The search for the elusive Higgs particle has maddened physicists since the particle’s existence was proposed in the 1960s. And now they know why. A new analysis indicates that the particle is heavier than anyone expected.
Finding the Higgs is important because it is the only missing piece in one of the leading theoretical jigsaws of modern physics, the standard model of particle physics. The theory says that all matter is composed of six types of quark – called up, down, strange, charm, bottom and top – as well as much lighter particles such as electrons and neutrinos.
There is convincing evidence for the existence of all these particles, but the model also requires the existence of the Higgs particle. The Higgs supposedly drags on other particles as if miring them in molasses, thereby endowing them with mass. Proof of its existence would cement the theory firmly in place, but so far nobody has found convincing evidence of the Higgs.
And not for lack of trying. During the 1990s, physicists searched for the Higgs using the 1 billion Euro Large Electron Positron (LEP) collider at CERN, the European particle physics laboratory in Geneva.