Higgs Hullabaloo: It May Not Be What We Think
Remember the Higgs particle discovery back in 2012? Well an international team of scientists reviewed CERN’s data and conclude that the new particle that was discovered could well be the Higgs but it could just as easily be another particle such as the Techni-Higgs.
The Higgs particle (for those just in from another dimension) is the famed God Particle that imbues mass to all particles in the universe that care to dally in that sort of thing. The particle itself doesn’t really do that however. It is just a manifestation of the true man-behind-the-curtain which is the Higgs field. The formerly confident discovery of Higgs was the crowning achievement of the largest and most powerful particles accelerator, the LHC or Large Hadron Collider near Geneva Switzerland. This behemoth is truly one of the wonders of the scientific world, often called the most complex machine ever built which was through a collaboration between an astounding 10,000 scientists and engineers from scores of countries not to mention the countless universities and laboratories.
After the announcement of the Higgs discovery, scientists made it clear that it was difficult to distinguish whether the particle was truly the Higgs as it is envisioned in the standard model of physics or whether it was merely a Higgs-like particle. Despite this initial uncertainty, confidence levels continued to rise after further examination of the petabytes of data produced by the multiple separate experimental setups that are part of the LHC (ATLAS and CMS).
Confidence never truly reaches 100% certainty for theories however and it seems we need to seriously consider now very seriously that we may not have discovered what we hoped we did.
Mads Toudal Frandsen, associate professor at the University of Southern Denmark’s Center for Cosmology and Particle Physics Phenomenology said recently:
“The CERN data is generally taken as evidence that the particle is the Higgs particle. It is true that the Higgs particle can explain the data but there can be other explanations, we would also get this data from other particles”
So what else could it be then?
The primary possibility being tossed around is that the LHC discovered what’s called a Techni-Higgs particle. This is similar to the Higgs Boson, but different in some fundamental ways which I list below:
- The Techni-Higgs is not part of the standard model of physics.
- It is not a fundamental particle but a composite particle composed of 2 Techni-Quarks.
- These particles can pair-up in multiple ways one of which displays boson-like properties.
These Techni-Quarks, if they exist, could not join together to form other particles using one of the fundamental forces of nature; they would need a new, heretofore undetected, force now being called the technicolor force.
This new force has all sorts of exciting layers to it. First of all, if this is confirmed, it would be a new fundamental force of nature. That alone is a good reason to get drunk. In addition, this new particle/force could be responsible for mass instead of the Higgs boson. The icing on the cake though is that alternate configurations of the techni-quarks could potentially form dark matter! This really is potentially a win-win-win scenario.
- We’d have evidence of physics beyond the standard model
- We’d have a new force and fundamental particles
- We’d finally know what dark matter is
Since the Techni-Higgs is so similar to the Higgs boson, I understand why they would call this particle the Techni-Higgs. I’m less certain however why they would call its constituent particles techni-quarks considering that they seem very different from ordinary quarks and they even would have to use a completely new force (instead of the strong/color) to explain how they could join together.
Keep in mind that these scientists have not disproved the discovery of the Higgs. They are pointing out that the evidence as it exists today supports the existence of other potential particles equally as well as the Higgs boson. If I had to bet I’d go with the Higgs Boson since it is explicitly predicted by the standard model and it has one helluva track record in this department. The whole theory behind the new techni-force and quarks is at a relatively immature state and is far from having widespread support yet.
So what’s the next step?
Considering this news is so dramatic, I assume other teams of scientists will double-check this latest double-check. More experiments at the LHC will need to be run to have a good chance at distinguishing between the Higgs and techni-higgs. Further in the future, a new even more powerful collider would be able to directly observe the techni-higgs if it exists.
So sit back and enjoy the science roller-coaster
Image Credit: CERN