Higgs, Dark Matter, and Pesky Cloaked Ships
Scientists have proposed an updated model of particle physics that predicts the decay of the Higgs Boson into the mysterious dark matter particles that make up a quarter of the universe.
The standard model of particle physics has been an amazingly successful at not only describing the particles and forces of nature but also predicting new particles that were later found. This is the hallmark of a theory that is clearly onto something. Cobbling an idea together to describe phenomena already known is one thing, but actually making predictions that are later verified means that your theory is, at some level, a worthwhile model of reality (or it is otherwise incredibly lucky). The final major particle predicted by the standard model was the Higgs Boson and its discovery in 2012 capped an amazing journey that started way back in the 1970s.
Still however, the particles and forces it describes and predicted only account for 4 percent of the universe (plus it doesn’t account for gravity). The two huge gorillas in the universe, namely dark matter and dark energy account for 96% of everything known yet the standard model says nothing about them and we have made frustratingly little progress in figuring what the hell they are.
Now however, Christoffer Petersson and his colleagues, research scientists at Chalmers University of Technology, claim to have updated the standard model in a way that could overcome some of its limited scope. To do this, his model incorporates what’s called supersymmetry. Supersymmetry posits that many of the particles in nature have what are called superpartner particles. They are somewhere between identical twins and fraternal twins in that certain characteristics are identical, but others, like spin, are not. An electron would then have a superpartner called a selectron and a quark would have a squark. Yes, I know what you’re thinking and I agree; this naming scheme is all the reason I need not to believe in supersymmetry.
However, this extended model makes an interesting prediction. It predicts tantalizing new properties to the Higgs boson such that it can decay into a photon of light and………you guessed it, dark matter particles. Detecting these new Higgs properties however is not easy since clues to their existence would be difficult to spot. Kinda like detecting the faint signals emitted by a cloaked Al’kesh hyper-drive spacecraft (sorry, I’ve been watching far too much Stargate: Sg1 lately)
As a testament to how difficult this search is, there in only one place on earth that could potentially find evidence of the newly proposed Higgs properties, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC). They have already started looking through data, but unfortunately, there’s just not enough of it to support or reject the new model. This summer however, when the LHC comes back online, it should be operating with twice its previous power; more than enough to produce all the data required. Not only that, two independent experiments within the LHC (Atlas and CMS) will devote time to the search which will add serious heft to whatever joint conclusions they reach.
So, here’s to the possibility of new physics coming our way (and a way to detect those nasty cloaked ships as well)
Image Credit: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2981049/Does-Higgs-boson-hold-secret-dark-matter-Particle-disintegrate-elusive-substance-smashed.html