory), then there should be a bit of the Higgs in all particles. Furthermore, this genetic kinship should manifest itself in small changes in observable quantities when studying the interactions of those particles. According to Gordon Kane of the University of Michigan (firstname.lastname@example.org) exactly such high-precision experiments at LEP, Fermilab, and SLAC now support the claim, for the first time with any statistical weight, that the Higgs does exist in its own right. The supersymmetry model (see Update 265) of particle interactions predicts that the Higgs mass should be less than about 150 GeV. Speaking at last month's New Horizons in Science meeting in Baltimore, Kane summarized efforts to detect directly the decay products of Higgs bosons created in high energy collisions. He said that LEP could by 1999 have spotted the Higgs if its mass were no more than 95 GeV; Fermilab (with its new much more intense beams) could probe for a Higgs mass up to 130 GeV by the year 2002; and the Large Hadron Collider at CERN could extend the range up to 150 GeV by 2010.