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Higgs boson discovery – what next?

By Ajith Vijay Kumar | Last Updated: Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - 17:26
Ajith Vijay Kumar
To The Point

With scientists having spotted a sub-atomic particle "consistent" with the Higgs boson or 'God particle', questions are being asked about the practical applications of the discovery.

The Higgs boson is thought to give all other matter its mass; it was predicted by the leading theory of particle physics called the Standard Model (SM). This model, however, doesn't predict the mass of Higgs boson, and so physicists have been searching a wide range of masses to spot it.

The new found particle has a mass that's around 130 times that of a proton, making it the most massive particle that exists - if the discovery is confirmed.

The confirmation of Higgs boson’s existence was important as it was needed to explain some aspects of the Standard Model - understanding why some particles have very large masses while others are light.

Also, the find would help scientists probe mysteries of the universe like the nature of dark matter.

While the detector and magnet technology employed to detect Higgs boson-like-new particle could find use in MRI and PET scans, it would be quite a while before the actual application of Higgs boson is understood.

The discovery is of critical importance at the fundamental level. As one expert put it: What was the value of the discovery of solar system and relative position of planets? Nothing much two hundred years back, but critical for today’s Mars probe.

Also, it took decades from the discovery of radiation to harnessing the power of the atom.

Same is the case with Higgs boson find. The opportunities are immense – sample this:

Higgs boson gives mass its attributes like inertia and gravity. So, theoretically, if we are able to control the mass, we can reduce inertia.

A 200-tonne jumbo jet can be manufactured with inertia as low as that of a 20-tonne one, leading to huge savings in fuel costs. Or even better, a light weight interstellar ship that can zip across the space to make travel to Mars as convenient as the trans-Atlantic trip of today.

Higgs boson is one more – a significant one – piece of the puzzle that our universe is, and that is what makes it important.

Who knows in a century from now, or even earlier, time warps, time travel may all become reality; such is the potential of the find.

But for now, the Higgs boson discovery is at the same level of evolution as was when Nicholaus Copernicus (1473-1543) announced that earth and other planets move around the sun in circles.

It took over 400 years for the human species to send one of their own to moon. Hope, we will be faster this time.

First Published: Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - 17:26

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