"Long before it's in the papers"
January 27, 2015


Newfound particle might not be famous Higgs, team claims

Nov. 10, 2014
Courtesy of University of Southern Denmark
and World Science staff

Many cal­cula­t­ions in­di­cate a par­t­i­cle dis­cov­ered in a gi­ant par­t­i­cle ac­cel­er­a­tor in Switz­er­land in 2012 was an ent­ity fa­mously known as the Higgs bos­on.

But it might be some­thing else, a re­search team claims.

The sci­en­tists work­ing in 2012 at the Eu­ro­pe­an Or­gan­iz­a­tion for Nu­clear Re­search, or CERN, said they had likely found the Higgs bos­on—the fi­nal build­ing block pre­vi­ously mis­sing from the “S­tan­dard Mod­el” of phys­ics. That’s a work­ing pic­ture of na­ture that main­stream phys­i­cists rely on and that de­scribes the struc­ture of mat­ter.

The Higgs bos­on is the­o­rized to com­bine two forc­es of na­ture and show they are, in fact, dif­fer­ent as­pects of a more fun­da­men­tal force. The par­t­i­cle is al­so re­spon­si­ble for the ex­ist­ence of mass—the qual­ity we feel as weight.

“The CERN da­ta is gen­er­ally tak­en as ev­i­dence that the par­t­i­cle is the Higgs par­t­i­cle,” said Mads Tou­dal Frand­sen at the Uni­vers­ity of South­ern Den­mark. But Frand­sen and col­leagues pro­pose oth­er pos­si­ble ex­plana­t­ions in a new pa­per in the jour­nal Phys­i­cal Re­view D.

“It could be a num­ber of oth­er known par­t­i­cles,” he ex­plained, in­clud­ing one type of “so-called techni-higgs par­t­i­cle.” A tech­ni-higgs “is in some ways si­m­i­lar to the Higgs par­t­i­cle,” but be­longs to dif­fer­ent the­o­ries of how the uni­verse orig­i­nat­ed.

Al­though the Higgs par­t­i­cle com­pletes the Stand­ard Mod­el, which de­scribes three of the four known forc­es of na­ture, it does­n’t ex­plain what dark mat­ter is—an in­vis­i­ble sub­stance that makes up most of the uni­verse but is de­tected only through gra­vity. 

A techni-higgs par­t­i­cle would be dif­fer­ent. First, it’s “not an el­e­men­ta­ry par­t­i­cle”—not a small­est pos­si­ble un­it of mat­ter, he ex­plained. “In­stead, it con­sists of so-called techni-quarks, which we be­lieve are el­e­men­ta­ry.”

“Techni-quarks may bind to­geth­er in var­i­ous ways to form for in­stance techni-higgs par­t­i­cles, while oth­er com­bina­t­ions may form dark mat­ter,” Frand­sen said. There­fore, sev­er­al dif­fer­ent such par­t­i­cles should turn up at the CERN’s ma­chine, called the Large Had­ron Col­lider, he added.

If techni-quarks ex­ist, there must be a force to bind them to­geth­er so that they can form par­t­i­cles. None of the known forc­es of na­ture can bind techni-quarks to­geth­er, so the think­ing is that there must be anoth­er, called the tech­ni­col­or force.

Frand­sen ar­gues that what was found last year in CERN’s ac­cel­er­a­tor could a so-called light techni-higgs par­t­i­cle, made of two techni-quarks. Fur­ther CER­N da­ta should be able to de­ter­mine if it was a Higgs or a techni-higgs par­t­i­cle, and a more pow­er­ful ma­chine could in prin­ci­ple de­tect techni-quarks di­rect­ly, he said.

* * *

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Many calculations indicate a particle discovered in a giant particle accelerator in Switzerland in 2012 was an entity famously known as the Higgs boson. But it might be something else, a research team claims. The scientists working in 2012 at the European Organization for Nuclear Research or CERN said they had likely found the Higgs boson—the final building block previously missing from the “Standard Model” of physics. That’s a working picture of nature that mainstream physicists rely on and that describes the structure of matter. The Higgs boson is theorized to combine two forces of nature and show they are, in fact, different aspects of a more fundamental force. The particle is also responsible for the existence of mass—the quality we feel as weight. “The CERN data is generally taken as evidence that the particle is the Higgs particle,” said Mads Toudal Frandsen at the University of Southern Denmark. But Frandsen and colleagues propose other possible explanations in a new paper in the journal Physical Review D. “It could be a number of other known particles,” he explained, including one type of “so-called techni-higgs particle.” A techni-higgs “is in some ways similar to the Higgs particle,” but belongs to different theories of how the universe originated. Although the Higgs particle completes the Standard Model, which describes three of the four known forces of nature, it doesn’t explain what dark matter is—an invisible substance that makes up most of the universe but is detected only through gravity. A techni-higgs particle would be different. First, it’s “not an elementary particle”—not a smallest possible unit of matter, he explained. “Instead, it consists of so-called techni-quarks, which we believe are elementary.” “Techni-quarks may bind together in various ways to form for instance techni-higgs particles, while other combinations may form dark matter,” Frandsen said. Therefore, several different such particles should turn up at the CERN’s machine, called the Large Hadron Collider, he added. If techni-quarks exist, there must be a force to bind them together so that they can form particles. None of the known forces of nature can bind techni-quarks together, so the thinking is that there must be another, called the technicolor force. Frandsen argues that what was found last year in CERN’s accelerator could a so-called light techni-higgs particle, made of two techni-quarks. Further CERN data should be able to determine if it was a Higgs or a techni-higgs particle, and a more powerful machine could in principle detect techni-quarks directly, he said.