The Best of Times or the Worst of Times in Physics?



Flickr HoangP (CC)

Particle physicists had two nightmares before the Higgs particle was discovered in 2012. The first was that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle accelerator would see precisely nothing. For if it did, it would likely be the last large accelerator ever built to probe the fundamental makeup of the cosmos. The second was that the LHC would discover the Higgs particle predicted by theoretical physicist Peter Higgs in 1964 … and nothing else.

Each time we peel back one layer of reality, other layers beckon. So each important new development in science generally leaves us with more questions than answers. But it also usually leaves us with at least the outline of a road map to help us begin to seek answers to those questions. The successful discovery of the Higgs particle, and with it the validation of the existence of an invisible background Higgs field throughout space (in the quantum world, every particle like the Higgs is associated with a field), was a profound validation of the bold scientific developments of the 20th century.

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