Higgs factory a ‘must for big physics’

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A top physicist says the construction of a “factory” to produce Higgs boson particles is a priority for the science community. In an exclusive interview, Nigel Lockyer, head of America’s premier particle physics lab, said studying the Higgs could hasten major discoveries. He said momentum in the physics community was gathering for a machine to be built either in Europe or Asia.

“Our field uniformly agrees that would be a good thing,” he told the BBC. The Fermilab director added: “The Higgs is such an interesting particle – a unique particle.”

The Higgs boson – named after British theoretical physicist Peter Higgs – was discovered in 2012 at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle smasher under the Franco-Swiss border. The detection capped a decades-long effort to detect the particle experimentally, adding the last missing piece to the theory of particle physics known as the Standard Model, or SM.

The SM explains how the building blocks of the Universe behave and interact, but physicists know it’s just a stepping stone to a deeper understanding of the cosmos. For example, it doesn’t provide an explanation for dark matter, dark energy or gravity.

Physicists had hoped that the LHC would turn up evidence of physics phenomena not explained by the Standard Model. So far, efforts to detect new physics have come away empty-handed, but studying the Higgs in more detail might break the impasse. A successor to the Large Hadron Collider would be designed in a way that allows scientists to zero in on the Higgs boson.

The LHC works by smashing beams of proton particles together, but the collisions that produce the Higgs also produce many other particles. This makes it complicated to work out which collisions produce the Higgs boson.

A different type of particle smasher, called an electron-positron collider, should produce only a Higgs and another particle called a Z boson.

This makes it more suitable for detailed study of the Higgs’ properties. Dr Lockyer said there were currently discussions over a new electron-positron collider in China, and a linear collider that could function as a Higgs factory in Japan. Alternatively, it could be housed at Cern after the Large Hadron Collider comes to the end of its operating lifetime.

 

Original Article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-43584969

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