Diane Heldt, CR Gazette –
IOWA CITY — University of Iowa scientists who work with the Large Hadron Collider said this week’s news about the discovery of the long-sought Higgs boson particle is the first step in what likely will be more discoveries and advancements in particle physics.
“It’s finding it, but we need to understand the properties and see if there’s something more beyond that, which there very likely is,” said Jane Nachtman, UI associate professor of physics and astronomy. “This is really a huge step for particle physics. It’s really kind of a beginning for us. Now it gives us something new and exciting that we’re all looking at.”
Nachtman and Yasar Onel, a professor of physics and astronomy, lead the UI’s team of researchers on the Large Hadron Collider’s Compact Muon Solenoid, one of four big detectors on the collider in Switzerland. Part of one of the sub-detectors on the collider was made at the UI machine shop. Iowa State University also has a team of scientists who work with the Atlas detector at the Large Hadron Collider.
This week’s news about Higgs boson, often called the “God particle,” is an important first step toward discovering new and different channels in physics, Onel said.
“It won’t tell us everything we need to know about how the universe works, but it will fill a huge hole in,” he said. “We will be opening totally new channels and new discoveries coming up.”
There could be practical applications, he said, such as how past work at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) led to creation of the World Wide Web and advancement of cloud computing technology, he said.
“There will be a lot of applications of this in our lives,” Onel said.
The UI machine shop is working on an upgrade to the part of the sub-detector the university provided. The Large Hadron Collider will create more and more collisions, so better detectors are needed to keep up with that, Nachtman said.
Discovery of the Higgs boson subatomic particle is important because it was the “last missing piece” of the standard model of elementary particles, which is the way scientists think the fundamental interactions of matter work, Nachtman said.
“So it’s the particle responsible for other particles having mass,” she said. “It was a big missing piece. It’s generating a lot of excitement in the field.”