Some Vanderbilt experts were on site in Switzerland when the discovery was announced Wednesday of what could be the long-sought Higgs boson. The elusive subatomic particle is the last missing puzzle piece to complete the so-called Standard Model of physics.
A few Vanderbilt physicists who couldn’t travel to Geneva stayed up overnight to watch the announcement, kind of like eager kids on Christmas Eve. Charles Maguire says watching researchers present their findings was emotional at times.
“He came upon one slide where it was very clear that the Higgs was there, and he showed this slide, and then he stopped speaking for about 10, 15 seconds, just gazing at it, because he was entranced by it – after 40 years of searching for this thing, there it stood, very prominent, no doubt about it, and it was just about the most thrilling moment of the whole presentation for me when he did that.”
Vanderbilt has been helping sift the huge piles of data turned out by the experiment, with computers on campus storing on the order of a million gigabytes of data.
It’s not yet clear the newfound particle is exactly the Higgs that physicists were predicting. If not, it could open up new realms of scientific exploration, including into the mysterious dark matter that makes up much of the universe.